Doctor Who: Kerblam!
November 18, 2018 11:25 AM - Season 11, Episode 7 - Subscribe

A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy's largest retailer, Kerblam
posted by fearfulsymmetry (56 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:26 AM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Did they start this a half hour early or something? I missed most of it. Kerblamazon indeed.
posted by Iteki at 11:55 AM on November 18, 2018

So, the only reason Kira exists in the plot is to make the bad guy feel bad ? smh....
posted by Pendragon at 11:56 AM on November 18, 2018 [9 favorites]

Loved the rest of the episode BTW
posted by Pendragon at 11:58 AM on November 18, 2018

But, wasn't the threat of the robots contained when the Doctor rerouted them to their own location ? Why destroy the robots and kill Charlie ? Did I miss some timer ?
posted by Pendragon at 12:02 PM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

I got a bit excited when it first revealed that the bubble wrap was the killer as I thought (despite Chibs saying no old skool monster) we we're getting Autons

Back in the day I think half the actual monster were bubble wrap.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:07 PM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

But, wasn't the threat of the robots contained when the Doctor rerouted them to their own location ? Why destroy the robots and kill Charlie ? Did I miss some timer ?

I assumed the idea was to destroy the bomb-ble wrap safely. They tried to get Charlie back out of the way.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:50 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

This had a Douglas Adams vibe. Genuine People Personalities!
posted by BungaDunga at 4:17 PM on November 18, 2018 [7 favorites]

The terrorist wanted to get rid of robots so people could have their jobs, so they foiled his plan by blowing up all the robots and giving people their jobs.
posted by dng at 4:33 PM on November 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

The terrorist wanted to get rid of robots so people could have their jobs, so they foiled his plan by blowing up all the robots and giving people their jobs.

You're sort of glossing over the part where Charlie was going to blow up many many innocent people to accomplish his goals.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 4:45 PM on November 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

Actually, to be honest I'm not sure I understood the morality of any of this one. Automatisation is bad but good but bad again. Ultra monitored warehouse work is bad and dehumanising but also you should just make the best of it and know your place it could be worse. Management are looking out for your best interests even if you don't ever get to see your children and you're not allowed to speak to your co-workers (and you only get two weeks paid leave if they need to hush up ten workers getting killed and the possible annihilation of half the people in the galaxy). Trade unionists are the real extremists. Robots are sentient too but also you can just blow them all up that's okay. The sentient AIs that run our company blew up a girl to make the terrorist man feel bad, so we'll turn it off for a month that should be enough.

In summary, I didn't really like it.
posted by dng at 5:09 PM on November 18, 2018 [14 favorites]

She used Venusian aikido again! I approve.
posted by homunculus at 6:00 PM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

Did they start this a half hour early or something? I missed most of it. Kerblamazon indeed.

Yeah I saw a instagram post that said they would start half an hour earlier today in the UK. It was still 8 PM as usual on BBCAmerica.
posted by numaner at 7:35 PM on November 18, 2018


"The future is very confusing for my protocols"
posted by numaner at 7:40 PM on November 18, 2018 [9 favorites]

I also agree that while it was entertaining, the morals of the episode were kind of unclear. In the end, Kerblam is pushing for more organics people to work and lead it, which is what Charlie was trying to establish, so... the terrorists... won? But it's a good thing? Yay? And the Doctor was steadfastly trying to defend technology, which is not something I hear her do much in the past, but what she said is perfectly sensible, given the context.

At least for once it wasn't the creepy robots / AI system who were the actual bad guys. I do wish Kira didn't need to be killed, and Charlie didn't learn a damn thing anyway.
posted by numaner at 7:44 PM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah I don't think anyone really thought this through much past, "Hey, let's set an adventure in a futuristic Amazon copy!"

Because, really, if there's anyone in the universe who's going to respond "Why?" to the statement "Jobs give your life meaning", it's The Doctor.

OTOH, this felt like the first episode where all three companions were relatively equally balanced in screen time & things to do, so that was nice.

