Doctor Who 11.7 – Kerblam!


Nostalgia and disquiet in the seventh episode of Series Eleven for Victoria Walker

All series I have been waiting for that episode that I could really say takes me back and reminds me of older episodes of Doctor Who. Kerblam! was that episode. From the slightly ominous TeamMates to the well-timed and placed comedic lines, Pete McTighe has done an excellent job in capturing the essence of a slightly less serious episode of Doctor Who, especially considering it is his first episode.

I’ll start by praising the set designers, as every set in this episode seemed large, and actually like it could have been in an intergalactic parcel fulfillment company. I find myself, then, picking only small faults. Obviously, this is a small bit of pedantry, but if no one was meant to go down the chutes to the conveyors, why would there be a precisely placed handle above the hole? Putting my nitpicking aside, I was equally as impressed by the design of the Kerblam! Man and associated TeamMates. They really managed to create a cold corporate idol, who seemed like he was the result of a committee attempting to create a warm and friendly mascot, but just falling rather wide of the mark. It rather reminds me of some of Russell T Davies’ monsters, and that fills me with a warm nostalgia.

The episode progressed very well, with a setup that reminds me of real-world happenings where people have found messages and cries for help inside goods. There were key moments of tension, such as when Dan Cooper and Yaz were down in the triple nines, balanced very well with moments of comedy. It seems like a few episodes this series have been trying to create this balance, but this is the first time it has really worked. Using Graham as comedic relief this episode was a good choice, and it took our focus off Charlie, who really was our villain. I think you’d be lying if you said you saw that twist coming. Considering the moral forwardness of the rest of this series, it surprised me to see the complete 180 this episode took. I thought it was going to be a fairly straight-forward episode on the evils of consumerism, but the change when it was revealed Charlie was essentially a terrorist was exciting. Judy Maddox’s pride over being a ‘10% people-powered company’ is perhaps part of some statement, as we learn that that is the legal minimum. One could argue that is a statement on the tendency of companies to do the absolute bare minimum when it comes to social prerogatives.

That said, the end of the episode wasn’t exactly the best, and not quite what the episode deserved. I’m still unsure as to why the Doctor decided she must blow up all the packages. Surely she could have just had them delivered to the warehouse as a safe space and then the bubble wrap could have been disarmed? That final plan seemed like it was more of an excuse to kill off Charlie. Considering the Doctor’s sympathy to his cause, it seems terribly odd she’d let him die like that. It probably saved a lot of time in wrapping up the episode, one supposes. Similarly, I have difficulty understanding why, from a corporate point of view, Kerblam! would want to bring on more people into their business, as the fault was a human one, not a system one. You’d think that would lead to further lobbying against Kandokan laws surrounding this sort of thing. I mean, I find it hard to believe Charlie was not a part of some network. This network would have known about his plan and would be able to guess what had transpired given Kerblam! is closed for a while, coupled with the fact Charlie is dead. That would make the fact that Kerblam! fundamentally bowed to Charlie’s demands obvious. I will just clarify, the handle above the chute bothers me far more than the end of the episode does. It was a thoroughly enjoyable episode, and I think I will place it up there amongst my favourites.

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