Doctor Who recap: The 5 best moments in Season 11, Episode 7

Photo credit: Doctor Who/Ben Blackall/BBC -- Acquired via AMC Press Site)
Photo credit: Doctor Who/Ben Blackall/BBC -- Acquired via AMC Press Site) /

Doctor Who Season 11, Episode 7 skillfully blended together comedy and tragedy better than any episode of the show this year. Here’s a rundown of the five best moments from Kerblam!

For most of Doctor Who Season 11, the show has been all about embracing the new. In keeping The Doctor’s (Jodie Whittaker) vast history largely off-screen and changing the program’s storytelling style, the season has largely broken with the concepts that underpinned the series since its revival in 2005.

However, “Kerblam!” felt like a call back to earlier incarnations of the show. For the first time this year, it used the classic ostensible normal setting hides a terrible secret story structure. And it pulled the old trick of presenting a story that appeared to be a fun-filled romp before abruptly switching tones in the third act.

While I’ve enjoyed how the show has re-comported itself around the Thirteenth Doctor, I thoroughly enjoyed everything in “Kerblam!” In addition to being one of the better-paced episodes of the year, it also continued the season-long theme of banal motivations for evil acts. And it managed to critique corporate greed and extremism at the same time with surprising nuance. It may be that new showrunner Chris Chibnall has found his Steven Moffat in “Kerblam!” writer Pete McTighe.

5. “What do you think? Still me?”

Tonight’s episode began with the Doctor receiving a package from intergalactic Amazon proxy Kerblam. In addition to containing a packing slip message that caused the Doctor to take a closer look at Kerblam’s operations, the parcel also contained a fez.

This moment was clever for two reasons. One, it was a fun call back to the Eleventh Doctor’s second most iconic accessory. Although the revived Doctor Who has made subtle references to its past, this was a blatant nod to what has come before. And thankfully, the fez was just a nod, not an exhausting extended riff.

Doctor Who
Photo credit: Doctor Who/Ben Blackall/BBC — Acquired via AMC Press Site) /

And second, the fez moment wasn’t just empty fan service. In the company’s introduction, Kerblam was established as possessing teleportation technology, an army of robot postman and a base of operations so massive it took up an entire moon. The idea that they couldn’t get a package to the Doctor in a timely manner was a subtle indication that something was seriously wrong. That’s some impressive economy of storytelling.

4. “Scared me there for a moment”

After the Doctor and friends infiltrated Kerblam, it was only a matter of time before the kindly, ominously designed postman robots went rogue. Thankfully, the moment of the big turn was handled really well. In it, sweet-natured and obviously doomed fulfillment associate Dan (Lee Mack) was lured into an eerily empty part of the warehouse. There he was killed by a seemingly malfunctioning robot.

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A true redshirt, Dan died as he lived, helpful to a fault and utterly lacking in self-preservation. On paper, the moment was an unremarkable utility scene designed to confirm the audience’s suspicion that something wasn’t right with the supposedly benign robots.

However, director Jennifer Perrott framed it in such a way that it was legitimately unsettling. It was also the moment that the episode’s tone first began to shift from goofy to serious.

3. “You’ll have me to answer to. Too bombastic?”

In general, one of the big differences between the current Doctor and her immediate predecessors is that she’s not been big on making grandiose threats. She always asserts her moral convictions to the weekly antagonist but her tone has never reached a “rain hell down on you forever” level. In one of this episode’s best moments, the Thirteenth Doctor gave her version of a badass speech and it was quite funny.

After determining that something was killing Kerblam’s employees, the Doctor confronted administrators Ms. Maddox (Callum Dixon) and Mr. Slade (Julie Hesmondhalgh). Though they both feigned ignorance, the Doctor told them that if they were lying to her and putting people in danger, they would answer to her.

Then, she made a dramatic exit and completely undercut the moment by asking Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) if she was being too bombastic. It was a great joke and a nice bit of characterization for the Doctor.

Doctor Who
Photo credit: Doctor Who/Ben Blackall/BBC — Acquired via AMC Press Site) /

2. “I am only a delivery bot”

One of the best things about Doctor Who are the surreal character interactions. As a science fiction series with a generally whimsical tone, it’s the only show on television where the protagonist can give a pep talk to a self-conscious robot.

After determining that Kerblam’s system was behind the murder of its employees, the Doctor reactivated an outdated sales robot nicknamed Twirly to access the mainframe. However, the responsibility of having to save the entire company totally overwhelmed the poor bot. It was only after getting a pep talk from the Doctor that Twirly was able to find the courage to save the day.

It’s worth noting that as the new Doctor has given similarly effective speeches to Yaz and Ryan, she may be the most inspiring incarnation of the character since the revived series began.

1. “This isn’t a cause. You’re not an activist. This is cold-blooded murder”

Although “Kerblam” was largely a comedic episode, its ending was decidedly not. Thanks to an observation by Ryan, it was revealed that winsome janitor Charlie (Leo Flanagan) was behind the Kerblam killings. A secret cybernetics and explosives expert, Charlie infiltrated the company with the intent of bringing it down from the inside. To get the galaxy to turn away from tech-driven companies, Charlie planned to use Kerblam’s delivery systems to commit an act of mass murder.

While Charlie’s passion to fight for the future of human labor was a noble goal, his methods were monstrous. In episode’s best moment, the Doctor pointed out the fallacy in Charlie’s thinking, but his zealotry doomed him. While the Doctor was empathetic, she didn’t save himself from being killed by his own bombs, which was a very Doctor response.

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To the episode’s credit, its final twists didn’t come out of anywhere. As with the rest of the season’s episodes, the Doctor’s initial read of the situation was wrong. And the notion that Kerblam was writing off its human workers was touched upon throughout the episode. Plus, when a story’s title is “Kerblam,” it’s only appropriate for it to end with an explosion.

What do you think was this episode’s best moment?

Doctor Who airs on BBC America Sunday at 8 pm.