Anyone else who was fully expecting the creepy robots to actually be Cybermen in disguise for most of the episode?
posted by soundguy99 at 8:09 PM on November 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

Also, turning bubblewrap into bombs? That's just mean, man.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:11 PM on November 18, 2018 [7 favorites]

oh yeah and that bit too, Graham was warned to put down the bubble wrap from the box that was delivered to the Doctor, but Ryan had already popped a few when they first got it. Unless it's not all the bubbles in one sheet that has a bomb, that was overly-cautious of them. Also couldn't the Doctor just scan the sheet to see if there's still a bomb in it?
posted by numaner at 8:46 PM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

When we find out Kira had never received any sort of present except from HR I thought she was going wind up being a clone or a robot. She only has enough synthetic memories to do her job and she doesn't question why she can't remember her parents. In fact, I might leave that as head canon if it makes her death seem a little less pointless.
posted by Gary at 1:06 AM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

I like that the series has returned to being a vehicle for telling stories. Last week was pretty heavy stuff; this week a fun romp. I kind of hope the various loose ends here (How did the system know to send the fez, and if it has that much power why can't it ....? Kerblam is still pretty dodgy, right? If most of the galaxy is unemployed how does Kerblam have sufficient customers?) _don't_ tied into some bigger story.

The Doctor was a bit Bubble in the bubble wrap episode.
Bubble wrap as a plot device came up in Red Dwarf (Time slides).
They're liking the twists - the Demons weren't last week, the Luddite was this week.
Lee Mack is funny, but he was _less_ polished here than he is when improvising on WILTY.
posted by hawthorne at 1:12 AM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I found it unsatisfying that the answer was ‘employ more people to do eminently automatable jobs’ rather than ‘use Ker-blam’s vast corporate profits to fund proper public services so that Lee Mack doesn’t have to do busy-work on the moon for years at a time, never seeing his daughter, just so she can get an education’.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:19 AM on November 19, 2018 [23 favorites]

Yeah, politically this was all over the shop. Of all the things I was expecting from SJWho, a paean to the dignity of labour was probably not one of them. Having said that, it was pretty fun. Coincidentally, I'd just watched The End of the World earlier that day, and in some ways this felt a lot like that. Which makes for an odd experience, as you have the bones of a fairly zany caper episode, overlaid with Chibnall's defining motif of soupy and portentous emotional spots (that never really feel like they go anywhere or connect thematically with the rest of the episode).

One bit I did like is something I initially thought was a flub. It didn't really make any sense to me that when the Doctor and Graham swapped jobs, Graham ended up as a cleaner. I thought initially this was just a sort of joke (it's funny Graham is a cleaner! Even though the supposed super computer scanned the hyper-amazing Doctor and assigned the job to her! (I wish it thought it could be a reference to when Amazon tried AI CV reading and found the AI was biased towards men, but I suspect filming deadlines means it can't)). It was only at the end I realised that the system did it on purpose, as the villain was one of the other cleaners, and that actually the Doctor had buggered things up by (for once) being too active.
posted by Hartster at 5:06 AM on November 19, 2018 [18 favorites]

Why were people being dissolved in a vat of goo? To make more robots? Make explosive bubble wrap from them? I missed the explanation entirely.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:07 AM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't recall that there was a specific explanation for that, I was under the impression that the goo was just the end product of processing bodies through whatever automated waste disposal system the warehouse had.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:45 AM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Then why was the system processing bodies at all? Just to generically kill-off more people? Was that also part of Charlie's plan?

It probably best I not try to tie-up the threads in this one. My head hurts already. That said...It was a fun watch. But, yeah, could have done without killing the only genuinely nice person in the place. It was a bit like tossing a puppy under the bus.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:38 AM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Charlie said the goo was what was left of the people he used as test subjects to make sure his bubble wrap bombs worked correctly.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:00 AM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Am I wrong or are these companions some of the more mature, moral, measured, grown-up companions we've had in NuWho? They know the risks, they understand the consequences, they've quickly cottoned on to the Doctor's rules and rhythms and they've fully committed themselves to the team and the Doctor's way of doing things. Martha Jones was probably this on point, and once she got spun up, Donna was. But still, on the whole, we usually get a bit more self-absorption, myopia, bullheadedness, and just general trouble wrapping their heads around how the Doctor does things.

