If you have a fear of spiders, then the Doctor Who episode “Arachnids in the UK” is not for you. The Doctor and her companions face a new eight-legged threat in modern Sheffield for the latest episode.
After many attempts to return her new companions to Sheffield, The Doctor finally arrives in the Steel City. With their journey seemingly being over, Yaz invites The Doctor and Ryan for a cup of tea and some downtime. But wherever the Doctor is trouble isn’t far behind. The city is suddenly plagued with giant spiders. The Doctor and her companions investigate the giant spiders, and where they came from.
So far, Series 11 of Doctor Who has been successful, bringing new life to the series. It excels with its small scale stories, a willingness to break the formula, and Jodie Whittaker winning over her critics. “Arachnids in the UK” is sadly the worst episode so far in Chris Chibnall’s run as showrunner and it is an example of some of the worst aspects of Doctor Who.
There are some positives to the episode. Like the previous two episodes, the adventure in this episode is smaller-scale. The Doctor isn’t trying to stop the conquest or destruction of the Earth. The episode does something Doctor Who needed to do for a long time – tell a sci-fi story without aliens. The Davies and Moffatt eras were too reliant on extraterrestrial threats, even for time-travel adventures. Doctor Who has pretty much infinite possibilities and writers should use other sci-fi ideas.
The other strength of the episode was it showed more of Yaz’s home life. She comes around as a cross between Rose and Martha – like Rose Yaz is from a working-class background and lives on council estates and like Martha, has a close-knit family. Her dad (Ravin J Ganatra) is seemingly a bit nuts and she bickers with her sister (Bhavnisha Parmar). There also hints that Yaz and Ryan might end up in a relationship because Yaz’s family assumes Ryan is her boyfriend. It wouldn’t be the first time The Doctor travels with a couple – there was Rose and Mickey, and Amy and Rory.
The worst part of the episode is the unnecessary political commentary. Chris Noth plays Jack Robertson, who’s basically Donald Trump. He’s a real estate magnate who builds luxury property, and plans to run for President of the United States out of spite. Doctor Who has had politically themed episodes, and the previous season made plenty of Trump jokes. However, Robertson is not as idiotic, offensive or xenophobic as his inspiration. His role wasn’t necessary in the episode, making his appearance gratuitous. Robertson could’ve worked if the show cared more about making him work within the episode.
“Arachnids in the UK” could have been an environmentally themed episode. For example, The Korean monster movie The Host, where chemicals were recklessly dumped into the river, led to a similar monster problem. This Doctor Who episode was surprisingly timely because there was a scandal where a company in the UK did not dispose of body parts and dangerous waste properly – but this was just a coincidence.
The other issues with the episode were the resolution and the moral of the episode. From this point on there will be SPOILERS.
At the end of the Doctor decides to bring all the spiders to an underground dump to euthanize them. To draw them in, Ryan plays a grime song with a deep baseline – which was really dumb. It was like when Bart and Lisa brought snakes into their house in The Simpsons episode “Whacking Day.” Furthermore, the spider queen grows so big that it is suffocating to death. Yet somehow, The Doctor is so anti-gun that she condemns Robertson for shooting the spider. The Doctor would have let the spider have a longer, more agonizing death instead of finding an alternative method.
“Arachnids in the UK” could have been a solid horror-themed episode. It could’ve been a homage to B-movie monster flicks. There are some moments of merit, but the episode falls flat as a whole. Fans will skip this episode once they get their full season access.