I must admit that standalone episodes that are about a monster we’ve never heard of before are never my cup of tea, but hats off to Chris Chibnall, because the freshness of his writing made me enjoy this episode thoroughly. And I hate spiders.
To sum it up, we begin our story at this place that reminded me of The Shining. As we learn, Mr Big (I’m sticking with that name, yes) is about to open this massive new hotel in Sheffield, and in the middle of what looks like a crisis, a woman shows up to check last-minute details. This woman, we later learn, is Najia, Yaz’s mum, but Mr Big is so furious that he just fires her on the spot.
Our friends, after many failed attempts, are now back in Sheffield, only half an hour after they left in the first episode, and you can clearly sense the Doctor isn’t ready to be alone, jumping in excitement when Yaz invites her over for tea, so the Doctor joins the two youngest while Graham goes to check out his house, prompting the beginning of many tearful scenes of him with the vision of his dead wife, a beautiful way this episode has of explaining what grieving entails. But Graham goes to the attic and notices cobwebs. Even worse, he finds what looks like a massive dead spider -or was it just the skin? I got confused
At Yaz’s, we meet her dad and sister. Her dad is all about a rubbish conspiracy that seems out of place but will make sense later. But the Doctor, always looking for adventures, sees a woman next door trying to reach the owner of that flat. This is Jade, trying to find her friend Anna. The time-travelers go inside with Jade, only to find out Anna has been cobwebbed into a cocoon. As Jade later admits, they work at this lab that deals with spiders, and have been trying to find a way to make them live longer. But the longer they live, the more they keep growing. So you see, it’s not even aliens this time either, it’s human-generated mutation. I love that.
In the meantime, Yaz has gone to pick up her mum, and they both get threatened by Mr Big again. When the Doctor finds out that the hotel is the epicentre of the spiders, the rest of the team (with Graham) heads there, looking for answers, they quickly encounter the problem: a massive spider breaks a bathtub and takes Mr Big’s assistant with him to whatever underground hole the spiders go. Long story short, after going underground, they discover that the hotel has been built on a coal mine, where the spiders reside. A bit further into it, we come across a landfill, full of residual waste -so Yaz’s dad was right! As Mr Big reveals, one of the companies he owns, JLR, deals with waste, and they had thrown pretty much everything there. Problem is, Jade’s company works with JLR, meaning they take away their rubbish, meaning there were dead spiders (or supposedly dead spiders) in the waste, getting mixed up with toxic ingredients. Oops! Just like in real life.
Alas, the final discovery is a tragic one: the spiders are going to die anyway, like those cute dogs with no nose that can hardly breathe. As they get bigger, they can’t handle it, and eventually die. But Mr Big, becoming the de facto villain, shoots the mother spider dead, very unnecessarily, if I may say so.
In the end, as we expected, our team decides to join the TARDIS for good. Graham doesn’t want to spend the process of grief at home alone, surrounded by memories of Grace; Ryan is not really thrilled about working in a factory, and Yaz wants to see more of the world. Who would say no to a life with the Doctor?
Is he Ed Sheeran?
-I loved the running joke about Yaz’s mum, Najia. Either when Mr Big mispronounced her name (a painful example of what happens daily when people don’t bother learning how to pronounce foreign names) or when the Doctor simply called her Yaz’s mum.
-Also hilarious was the way Yaz’s mum (sorry, Najia) kept trying to guess if her daughter was with someone. Luckily for Yaz’s sister, Yaz isn’t with Ryan (for now).
-“Graham O’Brien, what are you doing sniffing coats?”
-Ryan doing shade monsters in the background at the lab was an episode highlight. Nay, a season highlight.
-“You just ran really quickly out of a room looking really scared. Tell me exactly what’s going on, omitting no detail, no matter how strange.” “A giant spider just smashed through my bathtub and took out my bodyguard, Kevin!” “Right. Very succinct summary. Well done.”
-“Who are you, people?” “Word of advice, mate: run now, ask questions later.”
-I loved the way Chibnall wrote smart, subtle jokes about Mr Big’s character and the current USA president.
-“Sorry, I don’t know who you are.” “Oh, really? Cause you must be the only person on the planet that doesn’t.” “Are you Ed Sheeran? Is he Ed Sheeran? Everyone talks about Ed Sheeran round about now, don’t they?” “I am not Ed Sheeran.” “He’s running for president in 2020.” “Ed Sheeran?” “No! Him!”
-“So, what do we do?” “Why are you asking her?” “Cos she’s in charge, bro.” “Says who?” “Says us!”
-“Dude, I’ve all the authorisation I ever need. I call people dude now.”
-Are we going to meet Ryan’s dad? I bet he is a twat and it will bring Ryan and Graham closer together.
-“What is wrong with this country? Why don’t you do what normal people do? Get a gun, shoot things, like a civilised person!”
-“Get every bottle of essential oils that you can.” “What are we going to do, spa it into submission?”
-“I am the future president of the United States. How’s this for fire and fury?”
-I almost forgot about that somehow adorable moment when Ryan has the brightest idea to attract the spiders…