Movies & TVReview: Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 7 - Kerblam!

Review: Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 7 – Kerblam!

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We are now in the final furlong of Series 11 and with just three episodes to go, it is fair to say that so far things have been hit and miss in terms of episodes and stories but the stand out performance of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor remains the bright light of the series and a series that has stuck to the same formula throughout of doing a Sci-fi episode followed by a lesson in real history focused episode. Following ‘Demons of the Punjab’ we now get Kerblam! which for me at least, appears to be centred on a galactic level Amazon for the story.

Thanks to the annual BBC Charity event ‘Children in Need’, fans were treated to an early look at how Kerblam! was going to open and it featured something which both made me smile and annoyed me at the same time. As the TARDIS is travelling through the time vortex with the Doctor still struggling to control the TARDIS and it’s new systems since it regenerated along with the 13th Doctor, a mysterious teleport post is seen following them and somehow, managed to break through the shields and materialise as a robot delivery man with a package for the Doctor from Galactic Amazon called Kerblam! Now whilst the package contained both a cry for help as well as a Fez, a nice nod back to Matt Smith’s Doctor, this casual throwing away of Doctor Who lore that nothing should be able to get through or on-board the TARDIS whilst its shields are up for a two minute joke scene to set up the story is lazy at best that the most advanced space ship in the universe can have all its defences ignored…by an Amazon delivery bot. Yes my eyes rolled as I typed that just as I I did watching the scene.

The story itself is fairly by the numbers in terms of Doctor Who sci-fi, taking something a great number of the viewing audience will have experience with such as ordering things online and having it delivered but giving it “what this will look like in the future” twist. It is comfortable story telling but lazy writing for Doctor Who at a point in the series that should be helping to build to a finale but for a 7th episode it felt more like the second or third episode which is often very watchable but ultimately forgetful.

The guest stars as well for this episode was also hit and miss as Julie Hesmondhalgh actually really throws herself into the role of Judy Maddox, head of the humans working at the Kerblam warehouse making her a very likeable character for the story but then you have the comedian Lee Mack who is so dull and wooden in his limited few scenes as worker Dan Cooper that again, it just feels as though the BBC are working through their list of celebs to put into the show but I am hoping he did it because he is a fan of the show but for all his talents as a comedian, acting is not one of his skills sadly but then being given such a boring character certainly did not help.

As has been the case with every episode so far this series, Jodie’s new Doctor is great yet again and I really quite like her fun and excitable energy that her Doctor has but has no issue in being imposing and threatening to anyone she feels is a danger to those close to her or anyone else. I have always liked the Doctor’s “If i find out what you are doing and I don’t like it I will stop it” approach to villains especially when the Doctor gives them the one warning the Doctor will give when discovering a diabolical plan. I do just wish Jodie had more time on screen and now well into the series it is very clear that out of Team TARDIS that Yasmin would be the one companion I would pick to travel with the Doctor and have the stories revolve around them.

The issue of the size of Team TARDIS being far too large for a story to fit them all in is still very much a problem for me and despite Kerblam! cleverly splitting up the team by assigning them roles whilst the Doctor investigates what is happening, they often then go and meet a new side character which only thins out the story even more to be told by Team TARDIS. Ryan is almost entirely reduced to a comedy role whilst Yasmin again showcases her empathy for other people which impresses the Doctor. As for Graham, well it really has gotten to the point where he could be completely missing from the story and it would make no difference at all to this episode. I have said in previous reviews that the number of companions was a concern for me before the series even started and now with just two episodes left, it has become my main problem next to some lacklustre sci-fi episodes.

Whilst the episode itself is a strange one as the attempt at scary sci-fi reverts back to almost classic Doctor Who in that for the majority of the episode really is just silly fun sci-fi through out making it an overall pleasant episode but continues the main problem I feel this series is seriously being held back by, no overall series story arc. Right now there is no end game for the Doctor this series, no big bad and no hints at something universe threatening which only she can do to save it and it is lacking that very thing which unless something happens in the next two episodes, is going to result in an almost forgetful first series for a new Doctor. I know the show has gone through changes in order to refresh it, but episodes like this and a real lack of anything to tie all the episodes together other than the Doctor going on adventures with a team of human friends with the only real stand out stories being the history lesson focused stories based on real life historical events.

Kerblam! is a fun but ultimately forgettable episode which outside the opening episode to series 11, is pretty much how you can sum up all the sci-fi story episodes so far. Nothing really happens other than Jodie’s Doctor being just amazing to watch on screen and the nods to previous Doctors is still fun to see, but Team TARDIS just fails to work for me with more of them dropping into the background for the story and only really being used for set-pieces or jokes and for all the amazing size of the TARDIS, this team makes it feel overcrowded.

I really hope the final two episodes are leading to something resembling a big finale for Jodie’s first series because her Doctor is just brilliant and for me, Doctor Who is at its best when the focus is on the Doctor, but Team TARDIS is currently a huge distraction for the writers and the episodes are suffering as a result in the attempt to fit them all into what ends up being generic weekly episodes with Kerblam! leaving the overall experience of ordering something for next day delivery, being excited as you wait for the knock on the door but ending up having it failed to be delivered and left waiting for the next attempt to do the job properly.

Sean McCarthy
Sean McCarthy
Freelance writer but also a Gamer, Gooner, Jedi, Whovian, Spartan, Son of Batman, Assassin and Legend. Can be found playing on PS4 and Xbox One Twitter @CockneyCharmer

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