Home Forums Episodes The Thirteenth Doctor Kerblam!

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    Craig @craig


    To Amazon and Beyond!

    A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading the team to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer, Kerblam.

    This is written by Pete McTighe and directed by Jennifer Perrott, the Australian director who also helmed “The Tsuranga Conundrum”.

    McTighe is British but has worked mostly, as far as I can tell, on Australian shows such as “Neighbours”, “Wentworth” (an award-winning sort-of reimagining of “Prisoner Cell Block H”) and “Nowhere Boys”, although he has also written for shows such as “Eastenders”.

    In 2018 he became Content Consultant for the Doctor Who classic Blu-ray range and also wrote the booklets that accompany each box set. So he’s a massive fan. He’s quoted as saying “My entire television career has quite literally been an elaborate plan to get to write Doctor Who.”

    And it’s also got Lee Mack in it. For anyone who doesn’t know, he’s a well-known sitcom writer and comedian in the UK. I kinda have a soft spot for him. I hope this isn’t stunt casting and he pulls it off like Frank Skinner did in “Mummy on the Orient Express”.


    Good old fashioned hokum. Enjoyed that.

    And once again, the obvious baddie is not the baddie…

    I’m sensing a theme….

    FatManInABox @fatmaninabox

    So far this series has, while being watchable, left me feeling a bit underwhelmed.

    Bloody enjoyed this one though. The first half had a whiff of ‘The Beast Below’ about it – the delivery bots bearing a passing resemblance to the ‘Smilers’ added to that feeling.

    Bubble wrap as a weapon – it can’t fail really. After all, who can resist popping those little plastic wrapped bubbles of air.

    @pedant – first post again! Are you sure you’re not ‘pookieuk’ from the other place? 😉

    Craig @craig

    I feel that the ‘bubble wrap as a danger’ may have been a little nod to “The Ark in Space”. Just for the giggles.

    Craig @craig

    From Pete McTighe on Twitter. It’s very sweet.

    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    Really happy to see a reference to dyspraxia as a learning disability as well as a motor skills issue. I honestly struggled working behind a bar, I’d be terrible at a checkout.

    Started as a clear critique of Amazon, but ended up being more than that. Both the system, and one of the human staff put unreasonable pressure on human employees. The effects of automation on humans was examined. (Of course this only really has to be a problem if we have to insist on people working full time just to survive. During the industrial revolution they dropped workers wages to more easily maintain the required man power.)

    The big bad was someone willing to kill for his cause. And his cause wasn’t half bad, his methods were horrible, but his plan, forcibly modified by the doctor might well succeed to some extent.

    Arc? How dangerous quite ordinary people are. How small things make big differences. There’s going to be something about the timeline.

    alexanderbarnstaple @alexanderbarnstaple

    I loved the intro episode and the Rosa episode.

    The Ghost episode was a yawn, the spider episode silly the Pting episode zany but silly

    the Partition episode was a little Romeo and Juliet  romance for 9 year old girls.

    The companions remain like little children although to be fair time travel does take time getting used to.

    The first episode had a couple of quality scary monster’ s but since then nothing  at all.

    I think the teletubbies is more scary and has more  challenging themes.

    Honestly this episode was pitiful.

    Turning a boring dispatch  job at Ikea into an exciting drama was a decent premise but there was no drama.

    It was so low key and the robots were not even marginally scary.

    So school play like.

    Really hard to stay awake.

    Can only get better with the witch hunting next week.

    No Kerblam more like Kerflop 🙁

    Arch @arch

    This is the kind of who I love. Loved the episode, tickled me in all the right places. When it started I was thinking “planet of the ood” which I also loved. Went in a very different direction but felt similar.

    The villain I honestly did not pick, my money was on a virus. Anyway, less character building chances for the main cast and a huge focus on minor characters which is good for a change of pace.

    Thing I’ve noticed about this season is they are not shying away from death, big death count thus far compared to previous seasons or maybe I’m just noticing it more.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    Shades of The Happiness Patrol, Time Heist and The Beast Below to that one, although mostly what it reminded me of was The Long Game. A nice enough runaround with a touch of stunt casting and a premise that’s going to look quite dated further down the line. And still that vague feeling of what would have been a filler episode in times gone by.

    I must admit I was kind of troubled to see the Doctor quite so excited about the Kerblam Man. The Doc enthusing about a corporate marketing symbol? Really? The overall ‘human dignity of work’ didn’t much sound like the Doctor either, especially not after Oxygen last year.

    Which kind of is one of my reservations with WhitDoc, I suppose. She seems to have forgotten a lot of life lessons. I quite like the hesitant naivete of this Doc but it sometimes seems to rely a little too much on her not having been remotely affected by the experiences of previous regenerations. It was nice that JW got a bit more to work with this week and got to sit the new Doctor moral indignation test this week — although I’m not sure she passed, personally.

    That said, she totally rocked the fez. She should keep it.

    On a more structural note, like Dan over at the Other Place, I’m starting to miss the pre-titles teaser. I get that going straight into the titles is kicking it old school but I think the teaser helps to contextualise the episode right from the off. Certainly, I think this story more than most could have totally benefited from it.

    And I still can’t get over how cramped that console room is compared to the last few iterations. For some reason, it also seems to remind me of a cast off set from a mid-eighties Wogan. I do like the multi-panel monitor though.

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    Well, a satire on Amazon can’t be bad, although their inner workings hardly need satirizing, they are so dystopian all on their own.

