Posts Tagged With: arachnids in the uk

God is in the detail (11-04)

Right: after that brief hiatus while I rambled around the Yorkshire moors (we may come back to that another time) it’s back to business as usual this week with our regular instalment of VERY IMPORTANT CLUES AND SIGNS.

What do we mean by this, precisely, dear uninitiated reader? Yes, you. The one who just joined the Facebook group this week and randomly clicked the link button because you thought you might get spoiler information. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Because we’ve been all through ‘Arachnids in the UK’ and combed it with the same meticulous dedication – not to mention the same grizzled expression – adopted by my wife when she’s delousing our children’s hair. As I’ve demonstrated in here on countless occasions, absolutely NOTHING in this show is an accident – and absolutely everything can mean something VITALLY SIGNIFICANT that we’re going to come back to later in the series. It’s simply a matter of sorting the wheat from the chaff – an unseemly task at the best of times, so it’s lucky you’ve got me to do that for you. Buckle up, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride through Conspiracy Central, so I hope no one’s just eaten.

(As an aside, Emily suggested on Sunday evening that they should do an episode of Doctor Who with giant head lice. Who’s up for Rob Brydon as a cantankerous exterminator?)

We start at the beginning, or near enough.

This, you’ll remember, is the charming scene that sees the Doctor drop off her companions in one of the nicer parts of Sheffield, just before Yaz invites her up for a little something. At the moment I grabbed this frame, Whittaker is just about to slope forlornly off into the TARDIS, presumably to nab a custard cream and have a good cry into her Joanna Trollope. But look very carefully at the exact position they’ve left the camera. The partial obscuring of the door sign isn’t an accident – oh no indeed. It’s been left that way deliberately so that the visible letters form a particular set of words – at least they do once you’ve rearranged them, which is what I did. They spell:

MEDIATE SCAR STANCE

ABLE CENTURION PLYS LOOPHOLE

This ought to serve as a CLEAR AND TRANSPARENT INDICATION of two incredibly exciting crossover events: one involving Harry Potter, and one involving Legends of Tomorrow, specifically Arthur Darvill’s time travelling anti-hero Rip Hunter. Whether or not he’ll actually be dressed in the centurion outfit Rory wore is still very much on the table, but my guess is they’ll put it in as an Easter Egg. That’s what I’d do.

Fruit is next.

There are eight items of fruit in that bowl: five lemons and three limes. The use of bananas in the Whoniverse is, of course, common knowledge, whether it’s the Tenth Doctor waving one at the clockwork robots, Matt Smith whipping away River’s gun and replacing it with something equally phallic, or John Hurt eating several bananas on the trot in Krapp’s Last Tape. Lemons are somewhat harder to place, although one notes that the Tenth Doctor knows of a planet with highly evolved, humanoid lemons, perhaps in the manner of this chap.

However, the limes are a little less abstract. They pertain to three specific objects:

  • Miss Lime from ‘Zagreus’
  • The Limehouse in ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’
  • Lime Grove Studios

From this we can unambiguously conclude that a future series of Doctor Who will be featuring a special LIVE EPISODE filmed on the housing estate formerly occupied by Lime Grove, directed by Waris Hussein. The episode will feature Charley Pollard, coming face to mask with Magnus Greel. We know this from looking at the chair, which is positioned so that the slats mask the notes G-F-A-C-E on the piano. As I said: there is no such thing as coincidence.

(As an aside, have you seen Waris Hussein lately? He looks incredible. Somewhere in an Ealing attic there is a portrait covered in wrinkles.)

We’ll be back with more important observations, right after a visit to the bathroom.

You will note the three bottles of bath cream sat at the top of the screen. You will also note the mobile phone that is parallel with the third. In order to unpack this it is necessary to take a brief dive into history: namely 1973, the year the mobile phone was first unveiled to an unsuspecting world by Motorola’s Martin Cooper. Also of note: the left bottle is silvery-white, the second is darker. The third is the first in the sequence to escape the drab world of monochrome, assuming a tasteful blue appearance.

