Kerblam!

Posted in Reviews by - November 19, 2018
Kerblam!

Chris Chibnall wasted no time in bringing his vision of Doctor Who to life, offering wonderful insight into very relatable human situations no matter the flashiness or grittiness of settings that has so far also included two harrowing looks at recent history outside of the UK. Yet while new writer Pete McTighe ensures that raw emotion and humanity is never far from the forefront in ‘Kerblam!’ as the Doctor tries to find the source of a mysterious note asking for help packaged with the fez she ordered two regenerations ago, there is also a distinct air of the Russell T Davies Ninth and Tenth Doctor eras pervading this allegorical exploration of retail supergiants, their treatment of employees, and the increasing reliance on technology that blends eras in more ways than one.

With an expanded core roster to introduce and develop along with the main narrative, early stories in this series haven’t always had time to flesh out the central mysteries of their plots as much as the people, but ‘Kerblam!’ runs with what has already been established about the leads as they are each inserted into different roles of this corporate warehouse that functions under the legal mandate of employing humans as ten percent of its workforce. Indeed, Jodie Whittaker steals the early scenes with pure emotion as she must dejectedly accept that no employee can ride the conveyor belts and that she is not allowed to work in the packaging slips department, but she also proves just how easily she can take control of a situation when she turns a manager’s angry words against him and quickly has him considering his actions and wanting to prove himself to be a better man. Whittaker has often been tasked with providing exposition as she puts plans into motion, but allowing her to simply observe and interact highlights this incarnation of the Doctor in a new light that works incredibly well.

Although Graham is the companion put more into the background here despite a nice joke about Ryan’s confidence with crushes and infatuations, this means that Yaz is allowed to feature much more prominently than she yet has, and Mandip Gill excels in every scene. While thrust into the role of gathering items to be dispatched from the warehouse floor, she forms an immediate connection with coworker Dan Cooper before then following him to where he meets his ultimate fate and using her physical prowess to escape the same. Paired with an appearance with Ryan as his struggles with dyspraxia again manifest in a fittingly touching and introspective scene, Yaz is the linking force of sorts for this narrative, and she proves without question that there is more than enough to her to carry a story as needed.

This story of people furtively disappearing without registering in the computerized system is one riddled with the potential to fall into a trap of clichés with the likes of a rogue computer system, a saccharine head of human resources, and a stiff manager all featuring in due order. However, McTighe continues this series’s trends of humanity being every bit as dangerous as a more overbearing or visual threat, and though the emotionless robot overseers are absolutely fearsome in the confines of this warehouse suffering continued power outages, the least likely source of trouble proves to be the worst as fears about humanity’s future in an increasingly mechanised world burst forth. Though the ultimate scheme that involves killing many more humans to cast blame upon the delivery robots and company in order to ensure more human jobs in the future is a bit too convoluted to seem wholly logical, it does also speak to the mental torture that fanatics of any sort undergo and how the truth can be distorted to make any action seem reasonable even as they are shown what they are inflicting upon others. Likewise, though it seems a bit odd that the head of human resources would not notice all of her people going missing regardless of what her screen displays say, it is nice to see that the two figureheads and even the computer system are all unknowingly working in tandem without communicating to pool resources.

‘Kerblam!’ is a pacey and stylish affair that makes time for its guest cast to shine, even accomplishing the difficult task of developing two sympathetic figures who meet their demises all too quickly. This isn’t a story that will necessarily resonate for years to come despite another mundane item made into a deadly threat that just might, but it’s a confident piece that is all too socially relevant and that wonderfully encapsulates the dynamic new direction of the franchise without forgetting what has come before.

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