This episode of Doctor Who comes with a big honking arachnophobia warning. And…not a lot else. It’s a very nothing episode.
Chibnall takes his first crack at the classic Doctor Who ‘base under siege episode’ format. These are episodes where the Doctor and her companions are trapped in a confined area, with a threat (often a monster) which gradually encroaches upon areas previously thought safe, which the Doctor must outwit or outfight before they are overcome. Examples of this format include Nightmare in Silver, The Ark in Space, and Dalek. It’s a tried and true format for Doctor Who adventures, and in this episode, the monster of the week is…giant spiders. Which is fine. Much like this episode. It’s fine. And there’s not a lot else you can say for or against it. It works. I don’t hate it. But it left almost no impression on me.
The episode…exists, I guess? It has extra Yas, which is good, although once the episode is actually set up she sort of recedes towards the background again. The villain is ultimately capitalism, and I don’t hate that. The rooms covered in spiderwebs were sort of creepy until they overused it.
I don’t know. This episode is so unexceptional, so unambitious, that it made me feel almost nothing, good or bad.
The villain of the piece is weirdly tonedeaf. At first, I thought he was just a winking reference to Donald Trump – American Businessman, building luxury hotels overseas, kind of a scumbag, who says ‘you’re fired’ in his first scene and who plans to run for President in 2020. This would be slightly cheeky and off, but whatever. But then the episode specifically calls out Trump by name and says he’s planning to run to replace Trump? “God help us,” Graham says as Robertson exits the stage, implying that President Robertson would be as bad or worse than Trump. But although Robertson is a paranoid billionaire, with little regard for the lives of people around him, and most definitely an asshole…he is not anywhere near as bad as Trump. He exhibits no sign of racism or other bigotry. He lies, but can be shamed into telling the truth. He’s not even directly responsible for the events of the episode, although he’s definitely responsible by negligence. I would not vote for President Robertson, but I’d sure take him over Trump. It’s just weird.
Also, I’m a little baffled by why shooting the big, slowly suffocating spider with a gun, killing it more or less instantly, is beyond the pale, but locking a whole swarm of spiders in a panic room and leaving them there to starve to death is considered humane. That’s a weird and kind of fucked up moral orientation.
Again, that’s about it. Not much good, not much bad.
To be honest, the episode held my attention so poorly that I didn’t notice much about how it looks.
If this review seems half-assed, that’s because that’s about all the episode deserves. It’s neither good nor bad, just boring and lukewarm. Good or bad, people will be talking about Rosa for years. Meanwhile, I doubt this episode will be remembered by the end of the season.
What’s really unfortunate is that the season is almost half over, and there’s yet to be a single episode that made me say afterwards “well damn, that was an hour of television well spent”. Russell T. Davies hit that note on his second episode, The End of the World. Steven Moffatt hit it home with The Eleventh Hour, his very first. Chibnall’s had four episodes so far, and he’s given me two functional but dull episodes, one ambitious disaster, and one completely bland episode. So far, so bad.