Posts Tagged With: kerblam

Have I Got Whos For You (series 11 edition, part 4)

And….we’re back from commercial. Right, did everybody enjoy Thanksgiving? ‘Cos the Doctor’s got the turkey on.

(Mr Bean did it first, of course, and to arguably better effect.)

Thanksgiving is typically more about spending time with your family than it is about exchanging gifts – but there have been scores of references to packaging all over the internet after ‘Kerblam’, and not in a good way.

Elsewhere in the Whoniverse this week there was consternation when an Amazon Prime scheduling cockup meant that American subscribers to their streaming video service got to watch episode eight before they’d seen episode seven.

As for me, I’ve been tinkering with grainy, near-unusuable shots from ‘Kerblam!’ (do I have to type out the exclamation mark every time? It’s incredibly tedious) in order to produce more obscure connections to CBeebies programmes, although feedback for this one does suggest I’m not alone.

But I did find time to get hold of this exclusive preview shot from next week’s Holby City.

Hoopy Froobs!

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God is in the detail (11-07)

This afternoon, Daniel helpfully pointed out that it’s thirty-two days until Christmas.

By the time you read this, it’ll be thirty-one. Possibly less. Or maybe you’ve stumbled upon this way after the fact and it’s now three hundred and sixty until the next one. Time is relative. But it’s also short, so let’s not dawdle. You and I both have shopping to do, and we’re not going to get it done hanging about here scrolling through text on a smartphone. Time to hop online to visit Amazon, methinks, where they do a lovely line in antique lamps.

All of which leads us neatly into our assessment of ‘Kerblam!’, episode seven of this rollercoaster of a series. Because it wasn’t all plain sailing at the retail giant’s dark and dingy premises. Lurking behind the creepy robots and rolls of bubble wrap, there were a plethora of HIGHLY IMPORTANT CLUES AND SIGNS hearkening back both to classic stories from days of yore, and also THINGS THAT ARE GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT SERIES. And if you didn’t notice them it’s simply because you weren’t paying attention. But no matter, because here at the Brian of Morbius offices we’ve gone through and deconstructed and scrutinised and worn out several biros writing them all up for your perusal, so strap yourselves in for this week’s whistlestop tour through fan theory central.

First there’s one that I can’t fully explain. Here’s a shot of Graham in the cleaning cupboard, surrounded by posters.

For the sake of clarity, the text in each poster reads as follows:

  • Eyes on the prize, guys!
  • KERBLAM! Live your best life
  • Don’t forget, you’re the lucky one!

On its own this means nothing, until you rearrange the letters of each slogan to reveal something very interesting indeed, because two of them refer directly and unambiguously to the much-maligned ‘Sleep No More’:

  • Shuteye Progeny Size
  • Fallibly Rebukes Overtime

Could we finally be about to witness a sequel to Mark Gatiss’s underrated found footage adventure of sleep crust monsters in space? You know, the one that ended on an ambiguous cliffhanger because Gatiss planned a follow-up episode that never materialised, presumably because he was too busy on League of Gentlemen?

I’d say yes, but a curious thing happens when you rearrange the third slogan – it turns into a Donald Trump reference.

  • Encountered Hokey Golf Tryout

So we’re stumped. Perhaps this is coming back to ‘Arachnids’; perhaps it isn’t. Your guess is as good as mine at this point, dear reader, and please do leave your comments in the usual box.

I’m feeling a bit miserable about this, so let’s move on. Here is the moment early in the episode where Team TARDIS are all given bio-scans in order to determine their suitability for work (just before the Doctor cheats the system so she can get out of mopping the floor). Have a look at the display on the right.

