Thursday, November 1, 2018

Doctor Who 11x04 Recap: “Arachnids in the UK” (The Stuff of Nightmares) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]

“Arachnids in the UK”
Original Airdate: October 28, 2018

If you thought season 11 of Doctor Who was going to be understated and tame because of a new showrunner and a new Doctor, you were wrong. After last week’s harsh but honest depiction of racism, this week’s episode came out swinging too. The commentary on businessmen and politicians (and presidents) who put their own wealth, power, and ambition above the public good was clear as day and very welcome.

... But did that story have to be told using giant flippin’ spiders?! Is the BBC going to pick up my therapy bill?


The episode begins with an American hotel magnate who has political ambitions. We’ll find out later his name is Jack Robertson. He’s just found out his brand-new hotel has a health and safety problem, but he’d like that to just “go away” because it might mess with his planned 2020 presidential campaign. Robertson also loves firing people — including the manager of his new hotel, who happens to be Yaz’s mom, Najia.

The Doctor has finally managed to land the TARDIS in the right place and time to get her trio of friends back home. They all stand around, awkwardly attempting to say goodbye, until Yaz invites the Doctor over for tea and she jumps at the offer. Ryan and Graham are invited too but Graham wants to stop at home first. It’s a sad sequence. The house is filled with memories of Grace, of course, and Graham even imagines seeing her.

Yaz’s family is delightfully relatable. Her dad is embarrassing but sweet, her sister teases her, and they’re both tickled that Yaz has brought friends home — a first! While preparing tea, her dad explains the pile of trash he’s keeping as evidence of a conspiracy. Of course, the Doctor’s eyes light up at that word. Yaz then receives a call from her mom asking to be picked up, so she goes out. The Doctor offers to deliver the neighbor’s mail, which was delivered to Yaz’s family by mistake.

This is the perfect excuse to do a little investigating, since the Doctor noticed earlier that someone was trying to get a hold of the neighbor. Ryan goes with her and, with the neighbor’s friend’s approval, the Doctor sonics their way into the apartment. It’s covered in spider webs. They find the neighbor dead and cocooned in webs in bed. Under the bed, a far-too-big spider scurries out. The trio lock it in the bedroom and then trap it in the apartment. In the hallway, Graham comes running up to them to say he found webs and a spider skin in the house too. Gross. 


The neighbor’s friend is Dr. Jade McIntyre. They worked together at a research lab studying spiders, which have been behaving abnormally lately. Yeah, I’ll say! One of Robertson’s staffers films herself in a massive spider nest under his hotel but is attacked by an unseen massive spider. When Yaz arrives to pick up her mom, Robertson forces them to accompany him to one of the hotel’s rooms that’s covered in webs. He then goes next door for his scheduled bathroom break (yup, you read that right) and is attacked by the previously unseen massive spider when it pushes through the bathtub.

Robertson throws his bodyguard, Kevin, into the bathroom to kill the beast; but instead, Kevin is webbed up and dragged down into the nest. The Doctor and her team meet the others in the hallway outside the room and Robertson immediately tells them exactly what he saw. Being who she is, the Doctor instantly sticks her head down the tub to see for herself.

Unable to leave because the hotel entrance is blocked by webs, the Doctor devises a different plan. Ryan and Graham capture a spider to study, and Najia leads the rest of the group down into the abandoned coal mines beneath the hotel. Cocoons of dead people hang from the ceiling and a huge landfill takes up the rest of the space. Robertson and his many companies bought the mine cheap, filled it with trash, and built a luxury hotel on top. The toxic waste in the landfill plus the discarded spiders from Dr. McIntyre’s lab have resulted in the far-too-big spiders roaming the hotel. They ended up in Yaz’s building because her neighbor smelled familiar to them since she’d been in the lab too.


After Ryan and Graham are attacked by the mama spider in the ballroom, the whole group flees into Robertson’s panic room, which he has stocked with all the essentials: food, entertainments, guns. He wants to arm them all and shoot every spider he sees but the Brits all disagree. Instead, Ryan has the bright idea to play loud, rhythmic music to lure the spiders into the panic room for a humane death. As for the spider mom, the Doctor sadly realizes she’s grown too big for her body to sustain herself and is slowly suffocating. Darn this show for making me feel things for giant spiders. It’s genuinely upsetting when Robertson bursts into the room and shoots the spider in cold blood.

Their latest adventure sorted, the Doctor returns to the TARDIS. That night, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham meet her there. They’ve decided to keep traveling with her. Graham says it helps with his grief. Ryan doesn’t want to return to his mundane warehouse job. Yaz wants a break from her loving but grating family. The Doctor asks them to be sure. They probably won’t come back the same people they left as, and may not come back at all. They each agree and together, Team TARDIS pulls the lever to take off.

Final Thoughts: 

  • This season of Doctor Who is not holding back, and I am here for it. This episode was a great blend of classic sci-fi horror and political commentary. However, I was waiting for a moment where Robertson faced any repercussions for his actions. 
  • Ryan received a letter from his absentee dad saying Ryan should come live with him now because he’s “proper family” (who didn’t attend his own mother’s funeral). Ryan tells Graham he resents his dad saying this and Graham looks touched. We are getting closer and closer to Ryan calling Graham “granddad.” 
  • Najia, about the Doctor and Yaz: “Are you two seeing each other?” The Doctor: “I don’t think so. Are we?” Yaz: “We’re friends!”
  • The Doctor, after being told she’s not authorized to enter a room: “Dude, I have all the authorization I ever need.” *holds up sonic screwdriver*
  • Yaz’s dad thought the trash problem in their apartment was a conspiracy, which turned out to be true because of Robertson’s shady business practices. When Najia realizes this she says, “Do you have any idea how annoying it is when my husband’s right?”
  • The Doctor: “I’ve never had a flat. I should get one. I’d be good in a flat. I could get a sofa. Imagine me with a sofa! Like, my own sofa! I could get a purple one and sit on it. Am I being weird?” Ryan: “A little bit, yeah.” The Doctor: “I’m trying to do small talk. I thought I was doing quite well.”


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