    Charlie was essentially a Luddite and I can’t help but have a lot of sympathy with the Luddites, who didn’t wish their traditional crafts and skills to be undermined in the labour market by industrial machine innovation.

    Luddites were proto-trades unionists and, in response to the harsh transformations of the Industrial Revolution, many of them were militant, not only smashing machinery but also organising as a fighting force and sometimes sending death threats (to magistrates, apparently).

    Charlie was also cast as a terrorist, as he was prepared to murder innocent customers in order to destroy Kerblam’s reputation. Personally, I would have preferred it if McTighe hadn’t gone down that route. I likewise found it too glib a resolution that “nice after all” middle management (yeah when is that ever true) would somehow go away and create an “organics” centered company after all, just like that, profit margins of the invisible owner-capitalists (including the mysterious “First Lady”?) be damned.

    Nonethless, I like the fact that McTighe set up the conditions for a good discussion. Because there’s little doubt that a world of work like Kerblam! is coming, with waves unemployment in the face of robotic automation. From driverless cars to automated shelf pickers in pharmacies and food warehouses, these changes are already rolling out.

    The reality of death is everywhere in WhitDoc’s tenure, as sweet-natured Kira is turned to goo by Charlie’s deadly bubble-wrap bomb. This is a deliberate Chibnall choice and a little poke, in a friendly way no doubt, at Moffat, who rather famously couldn’t let death be the end.

    I really love the fact that WhitDoc uses Venusian Aikido – it’s lovely to have that connection to Pertwee.

    Also, the Fez was intriguing – a nice nod to Smith’s Doctor, but also a poignant object of remembrance.

    Together these form a reminder that the Doctor is a very complex being, with many lives behind her.

    Yaz is shaping up to be a very wise companion. She doesn’t ask to go back in time and save the Kerblam! worker who saved her (she has learned, and learned well, about not messing with time-lines) but her kind-hearted request that they take his necklace keepsake to his daughter moves the Doctor and they have a nice moment of harmonious sympathy.  Amongst the “shipping” crowd, Yaz/WhitDoc is taking off quite nicely.

    @pedant “Once again, the obvious baddie is not the baddie….”

    Yes there does seem to be a theme developing. It is, I think, also about not being a bystander, even if you are a cog caught in a machine – it’s about standing up and trying to do something (as it turns out middle-management dude was doing, secretly investigating the worker disappearances).



    I know. I let myself down on 5th Nov ‘cos I was out photographing these:

    Olney Fireworks, 2018

    This ep also had the tightest dialogue and direction/editing so far, so I would be intrigued to know the shooting blocks.

    Mudlark @mudlark

    The old style pattern of alternating historical and futuristic episodes continues, and this for my money was the best so far of the future set episodes. The plot, with all its mildly satirical contemporary references and relevance, was sufficiently intriguing and involving, and it ended with a satisfactory twist which was equally applicable to current events. But best of all was the dialogue, which had more of a Doctor Who-ish snap and wit than of late and gave the cast plenty to work with as an ensemble

    Team Tardis have clearly had enough experience now in unseen adventures to develop confidence and an easy  working relationship, without having to rely always on the Doctor for prompting and direction. But she was shown still to be the one with the knowledge and skills to pull everything together. This was the first time since episode 1 that I got a hint of a Doctor with an emerging, more substantial and individual identity, perhaps because the script allowed this. The fez was a cheeky incidental link to a past self without being unduly laboured.

    One that is worth a re-watch, I think.

    Bigneilly @bigneilly

    Hi everyone, I am a big fan but I feel that the BBC has abandoned the new series to the least talented writers that any of the previous doctors has had to endure. The latest episode should have been titled ‘Amazon as enemy. We’ve had bad wolf, the angels, ice on the Thames and now we get commentary on race relations in America, the partition of India and the inhumanity of Amazon. Dear BBC you are really letting the new doctor down, please, please get some good writers.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    Charlie’s another fanatic. We’re racking up quite a lot of fanatics so far, with often very different beliefs – some of them reasonable, some not.

    But the point I picked up was that Charlie wasn’t a Luddite as such, because he wasn’t really one of the warehouse workers who were doing jobs that could have been perfectly well done by a machine. He was, by the sound of it, a highly educated middle class person who could easily have been in a non-automated job.

    Likewise the middle managers being nice (or at least, decent enough to try and work out why some have gone missing, which isn’t the same as nice) is given away by the backstories of the employees – who end up getting killed because Charlie messed with the system programming. And, in fact, the ‘Head of People’ title, rather than ‘Head of Human Resources’, even if Judy Maddox does keep having to remind herself that the employees are people.

    Given the huge numbers of unemployed on the parent planet, plus the fact that the jobs ‘reserved’ for humans are largely unskilled – the ‘People Manager’ has resorted to picking people who need a job – any job – for their self-esteem. The Dad who’s failed as a partner, but could feel that he was at least contributing to his daughter’s education. The orphan who can feel that she’s doing something that makes people happy. Etc.

    The satire is that there’s nothing wrong with Amazon style warehouses as such – they provide needed jobs. What’s wrong is treating the employees in them as if they were machines and forgetting that they are people. The problem with places like Sports Direct is also that they don’t invest in automation, cutting up-front costs by getting large numbers of people on minimum wage to do a basically mechanical job.

    The question is whether this highly automated world is going to be like the Industrial Revolution – temporary disruption that eventually ended up in a much higher standard of living for everyone – or a permanent state of mass unemployment.

