'Doctor Who' Season 11, Episode 7 Recap: Kerblam!

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Picture shows: Graham (BRADLEY WALSH), Yaz (MANDIP GILL), Ryan (TOSIN COLE), The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER) at Kerblam! Headquarters.

BBC Studios 2018

Meet Doctor Who's newest villain: Corporations, punctuation, and adorable delivery boxes!

Graham: Space postman. I've seen it all now.

This week's episode opens with The Doctor receiving a box of goodies from Kerblam, an Amazon-like corporation, delivered right to her spaceship door. Obviously, this is a box she ordered circa two regenerations ago, as it contains a new fez and we can only imagine how many of those Matt Smith's 11th Doctor must have gone through. Except there's a message in the box begging for help.

The company colonized an entire moon for it warehousing operation, not unlike what Amazon is threatening to do here in D.C. to Crystal City. Security is run by robots, the same kind that delivered the package and twice as creepy. The Doctor may declare herself a fan of the Kerblam Man, but somehow hearing the company's head of "People," Judy Maddox (Julie Hesmondhalgh), talk about how they supervise the "organic workers" doesn't sit well with Graham and company. She proudly states they are 90 percent automated with 10% of the company people-powered as demanded by quotas, before tagging on that the human workers are happy and grateful to work here since jobs are so hard to come by at all. As everyone is fitted with ankle bracelets to "monitor productivity," the "new workers" are split up, with the Doctor and Ryan heading for the "purple" section and packing slips (after she switches her job with Graham), Yaz sent off to scanning, and Graham discovering that his swap with the Doctor leaves him on mop-and-bucket duty. 

(Photo Credit: Ben Blackall/BBC America)

In the "Fulfillment" room, Ryan and the Doctor meet Kira Arlo (Claudia Jessie). There, they learn that the 10% quota of "organics" was put in place by the planet below after the People Power Protest Movement forced it through. ("Real People Need Real Jobs.") Graham is being supervised by Charlie Duffy (Leo Flanagan) in the cleaner's station. Yaz's new buddy Dan Cooper (Lee Mack), the latest worker of the month to end up on the company's motivational posters, explains the robots monitoring them can hear everything. Which is why it seems suspicious when her next scan coming in is in a section where one can easily get lost, never to return. Cooper, big-hearted man that he is, switches scanners with her, saying he's not seeing such a nice person get hurt — or worse sacked — on their first day.

The Doctor: Hey you two that's robotphobic! Some of my best friends are robots.

Meanwhile, the system keeps power draining most disturbingly. Fulfillment supervisor Jarva Slade (Callum Dixon) comes through to declare everything is fine. But down in the "Triple 9s", Cooper finds a wayward robot worker who makes off with him. Yaz goes after him, only to find herself confronted by robots and needing to make a run for it through shelving. When Yaz reports back to the Doctor during an enforced Leisure break, Graham gets sent off to find out what he can about building plans and the history of the company, because no one looks twice at a janitor. Before he does though, Kira and Charlie meet cute when she drops her lunch and he cleans it up. proving human love thrives anywhere.

The Doctor's idea of a distraction: File a complaint about Cooper's disappearance with Judy and Jarva, dragging Ryan and Yaz with her. (So much for undercover.) Jarva accuses those in Fulfillment of adding it, but Ryan insists their speed times make it impossible. Judy and Jarva insist they will look into it, but the Doctor and friends put themselves into a paneled alcove with plans to break back into Jarva's office as soon as he leaves, as no one here is dumb enough to take the word of upper management on anything.

(Photo Credit: Simon Ridgeway/BBC America)

While hunting through the filing cabinets, Judy catches the Doctor and friends but is derailed when The Doctor confronts her with Jarva's running list of disappearances that as "Head of People" she should have been wise to. Meanwhile, down in the cleaning room, Graham gets Charlie to borrow a layout map under the guise of needing help, so he doesn't get lost. And then a total system blackout occurs. Graham and Charlie show up in the office magically with the map, but before Judy can flip out about this, the robots arrive, apparently not shut down, despite the "total system blackout" which should have turned them off too. When one attacks Charlie, it winds up being Judy who disrupts the attack by yanking the machine's head off. Turns out she's one of the good guys, the disappeared employees have still been listed as active and working in the system -- she never knew they were gone.

While the Doctor and company go looking to learn more about Kerblam's earliest iteration to hack the system, Kira is removed from Fulfillment under the guise of being "Employee of the Day," and Judy is informed she's gone missing, which never happened before. Ryan agrees this is a deliberate threatening message, they know the group is onto them, and have kidnapped her to stop them. Ryan grabs Yaz and Charlie to ride the conveyor belts down to dispatch to find her.

The Doctor: Talking of wasps, did I ever tell you about me and Agatha Christie?

The Doctor patches her new pal "Twirly," an old school 1.0 Kerblam robot, into the system to find out what's happening.  The response is the system, speaking through Twirly, insisting help is needed in Dispatch. Rather than go the way Ryan and company took, The Doctor uses the delivery bot's teleportation system to put them down there, taking Jarva too when he shows up with his gun to stop them. Turns out he's not a bad guy either, his seemingly shady notes are trying to put together what the system is doing. That's why they're in analog. He though the Doctor was an evil person spearheading the disappearances, hence the gun.

Down in Dispatch, Kira is delivered a present, while Charlie, Yaz, and Ryan are stuck outside, unable to stop her. As she opens the parcel, she does what every human does with the bubble wrap. She pops it...and it explodes, much to Charlie's hysterical rage. In the main Dispatch area, The Doctor and company discover a massive army of robots and work out that the power drains are building to one mass teleportation of weaponized deliveries filled with bubble wrapped items to Kerblam's millions of customers. But it turns out the system is fighting back against this too. It's Charlie who planned it to bring Kerblam down. To him, a mere ten percent of the workforce being human is a travesty, next time the negotiations will be 7% or 5%. He's taking it down completely, and he's going to do it now since the system took Kira away from him using his own bubble wrap.

The Doctor quickly reprograms the robots to deliver to themselves and open their own packages, effectively having the army blow itself, Dispatch, and Charlie up. Judy and Jarva vow to rebuild the company as an "organics"-led endeavor, doing what Charlie would have wanted despite him not living to see it. The Doctor and pals take off, leaving behind another satisfied customer.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, CNN, Primetimer, and others. A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on Twitter and other social media of your choice: @anibundel

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