11:00 am EDT, October 30, 2018

‘Doctor Who’ 11×04: Creepy spiders, clever humor lead to an official TARDIS team

The Doctor, Ryan, Yaz, and Graham finally returned back to Sheffield just half an hour after their unintentional departure. Thirteen was saddened at the thought of saying goodbye to her new comrades but, in true Doctor Who fashion, it turned into an unexpected adventure featuring one of the scariest animals on Earth: spiders.

Thirteen continues to woo many fans, including me, with her effervescent personality and refreshing compassion for all living beings, even if they aren’t beloved by the general population. Her overwhelming sadness at the prospect of parting ways with her new friends was immediately curbed by Yaz’s invitation to have a cup of tea.

I can always appreciate a Doctor who (hehe) doesn’t mind participating in our mundane human gatherings despite a thrilling daily life across the universe.

Yaz’s family dynamic was absolutely delightful with her quirky, conspiracy theorist dad and annoying little sister. But, it was her mom Najia who really got to shine this episode like a 4th companion as she led the way through the toxic waste and super spider infested hotel.

I love how she really gives the very Trump-like tycoon Robertson (played by the actor I know as Mr. Big) a few good verbal lashings after he unethically fired her for simply walking into the room. Doctor Who has really been showing the worst of USA White privilege in the past couple of episodes and I am living for every moment.

Despite Yaz’s family playing a role in this episode, I still feel like she is getting the short in of the stick in terms of character development and overall depth. She’s apparently fed up with her life, but there are still no concrete reasons why she feels this way.

Yaz claims her family is driving her crazy but, based on what we see, she just seems to be perpetually annoyed simply because they exist. No one really does or says anything malicious or overly irritating in this episode.

They point out that she seemingly has no friends nor does she date, but perhaps she has isolated herself for a reason that will be revealed at some point. I do enjoy Yaz’s interactions with others but I am always left feeling like I want more dialogue or action from her.

I enjoyed her mom questioning if she was dating The Doctor (and later Ryan) while her sister coyly tried to flirt with Ryan. So many ships have already set sail for both of these pairings and perhaps this was a sly indication that Yaz is bisexual. If so, I’d love to see it play out more explicitly at some point.

Yaz also remarked that she was unsatisfied in her job and this makes sense based on what she has said about racist remarks from citizens and her frustrations over slow upward movement.

But, we barely saw her in uniform to see this play out onscreen. I just feel like we don’t as much as we should know about Yaz at this point, especially when you consider how her male companions have had clear and prominent individual story lines from the beginning.

And, this episode was no different from the guys. Ryan was parsing through his feelings about a letter he received from his estranged father about coming to live with him following Grace’s death.

He pondered alongside Graham what it really meant to be “proper family” but the small bonding moment was predictably interrupted with a giant spider and running for their lives. Meanwhile, Graham was seen reeling from Grace’s death as he returns to their home.

He saw and heard Grace all around him as she told him to hold his head up and keep moving forward. I’m still pretty salty about Grace’s death and my predictions that they would use it to push Graham’s story are proving to be correct. Sigh…there could have be so many better ways Doctor Who. But, I digress.

The episode did a great job of slowly building up to the arachnid reveal with inconspicuous webs that became more prevalent until The Doctor found a woman in a cocoon state. It left me anticipating seeing the reveal of the first large spider spotted under the bed by Ryan.

The Doctor’s method to scribble a web on a map that led to the luxury hotel top a toxic landfill a.k.a. the spider headquarters was a clever touch.

There were quite a few witty moments, like The Doctor mistaking the boss man for Ed Sheeran and Ryan using Stormzy’s “Know Me From” to lure spiders out of their hiding place. And, Thirteen finally got to whip out her psychic paper for the first time in this new era so that was a fun moment.

The revelation of how the spiders were carcasses that came in contact with toxic waste was a nice sci-fi tie in, even thought it ended a bit anti-climatic when the mother spider was shot. Basically, this episode served as a creepy adventure to bring the companions home so they could touch base and get a chance to make a decision about continuing to travel.

The best part of this episode was no doubt the very ending when the companions returned to let The Doctor know that they wanted to keep traveling across space and time. Graham said traveling in the TARDIS was salve to his emotional wounds, Ryan wanted a better life than working in a warehouse, and Yaz simply wanted to tag along because The Doctor was the greatest person that she has ever met.

Thirteen was thrilled to have the company, but she warned them that she cannot guarantee their safety. She also said they would never be the same people they are at this moment.

It was interesting to see The Doctor be so cognizant and frank about the dangers of being a companion and the psychological effects of TARDIS travel. Usually, The Doctor is all about hyping up the upcoming adventures, so it was a welcome chance to see this character take this decision to put lives in her hands with such gravity.

I believe the events of Rosa are having a residual effect on her thought process as well as thoughts of her past transgressions with companions. She truly has the heart and warmth that we all need to weather this daily storm called life.

Overall, it was exactly what Doctor Who is supposed to be – a bit creepy, campy, and a good mix of emotional beats combined with clever humor. I doubt it will rank high on anyone’s “favorites of all-time” list but it’s a competent episode that makes the TARDIS crew official. Keep it up Season 11…and please give us more Yaz development!

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