Doctor Who: Taut Adventure Reverses Decline In Scifi

by thethreepennyguignol

So, after a really solid historical jaunt last week, we’re zooming off into science-fiction once more, with this week’s outing, the satisfyingly-named Kerblam!

And now, it’s worth saying that I’ve not been the hugest fan of the sci-fi so far this season: The Ghost Monument was oddly-placed and overstuffed, while The Tsuranga Conundrum was seriously rough around the edges (despite both episodes looking truly gorgeous). As I said last week, this season of Doctor Who feels the most forward when it’s looking backwards, and they’ve yet to prove themselves with an excellent space-age outing.

But this week? Yeah, this week might have been enough to fix that. The second episode in of the season not to have Chris Chibnall in the writing credits (this episode comes courtesy of Peter McTighe), Kerblam! sidestepped the issue that so many of the sci-fi stories this season have had: namely, being so bloody stuffed full of plot and character that there’s barely room to fit it all in. Which is not to say that there wasn’t a good, juicy story here – this episode is a good, juicy mystery, as the Doctor and company respond to a distress call from a huge delivery agency on a moon, staffed mostly by creepy lobster-handed robots, and attempt to unravel the sinister truth behind the goings-on there.

This is a cracking episode for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, zooming around the establishment with the overexcited guile of a cat stealing food – I think her comedy is still a little stronger than her drama, but her bold-faced investment in compassion is a signature for this season, and I love that. Bradley Walsh is still just an old pro at this as Graham, while Toisin Cole gets some action (in a very badly CGI’d but nonetheless fun sequence along a deadly conveyor belt) and comedy which seems to suit him better than the constant? Uptalk? Attempts? At pathos? Yaz feels like a more grounded character after last week, though when are they going to have the nerve to make her and the Doctor kiss like we ALL secretly want. Oh, and Lee Mack gets a quick showing in this episode, and that’s just a treat for me because I’m a die-hard fan of him on TV’s best panel show, Would I Lie to You. Yes, I also have a huge crush on him, we’re dealing with it, we’re moving on.

Plus, it’s fun to really see the show engage with a proper, meaty mystery. Arachnids in the UK, for all that I enjoyed the absolute bullshit of the central story, was a bit too daft for its own good a lot of the time, but this episode (and I’m not referring to it by name because putting a lower-case later after an exclamation point physically pains me) manages to ground the goofy stuff in a sense of real dread and unease. Not only are the robots that beautiful mix of nearly-acceptable and utterly disturbing, but the excellent script from McTighe balances the human warmth and unsettling coldness of the establishment beautifully. It’s a big, bold episode with a lot going on, but it feels more focused than the sci-fi outings we’ve had so far this season, even pulling off a decent third act to such a twisty-turny story. Chuck in a bit of commentary on the exploitation of companies like Amazon and humans versus machines, and you’ve got a taut script that feels in total control of the story it’s trying to tell.

And, more than anything, I think this story is just a great showcase for how comfortable this season is beginning to feel. Our main four have great chemistry, with themselves and the other characters they’re paired with, the sets look exceptionally gorgeous, the story is crisp and well-oiled. Everything feels like it’s running smoothly, and, after a few bumps in the road, man, it’s good to be here at last.

What did you think of this incredibly odd episode? How are you enjoying the season so far? Let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter or Tumblr! If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to check out the rest of my Doctor Who recaps right here, and also check in with my other recapping projects – I’m currently covering the first Harry Potter book as well as the current seasons of Riverdale and American Horror Story. If you want to read some of my fiction, please check out the ALPHA FEMALE erotica series (eighteen-plus, obviously), available on Amazon now. As ever, if you want to see more stuff like this, please consider supporting me on Patreon!

(header image courtesy of Digital Spy)

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