Doctor Who - Episode 11.06 - Demons Of The Punjab - Review
Sometimes Doctor Who reminds us that human beings can be the worst monsters that the universe has to offer. "Demons Of The Punjab" - written by Vinay Patel (and the first episode of the season not to be written or co-written by Chris Chibnall) demonstrates that very effectively.
You can read all of my reviews for this season of Doctor Who right here.
The family of the people who travel with the Doctor are always important. Sometimes that is a catalyst for why they travel with her. Rose said no to the 9th Doctor initially, but when he mentioned the TARDIS was a time machine also, she changed her mind because she wanted to see her father. Yaz wanted to unlock the secrets of her grandmother's past, so we ended up in 1940s Pakistan.
This story works without the alien elements. If you take away the "demons", and the time travel, the love story between two different religions in a torn apart nation is totally a television show or movie of another series. Therein lies my biggest criticism. Doctor Who episodes are very uniquely Doctor Who. They can't happen on any other show. Not Star Trek, not Quantum Leap. Nothing. That is where the identity of the show comes from - there is no mistaken what you are watching.
Outside of that though, the episode was quite powerful. The emotional resonance left behind by all of the characters is palpable. Yaz finally got some much needed depth and development. It was the first episode of the season where Graham and Ryan took backseats.
Patel wrote a wonderfully poignant - and relevant - story. There are people today who feel the same as Prem's brother Manish. The issues at hand were as prevalent then as they are now.
The aliens were almost irrelevant. They were the last of a species who grieved people who die, since they weren't able to do the same with their destroyed planet. They looked kind of cool, and the transmat effect looked like when people apparate in the Harry Potter franchise. But it was a bit anticlimactic.
It was fun to see the Doctor have to do things "analog" though. After she built her screwdriver out of scrap, I thought there would be much more of that, but this is the first we've seen of that until now. I hope that continues to be a "thing" with this Doctor - build big Rube Goldberg type machines to solve problems. It's a fun quirk that isn't used enough.
It was nice that Patel's story wasn't straightforward, instead Yaz got to see her grandmother's first marriage. We never see her grandfather. Instead, we see a story that is much more tragic and heartbreaking. A story that she never told, but that Yaz needed to know.
Do I miss the "aliens are taking over and the Doctor needs to stop them from destroying the planet" stories? Yes. A little bit. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy this though. You can miss eating a steak, but enjoy the pizza you are currently eating at the same time.
I've enjoyed this season so far. It was nice to get a different voice than Chibnall's though. While Rosa had Marjorie Blackman as the writer, Chibnall did co-write that. It seems we have started a run of other writers up until the finale. There hasn't really been an arc either. A few things were potential candidates early on, but none have really panned out so far. Maybe they will come back.
We had a spooky spider episode near Halloween. We had a story concerning soldiers, and love, and the hardships of war and radicalism on Veterans Day/Remeberence Day. Next week we will have the Doctor and her friends visit the galaxy's largest superstore - on the week of Thanksgiving and Black Friday (the biggest shopping day of the year) in America. If that isn't on purpose, then it's a hell of a coinicidence!
Doctor Who airs Sunday's on BBC One and BBC America.
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