Some of that may be because of 13's remarkable openness and easy-to-follow moral clarity. The other NuWho Doctors could tilt towards being enigmatic pricks. 13 is weird in a way that comes as a logical extension of that, but she's also totally open, welcoming, and pure of heart.

I keep thinking back to the bit in her debut where she plainly stated she was an alien. This is not a Doctor who gives out information reluctantly or with whom people have to struggle to bond. She's willing to open up and she's trying to make it easy for people to come on board.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:56 AM on November 19, 2018 [15 favorites]

Also, for my money what made this episode clearly and substantially better than most of the episodes this season was how well-drawn the guest stars were. Even poor Dan who had only a few scenes before being killed had a distinct and memorable personality.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:35 AM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

Am I wrong in thinking the voice actor used for the robots in this episode is the same voice used in pretty much every NuWho episode that featured similar rampaging autonomatons? It certainly sounded like the same voice to these (admittedly old) ears.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:07 AM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I liked this one, thought there was some decent misdirection about who the villain was. Definitely didn't get too preachy this time. I thought the fez was a nice callback.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:13 AM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

This one was fine, but the resolution really didn't live up to the premise. I'm still waiting for a high concept to land in this series. I definitely did not enjoy the era where every episode was like, "HEY AM I TWISTING YOUR MELON RIGHT NOW? IS YOUR MIND TOTALLY BLOWN? CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW CLEVER WE ARE????"

But a tad more cleverness would not go amiss in many of these stories thus far.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:50 AM on November 19, 2018 [7 favorites]

So, yeah, the message seemed a little muddled. It would been perfect if there'd been a protagonist advocating for workers' rights and a violent extremist ruined everything. As it was it seemed like the factory bosses were sort of the "good guys" which I don't think was really intended, that bit was kind of a mess.

But I LOVED LOVED LOVED how much this felt like a late 70's/80's episode with its cheap Blakes 7-esque architecture, unsubtle fable-like side characters, taking one element of society and making it a thing dialed up to 11. This vague "feel of the show" fanservice hits me so hard, and I think it's not destructive the way Moffat's continuity fanservice (and JNT's before) was.

Oh, and the effects were so lovingly shoddy! Davies was good at that, but Chibnall is better. There's no longer a question of "did they just not have enough budget?" No, it's meant to look a bit dodgy. This is not Star Trek or Star Wars, this is Doctor Who.
posted by rikschell at 7:19 PM on November 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

This was my favorite non-historical episode so far. Yes, the message was muddled, and as with Faux Trump in the giant spider episode, they went pretty soft on a target (Amazon) that deserves some cutting satire/calling out. But it was a good mystery that kept me guessing, and I liked the twist that the functionaries of the Mega-Corp and even the robot brain of the Mega-Corp itself were all fundamentally decent and working to stop the bad guy's plot. (Yes, that muddles the message more, but okay.)

Exploding bubble wrap is absolutely genius. Anyone who invents that is guaranteed to slaughter half the galaxy.

So, the only reason Kira exists in the plot is to make the bad guy feel bad ? smh....

No, she existed in the plot to make us, the viewers, feel bad. That was probably the most tragic death I've ever seen in Doctor Who—the whole bit about how the only present she's ever received in her life was a box of chocolates from her boss? And then she finally receives another present, and it's empty?? Poor Kira was probably better off exploded than living her manipulatively* sad life.

I have generally been loving the guest characters this series, but Twirly could be my all-time favorite. He reminded me of a robot from the Fallout video game series, who has his job and is just so excited about his job but just beneath that excitement, he's a nervous wreck.

I am so sold on Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor. In the first episode she seemed to me to be deliberately David Tennant-ish, but I love the character she's created. Her smile when she told the Kerblam! management "We're freelance" was so excellent and guileless. Also, at the beginning I was annoyed by her name-dropping but now I've accepted it as a running bit—I laughed when she said, "Speaking of wasps, have I ever told you of the time I met Agatha Christie?"

