Spiders, spiders, and even more crazy-huge spiders are all over Doctor Who Season 11 Episode 4.
I will freely admit to jumping multiple times as the creepy buggers got their scare on. Happy Halloween, y'know?
On a less seasonal note, the theme of homecoming runs throughout the plot.
The T.A.R.D.I.S. brings the team back to Sheffield finally and Yaz heads straight in to see her family with The Doctor and Ryan while Graham takes the opportunity to face the reality of life without Grace.
Of course, just because Grace has died doesn't mean that her presence is gone and Graham sees and hears her wherever he goes in the home they shared.
It's poignant and tender and respectful of the loss he suffered when she died.
It had been a dangling loose end for me that Graham never seemed to have the time to work through his grief.
True to Yorkshire stereotype, the still waters run deep in the ex-bus driver and it isn't until he's alone at home that the real emotion seems to surface.
It's a powerful treatment for the character's trauma and indicates how it isn't something that'll pass quickly.
And that's a real and honest truth I appreciate although my heart aches for Graham and Ryan still.
Meanwhile, seeing Yaz in the context of her family was both entertaining and eye-opening.
Her father, Hakim, is incredibly welcoming and positive with a twist of conspiracy theory nut living with three strong-willed women.
Sort of a blend of Bob Belcher and Danny Tanner with a side of Fox Mulder. I think The Doctor might have taken to him quicker than to Najia.
I love a conspiracyThe Doctor
Sister Sonya isn't all that subtle but she doesn't get a lot of opportunities to make an impression beyond making Ryan uncomfortable. Repeatedly.
We spend a lot more time with Najia, meeting her before the T.A.R.D.I.S. even returns to Sheffield.
She's professional and level-headed with a lot of questions. It's obvious she and Yaz butt heads a lot (probably due to having similar personalities) and her ire over being repeatedly referred to as "Yaz's mum" is a resigned sort of annoyance.
The Doctor: You can't be President if you fired Yaz's mum.
She's clearly the head of the household, used to getting her way.
I was a bit surprised at how calmly she took being sacked by Robertson. It may have been just an outward impression though. She clearly doesn't like the man and is happy to demonstrate how much smarter she is.
Beyond that, she is a mother and looks to protect Hakim (however temporarily), to understand Yaz (as much as that annoys her daughter), and to learn about the people who have suddenly become a part of Yaz's life.
Do you know the worst thing? Bits of this is leaking out above here. It's in my kitchen. My husband's right. It's a conspiracy. Do you have any idea how annoying it is when my husband's right?Najia
There's also a bit of a study of families here. Robertson starts out demonstrating that he doesn't really care for family ties although he's not above using them for leverage.
Robertson: Frankie, we're family, right? I mean, you're my... what are you again?
Frankie: I'm your niece's wife, sir.
Then we have Yaz's family with all its lovable, annoying quirks.
Graham and Ryan are each other's family, sharing in their loss of Grace, but Ryan's father's presence is felt here with a letter that arrives while they were away.
Ryan's reluctant to open it but when he shares that he'd prefer to stay with Graham than go live with his dad, it's very touching (until the GIANT mother spider appears to ruin the mood).
Finally, we have The Doctor and the continuing sense that she's looking for a family. She mentions being a sister when she's trying to make small talk.
The Doctor: Imagine me with a sofa. Like, my own sofa. I could get a purple one and sit on it. Am I being weird?
Ryan: Little bit, yeah.
The Doctor: I was trying to do small talk. Thought I was doing quite well.
Yaz: Needs work.
Then, when the Companions come and ask to continue to adventure with her, it may be the third (possibly fourth) time she tries to call them her "fam" which she quickly changes to "Team T.A.R.D.I.S."
Weirdly, this all ties into the mutant spiders and the fact that the biggest one is the "mother" and the others are all her babies which is a pretty huge assumption that no one really questions and then The Doctor uses it to make another sweeping generalization about homecomings.
...in the end, every living thing has the same instinct. To come back home.The Doctor
There's also the issue of the DOZENS OF GIANT MUTANT SPIDERS they just left in Robertson's panic room to die.
Not sure how Dr. McIntyre considers that a natural death. Besides, there were six months' rations in there. They might survive until the FOURTEENTH Doctor regenerates.
Bad science aside, there's a lot to parse out here regarding the definitions of "home" and of "family."
I feel like this will build to something important when they come to the major conflict of the season whether it's the Stenza or Ryan's absentee father.
The other major element that needs addressing is the VERY heavy-handed resemblance between the human baddie, Jack Robertson, and a certain sitting president.
A hotel mogul with a tendency towards irrational paranoia, alternative facts, and gold-leaf everything.
And some of you readers thought Doctor Who Season 11 Episode 3 was political.
Chris Noth plays Jack Robertson on a gradually increasing scale of crazy. Initially, he's just inconsiderate and demanding, unsure of how his underlings relate to him and firing Najia for coming in on a day off.
Then, when he sics his armed bodyguard on her and Yaz and, later, blames eco-protesters for the spider webs throughout his hotel, we realize he's pretty unhinged.
He even buys into the Russian interference theory that Ryan and Graham throw his way. (I believe that's what's called "taking the mick.")
From scheduled bathroom breaks to basically feeding poor Kevin to the mother spider to denying all culpability for his penny-pinching businesses creating the toxic ooze pit which mutates the spiders in the first place, Robertson is a caricature of the capitalist monster, lacking conscience and any sense of global citizenship.
And, of course, he's also a gun-crazy whack-a-doodle when it comes to solving a pest-control problem like giant spiders.
The Doctor's "all living things deserve respect" philosophy flies completely over his head and splatters all over his ginormous ego.
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?Robertson
It was definitely a coup that the writers were able to make me feel some sort of sympathy for that mother spider, considering my instinctual dislike for spiders but I guess that's what happens when you have a two-legged monster pull the trigger on the eight-legged one which had been deemed harmless.
The Doctor: She wasn't even a threat. She was dying anyway.
Robertson: Ah well, then it's a mercy killing.
The Doctor: I don't see any mercy in you.
Full disclosure, I won't willingly watch this one again (because #SPIDERS) but when YOU watch Doctor Who online note how Graham's interactions with Grace change each time she appears to him.
It's a lovely progression of letting go that is brilliant in its simplicity.
So, so far this season we've had an enemy on Earth, an alien landscape survival tale, a historical mission, and a home-grown horror. Where is Team T.A.R.D.I.S. off to next?
What are you looking forward to? What do you hope they don't bother revisiting?
Can you GUESS what I could do without?
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.