A robot delivery man carrying a mysterious parcel teleports onto the Tardis. It’s a Kerblam! delivery (a sort of intergalactic Amazon) and the Doctor gets all excited. But there’s a message in the parcel: ‘Help me!’ The Doctor and her pals decide to go undercover in the Kerblam! distribution centre to find out who needs their help. The centre is of course highly automated – full of creepy robots – with only a 10% quota of human staff (the lucky ones in the galaxy, apparently).
It emerges that the human staff have been disappearing! One of the staff is Lee Mack – he’s allowed one decent joke before he is spirited away in the spooky lower levels of the centre. It’s a shame we don’t see more of him in the episode really, as he displays far more verve than the other staff, who are mainly dull sorts (to be honest, we don’t really care too much what’s happening to them).
Yes, this episode sets out satirising Amazon, SportsDirect and warehouse companies in general. Except the satire is a bit confused. The working conditions aren’t that bad, although the jobs are dull. The staff are grateful to have the jobs, because it seems that the rest of the galaxy has been made unemployed by automation and A.I. So is the episode a criticism of automation and A.I.? Well, no, not really, as the ending completely retreats from any real condemnation of automation (I’m avoiding spoilers here). So it’s not entirely coherent, sadly. The end is a bit of a fudge and a fumble.
There are nice things about the episode. It feels properly near-future and relevant to today. It’s a warning of what will happen if we don’t take steps now. There are the usual quips and moments of pithy moralising from the Doctor, and the compulsory chases down long corridors. The BBC attempts it’s usual edutainment for the masses. But the social politics and socio-economic underpinnings are an utter mess, in truth. It’s an episode of the week, a filler and ultimately a bit of a sell out. It only gets 6.5 out of 10 from me. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed next week, cos there are witches in the time of King James I.