Demons of the Punjab is another female driven historical Doctor Who episode with an apt science fiction twist for Remembrance Sunday.
Six episodes into Jodie Whittaker’s first season as the thirteenth Doctor, we’re beginning to see a theme building up in new show runner Chris Chibnall’s new direction for the show.
Delving into the story of Yaz’s grandmother, the Doctor’s friend wants to discover what life was like back in Pakistan when she was a young woman before she got married.
But the Doctor discovers a frightening alien presence in the Punjab amid a sense of impending doom at events they must not interfere in.
It’s a slightly different show than the earlier Rosa Parks episode – this time we’re not looking for big historical names and we’re a long way away from risking millions of lives or even the entire planet as previous seasons of Doctor Who had been guilty of.
Having to up the ante time after time, while throwing in overly familiar villains who never really threaten our heroes, was in danger of becoming seriously hackneyed.
This time we had a quiet, emotional episode with antagonists who aren’t necessarily the obvious ones at first glance in an episode where the ending was obvious but the journey was where the drama was strong.
Improving on the busy plotline from last week’s The Tsuranga Conundrum, the stripped back plot allowed more room for the drama to breathe.
The story avoided the CGI overload from Arachnids in the UK and steered away from event driven historical episode Rosa Parks, leaving what should have been a highly emotional character episode for Yaz (Mandip Gill).
Once again, though, it’s Bradley Walsh as Graham who provides the heartbeat of the episode while Whittaker shows a different side to the Doctor than we are used to – one who is a little less cocksure and godlike than we had recently been used to.
It’s an interesting direction to take the Doctor in and not before time – successive seasons of new Doctor Who had built up the titular character to be an invincible quipping machine at times.
The technobabble was building up to ridiculous levels and the CGI was struggling to keep up while the bombastic music was becoming just as intrusive as the plots at times.
Instead, it seems that the Doctor Who budget has been spent on cinematic location shoots, less so on interior corridors, changed the music, and we’re trying to get a more realistic world for the Doctor to inhabit rather than the pantomime it was in danger of becoming.
With only four episodes left, plus a Christmas special, it feels like we’re racing towards the end of a very interesting season without really hitting the dramatic heights.
All Jodie needs now is a top notch episode to remember her first season by.