BUT there's a little inconsistency that bothers me. She'll go to bat to defend a giant spider that has killed several people, but then she goes ahead and blows up Charlie? She could have told Twirly to tell the Team Mates to belay the bubble-wrap-popping order until Charlie was safely removed. Similarly she scolded Ryan for taking up a gun against robots (robots!) during that scavenger hunt episode, but was fine when Ryan used a Time Gun to send Space Racist back to when the air wasn't breathable (presumably). Between those examples and implanting Tzim-Sha with his own DNA Bomb in the first episode, maybe the Doctor doesn't mind when the villains are hoist by their own petard? Hmmm....

* Yes I knew I was being manipulated but I was still gutted when Kira died
posted by ejs at 8:30 PM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

For me, I did like that this episode was more surprising than any of the others... but the fact that the surprise was, "so, actually, the leftist activist is the villain and the corporate AI and managers are the good guys" is terrible enough that it makes me seriously worried for the show's moral compass.
posted by overglow at 8:59 AM on November 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

This season so far has been pretty staunchly and unapologetically left wing. I’d wager making the corporate drones the good guys was more just to avoid doing the expected than a moral stance. As mentioned above, in the end the leftist activist got his wish anyway, the Doctor just made sure it didn’t require murdering thousands of people.
posted by ejs at 9:28 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

It was disturbing to me too. “Systems aren’t the problem” is one of the most anti-Who sentiments I can imagine.
posted by EarBucket at 9:59 AM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes the message was muddled

SHURLEY the message was however evil you think tech systems are, all the evil is in the agenda of the humans running them? I thought it was on the nose.
posted by glasseyes at 11:29 AM on November 20, 2018 [8 favorites]

Or the evil is in the activists who oppose them.
posted by EarBucket at 3:18 PM on November 20, 2018

Okay, to be fair, almost any episode would be a comedown after last week, but even compared to other generic Who-by-numbers stories I dunno if this one holds up. It kinda feels like Pete McTighe thought it’d be neat to do a topical episode about Amazon without truly understanding what people’s issues with Amazon are? As dng lines it up so nicely. Really missing Twelve’s “hey, fuck capitalism!” attitude.

I’m not saying Dan deserved to die, but comparing the way his death was treated by the narrative and the other characters compared to Kira’, the Doctor didn’t even acknowledge she was murdered, she referred to it as the system “taking” Kira way from Charlie! Like she was a toy! Which is basically as much characterization as she got anyway! Ugh ugh ugh.

I also didn’t find Charlie’s actor or characterization compelling, so I didn’t have much reaction to the reveal. Manish last week was a more convincing version of “seemingly nice, cheerful young man has political convictions that take him in a dark direction”.

That being said, I didn’t hate all of it — there was lots of good banter, well-balanced use of all the companions, an appropriately goofy action sequence on the conveyor belt, some fun callbacks to Ten and Eleven’s eras, and lots of creepy robots standing around. And Judy Hesmondhalgh was great, I’ll keep an eye out for her other work.
posted by bettafish at 5:13 PM on November 20, 2018 [7 favorites]

Judy Hesmondhalgh is in season 3 of Broadchurch (as well as Jodie Whittacker).
posted by BungaDunga at 5:24 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

(Sorry, *Julie Hesmondhalgh, Judy Maddox is the character.)

I’ve seen her in Broadchurch (where she was also great, yes), but I didn’t recognize her at all, wow!
posted by bettafish at 5:28 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I believe Twirly was once known as Colin.
posted by sonascope at 7:05 PM on November 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

