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TV Series Review: “Doctor Who” Takes on Partition

Zahra Banday, BA English

The TARDIS has always been a vessel for adventure and exploring different histories. This week’s episode did just that with “Demons of The Punjab”. Written by Vinay Patel (the mastermind behind “Murdered by My Father”), the plot centred around Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) and her family’s history during the turbulent time of Partition in 1947.

The story itself is a simple one without an over-complicated plot and focuses on the human cost of Partition. The script is well penned by Patel, whose comments on his Twitter feed show his great interest in the importance of telling this catastrophic, often overlooked period in history. The aliens of the piece are significant in that they are there, like the audience, to witness the unfolding tragedy. The Thijarian aliens’ purpose is to mourn the unacknowledged dead. They are not the enemy, the only threat is the looming violence that Partition will incur. Unlike the bloodthirsty Stenza alien shown in the first episode (teeth skin and all), it doesn’t have the confusion that most of the “Doctor Who” episodes in the Capaldi era had. It’s an important history told through good writing and breath-taking location filming.

This is a purposeful episode told by a team who have wanted to tell this story for a while and fits into what this new Doctor’s legacy will be. This is a refreshed “Doctor Who”, free from the constraints of its old tired plots and predictable dialogue. In an interview with Stylist Magazine, current Doctor Jodie Whittaker spoke out against the criticisms that “Doctor Who” was ‘too’ politically correct and that they were missing the mark, by saying, “what’s the point of making a show if it doesn’t reflect society today?” This episode reflected that our society can take accountability for its past and honour the lives that were lost.

“This is a refreshed ‘Doctor Who’, free from the constraints of its old tired plots and predictable dialogue.”

The episode poignantly aired on Remembrance Day, its aim: to educate a wider group of people on a history that is both lesser known and seldom remembered in the way that it should be. Aside from the obvious colonial critique, the episode highlighted the number of minorities who fought in WWII as disposable bodies who barely made it out alive to then be thrust into the horrors of Partition.

Partition is a shameful part of British history and as a result it is not really taught or spoken about. However, the “Doctor Who” team should be commended for bringing this history to the forefront and making it prime-time viewing.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons


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