Doctor Who: 11.07 Kerblam!
Well that was a very fun episode. Chris Chibnall's Doctor Who feels very influenced by the Russell T Davies' era and Kerblam! was an episode that could easily have worked during David Tennant's run as the Doctor. But it was also an episode that served Jodie Whittaker's Doctor and all her companions well; the Thirteenth Doctor has been fun, infectious and enthusiastic but this was the first time we've seen her develop some real grit, going up against the authorities to save the day.
Pete McTighe's story delivered a satirical tale on the fears of technological automation and the loss of skilled labour, while playing on the classic motif of Doctor Who killer robots with a twist. Kerblam itself was a futuristic Amazon, shipping parcels across the galaxy from a 90% automated warehouse on a futuristic moon. After a fun moment where the Doctor received a Fez from a Kerblam delivery robot (making her the third Doctor to wear one after Sylvester McCoy and Matt Smith), a message of help in the packaging sent her and the TARDIS team to the company warehouse, working undercover to find who in the 10,000 strong staff had sent her the message.
Cue Ryan embracing his warehouse employee skills and joining the Doctor in completing the mundane task of packing deliveries ready for shipping. Joining them was the endearingly positive Kira (Claudia Jessie) a long serving employee grateful to have a job in what was hinted as a struggling economy. Jessie really made the most of her character, clicking with the Doctor well - you could easily have imagined her joining the TARDIS team - while having an awkward office romance with cleaner Charlie (Leo Flanagan). It made her death later on all the more tragic. And while Graham found himself assigned the role as cleaner alongside Charlie, Yaz teamed up with comedic actor Lee Mack's Dan. Mack also had a lot of fun with the role, bantering with robots and revealing a heartfelt story as he worked solely to give his daughter a better life.
Joining the guest characters was Julie Hesmondhalgh's Head of People Judy, who also delivered an engaging performance. The human boss Jarva (Callum Dixon) had less presence but worked well with the main cast too. While there was an intriguing mystery that managed to surprise the audience at the very end, the focus was purely of fun rather than horror. Director Jennifer Perrott delivered an well paced, exciting episode, though the focus of fun meant that there wasn't much tension as people began to disappear. Even so, the loss of Kira and Dan did carry an emotional impact, Kira's death with the exploding bubble wrap a particularly nasty end for such a loveable character.
Yes, evil bubble wrap. It was simple and yet genius, taking Doctor Who's ability to take something so ordinary and make it dangerous. Bubble wrap is something no one can resist popping; you can probably imagine doing it now (though perhaps might think twice for a while after this episode). Filling the bubble wrap in the packages of thousands of parcels with tiny bombs was an insidious threat that added real tension in the climax as Charlie revealed his plan. I loved this twist - the killer robots being just a decoy - and the social commentary on automation replacing skilled workers, forcing Charlie into destroying the company's reputation with thousands of deaths, felt as desperate as it was insane.
This was a well paced episode that constantly entertained; Jodie Whittaker was superb and very, very funny (interestingly with someone other than Chibnall writing her dialogue, it didn't feel forced) while Bradley Walsh had plenty of terrific one liners as Graham. Tosin Cole was infectious in Ryan's enthusiasm and while Mandip Gill had less to do this week as Yaz, she had some great moments with Ryan and Dan; the race down the conveyer belts as Ryan, Charlie and Yaz avoided killer contamination rays was massively fun.
Kerblam! probably won't hit the highs of the show's more well-loved episodes of Doctor Who but it was an entertaining piece of television in its own right. If can be more this than The Tsuranga Conundrum then there's hope for the show yet.