The second half of series 11 begins as Doctor Who continues to tackle politically charged issues. This time it’s the region of Punjab, 1947, just as the Partition of India is going on. Yaz’s family history is on the line in “Demons of the Punjab” as the team tries to figure out what alien “demons” might be doing at this very delicate point in time.
You’re treading on your own history
“Demons of the Punjab” is Yaz’s episode. At least, as much as a full Team TARDIS allows any individual companion to have an episode dedicated to them. There are obvious parallels to the Eccleston episode “Father’s Day” in the premise: the Doctor’s companion asks them to see a family member. The Doctor should really know better at this point but Thirteen allows Yaz the same dangerous luxury they allowed Rose. The ways the events unfold are quite different in the two episodes, though.
Yaz only wanted to see her grandmother, Umbreen when she was younger, she didn’t want to change a thing. Unlike in “Father’s Day,” the timeline stays the same after the team leaves. The tragedy here is that they didn’t even know there was a life to be lost, but once they find out that Prem is destined to die, the Doctor and her friends can’t do anything about it. Change Umbreen’s first husband’s death and not only will the timeline change but Yaz will never be born, thus causing a paradox and creating Moffat-level complications for the Doctor. They have no choice but let history take its course.
That is the core of the “Demons of the Punjab,” even if the Doctor or Yaz don’t spend much time dwelling on it. It’s a fresh perspective on the trope that every time travel story plays with at least once: the personal timeline and the dilemma of whether to change it. Paul Cornell’s “Father’s Day” had Rose change her father’s fateful death, even if only in a small way, but here Yaz can only be a witness. That’s what the episode is saying though: Prem’s death, though inevitable, is witnessed.
We can’t have a universe with no Yaz
The personal story and the familial focus of the “Demons of the Punjab” is one of its greatest strengths, though I would have appreciated more of a focus on Yasmin herself. Her two conversations with Umbreen in 2018 that serve as bookends to the episode fell flat, partly because of the scenes Yaz has with her in 1947. There is the hint of a connection, and Yaz’s adoration for her nani is clear, but that’s mostly Mandip Gill carrying the scenes. Once the Thijarians show up, Yaz and her side of the story gets sidelined and that’s a shame. There are also nitpicks to consider, like Yaz not at all worrying that her grandmother might remember her or not particularly caring about meeting her great-grandmother as well. Yasmin probably never met Hasna and she’s just going to basically ignore her? Cold, PC Khan, stone cold.
The rest of the team takes a backseat this week, but they’re not without their own contributions to the story. Ryan has the least amount to do with his role being restricted to running after the Doctor and continuing to touch alien objects, but perhaps that’s for the best. The guy deserves a break after all. Graham gets to be everybody’s grandpa, most notably when he prepares Prem for his wedding, and finally has a one-on-one scene with Yaz. I’ve been expecting these two to start building their relationship and this episode gave them the perfect opportunity for some Team TARDIS bonding. Graham was the ideal person to provide Yaz with some well-needed perspective on her nan’s life and how she decided to tell it.
As for the Doctor, she sure does find it hard to say no to Yaz and is only slightly annoyed when she realizes the potential consequences of the trip. Okay, so Yaz didn’t actively and dramatically alter the timeline like Rose did, but Thirteen is “nice” and easy-going almost to a fault so far. It would be interesting to see a conflict arise between her and her companions. How would she deal with that? I do love their scenes and that they are already so close to each other, but a disagreement would truly test that. Until then, Yaz is there to remind the Doctor not to confuse the people of 1947 with their regeneration.
The Thijarians and what history means for Doctor Who
“Demons of the Punjab” borders on being a purely historical episode by not having its sci-fi element interfere with the main plot. The Thijarians are aliens, yes, but they are only a red herring as the villains and turn out to be benevolent beings. They’re not the ones causing death but the ones who honor the fallen. Their involvement only affects Prem—apart from Team TARDIS that is—and even his fate is not altered by their presence. In this way, “Demons of the Punjab” becomes the reverse of previous historical “Rosa”, where the goal was to stop a time traveller from changing history.
The significance of this is that series 11 doesn’t shy away from the past and its relevance for the present. With “Rosa,” plus “The Witchfinders” coming up in two weeks, that’s three confirmed historical episodes out of ten. Less than a third of this season is set in the past, and yet there’s demand for more sci-fi. But Doctor Who has always been about the past and history as much as it’s about space and aliens, ever since the now lost “Marco Polo.” But why is it important that Chibnall is more willing to let the Doctor travel to the past as well as the future?
Well, the significance of it all comes from what these episodes are conveying. “Rosa” was an amazingly poignant episode about racism and social progress. “Demons of the Punjab” not only shows the consequences British imperialism and meddling had but also shows the ugliness of war and intolerance. In its portrayal of the Partition of India and the effects that event had on one family in particular, “Demons of the Punjab” is effective in both informing the viewers and urging them to learn from the past. And what better day to air such an episode than on Remembrance Sunday and the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day?