Thus we have one silver-haired Doctor, one with darker hair, and the first to appear in colour – and they’re grouped together in 1973, as denoted by the phone. The same year that ‘The Three Doctors’ was broadcast – although it began its initial transmission just before Christmas 1972. Coincidence? Of course not. You know me too well by now, surely?

But there’s more. You will also note that the cobweb-encrusted hand in the lower left portion of the shot is wearing a wedding ring: an object of great significance to the Doctor, as you’ll recall from the closing scenes of ‘Twice Upon A Time’. It’s a ring that signifies River Song. And if you count subsequent Doctors from those fingers, moving from the left (so as to make the whole thing clockwise) and starting with the Fourth, you’ll note that the ring finger is married (pun semi-intended) with Colin Baker, who travelled with River in The Eye of the Storm (in which they encountered Daniel Defoe) and World Enough and Time. Both were released on Christmas Day 2016, marking forty four years since ‘The Three Doctors’ – a number which CLEARLY AND UNAMBIGUOUSLY refers to the Type 44 TARDIS that the Doctor encounters in Harvest of Time. That’s the Third Doctor, folks, in case you were having trouble keeping up. You know, the one marked by the phone? Is it finally time for Sean Bean to step into the shoes of his father for another River Song series?

I mean, you read it here first, and we’ll keep you all updated as and when we have further news – but Christmas has even more significance for us today, and in order to understand why we really must move on and look at this map. I love a map. They’re layered with detail, and this one is no exception.

This is, as far as I can see, an actual map of Sheffield, because it tallies with the motorway junctions – more on that in a moment. In the episode, the Doctor grabs a thick black marker and swiftly draws an intricate fractal pattern that centres the action on a posh hotel that’s actually just outside Newport. Myself, I’d rather get the highlighters out. Because a curious thing happens when you join the dots using the right colours.

Still not with me? How about we do a little colouring in? (Please excuse the blots in this next one; my hand slipped.)

Viewed in this way, the seemingly random pattern of dots CLEARLY becomes a red-finned rocket-fish hybrid, blasting off for parts unknown – specifically to the North West, indicating that the TARDIS will be landing in Scotland next year. Could we be about to see a sequel to ‘The Eaters of Light’ that ties in with the star whale from ‘The Beast Below’? Watch this space, folks. Oh, and pardon the pun.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed something else: the blue line that protrudes from the ‘eye’ in the middle of the rocket-fish-whale-hybrid. The line is angled in the direction of junction 34 at the nearby M1, just north-west of Sheffield. Right next to this junction is a large green space (and golf club) named Concord Park, which neatly calls to mind ‘Time Flight’, in which Fifth Doctor Peter Davison travelled on Concorde – not to mention the rocket’s OBVIOUS AND ENTIRELY DELIBERATE resemblance to Mr Spoon’s rocket from Button Moon – a programme to which Davison voiced the theme music.

However, Davison is only the link here, and not the end product: we must examine his life within the context of Christmas, as I mentioned above. And Davison’s 1984 Christmas was one of particular upheaval, because it saw the arrival of his daughter, Georgia Moffett – who went on to marry David Tennant, and who was born (you guessed it) on December 25th.

Anyone want to guess how old David Tennant actually was when he made his debut in ‘Parting of the Ways’? That’s right, folks. Thirty-four. I swear, sometimes I surprise even myself.

Categories: God is in the Detail | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Have I Got Whos For You (series 11 edition, part 2)

In between scribbling episode write-ups and wacky conspiracy theory parodies I’m still churning out the memes, and if we don’t keep on top of them we’ll probably land ourselves in hot water further down the line. So you may expect posts every fortnight or so. Hey, at least they don’t take long to read.

This week’s edition centres on deleted dialogue – first, a bit of timely social commentary from ‘Rosa’.

In addition to the Banksy reference, ‘Rosa’ was of course notorious for the moment Team TARDIS get thrown out of a restaurant after it’s revealed that certain skin colours are unwelcome. Ryan gets a great little piece of dialogue that was originally attributed to Muhammed Ali – although an early workprint of the first Star Wars film reveals that Malorie Blackman may in fact have been borrowing from George Lucas.

