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Doctor Who: Kerblam! (...azon)
I woke up this morning, stressed about money. Being a freelance writer isn’t easy, and gets more difficult when you’ve had a few health crisises in one year. Pulling up my feed from Kindle Digital Press, an Amazon Company (TM), I looked through the stark last few days of book sales. Book launches always peter out, that’s in their nature, but it still always sucks to reach the point where the luster has rubbed off for readers. My anthology is in the slow burn phase of it’s life, where it will remain. I remember that I need to continue the work of getting my books onto Audible, an Amazon Company (TM). I have a lot of work to do. I always do. I feel guilty for taking care of myself, after all, I have no salary. My time is mine for work.
If someone orders one of my books, they’ll roll off the printers, and an Amazon employee will package that book and send it out. Dropped on a doorstep, kerblam.
Meanwhile, in space, the same thing. But a different company name. Space Amazon… Spamazon… Kerblam!, that’s it, yes, Kerblam! is the biggest mailing retailer in the galaxy. They send antique lamps! And Fezzes! And their workers only get to see their own kids twice a year! They’re not allowed to talk or robots will come up and very politely threaten them! A big old happy place. We shouldn’t question it, not when our lives depend on it, our livlihoods. Even if our jobs are terrible, even if they disrespect our dignity, or reduce us to things machines could do, or give us little indignities that sting up our arms bit by bit till it sneaks up on us we have sores, its okay!
Kerblam! Is nice. They’re looking out for us. Sure, the manager is a brute who insults the nicest person alive, and sure they’re an autonomous entity that answers to no authority when people are dying, But that’s okay.
After all, at the end of the episode, the system at Kerblam murders an innocent girl, Kira, the nicest person alive, to try to show another one of it’s employees that he shouldn’t murder people. It’s not a fake out, they really murder her. But that’s okay. The Doctor even says that the system murdering her was because it was being kind and trying to save the guy who is going to kill a lot of people! How nice. We all know Kerblam is kind now, and that the Doctor did nothing about it’s murder of an innocent person and lets it walk away as though it was pure is because...it must actually be pure! It isn’t an indictment of the Doctor’s morals that she’d let that happen. Kerblam had our best interests at heart after all.
Which is why we should be so angry about Charlie, the terrorist who wants to kill people so more people get jobs. Charlie after all, wants to kill people, which is wrong (it’s not wrong when Kerblam does it though! Don’t misunderstand me! Bless Kerblam). The Doctor and friends stop him from murdering people which is good.
Kerblam then, in all it’s wisdom, closes the facility for a month while they get things together again. They give their employees two weeks pay (not pay for the full month though, let’s not be unreasonable), and the Doctor and co leave to deliver a necklace to the daughter of a nice man Charlie reprogrammed some of the adorable robots in Kerblam to murder.
The end of the episode seems strange. You have expect the Doctor to hang out of the TARDIS and yell, “Wait, what?”. Was this episode pro Kerblam? By the end, Kerblam is the good guys, the guy asking for more rights as a worker is evil and dead, and the middle managers promise change. The middle managers had been searching out the deaths all along?
Was this episode braver once, and did it get toned down somewhere in it’s process? Was it always just a subversion of Doctor Who tropes? Or does it really think that the endless stress of young people in our economy is a selfish cry that will lead to bombs and we shouldn’t ask for a better world?
Kerblam is, from a craft perspective, the best episode of this series of Doctor Who. The pacing is fantastic. The dialogue sings off the page, naturalistic but witty. There is the best action sequence we’ve had yet (with the chute!). The music is, once again, fantastic. The fake company looks like a real fake company! But the episode’s ending, with the murder of an innocent girl, with it glossing that over, with the demonizing of the person asking for change…it leaves a confusing sour note. Sweet and sour, mixed together. Results may vary on how it will sit in your stomach. If morality bothers you, you’ll probably be left uncomfortable. If not, I suppose it’s just fun! Kerblam is great! Smile!
There is a discord there. Did the writer miss the dissonance, or was the dissonance intentional? Is this a black comedy, or a defense of mega corporations? If you owed your income to a company, would you be brave enough to speak out against it? Or would you muddle that message? Would it come out whole, or in pieces.
I guess we’ll never know exactly what Kerblam meant to say.
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Poet, Playwright, Game Designer, Writer, Freelancer for hire.