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Tamebay Comment: Kerblam! in Doctor Who was an adroit comment on Amazon

By Dan Wilson December 3, 2018 - 10:35 am

Doctor Who
This is a special report from Tamebay’s expert Doctor Who correspondent Dan Wilson.

Even the TV show Doctor Who is getting in on the action on commenting on online shopping, specifically Amazon, with its recent dystopian episode called Kerblam!. It is a humorous, but insightful, examination of ecommerce and consumer culture. But most tantalising is how it looks at the fulfilment process.

The Doctor is delighted when a delivery arrives in the Tardis. It arrives courtesy of a teleporting robot and it comes in a suitably branded box. The consignment is a fez and she cannot quite recall when she ordered it from the retailer Kerblam! but that company, so says the Doctor, is the biggest in that galaxy. And a call for help takes her and her companions to a Kerblam! fulfilment centre.

The moon of Kandoka has become “one massive warehouse” for Kerblam! to service the local planet’s population. It’s interesting that one of her new companions has worked somewhere similar and isn’t enthusiastic about visiting such a place on and alien world. Clear comment of work conditions.

The warehouse premises is an absolutely huge automated establishment where robots form 90% of the workforce. Indeed, it would be entirely automated but for legislation that requires 10% of the workforce to be “organics” (not robots) because, as one of the staff ruefully notes, half of the humans in the galaxy are unemployed as automation has progressed.

The episode continues with a number of well observed comments on the ever increasing importance of online retailers and marketplace Amazon is surely the target of the satire.

The focus on the increasing importance of warehouse automation is adroit. The show, perhaps lazily, focusses on how the robots and machines will take over but that is redeemed by a human being behind their control. This isn’t a HAL scenario. But it is right to reflect on how automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence might change the world of human employment.

But the other fascinating reflection on Amazon must really regard scale. There are several comments during the episode that show that Kerblam! has not just threatened jobs for humans but also inhibited other businesses. Is that the future of Amazon?


(And yes, I know, I am a week or so too late, but I have only just watched the episode. Sorry.)

  • james
    1 week ago

    I have to say i’m massively disappointed in the new series of doctor who.

    i’m no screenwriter but i reckon even i could manage to employ some basic sub-text or subtlety, rather than the blatant on-the-nose ‘messages’ this series writer’s wants to scream in your face.
    an episode with Rosa Parks. wonder what that’s about? ah, racism is bad. i see.
    indian pakistani seperation…. oh, racism is bad… again.
    not that i disagree, but come on, it’s supposed to be entertainment.

    I don’t think a single person watching this episode failed to see the similarities between amazon and kerblam.
    it’s like the writers watched black mirror, and then decided to remove all the intelligence and intrigue and edginess, and replace it with a public service announcement nobody requires.
    witchfinding is wrong! don’t do misogny! *groans*

    I could rant for hours about how upset i am with so many aspects.
    it was supposed to be entertainment, now it seems to be some kind of record-attempt for squeezing as much cloying PC-ness into one episode as possible, i think it might be giving me diabetes.

    the worst bit is i can’t stop watching it, i feel kind of betrayed, i’m watching in the vain hope it’ll get better (it won’t this series anyway, i’m fairly sure) and for the amusement of mocking how terrible it has become as i watch.

  • Vinnie
    1 week ago

    I must admit I think the latest incarnation of the Doctor is pretty naff. The stories are more adult or grown up but it seems to lack any soul. Jodie tries very hard to make something of it but the companions are very bland. Its as if the stories are contrived with a message about the modern world, and the actors are just plowing through to the end to get it over with. there is no chemistry between them unlike the Doctor with Clara or Pond. Seems to be the case with a lot of the latest versions of the old scifi classics, dont get me started on that abortion called Star Trek Dicovery.
    But this is a forum about business. Could Amazon get like Kerblam? Yes I think it could and is infact doing it right now. No doubt we will see Amazon progressing into more and more areas of everyday life and their operations becoming more and more automated. Ebay on the other hand I think is destined to go down the pan as it isolates its customers (the sellers) more and more.

    • james
      1 week ago

      think an ebay-centric future would be more like the ood episode, with sellers basically enslaved, having our brains removed and replaced with an ebay-ball.

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