Doctor Who: Demons of the Punjab
November 11, 2018 11:57 AM - Season 11, Episode 6 - Subscribe

India, 1947. The Doctor and her friends arrive in the Punjab, as India is being torn apart. While Yaz attempts to discover her grandmother's hidden history, the Doctor discovers demons haunting the land. Who are they, and what do they want?
posted by fearfulsymmetry (91 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
This was so good. Really like this Doctor being witness to history and not needing to change things.
posted by crossoverman at 4:30 PM on November 11, 2018 [5 favorites]


This was the best episode of the new season by far.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:13 PM on November 11, 2018 [8 favorites]


Nani: "Now, Yasmin, my favorite granddaugher..."
Sonya: "WHAAT!"
Najia : "Nani, I've told you about that!"
posted by numaner at 7:58 PM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]


It's been years since I saw a Doctor Who episode that good
posted by lefty lucky cat at 8:15 PM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]


the vocal rendition of the Doctor Who theme at the end of the episode is, like, the best thing ever
posted by lefty lucky cat at 8:27 PM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]


"Gold star for Ryan. Oh wait, was I awarding points? Oh I forgot about the points!"
posted by numaner at 8:39 PM on November 11, 2018


I liked the aliens of the week: the Thijarians. Assassins who became witnesses. I imagine they'll be showing up again someday.
posted by homunculus at 9:58 PM on November 11, 2018 [3 favorites]


I really liked this episode. It's the first time I've seen portrayal of the Partition of India in western television.
posted by numaner at 10:00 PM on November 11, 2018 [10 favorites]


I think I seem to be alone in not really liking this episode. As a dramatic portrayal of the many horrors of partition, it was quite good. But an episode of Dr Who? Not for me. The Doctor seems to be very passive this season, with this being the peak of it, where her actions literally affect nothing (well, I suppose it lets Yas see her own personal history, which is nice, but it's not like this was some emotional scar like with Rose in father's day, Yas was just curious!)

It does upset me that there does seem to be developing a theme of there being horrors in the world, and we're not really able to affect them. Past doctors might have cheated to save someone; and actually, in the very similar christmas special, that's kind of what happened, where he saves the Brigadier's ancestor. That episode even had the same set up of aliens who are just there to make a record of someone who died.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:32 AM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]


The watching party here really liked the episode. One of the more long-time Whovians thought it was much more like a classic episode, being built around an actual historical event. It was also another episode where the Doctor didn't really do much, which is proper so as to not disturb the timeline (more or less). She fleshed-out what was going on in the background, but didn't really do anything to alter the course of historical events.

One bit, though, that we had a teeny bit of difficulty with...Wouldn't Yaz's grandmother now have memories of Yaz and this wacky blonde woman in a longcoat and suspenders (the woman who married her!) being at her wedding?
posted by Thorzdad at 3:02 AM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]


I have more feelings about the idea of the Thijarians than is really warranted by a silly science fiction show. Partly, I may be a sucker for the "see alien, assume enemy, turns out they're peaceful and humans are jerks" trope. Plus the idea of dying alone/abandoned was a fave threat by a parent, so it's kind of a big red button. It's weirdly nice to run into a fiction device centered around the same fear?

I can't speak to the authenticity of the cultural and historical parts of the story, but enjoyed it all.
posted by cage and aquarium at 3:07 AM on November 12, 2018 [4 favorites]


Cannon Fodder, that's actually one of the things that really bothered me about the transition from the Ninth/Tenth to Eleventh Doctors. For Nine and Ten they are pretty adamant about not changing fixed events--the couple times they do it it's at the extraordinary begging of a companion to just do something fairly inconsequential (save one family in Pompeii), or it leads to Much Badness (Waters of Mars). Doing that turns the Doctor into a god, which is quite adamantly Not Good. Had she saved Prem, Yaz wouldn't even exist. Which, I know, that isn't a story they had to tell at all, they don't have to tell stories in which the Doctor can't do anything because it's a historical event. But honestly I feel like the need to dial the Doctor's powers tf back has been a long time coming. The words Nine says before the famous "everybody lives!" were, "Just this once".
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:04 AM on November 12, 2018 [10 favorites]


I can't even begin to separate the politics of this from the show itself so I won't even try...

Background. In WW2 British India suffered in many distinct ways. Lots of Indians served the military. There was economic havoc as India was forced to pay directly and indirectly for the war in forced loans and then inflation. There were food shortages including the notorious Bengal famine when a million or so died even as food was being shipped out of Bengal to establish bigger surpluses elsewhere. At independence another a million or so died in the chaos as British India was divided into India and Pakistan. Then after the war, history was rewritten. The official report on the Bengal Famine was issued on VE Day to bury it. WW2 become a story of when Britain Stood Alone, with the massive and essential contribution of the rest of the Empire airbrushed away.

Just seeing this stuff on screen: an Indian in army uniform in WW2, the references to hunger, in a prime time TV show is amazing to me.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:01 AM on November 12, 2018 [24 favorites]


The idea of a race of aliens that make it their mission to serve as witness to the otherwise-unmourned dead around the universe is profoundly moving.

But even more moving, something that just hit me today - at the end, The Doctor and Yaz and the others have stopped to look back at what is no doubt going to be Prem's murder. But before Prem is shot - suddenly the Thijarians beam in, blocking their view, and gently send them on their way, basically saying "we got this". This morning I realized that wait a minute - The TARDIS team was watching Prem's death, the Thijarians didn't need to show up and bear witness. But they turned the TARDIS team away so they could do it.

So the Thijarians were performing a second mercy on top of bearing witness to Prem's death - they were sparing the TARDIS team the emotional fallout from bearing witness themselves. Somehow they knew: the TARDIS team would be messed up by this, with Graham and Ryan both still grieving over Grace's death and Yaz having a personal connection to the situation. Prem's death was going to be hard enough for them to see, because any violent death is, but this particular group was going to be especially vulnerable So the Thijarians knew somehow that "yo, these people shouldn't watch this one, we still need to step in."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:02 AM on November 12, 2018 [22 favorites]


The idea of a race of aliens that make it their mission to serve as witness to the otherwise-unmourned dead around the universe is profoundly moving.

Presumably not a coincidence that the episode aired on Remembrance Day, and it's interesting that they didn’t do a specifically WW1 based episode.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 9:29 AM on November 12, 2018 [4 favorites]


Presumably not a coincidence that the episode aired on Armistice Day, and it's interesting that they didn’t do a specifically WW1 based episode.

It may be a coincidence, actually - I said basically this to my roommate, who claimed that the BBC had actually postponed the schedule for this whole season by two weeks so there was no guarantee that it was supposed to air on this specific date.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:30 AM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]


Huh! Well there you go.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 9:31 AM on November 12, 2018


Incidentally, my roommate caught a really subtle but fun moment - the night before the wedding, when they've decided to go ahead and prepare for it, Umbreen's mother says something like "okay, women with Umbreen and me inside the house, and men stay out here in the barn with Prem." And apparently, after she says that - The Doctor gives Yaz this subtle little questioning look, and Yaz nods. I didn't get it, but it made my roommate start laughing like an absolute loon; he explained that he read that moment as, The Doctor wordlessly checking with Yaz about "....which one am I?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:26 AM on November 12, 2018 [13 favorites]


I noticed that tiny moment too and enjoyed it.
I really liked this episode a lot. The writing, the acting, the choice of subject matter, were all great. I also liked how the usual “historical event, but this time, aliens were there” format was kind of like rushed through and dispensed with in the first half, because the interesting part is in the human story in the foreground. I do wish they’d let us know more about this doctor though she seems like her whole job is just to recite historical facts.
posted by bleep at 10:44 AM on November 12, 2018


This season is SO good. This Doctor doesn’t constantly cheat fate the way Moffat’s Doctors did. She works for it, and doesn’t always win. That feels more like Doctor Who to me. When she does make a difference it means something; it’s not just another bootstrap paradox.
posted by rikschell at 7:25 PM on November 12, 2018 [9 favorites]


Count me as another person who really enjoyed this one. I think my favorite thing here is the move away from hero worship of the Doctor. In earlier iterations, I got really tired of the whole 'I am the Coming Storm' thing, or the 'look me up' routine, where it was clear the writers themselves were fanboys. (The Pandorica Opens was particularly bad there, IMO.)

I also like that our new Doctor can admit a mistake, apologize, care about people and doesn't have to be a dick like 90% of the time.

The longer this season runs, the more on board I am. :)
posted by mordax at 8:02 PM on November 12, 2018 [8 favorites]


Another enjoyer. I LOVE the fact this Doctor is a true optimist and devotee of hope, and I think Whittaker really carries this off with suitable earnestness without making it cloying. As I messaged a friend, "Sad and sweet". I am also enjoying the fact that they seem to be veering away from "monster of the week" a bit more. I am really enjoying the more strongly human viewpoint they seem to be looking at now.

Truthfully, I have not watched the Doctor for a long time since I really didn't get the vibe of the newer seasons (You are talking to someone that cites McCoy as their favorite Doctor) and I tuned in to spite those that were hating on a female Doctor. No regrets at all and I keep coming back for more.
posted by Samizdata at 4:51 AM on November 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


I think my favorite thing here is the move away from hero worship of the Doctor.

Enthusiastic second. I got so sick of "The Doctor is the most super special awesome powerful being in the entire universe and entire Dalek fleets wet their shells at the very mention of his name" stuff that plagued so much of the recent years. I am absolutely here for a Doctor who's still resourceful and famous but not deus ex TARDIS.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:43 AM on November 13, 2018 [9 favorites]


The defining characteristic of this Doctor seems to be humility, which is refreshing. It is, however, a challenge for the writers to keep her compelling as a humble traveler vs. The Oncoming Storm.

My favorite small character moment for the Doctor in this episode was she mirrored the aliens' respectful hand gesture once she realized what was going on.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 7:13 AM on November 13, 2018 [13 favorites]


Another fan of this episode. I was intrigued by that last scene of Yaz and old Umbreen back in Sheffield—do I take it as a sign that it takes place sometime in the future when Yaz is done traveling with the Doctor (i.e., Yaz will survive, yay for an end to the trend of tragic endings for companions), or is it just a sign that the Tardis Team is popping back to Sheffield for tea between adventures. Either way, it was a nice coda.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:15 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I get the feeling that there's an additional message behind the Thijarians. They were not originally the ones who bear witness, they were one of the feared bad-ass violent species of the universe who had to confront their own mortality and racial morality. (So much that the Doctor jumped immediately to a conclusion.) They're the flip side of the Daleks, Cybermen, Martian Ice Warriors, Lizardfolk, etc., who repeatedly face exinction and often come out even more evil with each iteration. To pull some Ta-Nehisi Coates in, that storyline can be read as about reparations, not just in the economic sense but in the cultural sense of making acknowledgement of historic injustice part of your national heritage.

The obvious stumping for religious diversity and anti-imperialism could have happened just as well with evil Thijarians. Making the Thijarians two of the good guys by serving as documentary witnesses suggests that we have a similar obligation to bear witness to parts of our history that are frequently downlpayed. It is not entirely a coincidence or cheap plot device that the victims of Partition and the heroes of WWII are equal in the eyes of the Thijarians. (Coates makes a similar argument.)
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 7:23 AM on November 13, 2018 [19 favorites]


Does anyone know what the Doctor meant when she said, "In my faith..."? That reminded me of the moment a couple episodes ago when she and a couple others were reciting a prayer for the dead. I love some science fiction religion, so I'm excited for this aspect of the new Doctor.

I also wanted to point out that it seems like they're going all in on timely political messages, which I'm mostly glad about. My slight twinge is sometimes wanting pure escapism in my entertainment but I think the world is in dire need of messages about both the dangers of rising hatred and xenophobia and examples of people heroically resisting and standing up for kindness, decency, respect, hope, neighborliness and diversity, even if they don't always succeed. It was especially powerful when Graham told Prem that all he could do was be a good man--such a needed challenge to all the red pill/black pill poison, to define masculinity in those terms.

Also, though, I'm a little confused about why the Thijarians didn't point out earlier that they were just trying to witness... I imagine rewatching it would make things clearer and maybe they were just freaked out by the way the humans were aggressive, but it seemed a bit forced that they were either arguing/didn't share the explanation.
posted by overglow at 9:24 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Using the border rope for the handfasting was a nice bit of symbolic business.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 9:25 AM on November 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


Oh, yeah, I also loved when the Doctor was all, "I never did this when I was a man!" And then, "Oh, yes, my body and gender regeneration, that's all a joke."
posted by overglow at 9:26 AM on November 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


Also, though, I'm a little confused about why the Thijarians didn't point out earlier that they were just trying to witness... I imagine rewatching it would make things clearer and maybe they were just freaked out by the way the humans were aggressive, but it seemed a bit forced that they were either arguing/didn't share the explanation.

I think it's more in character that a whole species focused on murdering others is more used to doing whatever they want at any time with no explanation and being aggressive with anyone who questions them. Old habits die hard?
posted by bleep at 9:30 AM on November 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


Although another thought is that the Thijarian explanation can't be taken literally because obviously the killer is also a witness. So in my read it must be something like "forgotten by the makers of history" where both WW2 and the uncomfortable aspects of post-colonial history are frequently viewed thorough a eurocentric bias. The witnessed brothers have both been erased by the most popular historic accounts (from the BBC view).
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:30 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


numaner: Nani: "Now, Yasmin, my favorite granddaugher..."
Sonya: "WHAAT!"
Najia : "Nani, I've told you about that!"


To be fair, there was a nice young lady named Yaz who was there, getting henna on her hands and crying at her wedding, who probably reminds Nani a good bit of her grand daughter.

(But I don't really understand all this timey-wimey stuff. Was Yaz always there, or was she the favorite granddaughter in the other time, before she was there at her grandmother's wedding?)
posted by filthy light thief at 1:09 PM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Was Yaz named after herself?
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 1:15 PM on November 13, 2018 [17 favorites]


(But I don't really understand all this timey-wimey stuff. Was Yaz always there, or was she the favorite granddaughter in the other time, before she was there at her grandmother's wedding?)

I was wondering who was supposed to marry them if the Doctor didn't show up, given that the holy man was murdered without any alien involvement. It definitely seems like some sort of paradox where the Tardis Team was always there and yeah, I agree that Yaz was named after herself.

It would be nice to have some payoff where her grandmother helps them out because she recognizes the Doctor and realizes it's the same Yaz. It doesn't have to be a big thing, but even just covering for one of Yaz's disappearances would be good.

I'm also expecting the Thijarians to show up again when the Doctor wants to save someone but realizes she can't. Probably Graham, since I still think he's going to be killed off as part of Ryan's story arc. I do hope I'm wrong and he gets to be a spacebus driver in some distant galaxy somewhere.
posted by Gary at 1:29 PM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I do hope I'm wrong and he gets to be a spacebus driver in some distant galaxy somewhere.

Going to the store for hotdogs and wine. (B52s reference.)
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:39 PM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


This was a great episode. The alien design was great, loved their weird audio thing. And of course what everyone else said.

Wouldn't Yaz's grandmother now have memories of Yaz and this wacky blonde woman in a longcoat and suspenders (the woman who married her!) being at her wedding?

The Doctor tends to forget future regenerations when they run into each other, because timey-wimey. You could handwave something like that, I guess.
posted by BungaDunga at 5:56 PM on November 13, 2018


I also liked how the Doctor learned all about the baddy from a console last episode; this episode, there's another console, except she draws the wrong conclusion entirely. I'm glad because my first thought was what, another convenient data console? and it was subverted.

I also liked the Doctor's speech marrying them. Imagine trying to come up with something to say when you know exactly how long the marriage will last and how it will end. I thought this episode gave her lots of Doctory things to do, even if it didn't end with vanquished aliens.
posted by BungaDunga at 6:05 PM on November 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


The Doctor tends to forget future regenerations when they run into each other, because timey-wimey. You could handwave something like that, I guess.

but this is just the Doctor running into future Nani Umbreen, who would probably remember her because she officiated her first marriage. We haven't seen the Doctor with her in the present yet though, so maybe that remains to be seen.
posted by numaner at 7:54 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


There needs to be a content advisory on this episode for grandchildren of immigrants from countries screwed over by Western colonialism because oh boy did the ending make me cry. Did the Doctor just personally come out of my TV to tell me to call my grandmother??

If I work at finding a quibble, there were a few lines of dialogue which told us things that the actors should have been left to show themselves -- most notably when Yaz realizes that Prem is Umbreen's groom, she says something like, "No, you can't be" when Mandip Gill's face does a perfectly good job of showing that something's not right here, and thirty seconds later she's explaining to the rest of the team anyway. But overall I think this is my favorite of the season so far, followed by Rosa. I hope Vinay Patel and Malorie Blackman are invited back to script more episodes next season. Also, I'd never heard of Shane Zaza (Prem) before tonight, but he's one I'll be looking out for in the future.

I can understand Umbreen not recognizing Yaz -- it has been over seventy years, and the sudden appearance of an oddly dressed cousin was not anywhere near the most memorable part of those couple of days. I do like the idea that maybe she subconsciously picked up a familiarity in her granddaughter's dress/demeanor which she associated with the end of Prem's life, and that factored into her decision to give her the watch.

I also thought it was interesting that past Umbreen and Prem didn't form especially strong bonds with Yaz, as I might have expected from the RTD or Moffat eras. I'm not sure either would have resisted the urge to make Yaz her own namesake, or for Prem to unknowingly give her his blessing as an honorary descendant, and I appreciated the restraint. Every child or grandchild of cross-cultural immigrants I know is hyperaware of the unbridgeable gap between themselves and the previous generations, and I like that Yaz got closer to understanding Umbreen without being handed all the answers on a platter.
posted by bettafish at 8:04 PM on November 13, 2018 [12 favorites]


I want to go on record that I am adamantly opposed to Graham's dying or being killed off or having his cancer return with a vengeance. His calmness and maturity add an element to the dynamic of the team TARDIS (gosh I really hate that term!) which I've come to treasure.

This episode was my favorite one so far. I hope that its writer and the writer of Rosa are invited to submit scripts for future series. I've quite enjoyed both of their scripts. That said, I used to immediately rewatch the episodes when Moffat and Davies were showrunners. I haven't found the episodes during this series to be quite as compelling, or, and the case of some of Moffatt's most annoyingly smarty pants gimmicky timey wimey efforts, in need of a rewatch to figure out what's going on.

I read elsewhere that The Demons of the Punjab was originally scheduled to be aired as the 9th episode of this series, but was advanced in order to be broadcast close to remembrance Day and the hundredth anniversary of the Armistice. A good decision.
posted by LeftMyHeartInSanFrancisco at 10:16 PM on November 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


I felt like that for every episode this season except this one- watching this one again made everything so much clearer to me, and better. Which is just a testament to how good I thought it was the first time
posted by bleep at 11:08 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I want to go on record that I am adamantly opposed to Graham's dying or being killed off or having his cancer return with a vengeance. His calmness and maturity add an element to the dynamic of the team TARDIS (gosh I really hate that term!) which I've come to treasure.

Here too. My roommate likes Graham because he has this starry-eyed reaction to everything - he could easily have been all grumpy-old-man about everything, but instead he's getting into everything and is totally on board with everything.

I do wonder, though, how much of that is Graham trying to run away from grieving for Grace; which, if it is, would be a fascinating thing to address at some point. The show did address that briefly - Graham's reason for coming along with the TARDIS team is that the house is too empty and "I'd rather grieve somewhere else", basically, but I still wonder.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:23 AM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


Did everyone catch the little nod to the TARDIS's remote translation magic when Prem complimented the team on their excellent Punjabi?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:39 AM on November 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


I just loved this episode. I'm not a hardcore Whovian or whatever but have watched most of the new ones. And this was just wonderful as an episode of tv. I cared about all of the humans. The dangerous ridiculousness of colonialism was there. The aliens were interesting without getting too much in the way of the main emotions - making this sci-fi was a subtle enhancement of the tragedy instead of it being a stodgy documentary. And it had a little tie to the present, the radicalisation of young men without guidance.

I tolerated RTD's fart gags and put up with Moffat's grandiose twistiness. And loved those parts which made Who memorable and fun! I don't want to be one of those fans who shits on things they enjoy. But this season has been so much fun to watch! I think Chibnall has taken a back-to basics approach which could have been a bit dull. Then he simply hired more diverse talent which has brought a freshness to the whole thing. It all comes together to make something I eagerly look forward to instead of treating like a routine.

I dunno. I just feel like I learned something about the Partition and have a little more context for the facts. It's nice.
posted by harriet vane at 5:27 AM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


> EmpressCallipygos:
"Here too. My roommate likes Graham because he has this starry-eyed reaction to everything - he could easily have been all grumpy-old-man about everything, but instead he's getting into everything and is totally on board with everything.

I do wonder, though, how much of that is Graham trying to run away from grieving for Grace; which, if it is, would be a fascinating thing to address at some point. The show did address that briefly - Graham's reason for coming along with the TARDIS team is that the house is too empty and "I'd rather grieve somewhere else", basically, but I still wonder."


I figure it is a combination of the "throwing himself into work" and the "she didn't die for nothing" aspects.
posted by Samizdata at 5:27 AM on November 14, 2018


Isn't it nice to have Doctor Who discussion threads that aren't all complainy? Who knew that Chibnall would nail this show to such a degree. I mean, I'm certainly glad to hear from a variety of viewpoints, and not everybody loves every episode, but it seems like there's broad consensus that we have something really special going on here.

Personally, I love the choice to NOT make Umbreen recognize Yas and the Doctor from the past, or to play up any bootstrap paradox-ness of the plot. The focus is on the people living through the history.

All I really want from Doctor Who is a rollicking good adventure story. My favorite seasons of the show were the first and last seasons of Tom Baker. Just really good runs of individual episodes with enough continuity to feel like a fuller story. But this season, this show in its 55th year, this seems like the best ever. Way more than I was hoping for.
posted by rikschell at 6:14 AM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


I don't know if Chibnall is nailing the whole show. We did have angry trash-eating space monster baby as a villain, just to pick one thing. But I do think there were aspects of having a new doctor who is both a woman and a restorative after the indulgences of RTD/Moffat that we were worried about and he is largely nailing those, and the show is coming out great on the balance.

I mean, it's been good, but let's not oversell it, because it just sets up the knee jerk backlash.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:41 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm mostly finding it "good-to-quite-good" but that is such a contrast to the "Thanks! I hate it!" of the previous 5 years that it's very refreshing to me!
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:46 AM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I like the portrayal of the Doctor. I like the companions. I like the course correction from The Adventures of the Most Important White Man Ever Show. I like the return to the old-Who-style historical episodes. I like the pointed social messages. I like the cinematography. I like the music. I like that it feels new and fresh.

BUT...

There are some villains/apparent-villains-who-turned-out-not-to-be-villains who have the potential to reoccur in interesting ways, yes. But there has not, to this point in this season, been a single new Who villain/pseudo-villain who was scary to the slightest degree. And at some point, we are going to have to start penalizing for that, however great the rest of this series/season may be.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:12 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


But there has not, to this point in this season, been a single new Who villain/pseudo-villain who was scary to the slightest degree. And at some point, we are going to have to start penalizing for that, however great the rest of this series/season may be.

.....Why?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 AM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I have my own set of family secrets where the photos, the heirlooms, and the stories don't quite add up. So I didn't find that little bit of exposition awkward. It's the kind of "hey wait a minute" conversation I've had with people when I realized that a toy was about a decade older than my father, and who's that weird kid in the photo I found in the hidden steamer chest.

And less obnoxious than American TV's need to explain the previous 10 minutes of plot every time they come back from commercial break.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 7:21 AM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos, it's because scary villains that make kids hide behind the couch are an intrinsic part of the show.

If they are entirely foregoing scary villains as part of some there-are-no-real-villains kind of moral viewpoint, that would be one thing, and we could debate that. Certainly, they've had some of that, with the spiders who turned out to be dangerous but not wantonly malicious, and with the Thijarians. So maybe that's the way they are going, who knows.

But we're about 55 years into the history of this show and memorable monsters/villains is pretty well-woven into the DNA. It'd be a hell of a thing to try and make the show work for long without them and have it still be recognizably the same show.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:28 AM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


As much as I've been raving about the show, sure, there are things I don't like much or feel could be done better.

Mainly I'm accentuating the positive and relishing the tears of angry fanboys (i.e. the comments everywhere else) because this experience is new and unusual to me. A reasonably mainstream spec-fic franchise that doesn't revolve around fridging women or coddling toxic men, right now! I don't ask for much.
posted by cage and aquarium at 7:41 AM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


The Stenza seem to be shaping up to be the reoccuring scary villain of the season. It's a matter of opinion whether purging a planet of life for weapons research and inventing a quasi-sentient strangler monster is really scary in the Doctor Who tradition though.

I don't know whether the strangler monster was a nod to Gary Gygax, Gene Wolfe, or both.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 7:41 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


[ ....] we're about 55 years into the history of this show and memorable monsters/villains is pretty well-woven into the DNA. It'd be a hell of a thing to try and make the show work for long without them and have it still be recognizably the same show.

This exact same argument was used as an argument against having a female Doctor, however, and I haven't seen that you're objecting to that.

Also, I'm not sure why you don't consider the tooth-face dude to be properly scary and villan-y. Or the Alien Redneck dude from the Rosa Parks episode.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 AM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


I like the Stenza conceptually, so I'm not writing them off. In execution, they were C-level tv Predator ripoffs, with teeth jammed in their face. But there is still time, so.

This exact same argument was used as an argument against having a female Doctor, however, and I haven't seen that you're objecting to that.

Yes, and the counterargument was, "It's not a show about a male; it's a show about a traveler in time and space that goes against exotic monsters/villains."

Yes, you could take away the scary monsters/villains thing. You could also take away the traveler in time/space thing. You could take away the alien thing, too. You could also make the Doctor a forensic accountant who lives in a singles community in Reno, Nevada and is enthusiastic about Alamo memorabilia, but spends their weekend solving locked room murders.

For me, though, and for many other viewers, I would imagine, certain things have to stay in order to make it the same show. I don't consider the Doctor's gender/age/accent/race/ethnicity a critical piece. But I do consider the "goes up against formidable/scary villains/monsters" thing kind of a big deal.

Other people's mileage may vary. I get that. But for me, Doctor Who minus great villains/monsters is a greatly diminished show. I have enjoyed what we have gotten so far this year, but the absence of this is building in significance to me.

Here's hoping they right the ship on that.

My guess/hope is that some of the other writers Chibnall has hired who have been waiting their turn have been, like many Whovians, waiting their entire lives to share their ideas for new villains/monsters with us.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:48 AM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


I should mention that if it turns out that Chibnall has been slow-pedalling monsters/villains in the short run to establish the reconceived character of the Doctor, the revised tone of the show, and the interplay with the new companions, I would be 100% on board with that.

I'm not unhappy with the choices he has made so far. But by focusing his energies where he has at the expense of the show's long-running tradition of great villains/monsters, he has built up a certain amount of tension. I'm ready to have that released.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:05 AM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


My point is that there is a great and whumpingly diverse range of opinions about what the show's "long running traditions" actually are. For some, like you, "super-scary monsters" is a rock-solid tradition. For others, like me, it is "The Doctor has to preserve the time line of history in the interest of ultimately serving a greater good, even if it means an individually bad thing happens." For still others, it is "The Doctor is gleefully anarchic and wants to help people regardless of whether it fucks up the timeline." For even still others, it is "Teh Doctor is a GUY!!!!". And on and on.

We all may be both right and wrong in equal measure. None of these things are necessarily etched in stone - hell, they even once ditched the whole notion of "The Doctor goes places in THE TARDIS" for the bulk of John Pertwee's run. I often think following "the DNA of the show" types of traditions too slavishly prevents the show from growing and changing - and growing and changing is what helps the show continue to find audiences after 55 years, I'd argue.

Also, consider: maybe the reason you're not finding the monsters properly scary isn't because the writers aren't making scary monsters. Maybe the reason you're not finding them scary is because you've become a braver person.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:31 AM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I get your point. I'm just calibrated a bit differently. For me, "What if monsters/villains were incidental?" isn't an open your mind to the possibilities! challenge like "What if the Doctor changed genders?" It's more analogous to "What if the Doctor was a talking dog who skateboarded and likes Bud Light?" kind of question.

I mean, if for you, the point of the show is "The Doctor has to preserve the time line of history in the interest of ultimately serving a greater good, even if it means an individually bad thing happens," then what are they defending it against? If your answer is, "Eh, whatever, it's incidental" then more power to you. I lean the other way though.

Again, though, I am not intending to make the argument that Chibnall has failed in some way. I'm making the argument that he's built up a fair bit of tension for whatever monsters/villains his team will unleash. I'm actually sorta convinced something awesome is coming. It's like a basketball pushed as far underwater as a person can manage. When it's released, it will spring far into the air.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:45 AM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


One thing I think we can agree on, nevertheless:

Isn't it incredible that this is the kind of discussion we're able to be having about the show???
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:56 AM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty certain given the reveal of The Ghost Monument that we'll see a fair bit more dirty deeds from The Stenza beyond just safari on Earth, and that might be connected with the Thagarian genocide and white supremacist dude eventually.

One of the things I love about this Doctor is that she's standing out as a maker/hacker Doctor, and in a different direction as the very Etsy-esque vibe of Capaldi or the previous short cuts of just waving a sonic at a problem and it fixes itself. Opening the episode with that stylized welding helmet and a Tardis console built from plumbing hardware was a nice choice to set up the chemistry set.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 9:12 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I mean, I’m not even really afraid of spiders, but I found the giant ones terrifying! And while Daleks have a reputation as scary monsters, they have an equally strong reputation as ridiculous pepperpots. While the PTing was cute, it was also casually devastating. I wasn’t afraid because I knew they’d survive. On the other hand, I’ve never seen an episode as scary as Rosa, where Ryan was constantly in mortal peril.

The “scary” monsters tend to be scariest for small children, and I don’t feel like this season is so different.
posted by rikschell at 10:43 AM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I hope Vinay Patel and Malorie Blackman are invited back to script more episodes next season.

I would be very disappointed if they aren't. I really liked this episode. I also liked Rosa which had an enormous level of difficulty for it not to come across as patronizing or worse. It's great that Doctor Who finally brought on non-white writers to write episodes that we really couldn't have had before. At the same time, I hope this show doesn't fall into that trap where tech conferences only seem to invite women to speak about women in tech.

Which is to say, I hope that non-white writers are also given a chance to write about giant spiders or dinosaurs on spaceships or whatever they want. Maybe these two writers don't want to write the silly episodes. But I think people can bring a unique perspective without feeling they have to write the "important" episodes.
posted by Gary at 11:03 AM on November 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


One of the things that has surprised me about this discussion is that this trip was not due to any sort of crisis, that it was due to Yaz saying "Please, Doc, you have a time machinnnnnne, let's take a trip!"
posted by Samizdata at 12:31 PM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


One of the things that has surprised me about this discussion is that this trip was not due to any sort of crisis, that it was due to Yaz saying "Please, Doc, you have a time machinnnnnne, let's take a trip!"

The 9th Doctor brought Rose back to her father's death- twice!- (because she asked) and it went even worse
posted by BungaDunga at 12:41 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know what the Doctor meant when she said, "In my faith..."? That reminded me of the moment a couple episodes ago when she and a couple others were reciting a prayer for the dead. I love some science fiction religion, so I'm excited for this aspect of the new Doctor.

I assumed that when the Doctor spoke of faith, she was speaking of her own personal faith and connection to existence.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:43 PM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


> BungaDunga:
"One of the things that has surprised me about this discussion is that this trip was not due to any sort of crisis, that it was due to Yaz saying "Please, Doc, you have a time machinnnnnne, let's take a trip!"

The 9th Doctor brought Rose back to her father's death- twice!- (because she asked) and it went even worse"


As I mentioned earlier, that was in my Doctor-free period.
posted by Samizdata at 12:44 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


now I think about it, the two episodes share a theme- Rose didn't want her father to be alone when he died- this is the same motivation as the aliens in this episode.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:47 PM on November 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


It's really hard to imagine the goofy-ass aliens in this show as being considered "Ooh scary".
posted by bleep at 12:55 PM on November 14, 2018


Yeah, it's interesting doing a compare and contrast between "Father's Day" and this one because they can be described in similar terms (a companion asks the Doctor to take them into her (family's) past for closure; an ordinary but good man must die, but at least his death is witnessed) and yet the scope, scale and consequences are so different. In "Father's Day" trying to undo a very small, personal, unremarkable tragedy almost rips the universe apart. In "Demons of the Punjab" the immediate stakes are a handful of lives, but those lives are put in a historical and social context spanning from before World War II all the way to the present day.
posted by bettafish at 1:37 PM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm okay with having fewer monsters. Having watched a fair amount of the Classic Who twitch marathon this summer, it just doesn't feel like a real Doctor Who monster anymore if it's not a man covered in bubble wrap doing his best to wriggle menacingly.

One of the things that has surprised me about this discussion is that this trip was not due to any sort of crisis, that it was due to Yaz saying "Please, Doc, you have a time machinnnnnne, let's take a trip!"

Did anyone else get the feeling that the Doctor wouldn't have fulfilled that request for Ryan and Graham? I can't point to specific instances off the top of my head but I definitely get the vibe that Yaz is her favorite (though unlike Yaz's gran, she's too polite to say so outright!)
posted by bettafish at 1:52 PM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I think Chibnall's following Russell T Davies' framework for how to run Doctor Who, and it took until abouuuuut episode 6 for them to do a monster episode. And it was Dalek, and it was good.

I think this run, so far, has been notable through how they've handled the historical stories, often a weakness of Doctor Who and something that Chibnall, as showrunner, seems to handle very well indeed.
posted by Merus at 7:30 PM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


There have been monsters in every episode. Overall, the difference for me is not a lack of monsters or that the monsters aren't scary -- it's that the Doctor isn't scary. Davies and Moffat definitely kept an edge to their Doctors -- Nine, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve were all capable of inhuman (even monstrous) behavior that made them terrifying at times. At least for the moment, Thirteen just seems to have a sunnier and more sociable personality, without the lurking danger of out-of-control hubris, outright sociopathy, or threatening sexual tension which all have to be constantly negotiated and mediated by/through companions. Notice how she has not yet made any big speeches to a villain about how feared she is across the universe? I don't think that's an accident.

Overall, this central choice has contributed to me feeling like this whole series is pitched younger than previous ones. Other things that make this series seem more kid-appropriate to me:
- simplicity of characterization for both the villains and the protagonists
- simplicity of each week's "moral of the story"
- way less moral ambiguity built into the Doctor and her companions
- sexual tension dialed down to almost nothing, certainly not driving any plotlines
- strong emphasis on educational historical episodes

I've enjoyed this series a lot so far. I just don't think it's quite as much for grown-ups as it used to be. That's fine -- it's a different flavor, and there are many cool things about it.
posted by ourobouros at 7:26 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


In other words -- this series is more TNG than DS9. Both are valid ways to be.
posted by ourobouros at 7:31 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]






I like thinking about the character of the Doctor as having gotten sick of being up their own ass for the last few years. All the angst, all the unprocessed and then processed trauma, all the bloviating, eh, throw it all away and start over. REALLY start over. Go back to what you used to like, flying around the past and explaining it to human children.
posted by bleep at 1:58 PM on November 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


Fans Are Divided Over Doctor Who‘s New Historical Approach. So people just forgot Doctor Who was created to teach history to children?

(this is less directed at you than at the author of that piece):
I am not that familiar with the early set of Doctors, but the serious edutainment part didn't last past the first couple Doctors, did it? And it wasn't just a history show, the "future" episodes were meant to teach science to children.

I think it's perfectly reasonable for fans of the modern incarnation of the show to be confused with the change- it's harkening back to an era of the show that ended decades ago. People didn't forget- they didn't know! They never went back and watched the scratchy old Hartnell series, which don't even all survive- and that's fine. You can be a fan of modern Doctor Who without knowing anything about the old series, and that's a good thing. There are teenagers alive today who are barely older than the current incarnation. Why should they need to know the deep history of the show to comment on the direction it's taking now? It's reasonable for fans to not like the change, or grumble about it, since the show really does have a different feel this season. The Doctor suddenly spouting off about dark matter, or the Montgomery bus boycott is a bit jarring, since we're used to the Doctor spouting off about wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:40 PM on November 15, 2018


Rather the Doctor spouts off about dark matter (and interestingly named asteroids) than talking complete cobblers about black holes like 10 did a lot. His educational historical episodes were a bit better than the sciency ones though; the Madame de Pompadour ep was pretty good I thought.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 2:51 PM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't know, BungaDunga, I'm sure there are people who are just genuinely baffled, but I have seen sooooo much "I'm not racist/sexist, but as a Real Doctor Who Fan, this isn't Real Doctor Who" gatekeeping (from adults, not teenagers). And frankly even some of the people who are genuinely baffled could benefit from a minute or two of self-examination.

I know I compared Rosa to a Hartnell story in that thread, and I stand by that. But historicals didn't end with Hartnell, and "we have to stop the evil aliens from screwing up history" isn't a new plot for reboot Who. I think this Twitter user is onto something when she contends that much the discomfort has less to do with Rosa and Demons being historicals, and more to do with them stories written by PoC, centering the experiences of PoC, and holding white people (yes all white people) accountable for racism and imperialism. If the Remembrance Day episode was about a white guy in a WWI trench the harshest comments would be, "Didn't we do this last Christmas special?" or, "Well, that was dull." Not repeated insistence that this is fundamentally altering the premise of the show.
posted by bettafish at 6:08 PM on November 15, 2018 [9 favorites]


That's a much better argument than the Mary Sue piece made!

I know some of my getting-used-to this season has been related to the gender change, for sure (I think I commented to that effect in the last episode's thread). I'm a hard yes on it- the actor is great, the Doctor being a woman is great- but other than the first episode and this one, I found it hard to settle into this regeneration. But this episode- especially her wedding, what, benediction?- sold me on it. That was really, really good. And the themes of how political/religious lines can drive people apart- that was perfect Doctor Who fodder. I'm not sure why I didn't enjoy Rosa in the same way, maybe because I am less familiar with Partition, and is not so close to home for me personally.

Rather the Doctor spouts off about dark matter (and interestingly named asteroids) than talking complete cobblers about black holes like 10 did a lot.

My instinct when this happens is to start comparing Actual Science As I Know It to the science-as-show-presented, and when it's not quite right (ex, powering a spacecraft by generating antimatter onboard doesn't, on first glance, make sense) my brain swaps over into nitpick mode. I don't enjoy that sort of nitpicking. It's easier to stay out of that mode when it's transparently science fantasy, but that's my own personal preference / failing.
posted by BungaDunga at 8:17 PM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's reasonable for fans to not like the change, or grumble about it, since the show really does have a different feel this season.

That's entirely true. Fans almost never like change, but like most everything else in life these shows almost always change to stay interesting and/or relevant. I had a lot of issues with shows like Gilmore Girls and Dawson's Creek moving their characters into college. But I eventually recognize that it wasn't the show's fault, because when I reexamine them now, it's just that I had a nostalgia that I couldn't let go, and that we all find comfort in familiarity. But nowadays I highly enjoy shows that really shake things up season to season, like The Good Place or even Arrow right now.

