Sunday, 11 November 2018

Doctor Who - Demons Of The Punjab

Punjabi Dozi

Doctor Who - Demons Of The Punjab
Airdate: 11th November 2018

Warning: Slight spoilers

Well, that was another corker... and I really didn’t expect it to be, in all honesty.

When I read that this latest episode, Demons Of The Punjab, was dealing with the partition of India in 1947 I became somewhat sceptical because, frankly, the show has been getting a little bit too preachy and educational of late. Yes, I know, it's something the show was originally designed to do back in 1963 when it first started... a family show to entertain and educate but, if you’ll remember, Verity Lambert took a step away from that approach straight away by putting the first encounter with the Daleks as the second story and, though the show alternated between tales to educate via adventures in history and much more classical science fiction for the majority of the first Doctor’s tenure on the show, it would never have kept going without that shrewd move, in defiance of her superiors, that early on.

So, yeah, this latest series has been getting a bit Hartnell-ish to be honest and I really didn’t want (and possibly didn’t need) another history lesson on man’s inhumanity to his own species. However, I’ve got to hand it to them, if they’re going down that route then this one was another example of just how to do it. Mixing up a fast paced adventure yarn and throwing a hard science fiction plot device in the form of antagonistic aliens, perceived as demons, who turn out to be in no way antagonistic in their intentions and who are, instead, going around the universe and bearing witness to the many people who die alone.

And pretty much everything about this episode was good. You had Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor in shining form but almost taking a back seat... almost, although her character holds everything together...  to Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and very importantly, Mandip Gill’s character Yasmin, who persuades The Doctor to go back in time to find out what her auntie has been hiding from her all these years in terms of her wedding day and the things she has been through.

We have a nice moment with a broken watch which has a shattered glass front and, as you will no doubt guess, we find out just how that watch got that way all those years ago, as The Doctor and her companions arrive in time for the wedding of Yas’ auntie and, at the same time, the bloody legacy of Mountbatten’s decision regarding the partition of India. And, yes, Yas has to try not to meddle with her own past so she doesn’t inadvertently alter the course of history and erase herself from existence.

The episode is, there’s no getting around this, good old fashioned Doctor Who and the effects of the teleporting ‘demons’, while a throwback to the 1980s in terms of visual effects, also worked very well and moved so fast that you didn’t really have time to perceive how ropey they might have looked (something which people dealing with moving image have been doing for a long time now... that and hiding their fantastic machinations in the shadows).

Talking of which, the alien creatures in this one were really beautifully designed but, it has to be said, were a throwback in some ways to the non-moving face masks of yesteryear. They reminded me a little of the old Silurian costumes back in Pertwee’s day... in that they were a much better looking design to the modern equivalents but with much less expression to their faces. Still, it seemed to work okay here and it didn’t jangle the wrong way with me, at any rate.

Also, Segun Akinola’s score for this was another big hit with me, taking Indian ragas and rhythms and weaving them into the score to give it almost a kind of pseudo-authenticity but without beating the audience over the head with it and not overpowering the traditional action scoring of the episode with too much altered colour. It never once threatened to dominate the function of the scoring and, much as I miss Murray Gold’s time on the show, this new composer seems to be knocking it out of the musical park as much as Gold did. Am hoping this series will get a CD score release at some point (once we’ve had Gold’s last series released please).

And that’s me done on this one. Another good episode in a debut season for Whittaker's Doctor which really is turning out to be a surprisingly excellent introduction to her spin, such as it is. I hate having to watch it on a Sunday night before I have to go to work the next day rather than in the traditional Saturday slot but, this is the only thing I could find to complain about with this week’s show. Let’s hope the team behind and in front of the camera can keep up the great work. 

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