We may annotate this as follows:

How, you’re undoubtedly asking, can we know that the grouping is this precise? It comes simply from the eyeline of the figure on the display, which is looking at the gap between 13 and 14. Hence this is a Doctor who is already looking ahead towards her own future. Is the fact that she is staring at Julie Hesmondhalgh a coincidence? Well, is it?*

There’s more, though. You will also note from the ascending text at the side of the display that this is system 5.8, which alludes CLEARLY AND SPECIFICALLY to The Fiveish Doctors Reboot, which starred the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors (all right, three of them; McGann’s basically a cameo). It also refers both to the Fifth Doctor’s eighth story, ‘Arc of Infinity’, and episode eight in series 5, ‘The Hungry Earth’. From this we can derive –

  • ‘The Hungry Earth’ featured the Silurians
  • ‘Arc of Infinity’ guest stars rogue Time Lord Omega
  • Omega 3 is a nutrient commonly found in fish
  • The Silurians dealt with fish in ‘The Sea Devils’

To break this down: a future Big Finish production will see Doctors Five through Eight join forces to combat the Sea Devils, who have joined forces with Omega (providing a dual role for Peter Davison). The date is to be determined, but should we add five and eight we get thirteen – and adding Tennant’s Doctor (and Davison’s son-in-law) to the mix takes the total to 23, suggesting 2023, or Doctor Who‘s sixtieth birthday to be precise. (If this is all sounding a bit tenuous, don’t forget that the words ‘Big Finish’ can also be rearranged to form ‘In Big Finish’, or even ‘Big Finish? NI!’, which is useful if you’re a Monty Python fan.)

“Yes, yes,” I hear you shout, “but why do we need to add Tennant to get that date?” Well, I’ll come to that later. For now, we’re back in the store room, and Bradley Walsh is still hanging out with the creepy janitor.

There are three green bottles, sitting on the shelf. That’s three green bottles, sitting on the shelf. You have thirty seconds to clear away the earworm. Go!

Finished? Good. There are also two yellow bottles on the middle shelf. We’re coming back to those, but we’ll concentrate on the greens first. Three Greens, as anyone who follows racing news ought to be aware, is the name of a racehorse. However, it is the horse’s geneology that is of particular interest: its dam was French horse Happy Landing, while it was sired by Niniski – a word derived from a Turkish term for neutering. Hence, the appearance of three green bottles is a CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS reference towards ‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’, referring both to the Doctor’s gender swap and also her unorthodox entrance early in the episode, when she crashes through the roof of a Sheffield train carriage.

You will also note the repeated use of the word ‘progeny’. Join the dots, folks.

Oh, I was going to talk about the yellows. Well, there’s no need. We did it the other week. Have a look at my entry for episode 4, and tell me you didn’t see this coming.

Finally, there’s a scene when the Doctor, Yaz and Ryan break into Slade’s office and find…a filing cabinet. It’s right up there with the Bit In The Shed in A Beautiful Mind for shock value, isn’t it? Still, there is a close-up of the document they fish out that gives us pause for thought (particularly if you hit the pause button, as I had to in order to get this screen grab), so let’s take a butcher’s at it.

The first thing you notice are the photos. Actually the very first thing that I noticed was that one of the missing women is called Irsa Moyner, which sounds like a Londoner talking about the Little Bear constellation. More about her in a minute – before we get to that, can we just take a note of the sums at the left? The ones that add up to ‘Caves of Androzani’? Sorry, I mean 135? As in story 135? It really is Davison’s week, isn’t it?

Back to Irsa, and it’s her ID number we need to take a closer look at, seeing as it’s the only one we can actually read properly – a clearly deliberate ruse on the part of the cinematographer. That number, for point of reference, is 7.35 / 384734533311336 / 46, if we take the vertical lines to be ones and the slash marks to be division signs.

In other words, it’s a sum, and the answer is 4.1530613e-16.

This is all about the Metacrisis Doctor. You know, the one who grew out of a hand. 4 refers not to to Tom Baker, but to series 4 (Nu Who), in which Tennant’s doppelganger makes his first (and mercifully only) appearance. e-16 refers to European Route E16, which leads through Northern Ireland, Scotland and eventually Norway – where said Metacrisis Doctor was eventually abandoned in the company of Rose. Oh, and that big number in the middle? You’ll never guess what vector image it corresponds to on Stock Unlimited.

Ooh baby, baby, it’s a wild world…

Did you enjoy this post? If so, please don’t forget to leave feedback. 

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* Yes.

Categories: God is in the Detail | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Kerblam!

Picture the scene. Jodie Whittaker is standing by a group of uniformed warehouse staff, all of whom are about to succumb to a fatal virus. She is in the process of shouting down an angry executive. Graham is standing six feet away, wrapping a blanket around the delirious, pockmarked supporting character they’ve picked up on their journey through warehouse central. Ryan is fidgeting, and Yaz is doing that thing with her eyes.

But our eyes are on the Doctor. “Look at them!” she’s yelling. “These aren’t machines, they’re people! They can’t function in a state of constant productivity, they need rest! They need interaction! They need time away from the packing spaces! This obsession with productivity has driven them into the ground. That’s why they reached out to me – well, one of ’em did. I knew something was off at Kerblam the moment we arrived – just couldn’t see what it was. So I dug. And now I find you’re turning them into zombies!”

The executive smirks. “One hundred per cent correct, Doctor. And now it’s too late for you to stop me. When the virus enters its final stage they will reach a state of uninterrupted productivity, at the cost of most neural functions. They’ll be able to perform the roles we give them, never stopping, never resting, never tiring. We call it…”

He pauses for emphasis. “Permawork.”

It is a silly thing, written in the shivery, pre-caffeine moments before the dawn on what is shaping up to be a cold and frosty November morning, but I think it’s probably the sort of sequence many of us were expecting in last night’s episode. The news that Doctor Who was off to Amazon had me raising my eyebrows: was this to be another rant at consumer culture, the want-it-now generation, a response to the many rumours about practices and policies behind the closed doors of the retail giant’s gargantuan premises? Certainly you’d be forgiven if you thought it was. The very first thing that happens in this episode – no, belay that, the second, right after the Doctor has fished out a fez from a cardboard box – is the discovery of a printed note, containing the words “Help me”, echoing stories in the broadsheets. But in a way you can’t blame Pete McTighe (this week’s guest writer) for avoiding outright condemnation. BBC Worldwide have to work with Amazon, after all – they stock the Blu-Rays. There are lessons to be learned from Rain Man, which was censored – and sometimes banned outright – on in-flight movie showings after Dustin Hoffman’s character refuses to get on a plane because they’re not flying with Quantas. Guess which airline was happy to screen the movie uncut?

Or perhaps it’s simply that McTighe is a better writer – better at least than Chibnall, who would have gone with the zombies plot, and consequences be damned. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing: if I do I have to reassess the entirety of series 11, and I’m not doing that before coffee. Perhaps if something like this had cropped up in the Moffat era, in which twist-laden stories were the show’s bread and butter, the eye with which we judge would be a little more critical. Nevertheless: as it stood, we got an episode of Doctor Who that surprised me, and in a world where I’m really starting to think I’ve seen everything the show has to offer, that’s TV gold.

At its core, ‘Kerblam!’ is a lighthearted and often humorous take on the daily grind of shift work and the feeling you’re a cog in a machine. It’s something I’m only able to relate to partially – I did my stint in a warehouse over twenty years ago and that was very much on a casual basis – but the jokes about office politics come thick and fast and are largely delivered by white-eyed, passive-aggressive robots who tilt their heads in a manner that ought to make more than a few of us feel uneasy. The outward friendliness that masks what is essentially a master-slave relationship is about as zeitgeisty as it gets, and they remind me of a temporary contract I had with a large insurance company I elect not to name – twenty of us crammed into a small space on the first floor of an anonymous building on the outskirts of a business park – and the woman in charge of our team who came over to me on the final day of the placement when I was chatting to a friend, to politely warn us that we’d been “spotted”. Nearly two decades on I’m still trying to work out exactly what she meant by that – I’d gone to school with this particular supervisor and it was difficult not to feel put out, particularly since the aforementioned friend and I had hit all our targets six weeks running.

