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"Kerblam!" (review)

Wow, two likes in a row! I'm pretty happy.


I'm not saying that this was a great episode, because it certainly had its problems, but I came out of it with a smile on my face.

From the first scenes in the Kerblam! center, I was hoping it was going to be a dystopian comment on modern materialism and Amazon's corporate practices a la "The Happiness Patrol" or "Paradise Towers", but, as my husband said, this show doesn't have the balls to do something like that. Not that it didn't try, but, just like with the previous episodes, having the characters directly comment on why humans were no longer employed (the whole "we were too busy staring at our phones" thing) turned it into yet another heavy-handed lecture. I did like the surreal feel of the Kerblam! factory, which is something that DW usually does not do, at least not in the past few seasons.

Beyond that, I really enjoyed the story. It took a good amount of sleuthing to figure out what was really going on, and there were not one, but three red herrings along the way - Judy (the HR woman, cause she was too cheerful and optimistic to not be suspect), Slade, and the computer. The robots were suitably creepy - though I have to admit every time they appeared, I was thinking, "Information! You are going to die!" - and turned out to be not inherently evil. The episode did a good job of making sense of everything that happened along the way, explaining how each event was caused by Charlie in the end.

This is also the first episode that I feel used all of the companions well. It never felt like anyone was being sent off to sit in the corner while the story focused on someone else. I am impressed with Graham's ability to connect with guest characters, and he did a fantastic job getting the map from Charlie. Ryan showed great initiative by running off to dispatch with Yaz and Charlie, knowing he alone understood how to get down there. That's something that's been lacking all season - the companions exercising their own skills to figure things out without the Doctor's help.

It has been disappointing, however, that Ryan was given a handicap but it hasn't actually made any difference. Sure, they mentioned it in the episode and he did have a couple of misgivings about attempting physical actions, but he wasn't the one who failed the dex check and fell to the next the conveyor. (Though, to be fair, I'm sure Charlie chose to fall to get the group to move in the direction he wanted.) I'm not saying that I want him to fail, but I would like to see him live with the handicap - for example, a general clumsiness like Nymphadora Tonks would be appropriate for dyspraxia - rather than just have it be used as an "overcoming obstacles" plot point every few episodes.

I did feel that this episode suffered from the stand-around-and-talk problem that has been prevalent in previous episodes. The worst example was the introduction to Kira, in which, despite working in an environment where robots are watching everything and forcing the workers to work constantly, the three characters stood and talked without any repercussions. The point of Kira's monologue was to demonstrate her limitations and her lack of self-esteem as well as her desperation to keep the job and do well - all things that could have been expressed by actually having her do her job and making a mistake that she had to make up for. Or, at the very least, the three characters could have talked while working, as there didn't seem to be any rule against that.

One last kibbitz: why did the Doctor force the robots to pop the bubble wrap and blow themselves up? There was no reason to destroy them, as they were not the ones who caused the problem and she had already stopped what they were programmed to do by rerouting the delivery addresses to themselves. By that time, Charlie had no control over them and could not re-implement his plan. It was entirely unnecessary, and because of that action, Charlie's death falls square on her head.

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