'Doctor Who' Season 11, Episode 4 Recap: Arachnids in the U.K.

Doctor Who S11_Ep4_09_Embargoed until 23.10.18 00.01 BST.JPG

Picture Shows: The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER)

Copyright: BBC Studios 2018

Doctor Who descends into horror at home. But no one sure's what's more horrid: The spiders or the man running for president.

The Doctor: I was doing small talk. I thought I was doing quite well?

After last week's accidental detour into history, the Doctor finally parks the TARDIS precisely where she means to. Present day, U.K., Sheffield. She even lands at Park Hill, which is where Yaz's flat is located, just down the block from Ryan and Graham's. Door to door service! The Doctor tries not to be all sad and mopey that her new friends are heading home; but face it, the Doctor is totally sad and mopey her new friends are heading home. Seeing this, Yaz decides to ask the Doctor to stay for tea. Ryan is all about getting invited up, but Graham has a visit to pay to Grace at thier home, where his visions of her are the most potent, before he feels he can join them. 

(Photo Credit: Ben Blackall/BBC America)

But even before the Doctor meets Yaz's family, she's already noticing a few things. The next door neighbor Anna isn't in, and her friend Jade (Tanya Fear) is frantically calling. There are spider's webs in the corners. Yaz's dad, Hakim (Ravin Ganatra) is going on about a trash pile and how it's a conspiracy, to the eyerolls of both Yaz and her sister Sonya (Bhavnisha Parmar). We all know how much the Doctor loves a good conspiracy. She'll have time to ask about it too, because Yaz's mum, Najia (Shobna Gulati), is calling Yaz asking for a lift home. She was about to be the new General Manager of a posh hotel opening on Monday, but she was fired by its American owner Jack Robertson (Chris Noth) for merely being in the wrong space at the wrong moment.

While they wait, the Doctor notices Yaz's family has a package waiting for them a couple doors over — the same flat where Anna is not answering. Naturally, the Doctor volunteers to go get the package and, with Jade's blessing, winds up breaking in, only to find the apartment loaded with spider's webs. Considering Anna's only been missing a few days, and these webs take years to build, a mystery is officially afoot. Or as Ryan puts it: "This is proper weird." And only more so when Anna's body turns up in bed, mummified by a spider the size of a small dog.

Meanwhile, over at Grace's, Graham's conversation with her ghost is interrupted when he hears a thud upstairs, only to find the skin of the biggest spider he's ever seen. He arrives back to the Doctor to report it just in time for Jade to admit this isn't the first time a death like Anna's has happened. Turns out Jade is a research fellow specializing in arachnids and orthopods, and apparently, something terrible is happening to the spiders in Sheffield.

Ron Weasley: "Why spiders? Why couldn't it be follow the butterflies?" - J.K. Rowling

I will admit, I do not usually allow my own creepy crawlies to get the best of me when recapping science fiction. Most of the time, I'm okay to watch whatever. But the spiders in this episode are proper horrifying. Not only oversized and murderous, but genuinely upsetting. This is not an episode for those with any sort of arachnophobia, at all. 

(Photo Credit: Ben Blackall/BBC America)

Said spiders are definitely coming from underneath the posh hotel Yaz's mum just got fired from. When Yaz turns up to take her mum home, Jack Robertson is so enraged he has his bodyguard Kevin threaten them both at gunpoint before deciding to show Yaz the rooms and what a terrible job her mother did. You can guess what they're filled with. 

While Yaz is at Spider Ground Zero, the Doctor, Ryan, and Graham have followed Jade back to the lab. (Sorry about the pakoras, Yaz's dad!) Jade explains how the spider incidents seem to be all unrelated, but one look at the map tells the Doctor there's a central point where all of this is coming from. What's there? Why the brand new posh hotel. The Doctor and company arrive just as a giant spider claims another victim: Kevin. (To be clear, he's gone because Robertson literally threw the man between him and the spider and escaped.)

Robertson is appalled the Doctor's never heard of him, leaving the others to fill us all in. According to Graham, he's running in 2020 because of a long-simmering feud with another selfish jerk of an American hotel magnate who thinks himself the center of the universe and happened to win the presidency in 2016. When he tries to blame Najia for the spider infestation, Ryan convinces him otherwise, after all, it could be espionage! Could be Russians! Seriously, Noth's not-quite-Trump impression steals the entire episode.

Robertson: "What is wrong with you pepple, what is wrong with this country? Why don't you do what normal people do? Get a gun. Shot things, like a civilized person.

At least Robertson is useful for something, providing the hotel plans. But the real wealth of information is Najia because she knows what the hotel acreage was repurposed from. Coal mines, which explains the terrible dark tunnels Robertson's assistant (and sister's wife) Frankie was killed in early on. Speaking of those tunnels, an investigation of them explains all of the mysteries, including the trash conspiracy Yaz's dad was going on about. Robertson took an old mine, filled it with corporate landfill and toxic waste trash and then built a hotel on top. As far as he's concerned, it's a very efficient business model, perfect vertical integration. Except his toxic waste people are the ones, who take all the botched experiments and spider carcasses from Jade's lab and supposedly dispose of them properly. It's a perfect soup to create toxic monster spiders. Not that Robertson is going to take any sort of responsibility for any of it. He's heading for his panic room. As one does.

(Photo Credit: Simon Ridgeway/BBC America)

Once the spider queen is found in the hotel ballroom, where she's basically suffocating from having grown too big, it's a matter of luring the rest of the pack to an enclosed space to dispose of them humanely. Once they decide that's the best use of the panic room, Ryan lures them in with vibrations from Stormzy "Know Me From." Listen, it doesn't matter if you've never heard the song or not, just best to nod along, lest you get labeled as so uncool right now. But while the Doctor feels nothing but sadness for the dying queen, Robertson doesn't care and shoots it dead. This, he declares, is what will get him into the White House. God help us all. 

With Sheffield safe from spiders and US presidential candidates for 2020, the Doctor will be off again. But Yaz, Ryan, and Graham aren't about to just let her go. All three say goodbye to this time and place because they want more. And so do we. Team TARDIS is off again for another adventure.

Next week: Team TARDIS will have to survive The Tsuranga Conundrum.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

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