The robots in ‘Kerblam!’ do not discriminate, unless there’s a reason. Certainly when they snatch away Kira (Claudia Jessie, recently seen in Vanity Fair) it’s hard not to feel a sense of relief. Kira is one of those irritating types you meet at university, the one who’s had a rubbish childhood and is now graced with flatmates from hell, but who is determined to make the best of her situation by singing badly at open mic evenings. Mercifully Kira does not carry a guitar, but even though she grates you know she’d be perfectly suited to Charlie, the doe-eyed janitor who is the epitome of Hugh Grant-esque social awkwardness whenever he has to be within touching distance. The four travellers watch from the sidelines, and Graham manages to have a brief heart-to-heart with his learning mentor in a darkened store room. “Have you smelt her?” Charlie enquires, eagerly. Walsh doesn’t let the smile slip from his poker face. “Funnily enough,” he replies, “I haven’t.”

That Charlie turns out to be the episode’s villain comes as a shock – as does the death of Kira, disintegrated to atoms when she touches booby-trapped bubble wrap. It’s all part of a series of tests that Charlie’s been running – testing out bombs on unsuspecting workers before enacting his master plan, which is to kill thousands of customers at once in order to destroy the public’s trust in machines. This is the same year that The X-Files did the exact opposite, in a strange, practically wordless episode in which Mulder and Scully are beset by angry drones when Mulder refuses to tip a robotic waiter. It was decently executed, but there was a heavy sense of deja vu that mercifully fails to permeate the confines of this week’s episode – there’s something refreshing about the way McTighe subverts the Angry AI motif, particularly when the unmasked villain turns out to be this story’s Professor Quirrell.

One of the nicest things about ‘Kerblam!’ is the way it manages to find roles for everyone. While Graham is off mopping floors with Charlie, the Doctor and Ryan are busy in the packing room – Ryan’s uncanny dexterity explained away by nods to a previous job, in the episode’s I Have Dyspraxia moment. They also have time to raid an office or two; McTighe sensibly gives us two executive types, one more ostensibly dodgy than the other, but all roads lead to Rome, and both of them turn out to be trustworthy. Meanwhile, Yaz is paired with Lee Mack, who warns her not to touch the antique lamps. Mack plays an older, world-weary version of his Not Going Out persona, and it’s a shame that more isn’t done with him – his early death, too, comes as something of a surprise, although it’s hard not to burst into giggles when Yaz is seen walking down the empty aisles of the warehouse yelling “Dan! Dan! Dan!” like Alan Partridge. But if this is the first week that Team TARDIS feels like a name that actually fits, it’s the guest stars that shine – particularly Julie Hesmondhalgh, brilliantly warm as an out-of-her-depth head of HR who nonetheless feels, at times, like she could secretly be a criminal mastermind, blustering and heartfelt and acting just about everybody else off the screen.

There’s nothing particularly world changing about this week. It starts with unexplained mysteries, ends with a bomb in a hangar, and mines enough reserves from the sinister robots cliché to last us until 2020. But there are plenty of things we could say about the people I spoke to last night who said that, for the first time this year, they were watching something that “felt like proper Doctor Who“. I’m not really sure where you go from that – whether that’s an unfair assessment, or an indication of a general drop in quality, this episode a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory, rather like Sick Boy’s assessment of The Name Of The Rose. If you’re a regular here you know my feelings on this year and we won’t have that conversation again, at least not for another week or so.

Still, none of that matters for the moment. ‘Kerblam!’ is ridiculous fun in the best sense of the word. Like many stories in the canon it is strongest when it is being deliberately silly – whether it’s the Doctor trying to talk a drone out of an existential crisis, or Ryan, Yaz and Charlie’s video game inspired descent through dispatch, easily the biggest laugh Doctor Who has given us in a long time. It is punchy, aesthetically pleasing television, delivered with the same panache, efficiency and attention to detail as a parcel from Kerblam itself. Just don’t touch the bubble wrap.

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