Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

Golly, another lovely-but-heavy episode of Doctor Who. Join Erika, Lizbeth, and Tansy as we dig into this historical-with-aliens. We talk about the history of history in the show, the use (or not) of religion, and much, much, much more! (We did miss having Deb to wrangle us and keep us on track.)

How did “Demons of the Punjab” strike you? Let us know in the comments!

^E

Happy things:

Article with Vinay Patel’s research material
“The Day India Burned” (documentary)
Support Verity! on Patreon!

Download or listen now (runtime 1:43:35) 

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Comments on: "Ep 181 – Angels and Demons of the Punjab" (19)

  1. I thought the episode was really great overall. I loved learning about an area of the world that I am largely ignorant of.

    I am still feeling like the companions are… lackluster? I don’t know, I feel like in each episode, I am wanting “more” from each of them, but not in a good way – more in a, “I didn’t get enough to eat” way than a “That was super delicious and I want more.” And I keep expecting them to possibly get more interesting in the next episode, but each episode I just feel underwhelmed. It is almost like the Doctor is sucking up all the energy. It’s not that they don’t each have their own little personalities…but it is feeling just, “meh” each episode with them.

    Anyone else feel this way?

    • Sarah42 said:

      I was startled to find a S11 episode that seemed worthwhile and good. Glad that Chibnall didn’t interfere enough with it to have his name put on as cowriter, that he kept his distance so that the person writing about his own culture could say his own thing.

      The companions are weirdly totally lackluster, even if they get characterization. They get lots of character moments, but are mostly just nice and dull. The Doctor might be sucking up all the energy, except I think she’s not written well most of the time, either, and that “brilliant” Whittaker is still working to get anything out of what the scripts give her. (Let me make a weird face. Let me fling my arm out to wildly wield the sonic all over the place like a @#$& magic wand.) She was possibly better in this one (being lovely as she officiated the wedding, and an attempt to get dark and scary against possible enemies), but so far, I kind of don’t care. She’s allegedly wonderful, but, for me, Capaldi could power-act right through weak scripts, and Whittaker just isn’t strong enough to make up for the mostly-bad writing this series.

      • squibby said:

        Part of the problem to me is the Doctor and Graham are two parts of the one character. A lot of Graham’s actions this week, like the conversation with Yas about memory, would have been made by the Doctor in any other era.

      • Yep. I’m strongly “alleging” she’s wonderful. (Nicely passive-aggressively insulting way to phrase that while commenting to 6 people who are doing *just that thing*.)

        I’m sorry it’s not working for you. It’s working better than ever for some of us. Some folks’ “bad” writing is others’ “subtle, skillful, really-quite-good” writing.

      • to Sarah42: I am of the same sentiment, with everything you mentioned. As selfish as it is, I am glad to have this validation! I often find myself on an island. 🙂

        to Squibby: That is a very interesting observation. I can definitely understand. Maybe the writers wanted to make sure to include some of the “softer spoken moments” in the male roles (hypersensitivity to gender roles these days…).

        to Erika: Totally so. And I don’t *necessarily* think it’s “bad” writing (there’s no way for me to know whether my general opinion is due to the writing, or due to *how* the actors are playing the writing out… because we only know the one reality: that is, this writing paired with these actors). )

        It’s still generally enjoyable, no doubt about it. 🙂

    • Feeling similar but in the opposite direction. The pressure to provide character development for each member of Team Tardis (and doing this equally for each character in each episode!) is sucking all the air out of the room wrt the Doctor’s development. I’m getting references to Smith, lots to Tennant, but I don’t really have a grasp on her. By this time with PCAP, I feel I was much further ahead.

  2. Informative and entertaining episode of Verity! Thanks to Lizbeth especially for the history cribbing.

    I think this was one of the best historical stories ever. I loved the musical tweak of the theme at the end.

  3. squibby said:

    Excellent podcast episode

    I did know about Partition, largely from some of the Bollywood movies I’ve watched. A very sad time that gets overshadowed in the west by the cold war and the Korean war.

    The best historical episode of the current era of Doctor Who for me, and with only a couple of challengers from the classic era.

    Re the end of the episode – the grandmother’s reaction may have been very different if the Doctor was there. But did you notice she said exactly the same thing about the henna designs on Yas’ s hand as she did all those years ago? Granny’s constant character across the years or did she remembe and not say anything.

    The Extra about cultural differences would be fun.

