Picking up from the slightly delayed post from two weeks ago…
I’ve been waiting for this. Going backwards was an odd choice, I admit, especially considering how this season worked with the Tim Shaw bookends, but to a certain extent, it made sense because of Resolution. Resolution was the episode that really drove home the point about fallout in these episodes. Or should I say, lack thereof? We had been seeing the dangers of not cleaning up for some time, but that story really gave my idea a kick. And one of the big standout episodes that illustrated the lack of clean-up was Arachnids in the UK.
Appropriately, it’s like when your kids take food to their room or the basement. You emphasize how important it is to clean up. Then you get involved with late night work and everyone goes to bed, and you forget to make sure they did their due diligence. Next day, they come to you and say “we have ants”. Damn! See what happens when you don’t clean up??? You pay the exterminator to come out and do the work but there’s no easy fix because, once they are there, they are hard to eradicate! Know what’s worse than ants? SPIDERS! Ants are unpleasant but they don’t cause heart attacks when they appear in the doorway when you’re the only one still up at night. Spiders do. In fact, the spiders in Arachnids in the UK are 2 or 3 feet in size so when one of those suckers appear in the doorway, you’re lucky if you can get out a strangled utterance before you collapse. (If you get lucky, you pass out and land on the creature, killing it, but they are pretty resilient even at the 1-2 inch size, so I’m sure a 2 or 3 foot spider would just roll over and drink your blood like the best Dracula impersonator on the planet. Hence, “sucker”.
Thankfully, spiders don’t grow that big and in those rare times they do, the Doctor comes a’calling! Unfortunately, the Doctor has Chris Chibnall as her “moral compass” (read: lead writer) and he must have been one of those kids who had parents that came behind him to clean up his mess because he ignores the dangers of not cleaning up. It was never a priority for him, I am sure! See, in this story, the Doctor handles the big problem by luring all the spiders to their death to die of hunger and possibly eating one another because “that’s humane” (…yeah… about that!). She does it by using rap music to lure the spiders into a room (which she plays off of Ryan’s recently wiped phone… yeah, about that…). But for those of you who enjoy loud music, perhaps you’ve noticed that the sound waves only carry so far. Like maybe the neighbors can hear it, but the corner deli 2 blocks away might not. And the council estates, some miles away, definitely cannot. So when a large spider is found in a persons house in said council estate, that means there is one great big spider wandering about. The Doctor uses vinegar to keep it at bay but it is left in that house. Sooner or later, the spider will realize the Doctor only put down a single line of vinegar and it will go around it. It was vinegar, not a forcefield. Spiders are calculating; they know things. (I’m not talking complex math but they can figure out that a line of smelly vinegar isn’t going to rise up and cause any problems!) And this is only one apartment away from Yaz’s family’s apartment. One might think it a good idea to go back to that and, oh, I don’t know, CLEAN UP! (Now, if season 12 has an episode where Yaz goes back and finds her family exsanguinated by spiders, ok, then great, continuity! Hooray. But since she’s already been back in Demons of the Punjab, chances are slim that anyone will ever hear about these giant nightmares again.) But lets’ assume that one hulking great spider just happens to be the dimwitted one of the batch and dies; newsflash: there’s also one in Grahams house of which he finds the molted skin in the attic. So, newsflash #2: these spiders did get out. It wasn’t just the one that tracked the pheromone signal from the woman who worked at the lab (that conveniently lived next door to Yaz… yeah, about that…). No sir, they got OUT! They were not confined to the hotel. (Chibnall goes through the effort to show that this happened, then hopes no one noticed it. There’s good storytelling. Not…) So, who knows when these things are going to turn up. On the plus side, you’re not going to have to turn down your car visor to see one fall in your lap, so the surprise factor might not be that severe, but you may find one sitting on top of your car on the way out of the house one day. Where’s the Doctor’s cleanup crew now???
And this says nothing of the one giant spider that was left in the hotel. What did they do with that? Drag it out and bury it? No! Someone will come in to dispose of it, and it’s not like you can call pest control. They’re going to have a clause in their contract that says something like “10 foot spiders are not our bag, baby”. And we know Trump-a-like isn’t going to hack it up. More likely, he’ll set fire to the whole place to claim the insurance because, that’s his personality. And all the spiders that aren’t in the hotel but exist under it in a vast subterranean cavern will get out and spread to the country! Next time you see webs in the UK, watch out!
So this all speaks volumes about the thoroughness of Chibnall’s writing. We have a hero who saves the day for utterly no one. She starves a race of giant spiders because there was no other way out of that story in 40+ minutes. She saves the loathsome Trump-a-like and possibly gives him an insurance windfall. And she ignores the looming threat that exists outside of the lab and the hotel: that there are very probably other giant spiders around. If there is an episode to really illustrate how poorly the Doctor does cleanup, it’s this one. The fallout, because Doctor Who does not take place in a cohesive universe, is probably going to be utterly nil, but if we apply the filter of “what if this story took place in reality”, then I’d never be going to the UK again.
I just keep thinking of my good friend, Roger, going to take the trash out at night, getting to the bin, unaware that right under the lid, a spider is waiting to pounce. Sorry Rog! I hope I didn’t plant that thought too deeply. Look on the bright side, some loud music might lure it away. Maybe I’ll keep the radio playing all day because sound waves clearly travel farther than I ever imagined… ML