Finally, a couple of leaked cutting room floor moments from ‘Arachnids in the UK’. Shame they cut them, really.

While outside –

Enjoy your Halloween.

Categories: Have I Got Whos For You | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Arachnids in the UK

It’s 1988. I’m in the last year of primary school and I have a dream that gets inside my head, more or less permanently. It takes place in one of those alt-universe scenarios in which the school has been converted into a wildlife reserve, and what passed for a stationery cupboard and ICT suite thirty years ago has been designated ‘The Tarantula Room’. As the dream begins I’m walking out of that room into the main hall, which has been made over as a snow scene, where there is a tarantula the size of a park bench sitting near the piano. Back in the main enclosure, I come across two glass cases: one is filled with babies, the other is seemingly empty. As I approach, a colossal, black-and-orange arachnid is climbing into view, filling the entire cage. It’s smaller than the one in the hall, but it terrifies me, and I scream and I run for the doors – and find them locked.

That was three decades back and since then I can’t look at a tarantula without breaking into a sweat. Actually I don’t look at them at all. I leave the room during the first five minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I haven’t even bothered with Arachnophobia. Years ago I visited the cinema with a few friends; they ran the trailer for Eight Legged Freaks and I watched the whole thing from behind my hands, along with one other similarly afflicted member of our party who is now a respected children’s author. I just about made it through Return of the King, although I still haven’t quite forgiven Emily for running a hand up my arm when Shelob came out.

Still. Spiders are OK. Spiders are useful and clever and always welcome in our house. Spiders I can handle. Except. Except when…look, when I was four, my parents took me to the Cotswold Wildlife Park. It was all going well until we got to the giant tortoises. Tortoises are supposed to be something you can pick up and hold, which can have devastating consequences if you’re partially sighted and mistake them for a pasty or something. Coming face to face with one that’s as tall as you are was a bit of a shock. It’s a great shame because the Galapagos tortoises are dignified and wrinkled and command our respect. You’re not supposed to run away screaming, although the tortoise probably couldn’t do much if you did. It calls to mind the Eddie Izzard routine about the Attack of the Giant Land Snails. “They’re coming!….They’re still coming!”

This is basically the three-paragraph method of explaining that last night’s Doctor Who was, in many ways, a bit of a difficult one. But we got through it, largely because the kids came and sat on the sofa, giving my whitened knuckles a reassuring squeeze with one hand while using the other one to run their fingers up my arm. I am considering a will rewrite.

What happened in ‘Arachnids in the UK’? Well, the long-awaited “She’s in charge” scene finally reared its ugly head, although it flows nicely when it does. The Doctor is competent in a crisis and flustered by social niceties. Ryan’s into Stormzy. We get to meet Yaz’s family, who are disappointingly ordinary. Graham is seeing ghosts. And on the site of an abandoned coal mine, Donald Trump is building a hotel populated by giant spiders. These are house spiders, grown to a colossal size thanks to a combination of genetic experimentation and toxic fumes from the landfill that is sitting beneath the hotel’s foundations. It’s like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, except no one jumps on a skateboard.

There’s a scene at the beginning of the episode that is possibly its strongest moment. You’ll have seen it several times already because it’s the one the BBC used as their preview clip. It’s the bit where the Doctor lands in Sheffield, half an hour after she left, and releases her companions back into the wild, only for a guilt-stricken Yaz to ask her back for tea. It is a simple scene, with an obvious punch line, but it is absolutely endearing – not since the Duty of Care scene in ‘Under The Lake’ has the Doctor been quite so lovable – and nothing else ‘Arachnids’ throws at us quite matches it. Lesson learned? Hold back your strongest material, especially when people are going to watch you anyway.

Four stories in and the staples of Chibnall’s writing style – at least the ones he’s adopted for his tenure in charge – are starting to arrange themselves into patterns. There is the obligatory lesbian character. There is the moment Graham is refreshingly practical. There is the bit where Ryan flirts with Yaz. Some of it is good; some of it isn’t. The gay thing is, at least, dealt with with more subtlety than it was under Moffat, who insisted that it wasn’t a big deal that Bill was gay and then rammed it home just about every week, doing everything except giving her a badge to wear. Chibnall’s approach is to drop it in for a random character and then move on, and perhaps this is the best way forward. Perhaps the only way to meld this into the show’s philosophy is to do it in every episode until we stop realising it’s there. “How often does the train go past?” / “So often you won’t even notice it.”

