By JD Phillips
Every season of “Doctor Who” is a mixed bag. Even the best of seasons have real duds. “Arachnids In The UK” was the first real dud of season eleven. It had some good character moments and once again Jodie Whittaker proved to be the MVP, but otherwise, this episode was the special kind of terrible “Doctor Who” can be known for.
Let’s start with the positives though. This was another strong showing for our three companions. Yaz especially got a well-deserved dose of development. We got a good look into her family life which really answered a lot of questions. Ry and Graham don’t have a lot going on in their daily lives, but Yaz has a family and a job. It didn’t always make sense as to why she would be just as eager to go Tardising as her compatriots.
This week really shined a lot of light on that. Her family, while loving, is stifling for such a brilliant woman of action. The family dynamic here was very genuine and reminiscent of Rose’s dynamic with her infinitely entertaining mother Jackie.
It was Graham that got the best moment though. His time in his old house was truly heartbreaking. Also, more Grace cameos, please!
Ryan didn’t get as much time in the spotlight but he still made a pretty solid developmental stride. He truly accepted Graham as his real family over his extremely disappointing father (ten bucks we’ll meet him in a few weeks played by a British character actor.)
This all brought us to the companions finally committing fully to joining the Doctor. (I need a “Team Tardis” baseball hat now!) It was a pretty heartwarming and familiar moment, but it was a touch different this time. The Doctor actually warned them just how dangerous this could be. I thought that was a needed moment considering the recent track record of companion fatalities. (The last official companion to not die was Donna and she had her memories erased.)
The Doctor also showed extraordinary vulnerability. Most of the time the Doctors present themselves as larger than the humans they’re around. The 13th Doctor seems to have humbled herself greatly. She’s socially awkward and openly lonely. Apparently, her time as the openly hostile 12th Doctor has changed her significantly. She is the “Timelord Triumphant” no longer.
Also, kudos to her using science and gadgets to combat her giant spider problem. I like this trend.
Speaking of the spiders, these have to be the most underwhelming monsters in years. I was a bit worried that the monsters were going to lose some of their creep factor after Stephen “Nightmare King” Moffat left the series, but I was still hopeful more nightmare fuel was coming. This week those fears just grew. These were hardly the worst monsters the show has ever had, but definitely among the least imaginative.
They definitely weren’t the worst monster this week. I’m all for Trump criticisms, don’t get me wrong, but straw-men characters are the worst type of criticism. Ultimately, Chris Noth’s Trump stand-in offered nothing meaningful to the conversation about the controversial American President but was rather an eye-rolling spectacle that offered nothing to the plot aside from some heavy-handed commentary. I think we all knew some Trump-era commentary was coming but I just hoped it would be better commentary. This was just lazy writing.
What was also lazy was the ending (or lack thereof). What exactly happened to all those giant spiders? Is Mr. Tru...Robertson still running for President? Did his garbage mines get filled? Also, how the hell would you get tons of trash in a tiny mineshaft? Can’t drive a truck down there. I don’t really understand how that made business sense. Also, why is the owner of the hotel franchise personally running the day-to-day business of his London hotel? Does he not have a hotel manager?
Did they really even have an idea for this week aside from “spiders are scary” and “Trump is a dick”?
Regardless, it was still better than “Vampires in Venice”. With “Doctor Who” you just take the loses in stride because the wins are so worth it.
This week, the new “Doctor Who” provided its first truly underwhelming freak-of-the-week episode. While there were still plenty of great character moments it didn’t quite make up for the extremely underwritten plot. Let’s hope next week is back on track.