“Arachnids in the UK” is the fourth Doctor Who episode with Jodie Whittaker in the lead role. The Doctor and her companions return to present day England just after their encounter with the Stenza and the death of Graham’s wife and Ryan’s grandmother. The audience get to meet Yasmin’s family. Chris Noth guest stars as some kind of caricature knock off of Donald Trump and other American business tycoons.
The threat is that spiders have gotten larger than normal and behaving much more lethally. The Doctor learns of an experiment going out of control and a new luxury hotel being at the center of the chaos.
Head writer Chris Chibnall continues his streak of mediocre storytelling, however this particular episode just about tips over into utter dreck. There has been a lot of disdain over what is perceived as sacrificing the story for political correctness or social justice causes, and I have to say that this episode justifies those perceptions. It covers the gambit from corporate greed to the dangers of pollution in its efforts to beat the audience over the head with the litany of humanity’s failings.
Basically, it got too preachy and was not that fun. The Doctor’s occasional ramblings were more annoying than fun. Jodie Whittaker just doesn’t quite sell it to me. I am trying to give her a fair opportunity for her version of the Doctor to appeal to me, but so far it has yet to work out.
Even when the story kind of centers on Yaz, Mandip Gill still feels superfluous in the cast. Even the usual chemistry and charm of Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole was not much help. Walsh does well with his convincing display of Graham’s grief over the recent death of his wife.
This isn’t the first time the show has delved into the evils of pollution or other social issues, but the past efforts were still entertaining due to the message being a bit more subtle. Jon Pertwee’s era used to go in this directions a bit, but the stories were better written.
Chibnall just keeps falling short so far. He wasted the talent and credentials of an American actor like Noth with a character almost too boorish to be believable. It was way too obvious that Donald Trump was the template for this character. There was no effort to make him unique or interesting.
I have made no secret of my skepticism over the decision to change the Doctor’s gender, and this episode did nothing to reassure me that this was going to work out. This episode is just inexcusably bad writing in which the need to preach social justice talking points outweighs what should just be the goal of entertainment and escape from reality for just a little while.
Hopefully next week’s episode will be a bit more reassuring for long-time fans such as myself.