Doctor Who: “Arachnids in the UK”

***MILD SPOILERS AHEAD***

“Arachnids in the UK” is the first episode of the 11th season so far to leave me feeling meh. The story was very blah, in my opinion. I enjoyed meeting Yaz’s family (although to be honest I don’t feel like I know Yaz any better for it) and learning a little more of Ryan’s story through his receiving a letter from his dad, and I really loved all the scenes where Graham was seeing Grace in their old home, but that’s pretty much it.

The CGI used for the giant spiders is not great. There are a few scenes that will give you the creepy-crawlies if you, like me, are no fan of spiders, but overall they look kind of silly. Jack Roberston, played by Chris Noth, is more a caricature than a character. I get that there are people like that in real life, but he feels over the top, and just in terms of narrative I would have liked to see him either reveal some hidden depths in the face of danger or get killed off. As it was, he just kind of skates through the story as a jerk and a loudmouth but with no real impact.

The story is filled with plot holes that had me wondering how the episode could be ending already. What about the spiders in the safe room? There’s six months’ worth of food in there and ostensibly some kind of oxygen supply. What’s the plan? We don’t know. The spiders are herded into the safe room, the door is closed, and they’re left there. And what about the spiders that have escaped from the hotel into the surrounding city, like the one they found in Yaz’s neighbor’s apartment? They’re still out there, quite possibly suffocating more people in their webs, but after the mother spider dies the Doctor and her companions are act like everything is over and take off.

I’m also confused as to how the baby spiders got out of the toxic waste dump under the hotel in the first place, how some of the waste itself got out for Yaz’s dad to collect all over town, and why the toxicity of that waste seemed to be no big deal when piled up in Yaz’s family’s apartment. No one was sick from it. The Doctor apparently couldn’t tell it was toxic and didn’t warn them to get rid of it. It was just commented on as a nuisance and ignored. And one bit that really got under my skin: At the end, Yaz tells her family she’s going out to get more bread for their meal, but instead goes to the TARDIS and takes off with the Doctor. You don’t tell people you’re going to do something like that and then just leave them waiting! That’s very rude! It’s played off as no big deal, but it annoyed me so much.

There were plenty of opportunities for Doctor Who neepery this episode. After all, the Doctor has met giant spiders before, such as the Great One in the 1974 Third Doctor serial “Planet of the Spiders,” and of course there was the Racnoss in the 2006 Tenth Doctor Christmas special “The Runaway Bride,” as well as the spiders on the moon in the 2014 Twelfth Doctor episode “Kill the Moon.” But none of these are referenced or mentioned, which I thought was a missed opportunity.

Ultimately, I found “Arachnids in the UK” to be pretty dumb and forgettable. I hope the next episode will be a return to form, as I thought the first three episodes of the season were very good.

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