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Doctor Who: Kerblam!

“Kerblam it!”

While this was a good episode, did anyone else get Cybermen vibes?

That was probably intentional, since it turns out the robots and the automated system controlling them was not only sentient but also compassionate, calling out to the Doctor to save its customers from a gruesome death. This was a nice take on expectations, with the ultimate villain being a disgruntled boy whose goal was understandable despite his distinctly inhuman methods.

This wasn’t necessarily a condemnation of automation or Amazon in particular (although it very clearly had a message about mass production and how it is becoming almost a singular retail outlet replacing everything else). This was about who we are as a people. Do we make sure we keep at least 10% of the workforce organic? Will our robot overlord be like Kerblam and reach out to the Doctor to keep us safe?

I watch a lot of YouTube (don’t judge), and one of my favorite channels is Kurzgesagt - In a Nutshell. I bring this up because they did an episode that pertains directly to "Kerblam!" and how this future may not be as far fetched as we might imagine. It’s a scary thought, that we are slowly being replaced. Our jobs are going away, and someday, in the not so far distant future, we might be obsolete as a workforce. It’s a question that must be answered, not just by politicians, but scholars from pretty much every field of expertise. Should we give up our way of life to machines? What would that mean to us as a society? Would it be all that bad?

Well, according to this episode, it is kind of a bad thing... maybe. We never actually get to see the state of the galactic society. We don’t really know if there is massive homelessness or hunger. The fact that Kerblam seems to be a novelty/gift service leads me to believe that the galaxy is stable, and that people use their income not on necessities like food and shelter, but on little things. If that’s the case, what was Charlie’s real problem? He seems to just want to open people’s eyes to Kerblam and its rampant automation?

The twist being of course that while Charlie was the villain, he did force the AI controlling Kerblam to commit murder as a way of convincing him that his goals were monstrous. Unfortunately, all it did was destroy a perfectly innocent life, since of course Kira’s death couldn't spark that connection to humanity he lacked. I supposed it's a small contradiction to the mission statement of this series, that even love wasn’t enough to stop him from doing something so horrible. Plus, who doesn’t want to pop bubble wrap… evil.


The fez. What more can I say.

I love when The Doctor gets excited about something. She is so buoyant and a touch innocent as if she has regained a sense of wonder about the small things the universe has to offer.

The Kerblam man was just this side of creepy, with the robots working as both fun almost retro-60’s sci-fi pastiche and deeply unsettling monsters.

Julie Hesmondhalgh (Judy) starred as a central character in the third season of Broadchurch. Also Matthew Gravelle, who played Joe Miller on Broadchurch voiced the Kerblam man. (I'm sure almost everyone knows that Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall did Broadchurch.)


The Doctor: “Could you pause all sales protocols for a bit?”
Twirly: “Even the upselling?”
The Doctor: “Even the upselling. You've just had a nap of about 200 years so your offers are out-of-date anyway.”
Twirly: “Without upselling, my only purpose is delivery.”
Graham: “We don't need you to do that either, mate.”
Twirly: “The future is very confusing for my protocols.”

Slade: “How would you like a warning for insubordination?”
The Doctor: “I'd love one. I could add it to my collection.”

3 1/2 out of 4 Wide-eyed robots that may replace us someday

Samantha M. Quinn spends most of her time in front of a computer typing away at one thing or another; when she has free time, she enjoys pretty much anything science fiction or fantasy-related.


  1. I really liked the twist, and it's a nice break from our usual technophobic expections on AI in science fiction. Even in the future, human's with an extremist approach to their ideals are still the most dangerous foe we can face.

  2. Funny, I thought Slade was going to be the villain. He was perfect for that. Instead they went with a neoneoluddite — that was smart.

    Is it me, or are the episodes really good when Chibnall is NOT among the writers?

  3. Migmit You are so right about the writers. Let's hope he got all episodes out of his system at the end and the 3 reamainig are also written by someone else.

  4. In hinsight
    Graham landed at maintenance because of the exchange the Doctor made. Who knows what would have happened if she had been at the point (maintenance) chosen by the system from the start...

  5. I feel you're spot on with your writing observation, migmit. This one was good. I don't find it great, but it is good. Getting 2 good+ episodes in a row after the lamentable Arachnids and Conundrum was a breath of fresh air.

    I too enjoy kurzgesagt, and find their videos interesting and thought provoking. And your linked video certainly applies here, Samantha.

    The robots are creepy indeed. They remind me of B&W videos of full service gas station attendants with a hint of robots gone mad horror. If they went for that retro creepy vibe on purpose, and I'm positive they did, they nailed it!

    The twist here with Charlie was good. I was genuinely surprised that the AI was not the villain here, and they had some nice misdirection for other characters as well, but I think it works out. Charlie was pure evil indeed, for all must pop the bubble wrap, and I was sad to see Kira die like that.


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