    @jimthefish – I think the point for the Doctor is that the corporate managers of Oxygen even costed their employees’ breath. The corporate managers of Kerblam! abide by the law that says they have to have a diverse workforce 🙂 and provide good facilities for their human employees. The personnel manager ensures that human employees receive little presents on their birthdays, for example. Try and imagine that one in the corporate nightmare of Oxygen.

    We’re talking apples and oranges here – the irony is that it’s the highly automated, computerised system which treats its employees like human beings. What the Doctor is recognising is that whether work is hell or a means of giving people dignity depends on what we do with the system.

    I think the thing I most like about this episode is the way that every expectation is reversed. Right down to the point that it was the system itself that was crying out for help.

    Mudlark @mudlark


    And I still can’t get over how cramped that console room is compared to the last few iterations.

    Yes, especially when there are four people crowded into it, and the massive crystalline structures just contribute to the oppressive,claustrophobic atmosphere. I was hoping that it would somehow open out to reveal a larger space beyond, but that doesn’t seem likely now. I do not like it at all, and the quirky features of the console, such as the hour-glass timer, contribute nothing IMO.

    It has just occurred to me that maybe I really am weird, because I don’t pop bubble wrap, I generally squirrel it away for future use :-o.

    Juniperfish @juniperfish


    The question is whether this highly automated world is going to be like the Industrial Revolution – temporary disruption that eventually ended up in a much higher standard of living for everyone – or a permanent state of mass unemployment.

    Well, that’s the thing I didn’t like so much about this episode. Nice-ish middle-management, historically, are not the engine of betterment.

    The Industrial Revolution only resulted eventually in “a much higher standard of living for everyone” (although that hasn’t been an unabated trajectory) because workers and campaigners (and occasional civic-minded industrialists like the Quaker-owners of Cadburys etc. who built model homes and schools for their workers) fought tooth and nail to end 18 hour work days, to end child-labour, to improve industrial safety, to implement anti-pollution laws etc., like the famous Match Girls strike of 1888.

    Before those long battles, the movement from agricultural to industrial life for ordinary people resulted in some drastic health and mortality and exploitation casualties.

    I agree the episode played an interesting game, by over-turning set expectations, and it probably did so in order to spark this sort of discussion.

    Politically, for me, this one pulled its punches in a way Rosa and Demons in the Punjab did not.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord


    We’re talking apples and oranges here

    To an extent we are, I suppose. I guess I was citing Oxygen as the most recent episode to take on modern capitalism before this one. But I was more thinking that if you take this whole sub-genre from The Happiness Patrol to The Sun Makers to The Green Death and beyond, Kerblamm really sticks out as being really unusually conservative in its conclusions. Because I can’t help but feel that WhitDoc’s stance here really contrasts with pretty much every Doctor before her. Which, if nothing else, should please the alt-righties who complain that the show constantly has them ideologically in their sights.

    But nonetheless, for a story that seems to want to make a statement about the future of work and automation, it seems astonishingly old-fashioned in its outlook, if for no other reason in that it seems to want to reassert a link between work and wages, labour and identity, that employers like Kerblamm have irreversibly uncoupled now, let alone in the future. I can’t help but feel that McTighe might have benefited from reading a bit of Richard Sennett, Barry Wellman or Angela McRobbie before he sat down to write this.



    Nice-ish middle-management, historically, are not the engine of betterment.

    But a large and stable middle class is a sign of it. Entire empires, from China to Rome, and even Britain have fallen because of the lack of a stable middle class and, instead, reliance on various from of indenture (from outright chattel slavery to marginal-waged slavery). The greatest increase in general wealth and equality happened (in the industrialised world) at the peak of middle class living in the post-War decades, of ordinary decent people – who had had a close-up look at the alternative – doing ordinary decent work, for the most part ordinarily and decently, and the state back that.

    And the hallmark of what is usually (and inaccurately) called the neoliberal era is the erosion of that middle class’s wellbeing, from Reagan to Trump and Thatcher to the Brexit headbangers and a new leaner, meaner corporatism led by silicon valley sociopaths, raised on a diet of Ayn Rand. And the left has no answers because it has never moved past seeing the middle classes as petit bourgeoisie.

    So the middle managers of Kerblam! might just be a signifier that there is an alternative. There is always an alternative.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @juniperfish and @jimthefish

    Politically, for me, this one pulled its punches in a way Rosa and Demons in the Punjab did not.

    I actually think it did something very daring: it chose not to make the obvious critique. Writers and artists, at the moment, tend to be left of centre – as you say, this particular episode looks conservative compared to previous Who takes on this topic. Which is probably why T’Other Place appears to be full of highly entitled vitriol right now. 🙂 And it may possibly be why you two fishies are feeling so uncomfortable, because (as Juniperfish has spotted) this week it’s those left-of-centre assumptions that are being opened up for discussion. 😀

    But it isn’t small c conservative – the main question which is very much one that is being asked this series. Namely, is the problem racism, nationalism, capitalism, pick-your-ism? Or is the problem us? Because whatever the problem, the real problem is often someone who picks their ideology (capitalism, human employment, nationalism, racism) over human life. Is the problem the system? Or is the problem us? And that’s what the Doctor comments on. Our tendency to blame the system; juxtaposed against other episodes where the system is, absolutely is, unjust – and we have to fight against it.

    This is an episode I really want to watch again, because every time the writer came up against a standard Who trope (evil robots, oppressed employees, evil management, uncaring corporate entities – I’m sure there’s a couple of others) he seemed to deliberately reverse it.

