‘Demons of the Punjab’ (TV)

‘DEMONS OF THE PUNJAB’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

The Partition of India Begins

I saw this ‘Doctor Who’ TV episode on its initial transmission via BBC One, not BBC iPlayer as my parents and I had been doing for the previous five episodes of Series 11. This was quite a change. 😀

My parents and I were away on the weekend this episode came out on TV. There were no church commitments on the Sunday when we came back. Thus we were able to see this episode on the TV.

So what did I make of ‘Demons of the Punjab’ as a ‘Doctor Who’ episode? I liked it! I thought it was really good. I certainly found it much better than the previous TV story, ‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’.

‘Demons of the Punjab’ is an historical TV adventure for the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz and it turned out to be quite an emotional episode. Even on second viewing via Blu-ray, I found it moving.

The episode focuses on Yaz as a character as well as her family background. We saw hints of Yaz’s family background in the ‘Arachnids in the UK’ episode as well as ‘The Ghost Monument’ and ‘Rosa’.

This episode provides another opportunity to look into Yaz’s character. Even Yaz’s family members from ‘Arachnids in the UK’ make some small appearance in this episode with her which I really liked.

‘Demons of the Punjab’ is by Vinay Patel, who makes his first contribution to the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series. I enjoyed how he delivered a sci-fi take on a historical incident by keeping true to the realism.

It all starts with Yaz and her family, Shobna Gulati as Najia; Ravin J. Ganatra as Hakim and Bhavnisha Parmar as Sonya. They all visit Yaz’s grandmother, Leena Dhingra as Nani Umbreen, for her birthday.

Actually Leena Dhingra has been in ‘Doctor Who’ before. She appeared as Miss Chandrakala in the Series 4 episode, ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp’, with David Tennant’s Doctor. How uncanny is that? 😀

At the birthday party, Yaz’s nani gives a special broken watch to her granddaughter. This could have significance later on. By the way, is Yaz’s sister Sonya always on her mobile whenever we see her? 😀

When Yaz joins up with the Doctor and the others in the TARDIS, she asks to go back to a point in time where her nani was a young woman and to see what she was like. That’s a pretty bold request!

The Doctor reluctantly agrees to the request, setting the TARDIS back to where Yaz’s grandmother lived in the Pakistan-India border in 1947. Let’s hope there aren’t any Reapers to contend with here. 😀

Now this is another one of those episodes in Series 11 of ‘Doctor Who’ that has some historical educational value just like ‘Rosa’ did beforehand. Chris Chibnall’s era seems to really like to go for it.

I don’t think ‘Demons of the Punjab’ is as good as ‘Rosa’, but it was interesting to see and discover a historical period of Earth history that I have never heard of before. Even now, I am still mesmerized.

The Punjab was a region in both India and Pakistan that once had Muslims; Hindus and Sikhs living together in peace. There’s this certain religious theme that permeates throughout this TV adventure.

However, the Doctor and friends have arrived in a perilous time. The Partition of India is about to take place in the Punjab. When the Doctor reacts horrified on this discovery, it means terrible news.

The Partition of India divided the Punjab across religious lines between India and Pakistan. Conflict resumed as a result of that. It is ironic there was peace beforehand until toxic hatred occurred here.

I’m not sure I fully understand all of the historical connotations featured throughout the episode. But it was intriguing to discover as I found that quite an appealing part of the episode watching this.

How all of this connects this to Yaz’s character and family background is pretty straight-forward. Yaz’s grandmother, Amita Suman as Umbreen and Shane Zaza as Prem are about to be married here.

This shocks Yaz who didn’t know anything about Prem before she ventured into this adventure to find out more about her nani. Prem and Umbreen love each other but are of varying religions in this.

Umbreen is a Muslin and Prem is a Hindu. The intermarriage of both Umbreen and Prem in this episode is sacrilege. This is especially in the eyes of Prem’s little brother, Hamza Jeetooa as Manish.

Violence and prejudice gets caused because of this intermarriage and it all leads to Prem getting killed. This is after Prem gets married to Umbreen which was pretty to see when watching this story.

Now you may think this all sounds too historical and not exciting enough to be a ‘Doctor Who’ episode. But there are aliens involved in the episode. Yeah! I bet that you weren’t expecting those. 😀

These aliens happen to be the Thijarians that were once deadly assassins according to the Doctor. It turns out in this episode that they’re now observers, witnessing the deaths of many unseen people.

There are two Thiljarian aliens in the episode. They’re Nathalie Curzner as Kisar with Emma Fielding doing the voice for him and Barbara Fadden as Almak with Isobel Middleton doing the voice for her.

It was intriguing how the Thijarians turned out not to be assassins as they were originally assumed to be. It was quite a surprise, especially when they were giving the Doctor headaches throughout here.

I must admit, I was a little disappointed that the Thijarians weren’t actually the ‘demons’ or the evil monsters that caused trouble and that they actually ended up being those who honoured dead ones.

I had been expecting the Thijarians attempting to change history perhaps on behalf of those causing violence. It was an intriguing twist mind, as the real monsters in this episode happen to be…humans!

A lot of the historical aspects of the episode were interesting to discover. I am glad it didn’t go over-the-top with the aliens changing things in the Earth’s timeline since they were being observers here.

The Doctor and her friends also managed to perform the same function and not interfere with anything. The Doctor told her friends especially not to interfere at the very beginning of the episode.

Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor was a joy to watch in the episode. Throughout, I found how chirpy and funny she could be in those moments to figure out who these aliens were and what they were doing.

She also seems to be a quiet observer and responsible in tackling history. This is something completely different to how Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctor handled things during their eras.

Jodie’s Doctor is insistent towards her friends, especially Yaz, in that they shouldn’t interfere with history. Jodie’s Doctor’s definitely serious when she defies; tells off and confronts people in this tale.

This includes people like Manish when she discovers the truth about him. I do feel, in this episode of Series 11 in particular, that the Doctor is making up for the many mistakes made in the previous era.

I also liked it when Jodie’s Doctor got to officiate Umbreen and Prem’s wedding in the episode. This is an unusual change for the Doctor. She even has a little flower in her hair at the ceremony. Cute! 😀

I liked it when Jodie’s Doctor overcame the Thiljarians’ mind attacks and utilised their technology by stealing it from them for her and her friends’ means. They even put that scene into a YouTube video.

It was also rather funny when the Doctor blurts out that she never did pre-wedding ceremonies when she was a man. Honestly, I found it funny. And I like how it connects nicely back to the past. 😀

I liked it when Jodie’s Doctor closed her eyes after Prem was killed in the episode. It demonstrates how compassionate she can be. This also makes the emotional moments in the story very significant.

Mandip Gill was great to watch as Yaz in the episode. I like how she discovers meeting her nani and it’s not exactly what she’d hoped for. She finds her nani as a young woman is not what she expected.

I hoped for more personal interaction between Yaz and the younger Umbreen during the episode though. Although after watching the TV episode again, I can see why that couldn’t be the case here.

Bradley Walsh as Graham is very good in the episode. I like how his wry sense of humour slips in from time to time in the episode. He also expresses compassion towards Prem later on in this story.

I did enjoy that scene between Graham and Yaz when he saw she was feeling low. Graham seems to be more encouraging and enthusiastic compared to being pretty cautious in his first TV appearance.

Tosin Cole is equally good as Ryan in the episode. I don’t think Ryan has a strong outing in this particular episode as it more or less focuses on Yaz. That’s fair as Ryan had a lot of focus beforehand.

But I liked it when Ryan got to join the Doctor when they with Prem investigate the Thiljarins’ spaceship and find information on the aliens. It was interesting to Ryan’s reactions in this adventure.

At this point, I do like how the TARDIS regulars have developed into likeable characters in Series 11. Yes, there are restrictions with having four regular characters having equal amounts to do in a story.

This is especially in single standalone episodes of new ‘Doctor Who’ compared to four-part adventures in classic ‘Doctor Who’. But I do feel that the Doctor and her friends work so well for me.

It was interesting to see the final night parties before the wedding with the Doctor and Yaz joining the ladies and Graham and Ryan joining the blokes. It was nice set-ups of character interaction here.

I also found it intriguing how fiercely determined Yaz’s younger version of her nani, Umbreen, was into marrying Prem no matter what in the episode. No Partition of India was going to stop Yaz’s nani.

The production team must have been very daring to film in locations outside of the UK. First it was South Africa in two episodes and now we have the Province of Granada, Spain as India for this story.

The incidental music for this episode by Segun Akinola was so effective to listen to. This is especially in the end credits, which is better than ‘Rosa’. They do an Indian version of the ‘Doctor Who’ theme.

‘Demons of the Punjab’ has been an enjoyable and emotional episode to watch with some strong character development throughout. I found the historical educational aspects to the story appealing.

I also feel the new ‘Doctor Who’ series under Chris Chibnall’s reign with Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor has echoes of the William Hartnell era from the 1960s. It’s pretty surprising to find that here.

This is especially the case with the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz as a TARDIS foursome as well as having a blend of sci-fi and historical adventures. Not that’s a bad thing to have in the TV show mind.

The TARDIS regulars have been fun and likeable to watch in Series 11 so far. I hoped for things to be even better in the rest of the season since I was so looking forward to watch the rest of Series 11. 😀

I have to tell you though. I found it a struggle to write my initial review on ‘Demons of the Punjab’ on my blog when I saw it in November 2018. I felt very emotional from the character drama featured in it.

‘Demons of the Punjab’ is an episode that does make you think about prejudice and love. I had to spend an hour before getting onto writing the initial review. It shows how very effective Series 11 is.

The DVD/Blu-ray special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 2 of ‘The Complete Series 11’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s the ‘Demons of the Punjab’ – Closer Look’ featurette as well as a commentary with Mandip Gill, Shane Zaza, writer Vinay Patel and producer Alex Mercer.

‘Demons of the Punjab’ rating – 8/10


The previous story

For the Thirteenth Doctor was

  • ‘The Rhino of Twenty-Three Strand Street’ (TAW/Audio)

For Graham was

For Ryan was

For Yaz was

For Prem was

The next story

For the Thirteenth Doctor is

For Graham is

For Ryan is

For Yaz is

Return to The Thirteenth Doctor’s Timeline
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Return to Ryan’s Timeline
Return to Yaz’s Timeline
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