“Delivery for the Doctor!”
A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer: Kerblam!
Guest starring Julie Hesmondhalgh and Lee Mack.
Written by Pete McTighe.
Directed by Jennifer Perrott.
In the time vortex, the TARDIS is flying at an alarming speed. Inside, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz are holding on the best they can to the console. The Thirteenth Doctor tells them to hold on tighter. Graham asks if the Doctor can do anything about the turbulence, to which the Doctor says is due to her trying to avoid something chasing them. The Doctor is frustrated, she is still having problems understanding the new systems of the renovated console. She looks at the monitor, which shows a blue light in the time vortex behind them. The Doctor immediately identifies it as a teleport pulse.
Suddenly, a robotic man in a postal outfit appears in the TARDIS, holding a white and red box; it says it has a delivery for the Doctor. The Doctor gives an ecstatic yelp, telling her friends it’s the Kerb!am Man; Graham thinks the Doctor is just making sounds. The Doctor takes her package, with the Kerb!am Man reciting the company motto as it departs. Once the Kerb!am Man leaves, a brief holographic logo of Kerb!am appears. The Doctor explains that Kerb!am is the biggest delivery company in this galaxy; she then states that she doesn’t remember ordering anything, so it must have been a while back. She opens the box and pulls out… a fez!
The Doctor puts on the fez, asking her friends if it suits her. Graham sarcastically says it does, while Ryan takes the bubble wrap. Yaz then notices something strange on the packing card; written on the back are two words: help me. Ryan thinks it’s just a prank, recalling when he and his fellow coworkers used to leave surprises in the trainers at his old job. However, Graham and Yaz convince the Doctor that it might be worth a look to see if it’s just a prank. The Doctor agrees and spins the hourglass on the console, stating “Kerb!am, here we come!” The TARDIS shakes as it heads to their destination.
The TARDIS lands outside Kerb!am’s main office, on the moon of Kandoka. The Doctor exits out, minus the fez, revealing the details to her team. Ryan sourly notes that having come all this way, he feels like he’s back home at work. The Doctor tells Ryan that he’s brilliant; they should go undercover as workers to find out what’s happening in the company. They walk into the reception area, greeting by the Head of People Judy Maddox. Using the psychic paper to show their “recommendation”, the Doctor discreetly sonics Judy’s tablet to update the information; Judy sees that the recommendation comes from the First Lady, who is a relative of theirs. The Doctor is surprised, quickly passing it off as something they asked her not to do, as they find it awkward. They are led by Judy to the workers’ area, passing a worker named Dan, who tries to make work banter with a TeamMate, “Les”, who acknowledges his humor despite getting his name wrong.
Judy leads the group to a scanner that will assign them a job based on their physical and mental capabilities. She is briefly confused by the Doctor having two hearts, which she passes off as a benefit of the First Lady’s health plan. As Ryan gets scanned, the power briefly goes out; Judy explains that due to their location, power tends to fluctuate. Once Yaz is scanned, everyone is given an ankle bracelet, which is explained to keep track of them and their productivity. Judy leads them through the facility, showing off each work area. She notes that there are over 10,000 humans workers; Ryan tells the Doctor that they’re going to have a hard time figuring out where that message came from. Leading into the packing area, the Doctor learns that the lights on the ankle band are color-coded for their jobs; Ryan and Graham have purple, which are people who work in packaging, while she has white and Yaz has red.
Judy leaves them to the TeamMates, robots similar to the Kerb!am Man, but programmed to help out the workers. After Judy leaves, the Doctor uses her sonic to swap colors with Graham as she needs to be in packaging to learn more from the employees; a TeamMate comes to take Yaz away, to work in storage. Graham wonders what job he swapped with the Doctor to get as a TeamMate comes for her and Ryan; a TeamMate arrives with a bucket and mop, telling Graham he’s a janitor. The Doctor and Ryan hold back laughs, as she nearly got stuck with the job. Graham firmly tells them to not laugh.
The Doctor and Ryan work at the packing line with no effort at all. They impress their coworker Kira Arlo, whom Ryan tells of his past experience; he started out terrible at the job, but he had friends who helped him through it. Smiling, Kira tells them that she loves imagining the customers smile upon receiving their packages; she only received a single present her entire life, so her memory at that joy is what she imagines for others. Ryan is confused by this, wondering why her parents never gave her gifts; Kira explains that she was orphaned, so she never got to celebrate her birthday or holidays. However, Judy was kind enough to send her a box of chocolates for her birthday the previous year.