    The system is not uncaring, not unaware that there’s a real problem, genuinely wants to sort it out. And that very idea is making people feel really, really uncomfortable.

    Interesting episode. 🙂



    Also, per The Doc’s “That’s robotist” crack, the biggest robot was the system that called for help. Which makes one wonder if it is constrained by Asimov’s three laws, and in particular the first:

    A robot must not harm a human being, or through inaction allow a human to come to harm.


    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    The economic history of the Industrial Revolution isn’t my specialist period, but I will say one thing. Agriculture is, generally, over-romanticised. My great-grandfather had a smallholding in the hills; it’s not something I’d ever want to do.

    The most recent industrial revolution is in China; it’s noticeable how many agricultural workers were desperate to go to the terrible working conditions, long hours and separation from their families that was involved in factory work – because they were already working those kind of hours anyway, and the money was a lot better. China tried to control things with internal passports – didn’t work.

    Farmwork can easily be eighteen hours a day, having a cow bite you can be as bad as any industrial accident, and you have to feed the animals every single day. Compared to that, sixteen hours a day (and getting paid every single week rather than seasonally), and a day off every week doesn’t sound so bad.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    I think they’ve said that the walls of the TARDIS set are movable – so I hope they move them. This set really doesn’t seem to be working; for one thing there isn’t anything for the actors who aren’t Jodie Whittaker to do apart from hang around the console and try not to get a crystal up their backside. I noticed the director last week trying to vary things with a shot from above, but this really does seem like the designer thought about it from the point of view of the Doctor flying the TARDIS. And forgot that they do an awful lot of exposition in the TARDIS.

    The double levels of the Pickwoad sets, plus the varied seating, meant the actors and directors could change levels, fling themselves into a chair, show an explosion by swinging on the railings – lots of stuff. They looked like great sets to act in. The Eccleston/Tennant TARDIS didn’t have the double levels, but it did have seating, railing, props.

    This doesn’t seem to have anything apart from the walls (which look fine, but it’s really hard to acto off a wall) and the console.

    Oh, and I’m not a bubble wrap popper either. I’d have a collection of tiny explosive bombs in my cupboard…

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord


    Avoiding the obvious critique is fine but I think you have to think it through and not just do it for the sake of it. Leaving aside the plotholes which, let’s face it, have never really bothered us, this episode seems to be all over the place intellectually, with its ‘terrorism wins’ and ‘let’s define people’s self worth by their jobs, even if they are crappy and essentially pointless and unnecessary’ tropes.

    I agree though that it does deliberately try to confound our expectations with what we’ve seen in such stories in the past, which is fair enough, and kind of interesting. But it does raise some awkward questions in terms of character in that this incarnation seems to be in no way affected by her previous experiences prior to this story. While you’re right that the managements of Oxygen and Kerblamm are very different, the former did nearly kills his friend and left him blind, never mind the stories before that. You would think that those experiences would have at least some kind of residual effect on the Doctor’s character.

    I’m also slightly concerned at the vagueness around the sentience of the despatch bots. If they’re essentially dumb terminals controlled by the system then it’s (arguably) fine for the Doctor to instruct thousands of them to blow themselves up. But it seems to me that there’s enough evidence to suggest that they have a decent level of autonomy and therefore sentience to put that act on an almost McCoy level of dickishness. And for the apparently ‘nice’ Doctor, she didn’t seem to make much more than a half-hearted effort to save Charlie.

    They looked like great sets to act in

    Absolutely. I’d like to see Whittaker try to regenerate in this set. There just doesn’t seem to be the room for it. Unless the regeneration itself is triggered by her being clobbered by one of those crystal pistons.

    janetteB @janetteb

    I think it fairly indicative that I have started reading the blogs on “the other place” and comments here before watching the episode again. Something I stopped doing during Capdoc years. Now I am even commenting before watching the episode. I was really looking forward to this episode too after see the teaser. Think I have going to have some quibbles with the politics. Unionists get enough of a bad rap in media. They don’t need to be made the villain of a Dr Who episode and I strongly object to valuing a person by the paid work they do. But should not comment until I have actually seen the episode myself.

    @miapatrick. I was getting a bit confused by Ryan’s dyspraxia too. Glad that it has been addressed again. I was also a terrible barmaid. I could not hear what was being over the background noise, exacerbated by the unfamiliar accents and the unfamiliar drinks. Interesting that the dyspraxia might have been a factor. If I do go back to do Masters (in 2020) I will get myself diagnosed first.

    @jimthefish Feeling the same as you about his series. They all feel like filler episodes.

    @juniperfish I sympathise with Luddites too and correct people when they missuse the term to describe people who are “anti-tech” or “anti-science”. Luddites were defending their quality of life and though their days were long and labourious they were essentially their own bosses living in rural villages as opposed to urge, polluted urban sprawls and working in dehumanising factories. Yes many did leave and move to the cities, drawn by the promise of change but many came to regret that. Also at the time changes in farming practise were putting people out of work anyway as shown in fiction like, “Far From the Madding Crowd.”

    As we are currently in the midst of Yr 11 exam week might be able to watch this episode until later in the week. I may not be loving this series but I am still looking forward to watching each new episode. Maybe just because I am an incurable optimist and while not thrilling it is not bad either. It is more like drinking a Jacobs Creek sparkling shiraz after drinking Rockford Black. (Tis a S.A. reference for which I apologise but after four hours sleep was the first and only analogy that came to mind. I would rather have the Jacob’s Creek than no Sparkling Shiraz at all and I prefer this series of Dr Who to no Dr Who at all.)




    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    @janetteb background noise, yes! The adults were quite confused by me as a child, I appeared to be hard of hearing, but hearing tests didn’t really back that up. I’d just about got the hang of things in London, moved to Manchester, realised how much I’d been lip reading and how differently people move their lips in Manchester. Many jobs that people tend to look down on and dismiss as ‘menial’ and ‘low skilled’ are actually incredibly hard for me.

    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    @janetteb background noise, yes! The adults were quite confused by me as a child, I appeared to be hard of hearing, but hearing tests didn’t really back that up. I’d just about got the hang of things in London, moved to Manchester, realised how much I’d been lip reading and how differently people move their lips in Manchester. Many jobs that people tend to look down on and dismiss as ‘menial’ and ‘low skilled’ are actually incredibly hard for me.

    LionHeart564 @lionheart564

    <p style=”text-align: left;”>I found the episode has made some people with left ant-capitalism political ideology quite disappointed, because we all know any big business corporations and any managements in it must be evil and don’t have any human decency whatsoever. How dare Doctor Who give us a corporate system that isn’t actively trying to harm people to make a profit. Maybe because it is more realistic than evil corporate use oxygen as payment for employee’s work.
    Kerblam! isn’t the best place for work because it doesn’t have any good work, all of it’s wotk is low skill and repeatedly. This kind of job is more suit for machine than it is for human. The episode itself have a fun inversion and execution is good but in ending the terrorism’gold is somewhat achieved and offered a wrong answer to the questions it tried to discuss. The problem isn’t the automation itself but the education system. We see there are actually human as management in the episode Dan the poster man said doing this for his child’s education so she wouldn’t end up like him. so we can assume any work that requires intelligent thinking and creative skills are still mostly owned by human and education isn’t easy accessible. In a world robot taking over low end jobs and without a good education to make sure most human keep up the skill level of course there will be mass underemployment. The episode tell us the let human do bad job instead machine doing it, which is intellectually lazy. The episode has a good idea but didn’t think it through.</p>

    LionHeart564 @lionheart564

     most recent industrial revolution is in China; it’s noticeable how many agricultural workers were desperate to go to the terrible working conditions, long hours and separation from their families that was involved in factory work – because they were already working those kind of hours anyway, and the money was a lot better. China tried to control things with internal passports – didn’t work.


    What you said is absolutely right. “农民工” “Farmer Worker”  exists not because agriculture is peaceful and boring, because it just can’t compete with industrial in gains and it is as hard as working in factory if not more.

    tardigrade @tardigrade

    I rather enjoyed this episode. In many ways, a classic type of episode that could easily have been made with many of the previous Doctors. I thought this script was tighter than some previous ones this series, with each of the companions doing something meaningful.

    I assume that a current-day worker in an Amazon fulfilment centre would feel a lot like the workers here- an organic part of a system that is largely automated. Though perhaps not, as yet, as redundant to the needs of that system.


    I also didn’t see why the Doctor needed to dispatch the dispatch bots at the end, since she seems to have the means to get them to teleport somewhere safe. Even if they’re not sentient, then it’s unnecessarily destructive and messing with a system that the Doctor by now knows isn’t really at fault (apart of course from deliberately killing Kira to make a point). And additionally she knows Charlie has gone down amongst them and she doesn’t even try to stop the bots exploding.

    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    @lionheart564 I think this episode was very much about alienation. we see two people apparently in charge of ten thousand manual workers who don’t quite trust each other, or the system, which was set up before the requirement to employ 10% humans, is more or less self running and running the humans as well.

    This system, though incredibly sophisticated, also in some respects acted like a child, under developed if you like. The note asking for help reminded me of the episode with the giant wooden dolls, the idea of killing Charlies crush to show him the error of his ways was a dangerous mix of logic and naïvety. So in the end we had two people and one system that actually did care about people (though the system might also have been concerned about being shut down if it was blamed for the massacre) unable to communicate or work together until the Doctor turned up. More human (or human like) input was needed.

    I agree that there is an illogic in insisting humans do tasks that are more effectively done by machines. Economic history has a long tradition of creating employment, thus jobs for humans, then creating technology that cuts down on the number of humans needed (see weaving). This combines with an offshoot of puritanical thought that work, as an end of itself is A Good Thing. The debate in this episode was about whether work is a right or a privilege. On both sides work seems to have remained a necessity, people are struggling for money, and I think that’s actually the side that needs to be debated.

    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    re: bots, it seemed to me that all the consciousness was in the system, not individual robots.

    LionHeart564 @lionheart564


    Interesting perspective, alienation is also Marx’s critical point of capitalism. The system killing Kira show it doesn’t holds individual human life in very high regard and the female manager has to always remains herself they are people, not organics. The male manager doesn’t show respect to his human employees.All three of them are not evil but all of them do alienated people who work for them in versus degrees.

    Work in itself is a reward is something I have difficulty understanding. Work by definition is to through labor, physical or mental, to gain something you want or you need, it is a mean to an end. Sure you can enjoying working but if you doing something mostly fo the satisfaction of doing it than it is entertainment not work.

    I agreed with you about we should talk about whether work is necessary for people to survive in a civilized society. We are living in a time a society output more than humanly needs for survival. Is it necessary for people to work so they can have something to eat when there are people who never work a single second in any form but can eat a dinner worth a family yearly income?

    Anonymous @

    Interesting comments above!  I actually liked this episode far better than any other this season; it had an interesting message but didn’t beat me over the head with it, gave everyone something to do, and even something appropriate (Yaz restraining Charlie, Ryan knowing how warehouses work), and didn’t leave me saying “Now wait a minute!” the next day.

    What effects full automation will have on society has been debated for decades, actually, and it’s why this episode’s take didn’t put me off.  I remember old, old, old SF like “The Machine Stops” considering the issue decades ago, and how stories I can’t remember the titles of back in the 1930s and 40s presented full automation as desirable.  Makes sense to me; you’ve got to figure a lot of the people writing those stories wanted day jobs to go away! 🙂



    The system didn’t kill Kira – the terrorist did.

    The terrorist who had hacked the system.

    Work by definition is to through labor, physical or mental, to gain something you want or you need, it is a mean to an end

    Work isn’t only a means to an end. Something like 80% of marriages are between people who meet through work.

    Anonymous @

    @pedant @lionheart564

    Work isn’t only a means to an end.

    I’m with @pedant here; 40 hours a week x 50-ish weeks a year x 30+ years = something that needs to be more meaningful than just a means to an end.

    P.S. I meant to mention above, loved loved loved the fez.

    geoffers @geoffers

    the last three eps have been very solid for me. i’m fully on board with chibnall’s vision, now, i think. for the most part. still not perfect, but as entertaining as the davies era, at least…  😀

    i’m quite angry, though, on the editing for one specific scene. when the kerblam delivery bot attacks charlie in the office, it first throws a punch into the wall, making a quite obvious hole, which then completely vanishes. i’d rather the thing go straight to choking him (how many times must i have to write that sentence?!), if the fx dept didn’t have the funds to add in the smoking hole in the next few shots. it added nothing to the scene, and could have easily been edited out. (unless it was left in on purpose? would chibbers do something so cheeky, as a further homage to classic who? hmmmm)

    overall, though, a thoroughly good job, and i can only hope the next three eps steamroll us into the break as effectively…

    geoffers @geoffers

    @tardigrade – I also didn’t see why the Doctor needed to dispatch the dispatch bots at the end, since she seems to have the means to get them to teleport somewhere safe.

    my take on that was that she knew she only had a very few seconds to act (the system was counting down the teleport), and that keeping the threat contained was first priority. once she had overridden the teleport out ability and kept them safely in the building, she then could not just leave an army of explosives standing there, not knowing what other tricks charlie (or, indeed, the system, itself) might come up with to send them out, after all. so, detonating all the explosives was the quickest and safest* way to bring the threat (to thousands of innocents) to an actual end…

    *except for charlie (deffo NOT an innocent), but he did have ample time to get himself to safety. he didn’t want to face the consequences of his actions, though, so… kerblammo?

    MissRori @missrori

    I agree that the intended message of this episode (technology is not inherently evil, but can only be as good as the people who use it) was rather muddled when placed up against the real problems it was referencing; the AV Club review of this episode was frustrated by that too, feeling it could easily be misinterpreted as “corporate monopolies good, workers who want good conditions bad!”  However as some of you above have noted, that the episode has us discussing and parsing out these debates is a very good thing!

    This is my favorite episode of the season that isn’t a historical, and the AV Club reviewer also made a great point that it handled multiple characters far better than “Tsuranga Conundrum” did.  It was fun to have more references to the previous Doctors too, and I liked how she didn’t find the deliverybots creepy!  Also that she named the old model “Twirly”.

    Whisht @whisht

    So I enjoyed this one as quite fun.
    Others here have already mentioned themes and bits that resonated or irked me (and yet again better than I could and with added insight!).
    Though will agree on the Doctor being such a fan of Kerblam as a service was… jarring.

    I did enjoy the HR (ie Human Resources) Manager having to remind herself it was “people” (I’ve had good HR people in my time, but also some others closer to the names-on-a-spreadsheet).
    And as a middle manager myself I liked the fact that they weren’t the villains – they were simply overwhelmed by what was happening/ unable to realise the system was at fault. They were a bit pantomime but… hey ho.

    I was actually in one of these enormous Distribution Centres last year and automation has been (proudly in terms of the management) taking jobs away for years.
    It is repetitive and dull work but not surprised that people here are discussing the nuances between quality of work/life, romanticised work being anything but (my parents grew up on farms in rural Ireland in the 30’s) but also the insidious way that in our society work=worth.
    I’ve been under-employed before and seen bits of the system and fallen foul of it. However I’m lucky (education/ family/ life chances) which made me relatively resilient compared to others in similar situations.
    The timing of this episode is coincidental in that the UK has had a UN Rapporteur needing to tell a deaf British Government that there is poverty and pain due to the way the economy is being structured as well as how they’re introducing a benefits system that doesn’t work for everyone (especially women).
    Also this episode was on the same weekend that there was a large protest march in London (or two marches – they may have been separate but done on same day to better ‘manage’ from Police point of view, not sure) about environmental concerns and also a more general “we’re not putting up with this shit anymore” from a whole bunch of different unions and interest groups.

    I do want to re-watch this one as I missed bits due to not hearing them properly (my TV is great but these newer ones need soundbars and having bought one yet).
    I want to see how nuanced the issues are dealt with in terms of the creation and management of and adherence to the system.
    If I caught it right, the ‘solution’ to an uprising against loss of jobs was that 10% of jobs at all levels had humans – regardless of how suitable the jobs were, which is an interesting example on unintended consequences.

