Arachnids in the UK
Thirteen and her companions finally make a safe return back home to Yorkshire. They begin to say their goodbyes but, at the last second, Yaz invites the Doctor to stay for tea and meet her parents. She quickly accepts and the group all sets off together. Graham quickly returns home to check on things and is left grieving the memory of his wife Grace. He notices strange cobwebs around the house.
The Doctor meets Yaz’s family and gets to know her a little better. Yaz has to leave to pick her mom up from a job out of the city. The Doctor uses this opportunity to investigate a mysterious neighbor next door. A friend of the neighbor says that she hasn’t been to work for several days and is not answering the door. They break into the apartment to find it covered in cobwebs and sadly, the neighbor is wrapped tightly in a cocoon of webs. The doctor and Ryan search the apartment for the spider that could have done this and find a HUGE spider hiding under the bed. They trap it in the room and interrogate the friend about what she knows of these giant spiders.
The friend, Dr. Jade, reveals that she works for a lab that does research on spiders and they have noticed that there is a strange growing population of spiders around England. Yaz suddenly calls the Doctor and asks her to come to the Hotel her mother works at to investigate a strange spider infestation.
Together at the hotel, the group learns that the spider infestation originates underneath the building. The hotel’s owner, eccentric American presidential candidate Robertson, reveals that his company secretly has a landfill underneath the hotel and that Dr. Jade’s escaped research science spiders feasted and grew enormous on the trash heap.
Robertson wants to kill all the spiders and tries to shoot the ‘mother-spider’. The Doctor stops him and tells him there is another way to set them all free. They then realize that the enormous ‘mother-spider’ is dying a horrible death, strangling under her own gargantuan weight. In a moment of silence, Robertson shoots the spider, putting her out of her misery. The Doctor condones his actions, but lets him escape into the night, back to America.
The Tsuranga Conundrum
After several adventures together, the action picks up with our group of space friends on a junkyard planet looking for a spaceship part. They comb the planet for hours looking for the part when Graham comes across something on his metal detector. The Doctor comes to investigate and realizes he’s come across a deadly Sonic Mine. She quietly apologizes to the group as the mine begins to detonate.
The Doctor groggily comes to in a stark white med bay. She tries to make sense of what is happening when the Medical doctor named Astos tells her they rescued her and her companions from the Sonic Mine. The Doctor thanks him for saving her but says she must go and get back to her TARDIS. Astos reluctantly tells her that she cannot leave the med bay, as it is currently on a ship travelling several days away from the planet they were rescued from. Discouraged, the Doctor does some digging and discovers the ship is on auto pilot to a space station home base. As the Doctor is exploring possible options to get back to the TARDIS, an unidentified object breaks through the ships shields.
Astos and the Doctor investigate what could have broken through the ship when suddenly, the object begins working its way through the ships exterior, destroying systems and ship parts as it goes. Thirteen and Astos realize that whatever is attacking the ship is headed for the escape pods and they both rush to stop it. Astos hears the thing crawling around near the pod and he goes inside to investigate further. Before he can do anything though, he becomes trapped inside the pod by the unknown creature and he knows he’s made a terrible mistake. He calls out to the Doctor and the other medic, Mabli and tells them to save the ship at all costs just moments before he is jettisoned into space and the pod explodes.
Mabli, a brand new medic on the ship is in a panic and doesn’t know how to handle the situation. The Doctor consoles her and does her best to give her hope in dark times. They gather all the patients aboard the ship to tell them what is happening. Graham, Yaz and Ryan help by talking to the heavily pregnant man named Yoss. The Doctor and Mabli consult a gravely ill war medic pilot named Eve Cicero, her brother Durkas, and her android helper Ronan. Togther they all learn that the creature destroying their ship is named a Pting. It is one of the deadliest creatures in the galaxy and there is no known way to stop or kill the beast.
The Doctor being the Doctor though, comes up with a plan to keep the ship from self destruction while stopping the Pting from tearing the ship apart and killing them all. Along the way Thirteen discovers that the Pting may not intentionally be trying to kill them and is merely looking for an energy power source to feed on. The Doctor’s plan is to take the ship on a short cut route through a dangerous asteroid field, jettison the Pting back into space, and bring the ship safely back to home base before it completely falls apart.
