5. What Other Artifacts Does The 13th Doctor Carry?
"Arachnids in the U.K." featured the return of a fan-favorite tool introduced by Russell T. Davies back in 2005. In one scene, the Doctor waved the psychic paper in front of Robertson. "Crisis investigators," she declared confidently. "You just ran out of a room really quickly looking really scared. Tell me exactly what’s going on, omitting no detail no matter how strange." Davies created the psychic paper in order to streamline the plots of Doctor Who. Before the psychic paper, the wandering Time Lord had frequently had to spend several episodes winning the trust of civilians or military figures before finally being allowed to take charge. The psychic paper, however, allowed the Doctor to claim a position of authority by simply showing fake ID.
This is the first time the 13th Doctor has used anything from a previous incarnation. Presumably she's had the time to pack her pockets with items she believes will be of use; so what else has she decided to carry in those pockets?
4. What Happened To Amelia Earheart?
In one scene, the Doctor chatters about how thick spider-silk can be strong enough to stop a plane, and then name-drops Amelia Earheart. In 1932, Earhart was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, a feat that earned her the United States Distinguished Flying Cross. She and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937, and she was declared dead in absentia two years later. Earheart's fate is one of the most fascinating mysteries of the 20th century, but in Doctor Who it sounds as though she fell afoul of spiders. Fortunately the Doctor was on hand; "She's a right laugh," the Doctor recollected with a smile.
3. Who Is Edith Wharton?
Referring to "the spider mother in the ballroom", the Doctor remarks that this sounds like "the best novel Edith Wharton never wrote." Viewers can be forgiven for not recognizing Wharton's name; a prolific author who died in 1937, Wharton was the first woman to win the Pullitzer Prize for Literature. In addition to her fifteen novels, seven novellas, and eighty-five short stories, she published poetry, books on design, travel, literary and cultural criticism, and a memoir. She was an astute critic of late 19th-century society, receiving particular acclaim for her 1920 novel The Age of Innocence.
2. What's Happened to the Time-Space Vortex?
As any Whovian knows, the TARDIS travels through the time-space vortex. "Arachnids in the UK" marks the first time season 11 has shown the vortex, and it's had as dramatic a redesign as the TARDIS itself. The time-space vortex is typically represented as a sort of undulating tunnel, with flares of light surrounding it. Season 11 initially follows this traditional format, but then sees the TARDIS emerge into a wide space, with countless "tunnels" branching off from it. The TARDIS picks one, and then travels down it to Sheffield.
This is hardly the first time Doctor Who has redesigned the time-space vortex, but it's the most dramatic example to date. It's also very well-thought-out indeed; it hints that there's a sort of "geography" to the vortex, and that TARDISes must travel to central points before choosing routes that branch out. Presumably all previous glimpses of the time-space vortex have been after the TARDIS has started down one of the "tunnels."
1. Was the "Gun" Plot a Little Too On The Nose?
Gun legislation is one of the key differences between Britain and the United States, and "Arachnids in the U.K." chose to highlight that in a pretty bold way. Robertson only feels safe when he's either got an armed guard around him, or a gun secreted on his own person. In one scene, he was notably furious with the Doctor's attitude towards firearms. "Why don't you do what normal people do," he complained against the British, "Get a gun, shoot things like any civilized person?"
The problem with a theme like this is that it can be a little bit too topical. Marvel Television learned that when they were preparing to begin promoting The Punisher, for example; they cancelled a panel at New York Comic Con last year in the wake of a tragedy at Las Vegas, feeling it wasn't the right time to market a series that focused around gun violence. In the case of "Arachnids in the U.K.," the episode is airing straight after a week of political, religious, and racial violence in the United States. This particular piece of social commentary may not be well-timed.