The ending is another matter. I don’t know. I spoke last week about how this was to all intents and purposes a kid’s programme, and have written reams elsewhere explaining why this is and how we must accept it and move on – but I do wonder if kids are the audience for this. Don’t they know already that guns kill people? Wouldn’t we be better aiming something at the NRA? We can see from the outset that Robertson is an irredeemable bastard – cowardly, selfish, and ready to believe his own hype. He is Trump (or at least the left-wing media’s embodiment of Trump) in all but name – indeed, that particular elephant is dealt with halfway through the episode when it is revealed Trump is a business rival whom Robertson hates, leaving Chibnall free to poke jibes at the current President without fear of Cease and Desist notices from the White House legal team.

When you’re writing for the screen they go on and on about ‘show, don’t tell’ – but was it really necessary to have Robertson brandish his dead bodyguard’s firearm with an evil cackle like some 1990s supervillain? Even if it was, did we really need him to monologue, while the Doctor glowers about mercy, wearing a ridiculous spray gun kit on her back like some Blue Peter Ghostbuster? We were fine last week, because that was a story that was actively about social justice, but in something clearly designed to be a horror narrative (aired three days before Halloween) it feels like Chibnall’s trying to win a bet or something. I’m not adhering for stylistic unity, but moments like this just don’t fit.

It’s appropriate, in its own way. The last time the Doctor dealt with spiders we had twenty minutes of Hinchcliffe-inspired jump scares, followed by twenty further minutes of tedious social commentary, along with the revelation that the moon was an egg. I’m not so cross about that, but I do object to them shoehorning an abortion debate into what was, until that moment, a satisfying and frightening story. ‘Arachnids’ doesn’t suffer from quite the same structural issues, but its climax, in which a leering Robertson declares that guns are what will make America great again – within twenty-four hours of another mass shooting – is undoubtedly hot property, but something that frankly could have done with a bit less piety and a little more subtlety. That Robertson escapes unharmed (and without so much as a by-your-leave by any character except Graham) is a sure sign that we will be coming back to him later, and if we’re counting possible story arcs in a year that we’re not supposed to be having them, I make that four for four.

This was a great episode, until its last ten minutes. It’s frightening – the spiders are convincing, and the build-up to their reveal is decently handled, thanks to Sallie Aprahamian’s competent (if not exactly imaginative) direction. The leads acquit themselves well – Graham’s soft-eyed sightings of Grace are among this week’s quieter highlights, and Whittaker excels at just about everything, whether it’s striding through hotel corridors or trying not to eat Hakim’s dodgy pakora. The supporting characters are (for a change) interesting and engaging; Tanya Fear, in particular, excels as a scientist who is there solely to provide scientific exposition, but doing so with such flair that for once all the technobabble is actually fun to watch.

Does all that make up for things? Perhaps it does; perhaps this week the whole is greater than the sum. But there’s a sanctimonious tone to the conclusion of this story that taints it: the idea that all life is sacred, however many appendages you have. Has the Doctor never heard of pest control? Is she going after Rentokill next? When Robertson pulls the gun and announces that this is a ‘mercy killing’, you almost find yourself agreeing with him – and that, I’m convinced, is not how we’re supposed to be feeling. It all climaxes in a damp squib of a finale, the Doctor and her new friends (we’re not supposed to say ‘companions’ anymore, are we?) travelling off to new adventures in a sequence that’s supposed to be heartwarming, but simply isn’t. And as much as I’d like to put these moments out of my mind and concentrate on the good stuff, it’s scenes like this that linger like a bad smell. Perhaps it’s overstating the point, but how unfortunate that ‘Arachnids’ should end its life the same way the mother spider ended hers – on its back, disorientated and confused, with all its legs wriggling in the air.

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: