Ten Thoughts About Doctor Who: Demons of the Punjab, for Remembrance Sunday

Ten Thoughts About Doctor Who: Demons of the Punjab, for Remembrance Sunday

Posted by November 11, 2018 Comment

We finished watching Doctor Who: Demons Of The Punjab about an hour and a half ago in the UK. It is still to air in the USA. Which is why some of you may appreciate a mention that there are spoilers coming. Come back when you are done watching.

Though I will say while I didn’t enjoy Arachnids In The UK that much, Demons was much my sort of thing, and also confounded expectations of an episode of Doctor Who

Spoilers up.

1. The Grandmother Paradox.

Demons of the Punjab is the Father’s Day episode of this series. A chance for a companion to see where they came from, and uncover mysteries from their past, with the danger that they may do something to change it. Because, as Graeme says, we don’t know our stories as we are too busy living them. And Umbreen, young and old, has certainly lived a life.

2. TARDIS With A Blue Dress On

The Doctor may have switched genders but the TARDIS has not. Whether the Doctor still calls her ‘Sexy’ is something we have yet to discover. But she does know what the Doctor is thinking… and we get anter brief reference to the Doctor being a man at some point in her life again… once every two or three episodes, is that the ratio?

3. Detective On The Case

Yaz is a police officer. So when things don’t fit, when the way the story is meant to be is not what’s playing out, her instinct is to try and solve it. In this case? Not such a great idea…

4. Build A Wall

There are other current notes to play with though. This is one of the flailing British Empire’s most notorious final acts, the partition of India and Pakistan, drawing a line with some rope down the middle of the stream, dividing families from each other, using ‘carving’ as a word choice giving the event visceral and bloody tones, preparing for what is to come. The parallels both in the US and the UK of late bubble up to the surface. Like Rosa, this was a historical episode that didn’t try to sugar coat stuff and the calmness of Lord Mountbatten in that recreated message compared with the religious slaughter that the partition justified echoes through the world today. Note that the wedding scene, with Hindu tradition, saw the unbinding of such ties.

5. The Exoticism Of Sheffield

This season has had lots good to say about Sheffield, kicking off with Sheffield steel in the spoons from the first episode of the new series. Here at least there is some acknowledgement that it’s a bit on the shit side. And it’s not exactly the beauty of Asia. Though as we have seen, it does have massive spiders.

6. The Remembrance Day Of The Doctor

Today is Remembrance Sunday. And this episode was clearly timed to coincide with the date. From the focus on the poppies, the Prim’s role in World War II, to the new role for the aliens, no longer assassins but those who stand watch, observe and remember the dead, it followed BBC’s Remembrance Day coverage and for the first time became part of it. Watching over the Unacknowledged Dead is straight from The Unknown Soldier.

The poppies here, however, also suggest the drugs trade, that would play such a role in the future of Pakistan.

7. The Useless Doctor

It may be worth noting that the Doctor achieves very little in the usual terms. There was no threat to humanity. No one gets saved. Those who are fated to die, die. In Twice Upon A Time, the Doctor saved the Brigadier’s father, here, she couldn’t save Prem. Unlike Rosa where there was someone trying to change history who should be stopped, here there was nothing but its rolling tide. There would have been no difference to events if the Doctor had not been involved. In that regard, job done in not changing history. But job done in giving Yaz more appreciation for her history and that of her grandmother. It’s a lesson, but not an action.

As with Arachnids In The UK, the baddies get away with it all.

8. Comical Reaction

In fact – the Doctor did make one change. She boiled up the saved remains and memories of a civilisation and got away with a quick apology and a pulled face. The aliens had many eyes, I presume plenty of them rolled.

9. The Aliens Without A Threat

It was that one line “you will leave or we will stand over your corpses” from the demonic looking aliens that sounds like a threat but is actually a description over what is to come in the country. The real demons of the story, those that plague the people, embodied in Manish and the men with guns on horses. Watching that back, it is probably one of the cleverest moments that Doctor Who has pulled off since Heaven Sent. So this works as a pull back and reveal as to the passive nature of these creatures. Shame they couldn’t have some kind of cloaking technology or a chameleon circuit, regarding how they look to humans.

10. Reference Points

Notes to other episodes, this is ‘transmat’ teleportation technology, more common in seventies and eighties Doctor Whos but with much better visual effects. It’s popped up a few times since, but the Transmat locks are new. This Doctor likes biscuits, her TARDIS even has a custard cream dispenser remember. Oh and for next Sunday, Lee Mack clearly saw Frank Skinner in the Mummy On The Orient Express and thought I can have a go at that. As for the not-assassins, it would not be the first Doctor Who organisation to visit the dead at the moment of their death of course. We’ve just had Testimony in Twice Upon A Time and 3W in Dark Water. I wonder if there’s any issues with the competition?

Glad to see that Torchwood India didn’t involved though… and yes, there was one.


The Doctor Jodie Whittaker

Yasmin Khan Mandip Gill

Graham O’Brien Bradley Walsh

Ryan Sinclair Tosin Cole

Nani Umbreen Leena Dhingra

Umbreen Amita Suman

Prem Shane Zaza

Manish Hamza Jeetooa

Hasna Shaheen Khan

Najia Khan Shobna Gulati

Hakim Khan Ravin J Ganatra

Sonya Khan Bhavnisha Parmar

Kisar Nathalie Curzner

Almak Barbara Fadden

Kisar (voice) Emma Fielding

Almak (voice) Isobel Middleton

Director Jamie Childs

Executive Producer Chris Chibnall

Executive Producer Matt Strevens

Series Producer Nikki Wilson

Writer Vinay Patel

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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(Last Updated November 12, 2018 11:29 am )

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