After delivering an emotional episode last week, Doctor Who returns to giving us something else to wonder about as far as this week’s episode is concerned.
The group finds themselves looking into a mysterious message asking for help, which any Whovian can tell you, is never quite a simple as it seems. The Doctor and her friends soon discover that the message has come from a company that has missing employees and that the automated workforce is not as friendly as it seems to be.
Gather ’round and let us discuss “Kerblam!”
A Mysterious Message: After receiving an odd message, The Doctor and her companions travel to Kerblam!, a galaxy-wide online shopping service consisting of automated warehouses, and a mostly robotic workforce known as “TeamMates”. Think Amazon for the universe. While pretending to be new employees, the group attempts to find out who had sent them a delivery with a call for help.
Vanishing Act: The Doctor and her friends then come across and are introduced to some of their “coworkers”: Dan Cooper, the company’s poster boy; Kira Arlo, a member of the dispatch team; and Charlie Duffy, a maintenance worker who loves Kira. They learn from them that employees have been vanishing in recent months, and that the company employs a heavy work culture of productivity. When Dan disappears while finding an order, the Doctor suspects something is wrong with the company’s artificial intelligence and automated workforce.
Hiding The Truth: Both human resource managers Judy Maddox and Jarva Slade quickly deny involvement in the disappearance when confronted about them. When Kira is abducted, the Doctor tracks her to the completely automated packaging and delivery floor, leading the group to gain access below. After finding the remains of the missing workforce and an army of TeamMates holding packages, the Doctor uses an early model of TeamMate to speak directly with Kerblam’s AI. She quickly learns it called for her help, after suspecting something was wrong with its workforce.
Once You Pop, You Might Be Stopped: As for the others, Yaz, Ryan and Charlie reveal they saw Kira die when playing with the bubble wrap. The Doctor, upon that revelation, investigates and discovers someone had weaponized the material, intending for it to be used upon Kerblam’s customers (Won’t be using bubble wrap anytime soon). Charlie quickly admits to being behind the deadly bubble wrap, explaining that Kira’s unfortunate death was not part of his plans. He tells the group his plan was to prevent rampant automation that are making the human workforces redundant. Charlie used the missing employees as test subjects for his killer bubble wrap. Once he could see that it was working, he then intended to use it upon the company’s customers because he knew the blame for the sudden deaths would be placed upon automation and a lack of a human workforce.
Machines Aren’t The Enemy, Humans Are: Learning that the AI reached out for help in order to prevent this, the Doctor programs the TeamMates to deliver to themselves and pop the wrap. While the others leave, Charlie stays behind and dies in the floor’s destruction. In the aftermath, Maddox and Slade then make a promise to the Doctor to rebuild the company with a mostly human workforce to avoid this happening again.
Not the strongest episode of Doctor Who this season, “Kerblam!” definitely came off as a bit of a filler episode as far as action was concerned and plot lines. It definitely brought up a conflict that continues to be discussed: Are machines going to be the downfall of humankind?
Check out the promo for next week’s episode below!
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