TARDIS 11-07: Ker-blam!
Welcome back, lovely readers, for yet another fun adventure in time and space. For some reason, probably the title and the fact that we’re due for one, I expected this to be a really wacky episode. While it was funny, it wasn’t what I expected, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good.
One thing it was in particular, was Ryan’s episode to shine. From the usefulness of his familiarity with drudgery to his lack of hesitation in standing up to a hateful boss to his continued string of good questions, he was really essential to Team TARDIS’s success in this episode. I also appreciate how they haven’t forgotten about his disability, just as you wouldn’t if you were a person coping with it. It would come up constantly in new situations, trying to figure out how to negotiate them while bearing in mind your difference in ability, and there are no shortage of new situations when you travel with the Doctor. Still, it doesn’t feel wedged in or hammered on too hard. It comes up organically, is dealt with in a matter-of-fact and very respectful way, and moved on from without much fuss. It’s never a “very special episode,” just an intrinsic part of the character and I really really love it.
I had my doubts about Graham because of his age and health and the physicality of being the Doctor’s friend (am I warming up to using this term over companion? Maybe). His folksy charm continues to be his strength. It’s something that’s always been true about Doctor Who, that regular people are often the ones who make a difference, but when the companion was a woman, there was a lot of focus, intended or not, on her looks and the potential for romance in her relationship with the Doctor (it may explain why Donna is such a fan favorite, because there was “you’re not mating with me!” from the start, but then of course she had to have a tragic end, blah, blah, blah). Removing all sexuality from the equation has really brought out why the Doctor chooses her friends; they are regular people. Why doesn’t the Doctor just choose anyone if what she needs are regular people? Well, they are regular, but they are also special. All regular people are special in their own way, but these three are special in a way the Doctor appreciates, they’re imbued with the qualities she values most highly and that’s why this team works so well.
At the same time that Graham was able to take advantage of the invisibility of his position, it also did a great job of masking the true villain. In fact, in general, the episode did well hiding its true motives and keeping you guessing. It kept us busy being fearful of this automated future that we’re potentially heading for. It was an extremely well-timed episode, airing the week before most of us will start clicking “add to cart” or “buy it now” incessantly for a good few weeks. I mean, my first thought when the Ker-blam man showed up in the TARDIS was “how soon can Amazon give us this technology?” (my second thought was “wait a tic, isn’t the TARDIS supposed to be impenetrable?”) Those delivery bots were right in line with the long history of classic Doctor Who creepy robots. Of course, as the episode progressed, it gave really good strong motivation for shopping small and supporting local businesses. It also gave us really good, complex, suspiscious-but-ultimately-good characters in Judy and Slade. And I liked that no one was really written off as “just evil,” there was always a sensible explanation for questionable actions and our heroes were open to accepting proof of their innocence. Also, holy shit, weaponized bubblewrap is actually fucking genius and terrifying. Thanks, I hate it.
I am enjoying Jodie Whittaker SO MUCH. I love that she’s still figuring out her identity and what language she uses (from “I call people ‘dude’ now” to “Laters!” hee). But she’s still the Doctor and still has classic moments like realizing she’s missed an important detail while trying to comprehend the larger picture, echoing every time Capaldi, Smith, Tennant, Eccleston and beyond have done that. It’s simply Classic Doctor 101. The show hasn’t forgotten the old school fans either. We get our fan service in callbacks to the Fez and in a throwaway moment in the TARDIS where she referring back to a previous escapade that was actually featured in an episode (I can’t recall the line exactly, but it was an “ask me about the time…” and then she mentioned something from a past season instead of some wacky made up scenario that happened off screen because we never saw it as the writers sometimes do). In short, everyone who feared the show would be ruined by casting a woman (I don’t think there’s any of those in my readership) are just the Mayors of Wrongsville. It continues to be so much fun to watch Jodie work.
I can’t believe we are so close to the end of the season already! I am enjoying it so damn much. Next week is all about witches and hunters, and between my fanatical devotion to the novel Good Omens, my undying love for Supernatural, and my recent obsession with Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and OH MY GOD THIS IS THE ONE WITH ALAN CUMMING IN IT, I am Here. For. It. See you all back here next week!