I really that it was the opposite of the usual “rogue AI eating people”. Maybe this is another consequence of the Doctor throwing away all the baggage of the past. She’s not here to fix every single problem in the galaxy, just help folks who need help. That’s what she did.
posted by bleep at 9:28 PM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think the lesson could be seen as a good one actually. Sometimes things just are what they seem like. The folks working at the factory - as presented in the text - were basically okay. They didn’t need “a” “doctor”. Maybe they needed a better political system or a revolution, but no doctoring. The Doctor just spent the last few years trying to figure themselves out and figure out what they are. We had to watch that whole thing where 13 had that identity crisis of turning into a soldier, an idea he hated. Soldier Doctor might have actually tried to tear down the whole company being blind to the fact that the administrators actually were normal people who cared about their jobs and wanted to help and were in a position to help. But they’re not Self-Loathing Soldier Doctor anymore so they’re not doing any of that.
posted by bleep at 11:24 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm cool with a Thirteen who has the humility to not try and barge in and fix every system she wanders across, I just think it's kind of messed up that the happy ending here was two weeks of wage theft for every employee, the company now roughly 50% in the hands of a manager who's a bully, and everyone ignoring that the "nice" AI murdered an innocent woman to play mind games with another human.
posted by bettafish at 5:52 AM on November 21, 2018 [7 favorites]

I'm wondering if the original draft had Kira being teleported away by the system so that Charlie only thinks that she's been blown up, and it was changed at the last minute without much time for rewriting. That would explain the strange non-reaction of the Doctor and Team TARDIS to the murder, compared to Dan's -- because Dan's was meant to be the only one.
posted by bettafish at 5:58 AM on November 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

It just seems like the natural consequence of the Doctor just doing Doctor type-stuff and not tearing everything down is that she will leave some situations that still aren't great.
posted by bleep at 9:49 AM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

So maybe have Dan and Kira both survive but have Dan arrested for the deaths of the other employees?
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:19 PM on November 21, 2018

Killing Charlie the way she did (one warning, then blammo) felt very much like a 10 or 11 thing to do. It reminded me of an earlier scene, where she straight up threatened the two supervisors and then stalked out and only then said "That was a bit much. Next time I'll just say bye". I have a theory that bits of her predecessors are popping up from time to time and she's trying to put them back down.

Also, yeah, killing Kira to make a point really irritated me.
posted by Mogur at 4:01 AM on November 22, 2018

For someone with my surname, this moment was a little hurtful.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:56 AM on November 22, 2018

Apparently Amazon accidentally streamed the next episode instead of Kerblam!, even though the subtitles were still for the current episode.
posted by numaner at 9:25 AM on November 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Offering bad guys a life-saving way out then standing aside and watching them get their just desserts if they double down on evil is a long-running Doctor character trait. It did not ring false or bother me.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:41 PM on November 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

I liked this one, even if it was somehow simultaneously kind of preachy and kind of muddled. I kept thinking it was going to be a Planet of the Ood situation where the missing workers were having their minds uploaded into robots or something, but no, they were just killed and turned into a big vat of sludge. The politics were confusing and there's a lot of plot stuff that wouldn't stand up if you really thought about it, but it was fun so I don't want to pick it to death.

I only know Lee Mack from UK panel shows (mostly Would I Lie to You?) so it was weird seeing him be all dramatic here. He was pretty good! Dan and Kira were both such decent sorts that it did seem really harsh that they were killed and I was kind of surprised it stuck. I kept expecting we'd find them down in the basement being used as Matrix batteries or something. They could have just been unplugged and saved then, and the message of the episode would have been unambiguously that Amazon is exploiting its workers. That would have been more preachy and arguably cliche but it also could have fixed some of this episode's problems with muddled messaging and "fridging."
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:18 PM on November 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

The terrorist wanted to get rid of robots so people could have their jobs, so they foiled his plan by blowing up all the robots and giving people their jobs.

You're sort of glossing over the part where Charlie was going to blow up many many innocent people to accomplish his goals.

Charlie: the skinny, pasty Killmonger of Kerblam.
posted by pykrete jungle at 9:15 PM on November 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

I thought it was going to turn out that the bubble wrap was actually a sentient being that was being harvested, and had sent the help message.

Blowing up all the robots (and the terrorist) was pointless. They could have just had the robots collect all the bubble wrap, pile it up and detonate it remotely. The Doctor murdered Charlie.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 2:23 AM on December 7, 2018

“Systems aren’t the problem” is one of the most anti-Who sentiments I can imagine.

I know, right?!

So, why did the robots kill Dan? I don't really remember if that was explained. Was Charlie in control of them or something?
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:10 PM on February 17

« Older Lexx: Super Nova...   |  Outlander: The False Bride... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments