By JD Phillips
That’s more like it! I’ve been very disappointed with all of the sci-fi episodes this season, so I was very happy to see that “Kerblam!” was Who doing what Who does best. Allegorical sci-fi hijinks with a cool setting, creepy camp robots, and good character development. To me, this was the show getting back to basics. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend.
I’ve written about how great the cast is in every single one of these reviews and this week shows how well oiled the team dynamic has become. All of the characters had an integral part in the story. Whether it was Yaz’s life being casually saved by a coworker, Ry’s blue-collar job experience proving to be an asset, or Graham bonding with the episode’s unlikely villain, the companions were all out in force.
The Doctor also killed it again this week. It doesn’t hurt when the episode starts with a fun reference to my favorite Doctor. (That fez is still cool) She also dropped a fun reference to the Tennant era. The show may not want to use any of the classic villains or characters but it still has a lot of fun referencing its own history.
The plot seemed like one pulled out of the Davies era. A trip to an evil Amazon factory was something Tennant would’ve been right at home with. That’s not to say that this episode didn’t have surprises of its own. It seemed to know that it was a formulaic set up so it uses our expectations to plot us out all of the standard villain fare only for it to pull the rug out from under us. Within seconds, every veteran DW fan knew that the Kerblam Men were killing people to power the factory and that management was covering it up. I’m sure others were just as surprised as I was when it turned out the Kerblam Men were the ones asking for help, management was trying to save people, and that the cute love interest was the baddie.
That brings me to my absolute favorite part of the episode. Most of the villains this year have left me disappointed but for the second week in a row, they red herringed the creepy sci-fi baddies in turn for disturbingly human ones. Instead of religious anger, this week they showed a Unabomber-esque disgruntled employee. In the wake of so many mass shootings from disgruntled ordinary men, so many make excuses for why things like that happen. So rarely are these men truly framed as the villains they are. It’s refreshing to see this show point a spotlight at how extraordinarily violent a lost person pushed to the edge can be.
At no point was he portrayed as a mustache-twirling evil madman either. Most of the episode had him framed as the hour’s romantic lead. He was cute and instantly personable. Even the eventual reveal wasn’t shown to be an act of true evil but rather a deranged plan to change the status quo. While the sci-fi monsters and time traveling rogues continue to disappoint, this season is killing it with their heartbreakingly real bad guys that don’t shine the light on us instead of on some faceless robot or alien. It’s a brave choice and one that I hope the show continues.
“Doctor Who” finally found its science fiction voice again this week as team tardis got jobs at space amazon. It was a fun and surprising adventure that may not go down as the most memorable episode of the season, but certainly a big step in the right direction.