Eve agrees to pilot the ship, even though the stress of it will probably kill her. Her brother, a master engineer, builds a navigation system for her to safely pilot the ship. Ryan, Graham and Mabli safely deliver Yoss’ baby and convince the first time single dad to give fatherhood a try and keep his unexpected bundle of joy. Yaz and Ronan work on cornering the Pting and wait for the Doctor’s cue to trap it in a pod and send it off to space. The Doctor manages to diffuse the ship’s self destruct bomb just in time, feeding it to the energy starved Pting, and releases it into space with a belly full of delicious explosives. Eve pilots the ship safely to home base, though as predicted, the stress is too much for her heart and she dies in her brother’s arms. The Doctor and everyone on board the ship have a solemn pilot’s funeral for Eve and look off into the distance knowing that they’ve brought a bit of light to a dark place.
I’m only briefly going to touch on Arachnids in the UK. It was not my favorite episode and I am assuming I took it waaaay more seriously than it was meant to be taken. I could never tell if the episode was meant to be a humorous parody episode or the humor and acting was just too heavy handed for a spooky monster flick. The ‘faux-Trump’ Robertson character played by Chris North was…. I don’t know… an interesting choice. Again, I couldn’t tell if he was supposed to be an intimidating villain or a buffoon. I wanted his character to be a joke, and he was played like a spineless, gun-toting, power hungry American, but they let him slink away into the night like a true villain. We’ll probably see him return as the US President in a future episode. Like I said, I think this episode was meant to be a fun, Halloween themed silly episode but I was expecting it to go somewhere important. Maybe rewatching it with a different lens will help.
Completely shifting tones again, Episode 5 is an action packed exciting thriller. I really, really enjoyed this episode. It felt much more like the Doctor Who I love. The story was engaging and kept you interested the whole time. And the adorable little killer Pting was probably the best villain this season has seen so far. Chibnall has really laid on these ‘not-quite-villain’ villains this whole season. It seems to me we’ll get a sort of ‘league of villains’ episode for the finale of this season that will revisit all our seasons aggressors. I can’t decide if I’m excited to see the league of villains story line play out or if I’ll be so sick of wimpy villains that an army of tooth-faced Tzim-Shaws, greaser time travelling Krasko, or Trump-esque Robertsons will be too overwritten to be interesting. AND… what about this Timeless Child reference from the second episode? We’re already halfway through the season without a well defined story arc that I can root for. Episode 6, Demons of Punjab will hopefully give us a few interesting tidbits.
The supporting characters were fantastically written This episode. The Doctor and Astos had more chemistry than I’ve seen her have with any of her companions. If Astos hadn’t died I would have really loved him to become one of her companions. He was quick witted and kept up with the Doctor at every turn. While his reign was short lived, I’ll always have a place in my heart from him. Astos really gave us a taste of someone treating the Doctor like….well… the Doctor. No questions, no hesitation, just trusting in the Doctor wholeheartedly. It was wonderful that Thirteen didn’t have to give a whole spiel about who she is or why they should follow her.
While the siblings story line was really dramatic, I enjoyed how fleshed out the pilot and her engineer brother were. They had an emotional side story that tried to give us a dramatic ending. I don’t really fall for over-emotional stories, especially in my space show (don’t tell anyone I cried during the Amy, Rory story ending). But this story line especially didn’t hit me in the heartstrings at all. Probably because we didn’t really get much time to get to know Eve… or Grace… or Astos. The writers are really into killing off characters in one episode.
I’m also still having a hard time connecting to the companions on more than a superficial level. Graham is probably the stand out companion with an interesting backstory and his ghost wife still haunting him. Ryan also has an emotional back story that may come to some closure in the next few episodes. All this talk of his absent father has to lead somewhere. Yaz is still the least fleshed out companion with only a few small moments and family screen time to show. I don’t know a whole lot about her. She is unhappy with her job and was wanting adventure, but beyond that it’s a little grey. It seems like they are trying to get Yaz and Ryan to get together which is… not a surprise. I guess I could care less either way right now as they are both still strangers to me.
I’m still interested to see where this season is going. While it may not be the classic Doctor Who season I was expecting, it may still go somewhere interesting. I don’t expect to see any of the usual Who villains like Daleks or Cybermen, but maybe the Timeless Child, League of Villains thing will be cool. While I do miss the grand old Who adventures of Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith, the smaller more emotional stories will help to build the foundation of Thirteen’s Doctor. I have to admit, this new version of Who may be easier or more interesting for newer, younger viewers to join in.