  4. Excellent podcast. I thought that I knew a little about Partition from various sources then I saw the BBC program called 70 Years On: Partition Stories
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05b5fdg
    The eyewitness accounts were absolutely harrowing and I was nervous about Doctor Who taking on this story but Vinay Patel did a brilliant, brilliant job. I loved the ambiguous ending between Yas and her grandmother. Wonderful potted history of British colonialism from Liz, and I loved her mention of the legendary Mr. Atlee, who along with WW II Australian PM John Curtin, is my favourite twentieth century politician. And I share Tansy’s joy that finally, Australians are taking over Doctor Who. I have met quite a few Brits who are surprised that Classic Who aired in Australia at all – they don’t realise that the Dr. Who/Goodies double was staple after school viewing down here for many of us back in the 70’s and 80’s. On a side note there was a rather wonderful little Australian series called Outland about a group of LGBTQI sci-fi geeks who are out about their sexuality but not about their geekness – the first episode involved one of the main characters purging his flat of all of his Doctor Who figurines before he brings a date home, only to have his best friend turn up on his doorstep in a Dalek costume. Great fun.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outland_(TV_series)

  5. simontannerblog said:

    Hi, Loving the podcast. I really enjoyed the episode although I thought they were light on the British failings and cause for Partition – my father was there with the British forces, Mountbatten etc.
    The one thing that nagged at me was that at the end the Grandmother didn’t acknowledge Yaz or show any recognition. I was hoping for some small recognition because how can she not? It would explain the watch and explain the “favourite granddaughter” moments. It would have given Yaz an ally in the family for her travels etc – bit like Bernard Cribbins character for Donna.

  6. Stephen Souter said:

    Thanks for another great episode verities! I really loved this story, perhaps my favourite of this series so far. Although Scottish, I was never really taught anything about colonialism or the British Empire in school. I’m pleased to say that my sons, who are all now in high school, have been learning about it and particularly Britain’s role in India. Thanks to Liz for the history context and I appreciate her words about being a Scot and our victim/participant role in colonialism.
    I’m really enjoying Jodie as The Doctor this season and I particularly love all her little Doctor-isms. I laughed out loud at her response to getting henna tattoos on her hands ‘ I never did this when I was a man’. A nice little call back to the regeneration without getting bogged down in it. Although the fact that Yaz shushes her, does this mean she knows about regeneration? Has the Doctor sat the companions down and given them a PowerPoint on previous incarnations? If so, could this be a dvd extra?
    As regards the Doctor’s faith, at the end of The Tsuranga Conundrum we saw her actively participate in a sort of space liturgical prayer- ‘may all the saints of all the stars…’ interesting. A side of the Doctor not seen before.
    I realise that this series is maybe not suiting everyone, but I really don’t get the level of hate there seems to be in certain areas of fandom. Perhaps I just spend too much time looking at certain forums (initials GB, although other forums are available). The negativity gets a little overwhelming at times. So, I’m really enjoying your podcasts. Is it too much to call you folks ‘light in dark times’? Probably is…but I’ll do it anyway!

  7. I loved this episode so much. In particular I loved both the exploration of the partition of India and Britain’s role in it as well as the exploration of what constitutes history and how much of your personal history you should be expected to share. That’s in addition to just YES an exploration of Yas, Jodie being brilliant as the doctor as always, Bradley Walsh continuing to move me and Ryan having a quieter episode but still being wonderful (the awkward faces at other people’s family drama!)

    Both of my grandfathers died before I was born and my grandmothers both died when I was young, and I’ve always felt like a part of my legacy has died with them in their stories left untold. Like Yas I’ve always tried to soak up as much of their history as possible to understand my own past.

    Apparently my paternal grandfather used to joke that he’d managed to live in 3 separate countries without ever moving house, since he was born in a part of India, which became East Pakistan after partition and then later Bangladesh after the 1971 War of Independence.

    Nobody has ever really told me stories of partition, I suspect because of the pain that is inevitably tied up in it. Even with the 1971 war that was equally a legacy of empire (who’d have thought that creating East and West Pakistan separated by 1,400 miles of India would lead to a stable country?! Or that sharing the same religion means sharing the same culture or language?) I’ve only heard stories in dribs and drabs as I’ve grown older.

    My parents came to the UK to avoid the fighting. My dad’s best friend saw his cousin shot because his family only really spoke Urdu and English and were thus too closely associated with West Pakistan. I used to think I had a right to these stories and a part of me still wants to bear witness to them to ensure they’re not forgotten, but like Yas I’ve grown to appreciate that people should be able to tell their story only if they’re ready and in a way that suits them.

    I know some people have said that the show didn’t go far enough in portraying Britain’s role in partition and the violence that followed and particularly the deliberate stoking of existing Hindu/Muslim tensions. I appreciate that but it has gone way further than any previous prime time show and I hope, as with the Rosa episode, it will prompt people to find out more about this period of history.

    In terms of the podcast, I really appreciated Liz’s history of the war and her highlighting that Lord Linlithgow’s unilaterally declared war without consulting congress. I still can’t believe that he said he was confident “India will make her contribution on the side of human freedom as against the use of force” – not great at irony, that one.

    I loved Prem’s comments to Ryan and the Doctor: “ Although maybe you’re all my enemy now for the mess you made of my country, carving it up slapdash in 6 weeks – gonna run off now are you?” and similarly Umbreen saying: “now men without a clue are imposing a border like a crack through my country”.

    In fact Prem and Umbreen (young and old) in general were absolutely amazing. I adored their commitment to each other in the face of everything. One small thing that made me smile is that the word ‘prem’ means ‘love’ in Bengali (and Hindi I think, not sure about Punjabi) and I couldn’t think of a better way to sum up Prem’s character and what he represents. His capacity for love, his willingness to try and help his brother find another way even at the cost of his own life – I was in tears. Like you said in the episode – I really want to look up the actors’ IMDb pages and see everything else they’ve been in!

    Other moments of amazing:
    • Older Umbreen commenting on the shop-bought cake and terrible mendhi patterns – I know so many aunties who would do that
    • “There’s loads of uncle Maliks” “The one from 15 valleys over – I’m his 3rd cousin’s youngest sister” – this is totally an exchange that would happen in my family. We once had my dad’s friend’s father in law’s sister’s cousin’s granddaughter stay at our house for 3 months since we were her ‘close’ relatives in London!
    • The Gallifreyan welding/soldering mask!
    • The doctor being “overkeen”, pulling out the alien device and setting off the alarm – nice callback to the 1st episode when she told Ryan she would have touched the weird shapes in the air as well.
    • The doctor telling Yas “we can’t have a universe with no Yas!”
    • Graham and Yas’s conversation about personal histories
    • Bradley Walsh’s acting when he wells up in his final conversation with Prem
    • This being aired on Remembrance Sunday, with a shot of a field with poppies, and highlighting the contribution that Indian soldiers made to WW2
    • The aliens bearing witness to Prem’s death and the light up faces – made me cry!
    • Prem’s acting that also made me cry!
    • Segun Akinola’s music that also made me cry!

    Can you tell how much I love and was moved by this episode?

    I know some people are saying the writing’s weak or the plot is thin. I think it’s that the writing is trying to do something different. The plots aren’t as complex as in the Moffat era and instead the writing focuses more on the character emotional beats and intimate dramas. Which isn’t to say that one is better than the other – I’ve loved both and I’m glad on the podcast you emphasise that you don’t have to praise one at the expense of the other.

    On an important side-note – I absolutely love Verity! I started listening only a month ago – after the 1st episode with Whitaker aired and I wanted to hear some female perspectives on the show, and I’m now working my way through your back catalogue. Essentially this series is the one that made me venture into fandom in a more active way, and has even brought me out of my lurker status and feel like I want to share my thoughts for the first time (which is the excuse I’m giving for the ridiculous length of this comment)!

    • squibby said:

      Re Rememberance Sunday, there were so many references in this episode
      – the poppies
      – the service of the Indian soldiers
      – the aliens’ spaceship looking like the eternal flame and the tomb of the unknown soldier
      – the aliens being like the Angels of Mons, the legendary angels that appeared on WW1 battlefields to protect the souls of the dead
      – and the victims and survivors of war bring remembered by Prem and both Umbreens.

      Very special

    • Felt the same way about Verity! a few years ago, they’ve kept me going through thick & thin, as it were. Always interesting takes, deeper, broader more complex ideas I would never have thought of on my own. Especially always paying attention to women. Thanks for your post, too, ;), great insights on an ep I really loved, but wouldn’t have understood so well without the pod & comments.

  8. Andreas said:

    It did take me a couple of episodes to get fully on board with the new style of the show, but by now I really love it and find it rather refreshing! Some of the changes that seemed jarring at first also make a lot more sense after you made me see it as simply a deliberate (if abrupt) shift towards more of a classic series approach to things. Thanks for the insight!

    All the characters are enjoyable to watch, which really carries the show. These last couple of episodes in particular have worked really well for me as well, even though the “Tsuranga Conundrum” does share a few of the same Chibnall issues that were more apparent in “Ghost Monument” and “Arachnids in the UK”. All the remaining episodes by other writers look promising, though.

    By the way, I noticed today that one of the 13th Doctor novels that have been released is by Una McCormack! An instant buy, even though my high regard for her is based more on her excellent Star Trek novels. The Doctor and Yaz scene in the beginning brings it off to a good start, at least.

  9. Rebecca Barnum said:

    Thanks for all the historical background. I’m an American and had never even heard of Partition. After the episode, I read several articles about it.

  10. Thank you, Liz!
    Any time that you (or any other Verity) want to drop an historical knowledge bomb, please DO NOT hesitate! This was fascinating!

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