What really changes with Doctor Who is that every new Doctor is a change of the whole show. However, the other thing that we as fans have to do is give these shows a chance for the change to hook us. If we can allow for characters to grow past what we're used to, we should also allow for the whole show to change too. Grumbling about change is fine, but you still gotta keep giving it a chance. After all, it's never too late to recognize when to walk away.
posted by numaner at 12:28 AM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


ex, powering a spacecraft by generating antimatter onboard doesn't, on first glance, make sense

Oh, I must have missed that one, was that the medical ship? I usually have the same kind of nitpicky brain... but the flip side of that is I that I *really* like it when they get it right. The rosaparks asteroid about floored me.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:19 AM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


This thread has really underlined for me the problem I have with Doctor Who. It's that it could be a show that uses real world science alongside its fantastical science premise, but every time it gets close to do that it opts to take the easy way out. I don't want it to be a hard science show. I'm fine with the TARDIS, the Doctor, and the screwdriver all being fantastical elements that you just have to accept. But, it feels like none of the writers on Who have spent a single second doing any research on any science topic for any episode of the show.

I can't speak the historical accuracy as I'm not quite as interested in history as I am in physics and science in general, so maybe that's just as bad to a trained historian, but it seems like they put much more thought into the historical eps than the future/space eps. Which is weird because the Ptang episode was one of my favorite this season.

Anyway, it really seems like this season of Who is leaning toward not having aliens or monster be the villains. So far only the Rosa episode and the premiere had "evil" aliens.
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:23 AM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


"Tread softly, for you tread on your own history": Iona Datt Sharma, scifi/fantasy author (living in London, of Indian descent) on this episode, her family history, and what this story does & doesn't do.
posted by brainwane at 9:05 AM on November 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


In a show about time travel, I have no need for the science to be accurate, but I'm thrilled when the history is interesting.

I'm American so I know the story of Rosa Parks (and not just the simplest version of the story) but did not know anything about the Partition. Now I am eager to learn more about it! These two episodes have been my favorite thus far, so I hope every remaining episode is about a historical injustice, co-written by a person whose heritage was shaped by that injustice.

I loved the concept of the alien assassin race revisiting their mission once their own planet was destroyed for being such deadly assassins. It was a good way of implicitly showing that Manush and his compatriots would regret their extremist takes.

I also love how the companions are so easy-going and accepting of whatever is thrown at them. Whatever situation they're dropped into, they immediately connect with the people there on a personal level. It was entirely believable that Prem would have Ryan and Graham as his stag party buds despite just having met them. It reminded me of Ryan and Graham being that pregnant dude's doulas on the hospital ship last week. Umbreen asking Yaz to tie her and Prem's hands with the fallen border rope struck me as Umbreen instinctively knowing that Yaz was family. This, I think, is the underlying theme of the season so far: empathy in extreme situations.

It's interesting how the Doctor has been effectively depowered this season, in that she doesn't always know what's happening at all times, and isn't always able to affect the outcome. It makes her a more interesting character, but it's sort of unfortunate that this new take on the doctor—which I'm sure Chibnall would have put into effect even if the Doctor were still male—is debuted with the first woman Doctor. Like, I'm sure some some toxic types are posting on their message boards that Eleven would have had the alien assassins leave Earth entirely once he pronounced Earth under his protection, right? Ugh. But I am enjoying this new status quo, and I think Jodie Whittaker is killing it.
posted by ejs at 10:56 PM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I know this wasn't originally scheduled for Armistice/Remembrance Day, but the poppies were a nice touch anyway. Especially since the episode itself was so concerned with remembering Prem, a soldier who a lot of people would prefer to forget. (Not only for being a "colonial" soldier, but he also served in the utterly disastrous fall of Singapore; unlike Dunkirk, nobody's managed to spin that defeat into some kind of secret triumph, so it's mostly just ignored.)
posted by tobascodagama at 5:35 AM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Rewatched this last night. I think that the performances of the two brothers are really what elevated this episode for me. Shane Zaza and Hamza Jeetooa brought a lot of depth and nuance to their performances. The way Manish is so excited when the partition is announced and then slowly disappointed as no one else understands. The way you can see so many different thoughts play across Prem's face. They are just miles beyond your average guest performance.

I give the director, Jamie Childs, a lot of credit for managing that as well. He also created some great visuals and shot compositions. He's new this season, having directed the first episode, and it looks like he'll be back for a couple more. (He does have a weird habit of using an odd lens on close-ups that makes them fish-eye out a bit.)

Anyway, I'm becoming more confident that this is one my my all-time favorite Who episodes.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 8:25 AM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Manish's "why doesn't everybody understand why this is so awesome?" thing is just heartbreaking and played so well by Hamza Jeetooa.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:30 AM on November 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


Zaza, Jeetooa and Suman are all really great —to the extent that they almost feel wasted playing characters we’ll only meet once, despite how much power comes from how compelling we find these people we know we can only meet once.

Thinking about Prem/Manish/Umbreen compared to other guest characters, another thing that elevates them is that it feels like we get to know them over time, compared to most Doctor Who characters who rarely diverge much from whatever our first impression of them is.
posted by bettafish at 5:26 PM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm finally catching up, and I've found the writing to be inconsistent so far, but I'm also not a huge fan of Chibnall's previous episodes anyway. But this? This wasn't just an exceptional episode of Doctor Who, it was an exceptional thing to be on television. I'm absolutely blown away. I honestly can't remember the last time something on tv has moved me so deeply.

I love that the strongest episodes so far have been historical. I want more of this. I want this Doctor to be the one who bears witness.

However the rest of the season goes, I have a new favorite episode. Allons-y.
posted by Ruki at 5:31 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


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