Demons of the Punjab

When the enemies you fear are the faces you’ve known all along, the world has become a worrisome place, to be certain. Deepening that concern is the reminder that this is not only what is, but what has been, and if lessons are not learned, what will be once again.

Asking Chris Chibnall to step away from the pen this week, we are given Vinay Patel’s fascinating depiction of the 1947 Partition of India, in “Demons of the Punjab”. In yet another successful real-world-history episode, our Team TARDIS grapple with the repercussions of paradox, the dangers of preconception and preconditioning, and the complicated, sometimes unfathomable complexity of family. We finally get our Yaz-and-Graham moment — to some degree — learn more than we may have ever been handed in Western educational systems about the personal impact of this infamous moment in world history, and realize that the sort of thematic approach to social issues and awareness in this season is not only intentional, but precisely what the substantially-sized viewing audience is looking for. Yet another reminder that if you feel that “topical relevance”, “social issue motivated” and “morality message” stories are something new to Doctor Who…you’ve been watching the wrong show for the past 55 years.

EXTRA: We take a moment to appreciate the overlapping contribution to fandoms everywhere by Stan Lee, on the announcement of his passing this week. You will be missed, but always with us, sir. Excelsior.

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The Tsuranga Conundrum

Let’s be precise about something here, shall we? “Conundrum” refers to a problem that is both challenging and confusing. If you’re missing the challenge, it’s just confusion…sort of like freshman year of college. If you’re missing the confusion, it’s just an extremely difficult task…let’s say, landing a NASA probe on the side of a moving asteroid. When you have both, that’s your conundrum…like doing your own small business taxes.

Trying to discern how to deal with a virtually omnivorous, nearly indestructible invasive alien aboard a self-guided ship that cannot deviate from its trajectory else it be remotely destroyed, while dealing with one passenger who is terminally ill and another going into labor? CONUNDRUM.

So, with that out of the way, let’s eat!

This week, we tie on our bibs and tuck in to a heaping coil of antimatter with “The Tsuranga Conundrum”, marking the midpoint in Series 11. We’re all in agreement that this is stock-in-trade, dare we say ‘classic’ Doctor Who, involving a complex set of interwoven challenges, limited time, interesting but not distracting supporting characters, and a blend of scientific wonder and oddball humor from our Doctor. Was there a bit much packed into one story? Were there one or two characters too many? Was the Pting really what happens to Stitch when Lilo feeds him after midnight? Perhaps. But all things considered, we had a blast with it, and can itemize what we enjoyed while (simultaneously!) acknowledging those aspects which might have increased our appreciation.

That’s a nearly trademarked midseason Doctor Who episode, everyone: not the end all, be all; not the nadir of television. Just good old, rollicking, spaceships-and-sarcasm drama. Yes, please. We’ll take a few of those.

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Arachnids in the UK

You’d think by now, Whovians would be accustomed to spiders appearing in our stories. In that, you’d be wrong. Big or small, sentient or silent, alone or in a swarm, we’ve seen our fair share of eight-legged adversaries in the long history of Doctor Who. Does that mean that we’ve exhausted the idea of involving arachnids in our adventures through time and space? Heavens, no! We just need to find a way to incorporate them in a new, unexpected fashion. Got any ideas, Mr. Chibnall? Oh, you do? Do tell…

This week, we peek over the top of the couch (or possibly the hotel tub?) to see what the reactions are to a spider the size of a van in the fourth episode of Series 11. Jay realizes with the rest of us that the real creeps in the story aren’t who or what we’d expect, Keir draws a number of parallels to Pertwee-era stories, and Charles’ respect and admiration for Bradley Walsh deepens even further (and rightfully so). We don’t all agree on Noth’s portrayal of a rather familiar bloviating real estate tycoon, but we do love the jokes and jabs it brings. Akinola’s score earns yet more kudos, DNEG’s effects have us wondering where their work ended and the prop department began, and we all decide to pass on a serving of ‘terrible’ pakora.

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Rosa

The word “no” is one of the smallest and yet most powerful words in the English language. It can be used gently or forcefully; it can decline a kind offer, or halt an angry reaction. It occupies a tiny space on the page, or on the breath, but when spoken with conviction, it is the single stone that turns the river.

Small decisions can change the course of history.

With equal parts concern and anticipation, we sat down to watch Doctor Who this past weekend, and see what would happen when Rosa Parks was depicted in a British science fiction television series. What tone would the episode set for one of the most iconic moments, and most important decisions, to be made in American history? What would the treatment of this most revered woman be, as interpreted by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, that could honor and respect her incredible life, while still being what viewers would expect from this entertainment franchise? How accurate — how unflinching — would the accounts of segregation be presented? And how would our principal characters react to the time, the place, and the people of historical importance, coming from their diverse and poignant identities?

Without going into detail on our individual reactions, suffice to say this: we may have just watched one of the best — and most important — episodes of Doctor Who yet broadcast.

EXTRA: There be conventions on the horizon! Seek us out, and geek us out!

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The Ghost Monument

Coming off the crest of an incredible series premiere, you’d expect the sophomore episode to aim a little lower, perhaps spend some time on world-building and deepening characters. Who knows? Maybe even float a new catchphrase. You might not expect crashing starships, toxic environments, psychic killer bedsheets, laser-wielding automatons, and a deadly space rally that doesn’t give a tinker’s cuss about collateral damage.

This is, however, life with the Doctor. Buckle up, buttercup.

With sand in our shoes, and a swank pair of sunglasses on our faces, we tumble across the viewing landscape in pursuit of the second episode of Series 11, “The Ghost Monument”. Jay calls in with a concern or two about the intensity of the story and characters, while Charles revels in the stunning visuals, Haley appreciates the diversity of challenges faced, and Keir floats a few crackpot theories about missing keys and “timeless” children. Oh, and there is this interesting little reveal at the end, if you’re interested in that sort of thing…

EXTRA: Submit your entries/letters to “Ask the Doctor”, and they may be posed directly to Paul McGann next month!

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