We learn about the Partition of India, while multi-ocular members of the band Lordi scare the heck out of anyone dying alone.
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When Yaz asks to go back and see her grandmother in her youth, Doc casts aside any notion of non-interference and takes the whole Fam back to the eve of said Nani’s wedding. There’s a fair bit of tension in the air, however: they’ve materialised on what is about to become the border between India and Pakistan in 1947; the groom is not Yaz’s granddad; and there are alien assassins lurking in the forest.
And that’s not even the half of it! The local holy man who was meant to officiate has just been murdered; the brother of the groom is lobbying for ethnic segregation; and if Yaz isn’t careful, she might reverse-Marty-McFly herself out of existence. Time for Doc to save a wedding and possibly her companion, stop the aliens, let history unfold with no intervention whatsoever and teach us about Partition in the process.
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Ah, we come to this one. Probably my favourite of series 11. Something that I forgot to mention in my review of Rosa was that episode just hadn’t clicked with me, while this one does for me.
Still no cold open? Does series 11 just not do them? I can’t remember, but it just feels weird without them. Death Eye Turtle Army? Sounds interesting, shame we can’t see that one, but oh well I suppose that’s par for the course. I do like how the companions have become a little cynical of trips in the Tardis and the risks that may occur. Considering what normally happens when Doc and Co visit somewhere, cynicism is weirdly not the go-to-response..
Anyway, so we have Yaz deciding she wants to delve into some family history and getting more than she bargains for. The misdirect of our creepy alien presence is done fairly well, though I slightly dislike the jarring distortion that the Doctor gets. It just feels unnecessary. But anyway, yes the real bad guys are humans being human. No need for a time travelling spacist greaser here to move the plot along. No, the concurrent characters are more than enough to cause all the issues that are needed.
Prem’s sacrifice and the sequence as a whole, wow.
Maybe if I’m being critical, a little less of the aliens and more Yaz. It’s her story after all. But beautifully shot and a very emotive score. 4.1/5 family secrets
Wow! Just WOW! NuWho is certainly no stranger to tugging viewers heartstrings, but Demons of the Punjab rips the strings right out and dances around their corpse.
Finally, we get to find out more about Yaz and boy does she shine here. Set against the backdrop of the Partitioning of India (something I freely admit I know too little about) it’s a story about a love that gives such hope, but is ultimately doomed, a family in conflict due to the tumultuous upheaval. oh, and some 14-eyed Space Crows.
With some absolutely brilliant performances by the guest cast, most notably Shane Zaza and Hamza Jeetooa as Prem and Manish as two brothers at loggerheads about the future. There’s also the stunning scenery that provides a majestic backdrop to the story. Murray Gold’s score is brilliant, perfectly underlining the story and never overwhelming it.
If there’s one downside it’s merely that the TARDIS team don’t actually make a difference, if they hadn’t been there nothing would actually have changed, so really, they’re just observers. For me though it’s a minor niggle in an otherwise great story.
I don’t normally enjoy stories that don’t have a happy ending, but Prem’s tragic death is handled sensitively without becoming schmaltzy. Yaz finally gets a chance to shine and Graham gets plenty of nice little moments. I like the twist where we think the Thijarians are bad guys, but turn out to be good.
I award this 4.1 Shop bought birthday cakes out of 5
A few thoughts
The episode looks great, some beautiful scenery. Is it bad that this is one of the few positive things I can find each week?
It’s Yaz’s time to shine but the story doesn’t add very much to our knowledge of her. Sure, we find out some family history but there’s no real character development that you’d expect from a story focused so heavily on a companion. Maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t have one to be fleshed out.
Despite arriving the day before, the Fam make up most of the wedding party. Where are the rest of the guests and family members?
The Doctor is ok in this one, but is again so inconsistent with previous takes on fixed points in time and interference. One minute – don’t change a thing, the next, actively getting involved. CONSISTENCY PLEASE.
I liked the line “You could interfere yourself out of existence”.
The frequency is really picking up now with FOUR mini moralising lectures this week for a season total of twelve.
Like most of this season, it just doesn’t feel like Doctor Who and the stakes are really low. Back to the Future it ain’t. There’s not even a proper baddy. Yes, racism is terrible, but it’s no Dalek, Cyberman, or Skovox blitzer. 1.9/5.
Demons of the Punjab, what an… interesting episode. It was a cool episode, with a lot of promise, but was let down, like a number of Chibber’s episodes, by the writing. I thought that the Vajarians were good, and looked awesome, and the idea of exploring a new part of history that hadn’t been covered yet (to my knowledge) was fresh and new. Because of this, I was happy to give it a solid 4.1.
Now it’s time for the things I didn’t like. Firstly, although we did get some interesting character development for Yas, it seemed a bit odd to me. She seems to respect her Grandmother, so why would she be devious, and outright go against her Grandmother’s wishes? It seemed a bit odd to me.
