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Doctor Who - Arachnids in the UK - Review: "Toxic"

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© BBC Pictures
Episode: 11.04 "Arachnids in the UK"
Directed by: Sallie Aprahamian
Written by: Chris Chibnall
Air date: 28 October 2018

This week on "Doctor Who", the Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan find their way back to Yorkshire where everyone meets Yasmin’s family. They all quickly discover that there's something happening with arachnid population of Sheffield, leading them all to meet back at a recently built luxury hotel complex owned by an American named Robertson. Together with him, arachnologist Dr. Jade McIntyre and Yaz's mother, Najia, they realize that the spiders have infested the hotel and they're trapped inside. Their investigation also reveals the infestation was caused by experiments done on genetically modified spiders combined with industrial waste by one of Robertson's companies. The group manages to seal off most of the arachnids in a panic room, to let them die humanely. The only one left is the original specimen, already dying due to its massive size (and troubles with breathing) in the ballroom. Though the Doctor and her friends want to let the spider die peacefully, Robertson kills it with his bodyguard's gun. In the end, everyone is free to leave the hotel and Yaz, Graham and Ryan all decide to join the Doctor and see more of the universe with her instead of going back to their normal lives.

Like a wise wizard once said: "Why spiders? Why couldn’t it be follow the butterflies?!" It's safe to say that I won't be returning to this episode anytime soon. Or ever. It's certainly my least favorite hour of the season so far and covering my eyes for half of it sadly didn't help. There are some things I very much enjoyed about it, mainly the personal relationships and conversations between the main characters, however the story itself didn't work as well as in the previous episodes. Experimental spiders combined with the toxic waste below a luxurious hotel don't mix for me, not in a way I'm sure the writers intended. Interesting fact, as much as I was avoiding the spiders on the screen, it's Robertson who turned out to be the absolute worst. His lack of empathy, general attitude towards people around him, complete refusal to follow the Doctor and his opinion that he's simply more important than everyone else just made me want to skip his scenes altogether. Till now I've been saying that I wouldn't mind seeing some of our guest characters from the season return in a future episode. He is not one of them. Of course it's clear, his resemblance to certain real life person, so it's just one more reason to dismiss Robertson completely. Good job by Chris Noth, though, he definitely made me dislike the character quite a bit.

Now for the great part of the episode: the companions. I've been really enjoying their personal journeys so far but there was something that I've been missing in the past three episodes. The Doctor's friends usually decide to follow him/her right after their first adventure together. They want to learn more about the universe, see its wonders, they enter the TARDIS without really knowing what they sign up for. That's not what happened with these three. They ended up travelling through space and time by accident and so far they've only been trying to find their way back home. Their need to be there, with the Doctor, that's the part I didn't even realize I've been missing until I saw the final scene of this hour. One of the best moments of the season so far. For many different reasons, Yaz, Graham and Ryan all decide to stay with the Doctor. Graham is still processing his loss and travelling with the Doctor has been most helpful in his grief. Yasmin, on the other hand, spends a day with her family, realizes that she loves and cares about them, but she wants more from her life, to see the universe, to make a real difference. She feels inspired by the Doctor and of all the companions, she's the one who reminds me the previous ones the most. I'm so glad we've been getting more and more of Yasmin's perspective in the last two episodes. She's growing on me with every hour. Her strength and bravery to face the danger in the hotel made quite an impression. Also, I've been really enjoying her interactions with the Doctor. They're a joy to watch together, actual friends already.

Graham is still my favorite, though. He makes it so easy to relate to him. Even in this hour, he's the one who has the biggest problem with the spiders and I appreciated his reactions to them all the more. Graham also has the most emotional part of the story so far. His scenes with the memory, an echo of Grace were both beautifully done and heartbreaking to watch. His grief is present at all times, but the way he's been dealing with it, transforming his pain in these adventures into the need to help and see the universe is quite something for sure. I'm still feeling least connected with Ryan at this point. The character's motivations to go with the Doctor weren't as powerful and clear as with the other two but I think there's a great potential there, especially after last episode and Ryan's interactions with Rosa Parks. I'm very interested to see how the story evolves from here, now with all three companions truly onboard and ready to start the adventure of a lifetime. Team TARDIS all the way. Speaking of, there would be no team without the Doctor. I loved the way all three of her friends immediately put her in charge when things were not looking good at the hotel. "She's in charge, bro." "Says who?" "Says us!" It shows just how much faith and trust her friends already have in her abilities. Such a short but wonderful sign of support.

The Doctor herself is doing a fine job so far. She's had some great interactions with Yaz and Graham, her kindness towards all living beings is always present, her courage and knowledge save the day. I did wonder about her conversations with Robertson, though. Maybe it's because I could easily imagine the previous Doctors taking a different approach with him. Thirteen seems calmer in a way, lighter. I've been rewatching some older episodes of Doctor Who lately, especially the ending of Twelfth Doctor, and there's this feeling, this terrible weight on his shoulders that I haven't noticed in Thirteen's behavior as of now. It does truly feel like the Doctor's reborn, with a new perspective, new hope, maybe more positive, even happier attitude. Or it might just be we haven't hit a breaking point yet. In which case, I'm very interested to see where it all goes.

Whovian notes and questions:
1. The monster of the week - spiders edition. I was actively trying not to see too much of them, so I can't say a lot about the design and the special effects this time but the parts that I've seen and heard seemed very well done, lifelike for sure. What did you think?
2. Of all the guest characters we've met so far in this season, Robertson is one I do not wish to see return. However I am glad to see Grace reappear in Graham's mind time and time again. Any other characters you'd like to see show up again? Maybe from the previous seasons? With a new showrunner it always seems like a completely new chapter (even a clean slate) but technically we do still have Clara and Bill travelling through time and space. And what about Torchwood? Personally I'd love to see any of the old companions interact with the new Doctor.
3. Companions and the Doctor - did your first impressions change over time or only strengthen since the premiere? For me Yaz has probably grown the most when compared to her presence in the first episode. Graham just continues to convince me why he's my favorite. I think my reactions to the Doctor and Ryan haven't changed too much. For better or worse. How about you?

1. Yasmin: "I love my family but they also drive me completely insane. I want more. More of the universe. More time with you. You're like the best person I ever met."

2. The Doctor: "She wasn't even a threat. She was dying anyway."
Robertson: "Ah well, then it's a mercy killing."
The Doctor: "I don't see any mercy in you."

3. Najia: "My husband's right. It's a conspiracy. Do you have any idea how annoying it is when my husband's right?"

4. Yaz: "So what do we do?"
Robertson: "Why are you asking her?"
Ryan: "Because she's in charge, bro."
Robertson: "Says who?
Ryan, Yaz, Graham: "Says us!"

5. The Doctor: "Maybe I'm nervous. Or just socially awkward. I'm still figuring myself out."

What did you think about "Arachnids in the UK"? Any favorite scenes, quotes or theories? Feel free to let us know in the comments. Check out the press release & promo for the next episode "The Tsuranga Conundrum". As always, thanks for reading!

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