After falling out of love with this incarnation of the show in recent weeks, I’m so relieved and happy to say that this week I could just sit back, relax and enjoy the show. For me, this was the “fun factor” that I’ve been asking for, the escapism and sheer ridiculousness of Doctor Who. This felt like an episode ripped straight from the Russell T Davies era, and it managed to fit right in, I would argue this was the most fun episode of the season thus far.
The fact that this episode is essentially set on “space Amazon” is bonkers, yet it works perfectly and it’s undeniably a Doctor Who setting. Writer Pete McTighe clearly gets and loves the show, and his script is packed full of fun little nods to the past, something that has been lacking this season. Although we have been given a lot of exposition this season in regards to stories that we haven’t seen, we’ve not had many references to the past eras of the show as the Chibnall era attempts to solidify it’s own, new legacy. To see little tidbits like the return of the fez was hugely satisfying to me as a long time viewer, it’s not much, it doesn’t take anything from the story, but it links together all of these eras and it’s the first time I’ve really felt that this era is part of a cohesive, 55 year story.
The TARDIS team was used well, as I’ve stated many times before they are at their best when they all serve a purpose to the story. McTighe balanced them in just the right way, so that those who perhaps were being starved of some screentime earlier in the episode rightfully came to the forefront when they were reintroduced. As this series progresses I do feel that Bradley Walsh as Graham is the standout companion, but I am warming to the other two and I don’t by any stretch find them to be intolerable, however, I base my opinion on the fact that Graham is the only one I could see working if the show ever went back to a 1-on-1 dynamic between The Doctor and a companion.
After expressing skepticism about The Thirteenth Doctor recently, I’m glad to say that I think this is one of her strongest showings thus far this season. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was exactly, perhaps subtle tweaks to the performance or how The Doctor was generally written, but for the first time in weeks I didn’t really see her as an imitation of her former selves but rather her own person. We got the right balance of silly and serious, we all know that The Doctor is a big kid at times, but when the stakes were raised and threats were being made, we finally got to see glimpses of the darker, serious side of The Doctor, which immediately makes her more layered and interesting. After a few weeks of one-dimensional characterization, it was so refreshing to see her in a new light. Of course, for the most part she will always be a happy, bubbly and silly incarnation, but just like the nods to the past, it’s the little things that add so much more to the overall package, and these little tweaks and personality changes are exactly what 13 needed.
The robots looked great and are probably my favourite “villain” thus far, they felt proper RTD old-school but they worked brilliantly. After recent weeks of the “humans are the real enemy” messages, it was nice for the robots to take centre stage for a large portion. Sure, the real mastermind was a human, but that played into the whole mystery dynamic of this episode, it didn’t feel forced, it didn’t feel preachy, in fact, his motivations made perfect sense, which I appreciated. (Also, exploding bubblewrap? Genius.)
Overall, Kerblam! was a huge success, especially for someone who has been underwhelmed by the story quality thus far. This felt like Doctor Who again, and it was great fun. It juggled it’s large cast well, it had good performances all around, an awesome monster concept and a solid mystery story, there wasn’t much to dislike really, and I’m so glad I’m finally saying that.
To me, this is what Doctor Who should be, good old-fashioned escapism and fun, please, give me more of this!
I give Kerblam! a 7.5/10.