The Universe’s Biggest Retailer Has An Even Bigger Secret
After last week’s much improved episode, much has been said over the overall quality of Doctor Who this year. While some feel it’s a little premature to put the blame squarely on Chris Chibnall’s writing, Kerblam! only further reinforces this, delivering a slice of compelling sci-fi. One not written by Chris Chibnall. Although the plot does follow the same beats as Matt Smith’s episode The Beast Below, there’s enough here to make Kerblam! one of the best episodes this season.
We open with a decent amount of time inside The Doctor’s new TARDIS, something we haven’t seen an awful lot of this season. A strange robotic man teleports in, sporting a maniacal grin and glowing blue eyes. “It’s the Kerblam man!” The Doctor exclaims excitedly and he has a package for The Doctor. Along with a teasing glimpse of the past, the words “Help me” are scrawled messily on the envelope.
What follows is a trip to the Kerblam! headquarters where we meet scatty People Manager Judy and dispatch worker Dan. At this point it’s up to Team TARDIS to figure out who wrote the message and just what lurks behind the seemingly normal facade of the factory.
For the most part Kerblam sticks to the tried and tested formula of other Doctor Who stories and it works surprisingly well. Compared to some of the episodes shown this year, Kerblam! actually makes an effort to show a different side to the universe and more importantly, further development for the companions. Hats off to writer Pete McTighe who manages to balance all three companions perfectly too, giving each of them a decent amount of lines without falling into the trap of having them feel like loose parts.
One of the biggest problems this year has been the politically charged messages spilling into the narrative of every episode. Kerblam is no exception. While the messages around retailing, the value of human workers and our continued reliance on the digital world make sense given the context, it does feel a little on the nose and forced at times.
More importantly, Kerblam! feels like a sci-fi Doctor Who episode of old, something sorely lacking this year. The alien world is realistically depicted, there’s a good story overall and despite the familiarity with fellow Doctor Who episodes The Beast Below and Classic Who’s The Robots Of Death, Kerblam! is a confidently written episode, one that breathes some life into a series lacking in compelling sci-fi. Hopefully this will continue but unfortunately this is another episode that reinforces the weak link with Doctor Who’s 11th season – Chris Chibnall’s writing.