Meanwhile, Yaz is assigned to the storage room with Dan, a man who almost never sees his daughter anymore; he’s working for enough money to pay for a better education than he had, so she doesn’t get a job like his. His daughter gave him a necklace with Arcadium. He warns Yaz that the TeamMates are watching them, to also monitor their productivity. Yaz gets an assignment to find a lamp in a section that Dan warns is dangerous, and therefore he insists on them switching jobs. Whilst looking for the lamp, Dan meets a delivery bot, who kills him. At the assembly line, the Doctor witnesses a power drain. Kira’s boss, Jarva Slade, walks in and scolds Kira simply for losing focus for a second, leading the Doctor to confront him, requesting that he speak to her more nicely. The Doctor then tells him that a good supervisor would know if his workers are distressed or in trouble, asking if he’s seen anything; unnerved, he tells her to get back to work. Kira tells the Doctor not to cross Slade as a co-worker of hers that got warned about a minor mistake got fired; however, when she called his home, his mother had no clue where he was. The Doctor becomes suspicious. Elsewhere, Yaz finds Dan’s necklace, and asks a TeamMate for help, but gets surrounded by another delivery bot, and runs away.
Graham is elsewhere being bored to sleep by the TeamMates going over the literal hundreds of safety rules; at wit’s end, he tells them he understands. They introduce him to his senior on the job, a young man named Charlie. The intercom then announces an emergency break period. Yaz mentions Dan’s disappearance, so the Doctor plans to confront Judy and Slade, after asking Graham for a map of Kerblam. Kira bumps into Charlie in the Home Zone, and it’s obvious that Charlie has a crush on her. Suspicious due to the lack of interest the company is showing in the disappearance of the workers, the Doctor takes Ryan and Yaz with her to make a complaint to the office, while Graham is assigned to collect a map of the facility for them.
In Slade’s office, the Doctor brings up the missing people to both Slade and Judy. Judy counters that their ankle bracelets still give off signals that tell them the workers are still in the factory. There are over 10,000 workers, so finding them is like a needle in a haystack. The Doctor tells her that as Head of People, she is doing a rather poor job; she tells her to look into it or she will start thinking they are behind the disappearances. Judy and Slade promise to look into it, with the Doctor warning that their words better have meaning to them or she will hold them responsible if something happens to them.
Leaving Slade’s office, the Doctor wonders if she overdid the speech, to which both Yaz and Ryan tell her that she did a great job. The Doctor leads the two to a paneled alcove, which she opens with the sonic; she tells her friends that they are going to hide out there until Slade leaves his office. Then they can go investigate. Yaz compares the Doctor to a kid who wants to poke a wasp’s nest to see what happens. As she closes the panel behind them, the Doctor tells Yaz that the mention of wasps has reminded her of something; has she ever told them about the time she met Agatha Christie?
In the janitor room, Graham tells Charlie that he’s figured out his crush on Kira to gain his confidence. He asks if Charlie has a map of some sort to help him remember how to get around Kerb!am as he’s a bit forgetful. Charlie tells him that he can help out, taking Graham to the lobby; inside a display case is an antique map of the building. Charlie unlocks the display case and Graham nicks the map, telling him that he’s going to ask a friend to help him figure it out.
Elsewhere, the Doctor, Ryan, and Yaz leave their hiding spot; it took forever for Slade to leave. They enter his office, where the Doctor asks her companions if they noticed anything odd. Both Yaz and Ryan tell the Doctor that the odd thing is Slade uses a clipboard and a filing cabinet when the system is supposed to be automated. She congratulates her friends and opens the cabinet. She pulls out a file and puts it on Slade’s desk; all three are shocked by what it contains. The lights come on, due to Judy having caught them via their ankle bracelets giving away their locations. The Doctor tells Judy that Slade is involved with the disappearances and that he’s been keeping a tally. The numbers have been increasing rapidly over the months. Suddenly, the power goes out completely; not a power drain. Charlie and Graham come in, activating a delivery bot, which attacks Charlie. The Doctor uses her sonic to turn it off. Judy is equally suspicious of Slade for his record-keeping.
It’s concluded that the system is rebelling against the employees. The Doctor tries to find out what malicious upgrades were made to the system. However, she needs the base code for Kerb!am’s programming to find them. Charlie tells the Doctor that he knows where to find it. They head to the lobby again and unlock another display case. Inside is Twirly, version 1.0 of Kerb!am delivery bots. Unknown to them, Slade has returned to his office and is watching on the monitor; he loads a laser gun. At the same time, TeamMates approach Kira, telling her that she has earned a reward as Employee of the Day. The Doctor turns on Twirly, telling it its catalog is out of date; however, it shuts down due to the lack of power. Suddenly, Judy’s tablet tells her that Kira has vanished to the Foundation Levels. Ryan tells the Doctor to take care of the system while he, Yaz and Charlie go to find Kira.
Ryan leads them to the conveyors, recalling the time he jumped on one and sprained his ankle. All three ride down into the maze-like pathways, nearly falling to their deaths a few times to get down to the lower conveyors. They manage to get to the end of the line, where the system mistakes them for organic contaminants; it tries frying them with lasers, but they manage to escape to the Foundation Levels. Hearing Kira’s voice further down, all three race to find her in a sealed off room, waiting for something. A Kerb!am package is teleported into the room. Kira opens it, only to find bubble wrap inside. Charlie yells through soundproof glass for her not to pop the bubble wrap, but she does so. Suddenly she vanishes in a green light, leaving nothing behind. Ryan realizes that Charlie knew that would happen.
