This week, Doctor Who ventured into the past for another historical event: the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. While it might have had themes similar to this season’s powerful “Rosa”, it took a slightly different approach getting there.
Mainly because—and it is indeed about bloody time—“Demons of the Punjab” told its historical story while also finally gave some much needed focus to Yaz, who’s definitely taken a backseat to the rest of team TARDIS this season. And it was absolutely worth it: “Demons” would’ve been a heady mix of educational storytelling and tragedy even without Yaz’s personal connection to the story being told, but with it there, we were offered a much more powerful version of Doctor Who’s usual approach to stories about the perils of time travelling across your own personal history.
There’s some parallels to the last time Doctor Who really tried to tell a story like this—specifically with Rose and her father in “Father’s Day”. But while that story found drama in the futility of Rose trying to change her family’s past (and more traditional monster foes, unlike the aliens in this episode), “Demons” finds it in putting that past on a pedestal as a lesson to be learned. Not just from an educational perspective—something that, as we’ve discussed before, was part of Doctor Who’s earliest remit—but as unforgotten reminder, and the way remembrance brings generations of people together on scales grand and small, just as it does Yaz and her grandmother.
That in of itself is a very Doctor Who idea, even if it’s one being presented without the show’s usual level of corridor-running, monster-y romps. Which is kind of exciting, honestly—and has a lot more potential to offer than simply aping tropes the show has offered twists on time and time again.
We’ll have more to say about about “Demons of the Punjab” in our regular recap tomorrow, but for now—let us know your thoughts in the comments below.