RogerBW's Blog

Doctor Who 2/11.07: Kerblam! 22 November 2018

This episode would like you to know: Amazon is Scary.

But the concept of Amazon is just fine and dandy; it's not bad because of destroying its competitors, forcing down producer prices, working its employees to exhaustion, etc., it's bad because of the Villain. Yeah, I know I've complained about heavy-handed messages in earlier episodes, but that doesn't mean I want to go to the opposite extreme and have no message at all.

So it's an opportunity missed, but apart from that it's not a bad episode: Something Nasty is happening, and clearly someone is responsible, but there are several possible someones and they're mostly kept in play until the last act. This is how to do lightweight SF detection and keep things interesting rather than making the principals look either stupid or serendipitous.

Pete McTighe is an experienced television writer (though he hasn't worked on this show before), so I'm surprised to see some of the clunky plot levers here, especially the moment when someone effectively says "no, don't follow that order, you're a player character and I'm an expendable extra so I'll do it instead". (It's particularly silly given that there's no actual reason for what immediately happens to him, other than To Build Menace.) But there are at least some surprises, rather than everything being what it initially appears to be.

The CGI conveyor belt sequence is all good fun, but (as with the crane larks in The Woman Who Fell To Earth) would work better if there were some more long shots with the characters in them; I realise this makes it more demanding to set up, but as things are shown there's no sense of how far the drops are or how difficult it is to get from one belt to the next. The idea that organic contamination on wrapped goods, that survives a mild disinfectant shower, would be dealt with by automated disintegration guns raised an "oh come on" even while I was watching the episode. (And just how does X arrange for Y to die in a particular way while Z is watching? Because it doesn't achieve X's objective unless Z is watching at that specific moment.) It's all a bit shaky.

At last, though, Ryan gets something to do – it may just be "I've worked in a warehouse so I know how they work", but it's something for Tosin Cole to get his teeth into, something that's been severely missing from previous episodes. Graham is more in the background this time, but he can take it. McTighe does a pretty good job of splitting up the team and giving them all different things to do and discover.

I don't suppose this will end up on anyone's list of Best Episodes Ever, but like Demons of the Punjab I found it enjoyable in spite of its imperfections.

  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 11:46pm on 24 November 2018

    It had some good bits.

    My problem wasn't with the Villain but rather with the Doctor giving a speech in reply to the villain.

    She needs to be given shorter, pithier replies not lectures.

    It was good to see Ryan doing more though the speech about how he's figured out how to work in a warehouse and that's why his dyspraxia isn't a problem creaked a bit. Almost like a scriptwriter saying 'Why did they burden me with this?'

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