Secondly, the Vajarians. From the start, you have some idea of what the moral of the episode is, which is ok, as long as it’s subtle. Here, like Rosa, Orphan 55 and so many others, it is not. You can see that the moral is “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” as, for once, Doc gets the situation wrong, and judges them incorrectly, which I think it was a bit dumb as it’s very convenient how they just decided to change their morals, but ok Chibbers! I had huge flashbacks to The Testimony from Twice Upon A Time, as the Vajarians seem to do something very similar.
Lastly, the biggest issue I have with this episode is this. How did the Sonic, Doc or any of the Companions not realise that the Holy man had been shot. Like, come on! How can you not see a bullet hole, or even any blood!
Because of this, I rate this Episode 2.5
Holy smokes folks – we’re more than halfway through the series SAY WHAT!? I wholeheartedly think Demons of the Punjab is one of the best episodes of this series. As much as I’d regret to admit; being a south asian person, I never knew much at all about the partition of India, and I think this episode did an incredible job of explaining not only what it was but how it actually impacted ordinary families and people. I also thought having the Thijarians bear witness to those who die alone because of what happened to their species was really beautiful.
This episode is also great for character development – FINALLY we have a Yaz focused episode!! (Sorry Ryan and Graham but you’re just sorta there for this one). YAZ IS BRILLIANT! She’s curious, inquisitive, she wants to know the truth and make sense of it all! (Oh shucks if only our other two companions had a personality as well). We also get to explore Yaz’s history and culture (finally some south asian representation) and how it shapes her into the person she is in our time.
Along with Arachnids in the UK, I think this episode also starts to build on this idea of a romance between The Doctor and Yaz (albeit retrospectively). For instance:
– Having the doctor say “we can’t have a universe with no Yaz” feels very symbolic when you remember that the doctor gets referred to as “the universe” in series 12/13
– Umbreen and Prem being on borrowed time but still choosing to be together in the moment and live with what they have nicely parallels The Doctor and Yaz’s beach conversation at the end of LOTSD
– (This one might be a reach) I think it’s also nice that both The Doctor and Yaz have a part of their respective history hidden from them and how that’s symbolised through watches (The FOB watch and Prem’s watch)
BEST BIT: the doctor’s speech about love.
WORST BIT: the way Prem delivered some of his lines (specifically whenever he was trying to convey anger).
I’d rate this a whopping 4.5/5.0!
Well I finally got off my butt and decided to review another New Who episode.
I am really enjoying watching Jodies first season again.
Well this was a thoroughly enjoyable episode with some excellent dialogue
Finally Yaz has a good episode with a bit of substance, and both Ryan and Graham were excellent along with the Doctor. Graham had me in stitches when he offered to be the wedding singer, as he knew ” All the classics, but they will be the latest hits for you guys” C’mon, I wanna see that!
Don’t know where this was filmed but the location settings were just gorgeous. The story of Prem and Yaz’s Nan were quite heart breaking and I for one enjoyed learning about the history of Pakistan/ India of which I knew zero before this episode.
The alien subplot was also fine.
The only thing that didn’t add up for me, just how old is Yaz’s Nan? Blimey, if she was, what 23 at most in 1947 ( it’s said she waited for Prem during the war, meaning she would have been at least 16 in 1939 ) , that makes her roughly 94 or 95 in 2018 when this aired? Geez, if I look that good at even 75, I’ll be happy to scoff all the shop bought cakes I can manage! 😋😋😁
Rating: 4.6 Yummy shop bought cakes
Cheers GP Haynes
Occasionally, rising from the shit-tip of historical ‘Who misfires, this show gut-punches us with a trailblazer. A brutal 1940s period piece; doomed love and ancient terrors, against a backdrop of all-too-human hatred, the horrors of war and ethnic cleansing. Powerful, emotive, engaging, heartbreaking, horrific. But enough of the Seventh Doctor’s masterpiece The Curse of Fenric, let’s talk about Demons of the Punjab. Which is also pretty good. The most hard-hitting subject matter in ‘Who since, erm, Rosa.
My Beef. The Thijarians. They look cool and are uber powerful. What a shame they’ve turned into a bunch of weird pacifists. I want assassin Thijarians zonking around. Their mission is stupid. They’re genocide tourists – standing by doing nothing. We have UN peacekeeping missions for that. Hell, we had British troops doing that during Partition. How does creepily stalking people and then watching them die provide anyone peace? If I was bleeding out, the last thing I would want to see is a freaky spider-eyed alien warthog gorping at me.
Rating: 3.6/5 Thijarians loitering. Just sort of staring at people. Booo.
Aside. Several years ago I met members of a South Asian extremist (sorry, ‘religious’) organisation, several of whose members had been associated with murder (of course, ‘nothing to do with the organisation’…). They wore distinctive garments. I asked them to stop being extreme. They said no. On the plane back, somewhat downbeat, I broke out the iPad to catch up with Who Back When’s bruising schedule. Next to record was In the time of Angels. Halfway in, I noticed behind me a father and son wearing the garments of the organisation. The father was asleep. The boy of maybe eight years had beaming wide eyes. He was watching the episode in absolute wonder. I shifted the iPad so he could get a better view. I like to think he became an avid Doctor Who fan, ditched the organisation and follows your podcast.