You can’t judge a book by its cover, the old cliché goes. You can’t judge a Doctor Who episode by its title either.
Demons of the Punjab promises one thing, aliens assumed to be demons in India, but delivers so much more.
Yaz begs the Doctor to take her back in time to her grandmother’s early life in the Punjab, the Partition of India in August, 1947, to be precise. There the TARDIS team stumble upon a pair of alien invaders, Almak and Kisar, whose appearance is interpreted as a demonic curse.
The outworking of writer Vinay Patel’s title is right there, as expected, but Patel is much cleverer than all that.
Yaz’s grandmother is living with a secret in the 21st century, personal demons that are uncovered by Yaz’s trip back in time.
But the real demons of the story are not the aliens, but the differences that push Christians, Hindus and Muslims apart in India and Pakistan and lead to murder.
Like Rosa, just a few weeks ago, Demons of the Punjab passes commentary on the human condition and reminds us just how illogical it can sometimes be.
Like the Series 1 story Father’s Day, in which the ninth Doctor takes Rose back to her father’s death. Demons of the Punjab demonstrates how history sometimes has a certain inevitability to it. But that doesn’t make it any less tragic.
Every one of the TARDIS team leaves this story with anguish etched into their faces. Even the Doctor can’t interfere.
Apart from the Doctor, Graham is quickly becoming my favourite character. There’s a decency about him that reminds me of the first Doctor’s companion Ian Chesterton.
This episode is one of the triumphs of this series ending, fittingly, with a beautiful Indian inspired version of the theme.
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?
The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker
Graham O’Brien: Bradley Walsh
Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole
Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill
Nani Umbreen: Leena Dhingra
Umbreen: Amita Suman
Prem: Shane Zaza
Manish: Hamza Jeetooa
Hasna: Shaheen Khan
Najia: Shobna Gulati
Hakim: Ravin J Ganatra
Sonya: Bhavnisha Parmar
Voice of Kisar: Emma Fielding
Performance of Kisar: Nathalie Curzner
Voice of Almak: Isobel Middleton
Performance of Almak: Barbara Fadden
Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall
Executive Producer: Matt Strevens
Series Producer: Nikki Wilson
Writer: Vinay Patel