Demons of the Punjab
“What’s the point of having a mate with a time machine, if you can’t nip back and see your gran when she was younger?” India, 1947. The Doctor and her friends arrive in the Punjab, as the country is being torn apart. While Yaz attempts to discover her grandmother’s hidden history, the Doctor discovers demons haunting the land. Who are they and what do they want?
Guest starring Shane Zaza, Amita Suman and Hamza Jeetooa. Written by Vinay Patel. Directed by Jamie Childs.
Yasmin Khan is in her family’s flat with her family, celebrating her Nani Umbreen’s birthday. Umbreen provides each of her granddaughters with a gift. To Sonya, she gives a photo of herself and their grandfather. To Yasmin she gives a broken watch, warning her never to fix it but refuses to reveal why. Yaz gets a desire to travel back in time to see her family.
In the TARDIS, the Thirteenth Doctor is doing maintenance on the controls; she tells Yaz that she will not take her back in time to see her grandmother, as it risks wiping herself out of existence. Graham laughs that it’s not like they take risks. The Doctor tells him in an annoyed tone that she has apologized repeatedly for the incident involving the Death Eye Turtle Army. Yaz begs the Doctor as she wants to go see what her grandmother was like in her younger days. The Doctor asks if Yaz has a time or place; Yaz tells her that Umbreen was in the Pakistani city of Lahore in the 1950s.
Despite trying to talk herself out of it once more, the Doctor relents and takes the watch from Yaz; she’s attaching it to the telepathic circuits, allowing them to find the moment that it broke in Umbreen’s timeline. Graham wonders how the TARDIS can be telepathic; the Doctor says that ‘telepathic” is short-hand for a very complicated procedure, which is locating where anything has existed throughout the entirety of space-time. Graham seems to have understood and thanks the Doctor for explaining it clearly.
The TARDIS arrives in the Punjabi countryside instead of Lahore, confusing Yaz, Ryan, and Graham. The Doctor takes out her sonic screwdriver and starts to get TARDIS readings from all around the area. Suddenly, they are struck by some sort of vision of dark figures and stumble into a road. There they meet Prem, who is driving an ox-pulled cart. They claim to be family friends and get a ride to see Umbreen.
In the forest, they track the “demons” to a ship of some kind, the “demon’s lair”. The Doctor can’t get any readings. Eventually, she acquires species data and Bio-ID. The ship is a Thijarian Hive and the Thijarians are assassins, their target is a sadhu, Hindu holy man known as Bhakti. Prem claims to have seen them before, standing over the body of his older brother, Kunal while serving in the Second World War. Then the Thijarians appear and they are forced to evacuate the hive. Out in the forest, Ryan and Prem are transported away and the Doctor notices a device on a tree nearby, a transmat lock, and confiscates it.
Ryan and Prem appear some distance away and Prem asks what happened. Ryan says he does not know, but the Doctor said to get out of the forest so they both run. The Doctor continues to find more locks. Back at the farm, Umbreen continues to argue in favor of her marriage.
Yaz becomes discouraged when she believes she doesn’t truly know her Nani, and Graham comforts her. Suddenly, they hear Ryan yelling and rush to discover what is wrong. The Doctor arrives shortly after and tells them to run for the barn. Inside the barn, the Thijarians arrive and threaten everyone there with death, but the Doctor drives them away with the locks. She promises to protect them all. Then the Doctor requests oil, tree bark, 9 saucepans, ox spit, a biscuit, and a chicken poo. She uses them to make “demon repellent”.
Umbreen speaks with the Doctor, Yaz and Umbreen’s mum sit and speak together. Umbreen says she’ll go through with the wedding, and her mother adamantly protests. They need someone respectable to officiate. Remembering the Doctor, Umbreen asks her to officiate the wedding, as a doctor is a respectable position. The Doctor agrees, claiming she hadn’t officiated a wedding since Einstein’s and that his mother disapproved, and that the wedding was non-denominational. Elsewhere, Ryan, Graham, Prem, and Manish are playing cards. Manish appears to be winning. He argues with his brother, asking Prem not to go through with the wedding.
In the barn, the Doctor is studying some material recovered from the hive and notes it is some of the densest organic material she has ever seen, and it contains carbon, phosphorous, oxygen and sulfur, creating billions of DNA fragments. Suddenly she is transmatted away to the Hive. There she learns that the Thijarian world was destroyed in the assassin’s absence. They claim to have become witnesses and spent 100 generations honoring their lost world. Now they travel to witness and honor those left dead, unseen and unknown, in the wake of the Partition. Now they come to honor Prem. She asks to see how the holy man died, and they show her.
The Doctor returns to reveal that Prem must die today and that the Thijarians are not actually assassins but merely observers to those who are killed. She warns that they cannot interfere, or Umbreen will never become Yaz’s Nani.
In the morning, Ryan and Graham help Prem prepare for his wedding day. He mourns that so many around him seem to have lost their minds. Muslims, Hindu and Sikhs, who lived together for decades are now in a frenzy, convinced their differences are more important than what unites them. Graham comforts him, saying the best they can be is good men.
The Doctor officiates the wedding by a small stream, at the border of India and Pakistan. Using her sonic screwdriver she removes the rope border markers Manish had placed up earlier. She admires the certainty of Prem and Umbreen, the certainty of love. She says right now, they are the strongest people on the planet, maybe even the universe. She then admits she doesn’t know how to formalize the ceremony. Umbreen says she does, and picks up one of Manish’s boundary ropes and asks Yaz to tie their hands.
Later, inside the barn, Umbreen offers Manish reconciliation, and Manish coldly casts her and his own brother aside. After that, Prem offers Umbreen his watch but drops it on the ground, where it breaks. Umbreen’s mother says the day is truly cursed, but Umbreen says it is instead perfect, and that the watch is theirs forever, their own moment in time.
Manish leaves to find his brother’s rifle and the Doctor follows him. He then points the rifle at the Doctor and warns her to take her friends and leave if they want to get out alive. The Doctor realizes he has betrayed his whole family as well as murdering the holy man. Men on horseback are charging down the road to take their land. The Doctor warns Prem and Umbreen to run. Prem tells Umbreen to go to the house and take anything essential.
In the house, Yaz finds a map of the Earth, with Sheffield marked on it. Umbreen says she just pointed to a map and that was where her finger landed, and so that is where she will go one day.
In the barn, Prem offers to stay behind and distract the groups of thugs and tells them all to go ahead, across the border into the forest and kisses Umbreen goodbye. He tells the Doctor to go as well, claiming he must face these demons alone. He confronts his brother and the thugs. He recognizes a man named Kanon, a soldier he fought with during the war only to now see his former ally is prepared to shoot him. Nothing he says changes their minds, however, and Kanon shoots Prem, killing him. The Thijarians stand vigil, honoring Prem, as everyone flees.
Back on the TARDIS, Yaz worries if Umbreen managed to escape; if Umbreen died then, Yaz will fade away. The Doctor tells a stunned Yaz that her grandmother made it out alive, and will eventually end up in Sheffield.
At Flat 27, Yaz speaks with her Nani. Umbreen notices the design on Yaz’s hands, saying it isn’t much good but asks if the wedding was at least any good. Yaz affirms, her Nani not knowing it was her wedding she had seen. Yaz asks her if she is happy with how her life turned out. She says she is happy with it because it gave her Yaz, Yaz’s mum, and sister and offers to tell her the story about the watch if she really wants to know. Yaz says she no longer wants to know about the watch and tells her Nani she loves her.