Is it on me? I feel like it’s on me. Shudder. OK, the first draft of this recap was basically just ‘aaarrrrggghhh’, but now I’ve checked the house for massive webs and got the all-clear, I might be able to commit to a few more words. Maybe. I won’t be taking my shoes off for a while though. Everyone knows that the last thing you want is vulnerable feet when there are 8-legged monsters roaming around. One needs to be stomp-ready at any given moment.
Seriously, Doctor Who, this one was just plain mean. Mean, I tell you! Can’t we have some genocidal aliens again? Sigh. After last week’s emotional trip to see Rosa Parks, ‘Arachnids In The UK’ gives us another homegrown Big Bad, and it’s not racism this time, but capitalism. And irresponsible waste disposal. And a narcissistic business dude / presidential candidate, whose real name was Jack Robertson, but being as he was a barely-veiled Trump character played by Chris Noth, and most importantly, I am petty and childish, I nicknamed him Mr Big Trump.
Mr Big Trump had a big dump (hee hee) under his fancy schmancy hotel, which gave us Classic Horror Trope #1: Oh no, they built this place on toxic waste and now mutants are coming to kill us all. The mutants in question — initially ‘just’ bioengineered spiders from a lab — were meant to have been dead and disposed of responsibly, but Mr Big Trump was going for some cheap and dirty ‘vertical integration’ and his hotel ended up at the centre of a (Mr) Big Spider Problem. Big spiders, big problems.
Fortunately, this all came to the attention of the Doctor and the (now officially named) Team TARDIS, freshly home just half an hour after they disappeared from the warehouse in episode 1. It’s a rare moment of accuracy from the Doctor, who has sometimes overshot by a year or few hundred miles or so. (Poor Rose and Sarah Jane, eh?) She has kept her promise and returned them safely to Sheffield, where she imagines she will be saying farewell, until Yaz invites her round for tea and she leaps at the chance. Then all the pieces start to come together: Yaz’s mum, Najia (Shobna Gulati), works at the fancy hotel, until Mr Big Trump fires her for no reason; her dad (Ravin J. Ganatra) thinks there’s a conspiracy with the local rubbish; her neighbour worked at the spider lab with Jade. It’s all coming together.
The bodies start to pile up: there’s the neighbour, then Mr Big Trump’s assistant, Frankie, then his bodyguard, Kevin. All three are Shelob-ed with no Samwise Gamgee to cut them loose in time to save them.
Those spiders are terrifying AF. And they are everywhere. Fortunately, the Doctor has a few home remedies; for those among you who were too busy screaming to notice, get yourself some garlic, vinegar and tea tree oil. You will probably still get spiders, but your house will smell like a chip shop, and you might be able to protect yourself from vampires and acne instead. So that’s something.
The Doctor and Jade advocate a humane solution to Sheffield’s spider problem. Something with dignity. Mr Big Trump prefers the use of weapons. Now, we’re meant to agree with the Doctor, so I was a bit perturbed by this one. I have a thwack policy with spiders if I feel at any point that they are taking the piss. Stay out of my way and I’ll permit you to live. Stay up in the corners, you spindly-legged bathroom spiders. Stay outside, enormous garden spiders, and don’t make a web across my door. Break the rules, and it’s the flip flop for you, you beastie.
So yes, yes, they are innocent creatures that are probably just scared, confused and angry, but they have an inappropriate number of legs and so screw it, KILL THEM WITH FIRE. Or something.
In the end, Team TARDIS opts for Stormzy. Oh yeah, Stormzy saves the world now.
With the ‘little’ ones (LITTLE?!) lured by Stormzy’s bass vibrations to Mr Big Trump’s ‘lockdown palace’, the team go to face Mummy Spider. But she’s dying already, slowly suffocating under the weight of all that mutated growth. That doesn’t stop Mr Big Trump from charging at it with a gun.
“What is wrong with you people? What is wrong with this country? Why don’t you do what normal people do: Get a gun, shoot things like a civilized person?”
Even though I’m firmly anti-gun, when it comes to creepy-crawlies and disproportionate violence, I literally cannot judge. I once killed a centipede with a frying pan. Whilst doing a Xena-style battle cry. In my defence, that was a really inappropriate number of legs.
The (Mr) Big Spider Peril ends, the hotel is saved, and Mr Big Trump lives to ruin another day, preparing for his 2020 Presidential campaign. As Graham puts it, “God help us all”.
In between the horror, we saw some welcome developments in the team. Yaz has had more to do, and her family were fun. Ryan is this close to calling Graham granddad now, mark my words. And as for Graham: oh, precious Graham, bearing the burden of his grief, returning to the home he shared with Grace and seeing her ghost everywhere he looks… Then getting used as spider bait for comedy value. Then going back to a heartfelt monologue on grief, reminding us: “The thing about grief is it needs time”. You know who’s good with time? A Time Lord!
It seems strange to have the decision to travel with the Doctor falling 4 episodes in, but up until this point, the team has been caught up in the weirdness, and taking the scenic route home. Now they are choosing to stay, and it’s so touching. This wasn’t an invitation they couldn’t refuse; it was their idea. Haunted by the memories of the companions who never made it home, the Doctor warns that she can’t guarantee their safety — a far cry from Nine’s gleeful ‘yeah’ when Rose asked him if it was “always this dangerous”. It reminded me more of Donna’s determination to find Ten and travel with him. (But we all remember how that worked out…)
Last week, the Doctor talked about Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra; this week’s name-drop was Amelia Earhart. But the Doctor doesn’t know who Ed Sheeran is. (Please let this not be the start of another Anti-Ginger Conspiracy…)
Honourable Mentions: Quotation Edition
Doctor: “I eat danger for breakfast. (I don’t. I prefer cereal, or croissants.)”
Doctor: “I call people ‘dude’ now.”
Najia: “Do you have any idea how annoying it is when my husband’s right?”
Graham: “Run now, ask questions later.” Doctor Who in a nutshell.
And finally, thanks Jade, for pointing out that there are approximately 21 quadrillion spiders on the planet in total. Thanks. Excuse me for a moment.
P.S. If you sing the episode title to the tune of ‘Party In The USA’, it doesn’t quite scan, but it takes the edge off the horror. “Aaaaaaarrgggggh, it’s ‘Arachnids in the U-K.” You’re welcome.
Header Image Source: BBC