    So, we’ve had stories where we can see that there was a bit of care in terms of jobs the Companions do (rather than “does a dull job – erm lets pick works in chippy”).
    Obviously this one suited Ryan, and possibly ‘Rosa’ suited Graham (being a bus driver in Rosa’s time).
    It’ll be interesting to see whether we get a whodunnit (for Yas’ skills).

    Still want the Doctor to get a bit more… confidence (whether in the writing or portrayal I’m split). But maybe that’s a theme too.
    Doctor and her Companions all lack/ have issues with confidence – after x number of adventures (especially where each has a chance to shine) they learn to have more confidence and… move on?

    XAD4 @xad4

    I’ve just realised that the Doctor was originally chosen to be the caretaker. Of course – she’s done the job before! 😀

    Anonymous @

    @xad4 – Hey, you’re right – I missed that.  Good one!!



    Per @juniperfish, Charlie was never presented as a ‘union’ man – he lied to get the job and referred only to ‘The Cause’ – and was closer to a Luddite (aside: although they could easily be interpreted as proto-middle classes trying to protect their privilege). He had murdered and was planning mass-murder.  He was no Tolpuddle Martyr, but a terrorist infiltrator.

    But then The System killed Kira, a wholly innocent bystander to try to get Charlie to see the error of his ways, but to me that is an unambiguous bad, its “by any means necessary” outlook showing the gruesome truth of Sartre and Malcom X’s aphorism.

    But neither of these were spelled out, the hymn to the moderate middle-folk being left to speak for itself. No Blue Peter insert.

    Which I am OK with.

    Anonymous @

    My BG Who experience still isn’t what it should be, but as far as corporations being evil or not, this episode actually reminds me of The Green Death.

    That corporation (spoilers) turned out to be evil indeed – not surprising, given when it was produced and by whom – and yet remember those protesters at the start, wanting the jobs the corporation would bring. They weren’t presented as buffoons or caricatures, and the Doctor didn’t tell them off. The clear implication was that corporations could be evil, but each needed to be investigated case by case.

    As Oxygen made clear in Series 10, failing to keep an eye on and control over corporations would lead to terrible excesses (note: understatement for effect). And as @pedant points out, the system AI in this episode wasn’t free of blame (note: more such understatement). But short of extremes, a more nuanced view is possible, as The Green Death implied and Kerblam! more-than-suggested.

    That’s one reason I liked this episode better than any other this season. Yes, there are things like racism and colonialism that invariably lead to harm, and thus can be called evil. But with human beings’ involvement, most situations benefit from a more nuanced view. This season has been short on nuance, and I was thrilled to get an episode at last that had some.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    this incarnation seems to be in no way affected by her previous experiences prior to this story

    Quite. Which is, in itself, a stonking great clue – because the delivery package itself refers to her previous incarnations and she mentions another event later.

    And yet, her reaction to the Kerblam man is ‘Yippee, this is a package and there’s a cute jingle,’ and her reaction at the end, when Kerblam has nearly been destroyed, is one of sadness. Furthermore, we’re told that she’s bought stuff from them. So one clue that Kerblam is generally seen as a ‘good’ company is the Doctor’s happy reaction to it.

    Other stonking great clues that this is not in fact an Evil Corporate Entity (TM) as in Oxygen is the break room being a lovely artificial park and the reprimands being given in (admittedly creepy robot) positive way. Social interaction is good, but keep it to the break room rather than letting it slow down your work.

    I think at the moment we’re rather over-programmed to think of corporations as bad things. You could go into the way the current system is set up, with the board legally obliged (at least in the US) to maximise profits for shareholders. But as @juniperfish reminded us, socially/employee aware companies are a matter of historical record. No reason a ‘Cadbury’ style delivery company can’t be set up in some other star system. Required to include humans in the workforce? Fine, their jobs may be dull and boring, but let’s make sure they’re reasonably paid, have good break facilities, don’t feel they need to give birth in the toilet, etc, etc.

    The impression I got was that Dan didn’t value his work as much as he valued being of value, so to speak. Being paid enabled him to support his daughter’s education, and he valued that. Being a poster boy for Kerblam showed his work (if dull) was appreciated, and he valued that. Similarly, sweet little Kira did value her work – because she could see that it was useful. Dull for her, but fun for the kids who were going to received the packaged presents.

    I agree that this bit was rather confusing, but the idea that everyone should have exciting and fulfilling work is a bit problematic, so it may simply be that the writer was trying to work through the problem himself and didn’t quite come up with an answer by the time the script had to be turned in. Currently a very large number of people are primarily interested in their job because it pays for things their kids need – and they can and do work in a huge, boring dispatching centre to provide for their kids.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    Yes, I agree absolutely about Charlie. This was no union man, concerned about keeping humans in the workforce. He was, if you like, a ‘Human Rights’ terrorist. Kid brother to the mass murdering racist in Rosa.

    I agree that The System was completely wrong to kill Kira in order to get Charlie to see that what he was doing was wrong, but we’re back to utilitarian ethics again. What sort of ethics will a machine have? Well, if killing one person saves several thousand, surely that’s ‘good’, right? The maths is right. Um. Errr … Doctor, help!

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Something else no-one so far seems to have commented on – we’re now up to three deaths where the Doctor accepted the need to be responsible for the emotional clean up. In one series.

