I keep a mental short-list of Doctor Who episodes I would watch over and over again, and “Demons Of The Punjab” will be one of them.
We spend more time with Yaz and learn more about her family, including her Nani Umbreen, whose birthday meal is underway at the beginning of the episode.
It’s the gift of a broken watch from Umbreen to Yaz that sparks Yaz’s curiosity about Umbreen’s past, and sets the adventure in motion to August of 1947, on the very day that Lord Mountbatten announces the Partition of India. It is also a significant day for Yaz’s family, as Umbreen, a Muslim, is set to marry Prem, a man who is not Yaz’s grandfather from “a cursed” Hindu neighbour family.
The mercurial force – although we cannot call it monstrous – comes in the form of the Thijarians, former assassins gone good whose place in the universe involves watching over and honouring those who die alone, travelling “all of time and space,” and “read[ing] the time waves” in aid of their mission. Unsurprisingly, wars and scenes of uprising provide ample opportunities for them to serve as a kind of death doula.
Ultimately, the real demon is a young man – Prem’s brother Manish – whose distorted view of the world around him leads him to assist in the murder of his brother mere hours after Prem and Umbreen’s wedding, which was officiated by the Doctor herself.
Screenwriter Vinay Patel has delivered a poignant and thought-provoking story with “Demons Of The Punjab,” and equal praise should go to Jamie Childs and the production team, and Segun Akinola for delivering beautiful themed music. It will be interesting to see how the series progresses from here.
Next week: Kerblam!