‘Doctor Who’: 10 Things You May Not Know About ‘Kerblam!’
There is some argument among Doctor Who fans as to whether “Kerblam!” is an intentional satire of international web retailers such as Amazon, or a satire on workers' rights, or a satire on capitalism, or not a satire at all, just a story set in a company that looks a bit like Amazon.
The themes the story explores are pretty universal though — feeling like a cog in a larger machine, the responsibility of technology to keep people safe, and how invasive new technologies can be rather dehumanizing.
Here are a few things to keep an eye out for, the next time you watch:
1. “Kerblam!” is the first televised story in the history of Doctor Who to boast an exclamation point in the title. They do exist in other media, however. There’s the written story “Byzantium!” the audio adventures “Bang-Bang-a-Boom!” and “Unregenerate!” the comics “Doctor Conkerer!” and “Flood!!!.”
Across the rest of the punctuation spectrum, there are 13 TV stories with apostrophes in them — from “The Daleks’ Master Plan” to “The Witch’s Familiar” — one with a hyphen (“Time-Flight”) and one with a question mark (“Can You Hear Me?”). Hats are all the way off for the sole story to boast an ampersand: “Love & Monsters.”
2. The Doctor embarks on one of her periodic toe-tips in the waters of youth speak, by trying out the word laters — to mean “goodbye for now.” It’s a relatively recent conversational tick, a deliberate baby-fication of later — the shortened form of “see you later” — to make it seem somehow even friendlier. Her horrified reaction to how it feels coming out of her mouth echoes that of the Tenth Doctor on trying out “correctamundo” in “School Reunion” and the Eleventh on trying to make “who da man?” work in “The Eleventh Hour.”
3. Oh hello, is that a guest British comedian in the cast? Yes, yes it is. Welcome to Lee Mack, who plays Dan Cooper. Lee is a very popular face on British TV, not just for his own sitcom Not Going Out, but his appearances as a team captain on the hugely popular panel show Would I Lie to You. The other team captain is David Mitchell, who Doctor Who fans will know as the voice of one of the two unnamed robots in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.”
4. Chris Chibnall appears to have gone a little pun-happy with the titles of the stories in this season. After the double meaning of “The Woman Who Fell To Earth” (could be the Doctor, could be Grace), the satirical jibe of “Demons of the Punjab” (just who are the real demons in this historical catastrophe?) and the punk pun of “Arachnids in the UK,” this is the fourth story title of Season 11 that is based on a double meaning. There’s Kerb!am the company, and then the comic book onomatopoeia word for an explosion.
5. This story is not the first time that the TARDIS has received mail. In “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy,” the Seventh Doctor was the recipient of junk mail, in the form of an advertising drone, and the Eleventh Doctor got a hypercube he believed to be from the Corsair in “The Doctor’s Wife.”
The hypercube itself first got a showing in “The War Games,” when the Second Doctor used one to contact the Time Lords to help him take home all the battling armies kidnapped by the War Lords.
6. Twirly notes that the Doctor has high blood pressure, which the Twelfth Doctor had already explained in “Smile” as being the inevitable consequence of having a binary vascular system — two hearts, twice the pressure.
7. When encouraging the fam to leave the TARDIS and investigate the curious message from Kandoka, the Doctor uses the phrase "chop chop” to hurry them along. This dates back to the early 1800s, with the first print usage having been traced back to 1834. It’s thought to derive from a Pidgin English version of the Cantonese term chok chok (速速) — which means “make haste” — or the Mandarin term k'wâi-k'wâi (Chinese: 快快). In British-occupied south China, Chinese workers rubbed shoulders with British seaman, who spread the term back home.
Interestingly, even though the Doctor uses the term in quite an encouraging way, the classic British use of “chop chop” is with a note of impatience from a superior to a subordinate. So it’s actually pretty rude.
8. British TV viewers will know Julie Hesmondhalgh — who plays Judy — as the face of Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street. Hayley was British soapland’s first recurring transsexual character and was a hugely popular member of the cast, lasting a whopping 16 years buttering sandwiches in the café Roy’s Rolls. She also appeared in Chris Chibnall’s third season of Broadchurch in 2017.
9. To listen to the voice of Kerb!am (and the TeamMates) is to hear a man with an impeccable Doctor Who-related pedigree. In 2007, Matthew Gravelle appeared in the Torchwood story "End of Days" as a doctor dealing with the Black Death, and in 2009 he appeared in the Torchwood radio play “The Dead Line” on BBC Radio 4. He also had a part as Eve Myles’ fiancé in the BBC Wales drama Baker Boys, and was Olivia Colman’s husband Joe Miller in Broadchurch.
10. It’s exciting to find out that a link between Doctor Who and a hit show has emerged since a story was first on the air. So fans of the barnstorming Netflix success Bridgerton may be wondering where they’ve seen the face of the Bridgerton family’s fifth child Eloise before. Well, it’s Claudia Jessie, who can be seen here playing Kira Arlo.