The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her friends Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Yasmin (Mandip Gill), receive a delivery containing a call for help and then travel to a galaxy-wide shopping service called Kerblam! to check it out. They pose as new employees and learn that staff have been vanishing for months. They meet Dan Cooper (Lee Mack), the poster boy for the company, Kira Arlo (Claudia Jessie), a member of the dispatch team, and Charlie Duffy (Leo Flanagan), a maintenance man in love with Kira. Dan promptly disappears and the Doctor suspects the automated workplace and the A.I. in charge.

The off-putting human resource managers, Judy Maddox (Julie Hesmondhaigh) and Jarva Slade (Calum Dixon), deny any involvement. When Kira is abducted, the Doctor tracks her to the fully automated packaging and delivery floor below, where organic employees are not allowed. They find the liquidized remains of the missing workers and a veritable army of robotic delivery robots holding packages. The Doctor uses an early form of the TeamMate language to speak with the A.I., who it turns out was the one who called for help. Yasmin, Ryan, and Charlie Duffy reveal that Kira died while popping bubble wrap, which is a weaponized material to be used on Kerblam!’s customers.

Charlie admits responsibility but says killing Kira was not part of the plan. His goal was to prevent rampant automation making workers redundant by sending thousands of packages with weaponized bubble wrap to kill Kerblam! Customers, making people blame automation. He used the human staff as test subjects. The A.I. killed Kira to make Charlie understand that his actions were wrong (!). The Doctor reprograms the TeamMates to deliver to themselves and pop the wrap. As our heroes teleport away, Charlie remains and perishes in the destruction of the Packaging Department. Good guys Maddox and Slade vow to remain and rebuild Kerblam! as a mostly human workforce.

The episode was written by Pete McTighe and directed by Jennifer Perrott. It was pretty successful, with 7.46 million viewers, an online appreciation index of 81, and a Rotten Tomato score of 90%. Somehow, people got the idea it was poking fun at Amazon. The Doctor uses Venusian Aikido again, used in the Ghost Monument episode and by the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 12th Doctors. She mentions Agatha Christie, referring to the Unicorn and the Wasp episode with David Tennant. And she receives in the package a fez, referring to Matt Smith. The Doctor refers to robophobia, which is the title of a play featuring Sylvester McCoy, and which was a sequel to The Robots of Death with Tom Baker. Bubble wrap was originally  developed as 3-D wallpaper, but the product failed. I’m sure children couldn’t resist popping it.

This episode was a satire and largely written for laughs, but it was also a mystery caper with intrepid heroes and goofy but still scary robots. The Kerblam! Building interior was a huge and terrifying set, unless you worked at Amazon. I pass by one of those places every once in a while and the first time I saw it, I wondered if they were building spaceships in there. What’s really scary is that the Kerblam! Employee indoctrination, oversight, and lack of privacy no longer seem so futurist-fascist, nor does the A.I. threat to us organic employees. In Doctor Who, there is a long S.F. tradition of presenting scary futures as amusing fantasy.

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