    Grace, where she attended the funeral. Standing at the back and not joining in, but there. She also supported Ryan before the funeral itself. Then the General, where she not only attends the funeral, she joins in. In this episode, when Yaz wants to be the one to tell Dan’s daughter how her Dad died, she agrees that it needs to be done. We don’t see her taking Yaz there, but we don’t have to.

    I really am getting the feeling that Chibnall’s putting in a very important piece of character development for the Doctor – moving the character away from refusing to accept death and towards accepting it as a part of life. No longer flying off in (his) little blue box.

    For that matter, I think the marriage scene in Demons of the Punjab may be connected as well. A few people have remarked how jarring it is that the Doctor talks about love as the most powerful force in the universe when she knows Prem will die in a few hours. I’m not quite sure how, yet, but I think it’s connected to her sudden willingness to attend funerals, which we haven’t seen the Doctor do since the Time War.

    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    @bluesqueakpip agree about the system. This seemed like a very complex and efficant entity trying to deal with human emotions, and crunching the numbers unfortunately doesn’t always work on us.

    Reminds me a little of Smile, in a sense. In that case, the robots had no memory of what they’d done to the humans, but that wasn’t the whole of the Doctor’s point. This was a new life form, working things out and making a mistake. The Doctor has a specific preference, it seems for the human race. Certainly holds them/us to a higher standard (as seen in the first episode). But we’re not the only life forms or the only perspective in the universe. And perhaps the most important thing about the system, is that it knew to ask for help. (And that ‘organics’ ought not to be slaughtered en mass, it did seem to recognise the difference between its own bots (which I’m pretty certain have no individual consciousness) and individual human beings.


    Max Wellington @itsamaxx2705

    I think whoever plays Ryan is awful, that’s probably why they didn’t give him a lot of lines. As thever Dr,  Eddie remained would be great

    swordwhale @swordwhale

    Still lovin this series!

    As someone who has a love/hate relationship with tech in general and Amazon in particular (and don’t get me started on voice menu robots that you have to wade through when you call a business… which is where I begin conversing like a mariner, singing (badly) bleep you bleepity bleeping robots to the Hallelujah chorus, and generally deciding I Will Never Call That Number Again)…

    this was a cool episode. Again, it played with our assumptions. The Baddie we thought was, wasn’t, and it was an ordinary unassuming person.

    A few folks have noted that the industrial revolution wasn’t all evil and agriculture isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Well, mostly it’s mud and other hoofed stock… it is neither awful nor idealistic, it just is what it is. Most people in my nearly, semi still-rural area of Pennsylvania who are doing agriculture have to deal with weather, quirky markets (let us not discuss the trumpocalypse and the soy market), expensive and breaking machinery, veterinary care… or being kicked by a large herbivore, bitten by a pig (they’re basically brilliant evil), or chased by turkeys (please eat the turkeys, they are basically feathered velociraptors). On the other hand, most of us would never ever ever move to a city… bleargh… I can barely stand driving into them for necessary stuff. Despite the “hard work” we love it, the animals, the natural world, do our best to protect the environment, and it beats the bleepity bleep bleep bleep out of standing in a grey noisy unnatural factory with bad air. (been there, done that, phooey… I can barely stand retail).

    I do really detest mud though, and my knees and I wish we could ship all this rain to California…

    The whole bubble wrap thing tho… taking a mundane innocuous object and making it terrifying… and the idea that in whatever future they have flown into, bubble wrap is still the best tech for that purpose.

    Nice that we didn’t actually get The Evil Corporation, just a giant honkin business that mostly works but can work better, with One Disgruntled Crazy Person.

    I don’t get the irritation with the tardis interior. It just feels homey to me… goddess cave.

    @janetteb  “It is more like drinking a Jacobs Creek sparkling shiraz after drinking Rockford Black”… is that like a Flying Dog Pearl Necklace (Chespaeake Bay oyster stout) vs Bud Light??? >D

    As for saving Charlie, he was warned, given the opportunity to turn himself around, and did not. Too bad, so sad. Kerblam! (nope, zero sympathy)

    Has the idea of “work” changed over time? In a natural setting, a lifeform does what it naturally needs to do to thrive… horses graze, move to water, to shelter, away from predators, they seem to like what they do… cats sleep, play, climb the curtains, hunt, sleep for most of the day, they do none of that because they HAVE to… hawks sit and wait, or soar on thermals, in unnatural settings (wounded educational birds on a lecture) they can stress out doing what they are NOT geared to do (like sitting on your fist staring at squirmy staring-back third graders)… Humans went from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists and on. Is “work” exhausting toil? Or something engaging, enlightening, a thing we immerse ourselves in and love? (well it should be). Brainfart over. Show made me think. Ow.

    Many interesting comments her on the subject too (@lionheart564, good insights)

    @bluesqueakpip good insights on the development of the Doctor and her relationship with death.




    swordwhale @swordwhale

    oh, PS… another brainfart on work

    As someone who’s done a wide variety of crappy jobs (many literally involving poop: stable work, farm work, wildlife rehab work…we will not discuss beaver poop or dead rats that owls stash in x-yule trees)(though the really crappy jobs were food service etc)… I am now an arthritic achey person on social security (hah hah hah secure hah ha hah) and a part time retail job. I would cheerfully retire if I could and devote my energy to Meaningful Things. Not happening anytime soon. Liking those countries which have a “base wage” concept, your essential needs are taken care of by the entire culture, if you want a McMansion you do extra for it. Can we educate our way out of poverty? It’s probably more complicated than that. I’ll leave that to wiser heads.

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