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"Kerblam!" is arguably the most traditional DOCTOR WHO story this series has seen so far, and by that I mean, it's the first story I feel you could grab a classic Doctor and pop him in and he wouldn't feel out of place. Even "Rosa" and "Demons of the Punjab" would feel a little odd with Hartnell popping around and lecturing us on the evils of racism (well, Hartnell's probably not the best example...). As such, whether you think that's a good thing or not is largely dependent on your feelings of the classic series.

As a fan of DOCTOR WHO across the board, I have to admit that it was quite nice to see an episode like this. Set, for the most part, indoors, with killer robots and a comedy actor taking a (mildly) dramatic turn, Peter McTighe's story wouldn't feel out of place under JN-T's producership. Weirdly though, you feel it would also look quite similar (possibly more neon). McTighe's script doesn't really take any risks; there's a small mystery as to who is behind everything (Is it the sweet lady organising people? The cleaner who befriends Graham? Or the sinister guy who grabs a weapon when secrets are dug into? LAW & ORDER style, you can guess the killer without difficulty) but the rest of the story doesn't stray too far from what you'd expect. One caveat here: there is a death that I have to admit I was definitely not expecting, and that did surprise me.

Jennifer Perrott is back in the director's chair - she of the tension-robbing "The Tsuranga Conundrum" - and once again she manages to ensure that nobody's blood pressure is raised too high. Perrott really could be dropped from the director's pool and I wouldn't lose much sleep over it. It's annoying, because in the hands of a director like Rachael Talalay or Adam Smith (you know, the ones from Moffat's era which apparently aren't allowed to be employed anymore) this episode could have been really punchy. While Chibnall seems to be aiming for bland with his scripts, Perrott appears to have taken that on board with her direction.

One other thing that Chibnall seems to be aiming for with his scripts (and this is something the other writers seem forced to take on) is the Doctor not really being the driving force for the episode. McTighe has the Doctor plodding along with the rest of the characters in trying to piece everything together, which is frustrating. The fact that they are allocated jobs based on their phsyicality and intelligence, and clearly the Doctor was initially assigned to janitorial work doesn't quite ring true; it would almost have been more fun for Graham to find himself thrust upstairs into management when the Doctor switched their ankle monitors. Graham, as usual, gets all the wonderful emotional moments, and at least the Doctor gets to display her authority and, for the first real time this series, a moment of steel when she warns that should anything happen to her companions or her newly acquired friends, the company would have to answer to her. But I'll give this episode a ton of extra points for giving the Doctor a villain to finally confront and deal with in a properly Doctor-ish manner. I also want to praise the robots, which are genuinely quite creepy as they appear and speak in their "department store cheerfulness" voices.

It's also worth giving some credit to the guest cast in general, but a couple in particular. Lee Mack is a good choice for the cheerful and empathic packer that Yaz encounters, while Claudia Jessie is fantastic as Kira. The affection which the Doctor and Ryan afford her not long after their first meeting seems totally believable thanks to the warmth her performance brings.

In many ways I feel I probably shouldn't have enjoyed this episode quite as much as I did, but I suppose there is a part of me that is longing for a bit more of the old-school DOCTOR WHO that we've had in the past, and which Davies and Moffat were good at subtly integrating into their runs. Chibnall's run has been so new that it's been a little difficult to fully embrace new WHO (particularly with the weak scripts), but while this episode may seem like DOCTOR WHO-by-numbers, perhaps it's a good time for the series to do this and remind us that the baby hasn't been thrown out with the bathwater.
Well, sadly it all appears to be confirmed - DOCTOR WHO's greatest enemy is its own showrunner, whose scripting abilities and lack of ambition severly restrict his episodes (seriously, how was BROADCHURCH so good?). This is the first episode where Chibnall's input has been kept to a minimum, and the episode is comfortably in the top two episodes we've had so far. As good as "Rosa"? Tricky...whereas Rosa had a second rate time meddler, "Demons of the Punjab" has aliens who, though initially not looking good, turn out to be alright in the end. They certainly worked better than Krasko, but I won't lie; I'm sort of hoping we might get some aliens that actually want to be a bit bad and the Doctor can defeat them.

Jodie is comfortably settling into her role now, I feel, and she is at her best when she is doing Doctorish things such as confronting monsters and building alien devices. Personally I would have loved to see Graham's speech to Yas delivered by the Doctor, as I feel at the moment the role of the Doctor is being shared between the Doctor and Graham, almost as though there's an unwritten rule that any comforting wisdom has to come from the older male of the group, rather than the oldest alien. If the Doctor had talked with Yas, Whittaker would have had her Troughton-Tomb moment (classic fans will get the reference), and she needs that.

But that's not to denigrate Bradley Walsh, who continues to be fantastic, and Mandip Gill who is equally great. I enjoy her relationship with the Doctor very much, as you get the impression Yas is both great mates with the Doctor, and also idolises her. Graham's eternal joy at travelling with the Doctor makes him indispensible, but I find myself still sitting on the fence in regards to Ryan - more often than not he is just there, struggling to add to the narrative. Vinay Patel, like his boss, seems to struggle with what to do with three companions (though unlike his boss, he isn't responsible for it).

Checking off the production side of things, it's worth mentioning that Patel's writing is superb - clearly someone who knows his stuff about the Partition of India (of which, I confess, I knew nothing, and have spent some time now researching), Patel delivers an episode that doesn't opt for the easy route of pointing at the English and saying "Look how you screwed it all up". There's an undercurrent of distrust by the Indians towards the Doctor and her friends, but that's as it should be. Instead, Patel concentrates on how the partition ripped about India, and families. Manish's actions seem to stem from good old fashioned bigotry, rather than the fault of the English.

Jamie Childs' direction is splendid, and between him and his DOP, Sam Heasman, we get some lovely imagery throughout the episode. If there's one thing that this series definitely brings to the screen, it's the clear fact that the production isn't using Cardiff every episode. I admit I'm not certain where this was filmed, but it feels very fresh and new. A mention should also be made of Segun Akinola's music, which was beautiful throughout, and delivered an alternative version of the theme (one cringes that it may be remembered as the Punjabi arrangement). I'm not generally in favour of alternative themes to suit the episode (RED DWARF went down that route and it got a little silly), but this one worked for the most part (most part - they really need to not play the theme over the Next Time montage if they are going to alter it, because it gives that montage an odd feel).

The thing that struck me most about this episode, though, were the performances; particularly Amita Suman as Umbreen and Shane Zaza as Prem. There was a great believability to their performances, and there was a genuine chemistry between Suman and Mandip Gill, which helped justify Yas' actions throughout the episode. The casting of this episode was of a high standard, but Suman and Zaza definitely stole the show, and made me want to see more of them.

Though I couldn't hand on heart say this was a perfect episode, I do find myself in the position of struggling to exactly determine what I wasn't happy with. Ultimately the best I can come up with is that I sort of wish the aliens had turned out to be doing the wrong thing, but that's just my own expectations being impressed on an episode which promised nothing of the sort. If the rest of the series can be like this, Chibnall might just about be able to redeem himself.
There are many who complained about Steven Moffat, but at this point, I think we have to face the fairly unpalatable realisation that Moffat's biggest mistake was appointing Chris Chibnall to replace him. Churning out his fourth episode (and having co-written the fifth), it would not be unfair to say Chibnall's scripts have been...workmanlike. They do the job, but they lack the concept of a Moffat or Davies script. Imagine that meeting between Moffat and Davies when Tennant took over.

"You'll be doing the fifth episode, Steven, and I want it to revolve around Madame du Pompadour."
"Done deal, Russell. I'll set it on a spaceship."
"Steven, I said Madame du Pompadour."
"Yeah, it'll be a spaceship with time windows that look onto Reinette's life, and the Doctor will be able to step through into them."
"Right, right...I like it. And...what is the point of it?"
"There's these robots and they are going to harvest her. But they look like French nobles. And they're clockwork."
"Bloody hell, Steven. That's mental. I love it. Jam packed...what more could you put in it?"
"Well, I want to have the Doctor crash through a mirror on a horse..."

What happened with this one? Was Chibnall watching Red Dwarf and including bits that he thought worked well? A pregnant man, an alien chasing the crew, something that eats power...Truthfully, this episode would have been great as an episode of Red Dwarf, not least because it would have reduced the character number to four. And that's important, because what's becoming more and more apparent is that Chibnall, having given himself three companions, really doesn't know what to do with them, especially when he packs out the additional cast. This episode he sidelines Ryan and Graham to deliver the pregnant's man baby in a plot thread that presumably fills up the extra time the episode now occupies. Annoyingly, Ryan has again slipped down to my least liked companion...for god's sake, stop being a dick, Ryan and maybe give Graham a break. Ryan is becoming a really unlikable character.

While the Doctor's companions sit around swapping some fun dialogue but generally contributing little, we are given the aforementioned pregnant man, the two medical staff, a famous general, her robot consort and Doc Brown. I won't lie - I've watched the episode twice, and I can't honestly tell you the names of the characters (I think maybe there was a Ronan and a Moberly, but I'm not certain). They've all got their secrets, which seem a little irrelevent at the end of the day, and there's no denying that there has been social messages of sorts in recent episodes. The reason I say that, is because when characters turn up with their issues, a part of my brain is wondering what sort of social message I should be looking out for. Truthfully, I'm not sure what the messages were or even if they existed. But the pregnant man who wants to give up his son, the military poster woman with the disease she can't reveal, Doc Brown being rude to an android, and the nurse who lacks confidence, aren't obvious examples of social messages. Use protection? Nobody's perfect? Don't be a racist? Believe in yourself? I can't help but think the entire episode would have worked so much better if the TARDIS had simply materialised on board an empty spaceship which was being attacked by the Pting, and the crew had to work out what was going on and how to stop it.

Which brings us to the Pting.

I watch these episodes twice before I write these reviews - once first thing in the morning, and once in the afternoon with my children. Despite the fairly standard sci-fi tropes of the last few episodes, my children enjoyed the tension and were a little frightened of the spiders last week. This week they openly laughed at the Pting; laughter which only increased as the creature had a bomb explode inside of it and floated into space. Now, while I blame Chibnall for the ordinary writing, I have to place some of the blame at director Jennifer Perrott's door as well. There is literally no tension in this episode at all, and very little surprise. The death at the end is signposted so clearly that my six year old didn't even raise an eyebrow when it happened.

This episode was a waste of its cast, it really was. Jodie Whittaker is proving herself a great Doctor, while Bradley Walsh is consistently brilliant, and Madip Gill and Tosin Cole can be great if given something to do. But this episode didn't deliver. Again this lacked the DOCTOR WHO-isness that something like "Rosa" delivered, and given the common link so far is Chris Chibnall, it's hard not to put the blame at his door.

We're halfway through the series now, and by this stage Eccelston had brought us to tears while talking to a tree, Tennant brought us to tears as he lost his love and found Sarah Jane, Smith had debuted in the best debut episode ever, and then freaked us out with the Weeping Angels taking on THE RING, while Capaldi had fought with Robin Hood, confronted a good Dalek and panicked about the possibility of a creature that could hide perfectly. As of yet, Chibnall has yet to allow Whittaker the opportunity her predecessors had. And that doesn't bode well for the thirteenth Doctor's future.
"Kerblam!" is arguably the most traditional DOCTOR WHO story this series has seen so far, and by that I mean, it's the first story I feel you could grab a classic Doctor and pop him in and he wouldn't feel out of place. Even "Rosa" and "Demons of the Punjab" would feel a little odd with Hartnell popping around and lecturing us on the evils of racism (well, Hartnell's probably not the best example...). As such, whether you think that's a good thing or not is largely dependent on your feelings of the classic series.

As a fan of DOCTOR WHO across the board, I have to admit that it was quite nice to see an episode like this. Set, for the most part, indoors, with killer robots and a comedy actor taking a (mildly) dramatic turn, Peter McTighe's story wouldn't feel out of place under JN-T's producership. Weirdly though, you feel it would also look quite similar (possibly more neon). McTighe's script doesn't really take any risks; there's a small mystery as to who is behind everything (Is it the sweet lady organising people? The cleaner who befriends Graham? Or the sinister guy who grabs a weapon when secrets are dug into? LAW & ORDER style, you can guess the killer without difficulty) but the rest of the story doesn't stray too far from what you'd expect. One caveat here: there is a death that I have to admit I was definitely not expecting, and that did surprise me.

Jennifer Perrott is back in the director's chair - she of the tension-robbing "The Tsuranga Conundrum" - and once again she manages to ensure that nobody's blood pressure is raised too high. Perrott really could be dropped from the director's pool and I wouldn't lose much sleep over it. It's annoying, because in the hands of a director like Rachael Talalay or Adam Smith (you know, the ones from Moffat's era which apparently aren't allowed to be employed anymore) this episode could have been really punchy. While Chibnall seems to be aiming for bland with his scripts, Perrott appears to have taken that on board with her direction.

One other thing that Chibnall seems to be aiming for with his scripts (and this is something the other writers seem forced to take on) is the Doctor not really being the driving force for the episode. McTighe has the Doctor plodding along with the rest of the characters in trying to piece everything together, which is frustrating. The fact that they are allocated jobs based on their phsyicality and intelligence, and clearly the Doctor was initially assigned to janitorial work doesn't quite ring true; it would almost have been more fun for Graham to find himself thrust upstairs into management when the Doctor switched their ankle monitors. Graham, as usual, gets all the wonderful emotional moments, and at least the Doctor gets to display her authority and, for the first real time this series, a moment of steel when she warns that should anything happen to her companions or her newly acquired friends, the company would have to answer to her. But I'll give this episode a ton of extra points for giving the Doctor a villain to finally confront and deal with in a properly Doctor-ish manner. I also want to praise the robots, which are genuinely quite creepy as they appear and speak in their "department store cheerfulness" voices.

It's also worth giving some credit to the guest cast in general, but a couple in particular. Lee Mack is a good choice for the cheerful and empathic packer that Yaz encounters, while Claudia Jessie is fantastic as Kira. The affection which the Doctor and Ryan afford her not long after their first meeting seems totally believable thanks to the warmth her performance brings.

In many ways I feel I probably shouldn't have enjoyed this episode quite as much as I did, but I suppose there is a part of me that is longing for a bit more of the old-school DOCTOR WHO that we've had in the past, and which Davies and Moffat were good at subtly integrating into their runs. Chibnall's run has been so new that it's been a little difficult to fully embrace new WHO (particularly with the weak scripts), but while this episode may seem like DOCTOR WHO-by-numbers, perhaps it's a good time for the series to do this and remind us that the baby hasn't been thrown out with the bathwater.

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DoctorRy
Ryan Alcock
Australia
What can I say about me? Uh...
husband, father, actor, writer, artist, geek, counsellor, friend, lover, appreciator, fanboy, guru, fashionista, blogger

...to start...

Current Residence: Deception Bay
Favourite genre of music: All...except country
Favourite style of art: Stuff that looks good...
Operating System: Microsoft Vista...so sue me...
MP3 player of choice: iPod Video
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:iconwalle1doctor1who:
WALLE1Doctor1Who Featured By Owner May 31, 2018   Digital Artist
Happy Birthday 2 (Profile Picture) by WALLE1Doctor1Who  
(Even if I'm like an hour late saying it)
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DoctorRy Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2018
Thanks so much (even if I'm months late in saying it...and I am...I'm so slack :| )
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:iconwalle1doctor1who:
WALLE1Doctor1Who Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2018   Digital Artist
You're welcome. (I sometimes have that issue too)
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scifiman Featured By Owner May 31, 2018
HAPPY BIRTHDAY !!!!! Clap :happybounce: Singing Headbang! Hi! Airborne Woohooooo! #1 Juggle Have your cake and eat it too Party Handshake Dance! 
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DoctorRy Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2018
Thanks heaps :)

Sorry for being so slack in responding to this... :/
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scifiman Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2018
Hey no problem !!!!! :D (Big Grin)  its all good !
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Destroyer77 Featured By Owner May 30, 2018
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DoctorRy Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2018
Thanks heaps :) 

Sorry for being so slack in responding to this... :/
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DoctorRy Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2018
Nice :)
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