Back in the janitor’s room, the Doctor gets Twirly back on and tells it to suspend all sale protocols. Judy shows her credentials to Twirly, explaining that it must play a vital role in saving Kerb!am. Twirly turns around in fear, stating that it can only deliver things. The Doctor reassures Twirly that it can carry out its purpose; they need the base code from Kerb!am’s systems that match its own, which it can deliver to them. Twirly tells the Doctor that it can do that. The Doctor hooks Twirly up to the system and it suddenly calls out for help. When she asks what it needs, Twirly explains that it’s the Kerb!am system talking to her; it sent the message for help to her. The Doctor asks where Kerb!am needs assistance, and it says delivery – the Foundation Levels. Graham realizes in horror that they just sent Ryan and Yaz down there.
Returning to the lobby, the Doctor explains that they are going to hack the Kerb!am Man’s teleport device to get down there. As she’s doing this, Slade appears behind her with a gun. The teleport activates, stopping him from firing; once they arrive, the Doctor paralyzes him with Venusian aikido, taking his gun and tossing it aside. When accused of being behind the disappearances, Slade explains that he kept analog records because he couldn’t trust the system or Judy; he thought the Doctor and her group may have been behind it, due to their suspicious behavior upon arrival. Graham calls the Doctor over to a pit of some kind, which is full of sludge and the ankle bracelets. A scan of the sonic reveals that this is all that’s left of the missing people.
As Judy and Slade join Graham in looking at the remains, the Doctor walks further in. She calls them over to a railing, prompting lights to come on. A whole army of Kerb!am Men are standing still; each holding a package. Judy explains that this would be the reason they’ve been getting complaints of late packages; someone has been holding them here. The Doctor then realizes all the power drains were to store up enough power to teleport all the Kerb!am Men at the same time. Graham wonders why, to which the Doctor asks what armies carry. Graham guesses weapons, but the Doctor carefully pulls a toy out of a box instead. Slade tells her that everything in the boxes is completely different. However, she tells him that there is one thing every box has: bubble wrap!
The Doctor takes a box a safe distance from the Kerb!am Men and scans the bubble wrap with her sonic. The scan reveals that the bubble wrap has been altered to explode upon being popped; an army’s worth of bombs all set to kill the customers. Graham bitterly jokes Kerb!am killing its customers is a bad business model. Ryan and Yaz arrive with Charlie, explaining he had something to do with all this. The Doctor then realizes that a janitor can move around without causing suspicion; she’s missed the obvious. Judy is confused by how he’s able to do all this, prompting Charlie to reveal he’s actually a genius; he fed her a fake sob story to get hired. All the missing people were guinea pigs in his experiments to perfect the explosive bubble wrap. His entire motive was to get people to rebel against just 10% of the populace getting jobs, by placing the blame for mass murder on the Kerb!am AI; making people mistrust AI.
However, the Doctor notes the system knew about Charlie’s interference; it’s been trying to stop him the entire time. While he wants to frame it for a malfunction, he’s been the one suffering from a massive malfunction; it has a conscience, having even called in the Doctor to stop him. It even rerouted all the power in the facility to a single TeamMate to kill him. However, when it got stopped, the system did one better and had Kira killed by Charlie’s own weapon to show him the pain he would be causing people with his insane plan. The Doctor notes that falling for Kira wasn’t part of his plans. However, Charlie doesn’t care; he’s still going through with his plan. He activates the Kerb!am Men with a remote and smashes it to keep them from stopping him. He heads into the crowd of Kerb!am Men to keep from being restrained.
The Doctor mutters ideas to herself, until she comes up with a plan; she tells them to remove a Kerb!am Man’s head, which she hooks up to Twirly. Twirly comes back online, and the Doctor places a request; she tells the Kerb!am Men to deliver to themselves and pop the bubble wrap in the boxes. Seeing the Kerb!am Men aren’t leaving, Charlie asks what’s going on. The Doctor yells for him to join them in a teleport to safety, but Charlie refuses. As the bubble wrap explodes, it fills the room with green light and Charlie is last seen with a look of horror on his face. The explosion shakes Kerb!am as everyone returns to the lobby. The Doctor sadly looks at the robot head and recites the motto: “If you want it, Kerb!am it.”
The next day in the Home Area, Judy and Slade inform the group that they’ve given the workers two weeks paid vacation and a free shuttle ride back to Kandoka. Once the TeamMates repair the damage from the explosion, they will reorganize the workforce to be less reliant on robots and more on humans. Judy offers them management positions when they reorganize, but the Doctor tells her that they are strictly freelance. Judy and Slade accept this humbly and part ways with them.
In the TARDIS, Yaz asks the Doctor if she can take her to Dan’s daughter to return the necklace; she wants to tell her how much her father loved her. The Doctor agrees she can do that. Graham finds the box the Doctor got from Kerb!am and examines the bubble wrap. Ryan tells him that it’s best not to chance it in case Charlie tampered with that bubble wrap as well. Graham agrees and returns the bubble wrap to the box, deep in thought.