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Doctor Who: Demons of the Punjab (Review)

“What have you done? Who’s coming?”

“The future.”

Demons of the Punjab is in many ways a companion piece to Rosa, touching on and developing the core themes.

It is interesting, in large part because Demons of the Punjab feels like a much more confident execution of many of the same ideas. It is a lot cannier in how it chooses to construct its central story, avoiding a lot of the smaller and finer details that haunted Rosa. It helps that Demons of the Punjab is a much less showy story. It is not a “celebrity historical” in the same way as Rosa was, avoiding the temptation to cast Lord Mountbatten as a companion. It also avoids setting its closing credits to a triumphant pop song as systemic racism endures.

Flagging enthusiasm.

Of course, the fundamental issue with Rosa remains. Demons of the Punjab is very much of a piece with Rosa when it comes to reconfiguring who the Doctor is and the function that she serves. The Doctor is no longer a time travelling radical or an anarchist. She is not a “mad woman with a box.” She is instead somebody who travels through time to “bear witness”, to acknowledge suffering that has occurred rather than trying to heal it. The Doctor is no longer a triage surgeon or a concerned medic, instead more of a cosmic mortician. There is something rather bleak in that.

That said, Demons of the Punjab is a very effective and very powerful piece of television. If Doctor Who is to embrace this approach to the Doctor as a character, this is certainly the best way to go about it.

The Four Horsemen.

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