TARDIS 11-06 Demons of the Punjab
Hello again, lovely readers! Here we have another historical adventure delving back into Earth’s own recent history and one of the companion’s own lives. While I’m usually more of a fan of when the show explores places and times that aren’t within the scope of experience of the characters (or their families), this was still a very solid episode.
I’ve seen some criticism online that the show has been too historical or educational this season and it’s all a load of crap, IMHO. Has it been historical and educational this season? Why yes, yes it has. Which is EXACTLY what the show’s intended purpose was, when it was created, 55 years ago. Aliens and space and time travel are all good fun, but I don’t see why you can’t have both. My big takeaway from this episode is that it taught me and made me care about a historical event my dumb privileged ass never even knew happened. Yet it was such an important even to Indian and Pakistani people, who comprise a huge segment of the British population. So OF COURSE it makes sense to do a story about it. Story and entertainment were not sacrificed, the quality was as great as it always is, it felt exactly as on-brand as any other episode of Doctor Who, so I see no reason why we shouldn’t be doing an awesome episode like this. Haters to the left, please.
The writers did a pretty masterful job of taking an interesting look at an underrepresented historical event, making it personal to the characters and the viewers, and weaving in some cool sci-fi elements along the way. I really appreciated the twist on the idea that the aliens had once been evil, but had grown changed and learned, such that they were no longer the cause of the main conflict of the episode, merely bystanders. The conflict was fundamentally human at the end of the day, in fact the whole episode was very human. Cut away all the time travel and other species and it’s just a story about human differences, bravery, hope, and love that was incredibly enjoyable.
In whatever they’re claiming the lifespan of the the Doctor is these days, I don’t know why she can NEVER learn not to interfere in the personal timelines of her companions. It’s a very rookie move and the Doctor is not a rookie. However, this incarnation is very compassionate and I think she has the same soft spot for Yaz that I do, so ultimately I can understand how she was swayed into the trip. (The Doctor is also very good at lying to herself about how she can just go have a look at something and not get involved, even though we always know better.) I suppose the mission of this episode also served to educate new viewers on why the Doctor isn’t always just going back in time and “fixing” things. It’s not a new concept, but the occasional reminder doesn’t hurt, especially when it’s as well done as this. And it means we faced the heartbreaking inevitability of the death of a good man we’ve spent an hour coming to care about. This season has not been a sad season, but it has been full of sad moments, making the audience face sad truths intermingled with the excitement of traveling in time and space. It’s not all fun and games with the Doctor. I’m not hoping for a season-long story arc on that topic, per se, but I do think it’s a theme that’s been present throughout and wonder if it will have a collective impact on the culmination of the series.
All in all, it was a very solid episode. Not my favorite, but highly enjoyable nonetheless, full of heart, history, and heroism. Next week, the Doctor faces off against a big evil corporation in what has the potential to be a pretty funny episode. I look forward to seeing all of you back here then!