But back to the Thajarians for a second and their lack of villainy. Their inaction leaves the story with its true antagonist as Prem’s brother Manish. But just like with the rest of the series so far, Manish is not a true villain. He’s confused and angry and his growing frustrations lead him to do something terrible, several terrible things in fact. The episode doesn’t spend nearly enough time developing him, unfortunately, but we still get the feeling that he’s only the enemy of this story because of his situation. If anything, Manish further proves the point that the episode (and Doctor Who as a whole, really) is trying to get across: love is more important than hatred.
“Demons of the Punjab” is yet another solid episode from this season, falling just between “Rosa” and “Arachnids in the UK” on my personal list so far. I have to say though, the execution leaves a little to be desired. Writing about the episode made me realize that it sounds a lot better as an idea than it was an actual episode of television. It’s still a good episode, but it wasn’t quite as excellent as it could have been.
The dialogue was awkward at times and coupled with weak delivery. I was tempted to mention it last week but now I really have to: some of the guest stars’ acting is mediocre at best. There’s also an ever-growing feeling that these episodes could use even more time than their 50-minute run in order for the characters to be properly developed. More focus on Yaz and Umbreen’s relationship with her would have been appreciated, as well as Manish getting more screen-time.
With all this being said, the cinematography is still stunning and the crew sure did make good use of their filming location in Spain. Segun Akinola also deserves a shout-out for the music this episode, especially the new version of the theme that played at the very end. And, of course, no review can go without mentioning how brilliant Jodie Whittaker continues to be along with her co-stars.
Overall, then, “Demons of the Punjab” is not without the flaws that much of the season is suffering from, but that doesn’t take away from its emotional impact and beautiful story. This is how historical episodes should be done: with informative value and relevance to the present.
Next week it’s back to space in “Kerblam!” with guest stars Julie Hesmondhalgh and Lee Mack.
Images Courtesy of the BBC
Away In A Manger: Black Lightning 2×09, “Gift of Magi”
Well, my friends, we’re nearing the end of Black Lightning S2, and I think it’s time to declare a sophomore slump. Anyone here with me? Let’s get into this week’s episode and discuss.
Jen and Kahlil are still on the run, but Kahlil was cut with one of Cutter’s Special aka Poison knives, so he’s quickly succumbing. The pair find a barn, where there’s a lot of soft lantern light and Kahlil can curl up in the hay. At first they swap cute-funny stories about when they first met, but soon Kahlil can’t manage talking let alone breathing well, so Jen goes out to steal some antibiotics from a hospital. (They don’t yet know that it’s poison, they assume his wound is infected). Jen is getting really good not only at controlling her powers, but using them for specific tasks, and I’m here for it although I really wish it wasn’t in the context of this storyline.
She manages to get the antibiotics and injects Kahlil with it, but it doesn’t work. She grows increasingly desperate, and as Kahlil’s death seems imminent, she goes outside for some air and a good cry. That’s when she goes back to her brain-salon, where she sees Perenna (her brain-version of Perenna, not the real one) and a twin version of herself. Mind-Perenna tells Jen that she already has everything she needs inside of her; it’s very Inside Out. Together with her brain creations she figures out that Cutter is actually *right there* watching them through binoculars. She manages to capture her and tie her up, tasering her with her hands as a form of torture in order to get her to tell her what she did to Kahlil. It’s not long before she figures out it was a poison knife, and cuts Cutter with it so that she’ll be forced to show Jen where on her person the antidote is. Turns out, it’s in that very obvious vial on her necklace!
Jen goes to a dark place when she’s torturing Cutter, which is kind of hard to watch. Again, I’d be more interested if this whole thing didn’t revolve around Kahlil. Anyway, Jen gives both Kahlil and Cutter the antidote and they’re on their way again. But only after they declare their undying love for each other.
I’m happy to report that no one left Kahlil’s aunt for dead in her house, as Black Lightning, Thunder, and Gambi have set up camp there to help her recover from what turned out to be one of Kahlil’s pain pills and try to figure out how to find Jen. They know Kahlil is hurt so they check hospitals, and end up being in the same hospital as Jen at the same time!
Jefferson and Anissa figure out Jen was there because she left a trail aka scorch mark in her path, but the fact that she keep eluding them is driving Jefferson to be irrational and reckless. Gambi and Anissa manage to keep him under control, but Lynn is losing it too. When she’s not crying in the wreckage of Jen’s room that she destroyed, she’s trying to get Kahlil’s mom, and then his dad, to give her clues as to where they might be.
Of course neither of them can help, but along the way she grabs a gun from the Inner Sanctum aka Gambi’s basement so that’s concerning, considering her emotional state.
In a parallel storyline, Tobias has set his sights on a kid named Todd, an academic prodigy who has just been rejected for a research grant in favor of the white kid whose rich dad just funded a new wing of the university. It’s unclear what Tobias wants Todd to do, and Todd seems dubious at best until Tobias deposits $100,000 into his bank account. Money is the root of all evil, amirite? I mean, capitalism is. But that’s a discussion for another place.
Lastly, this episode ends with a scene in which a mysterious someone murders everyone in a bar in Texas before getting a phone call from his boss telling him that his next job is in Freeland. I feel like we’re about to meet a bigger bad than Tobias, but time will tell! Just someone end this Kahlil-Jen nonsense and give us our family back kthanks.
What do you think is in store for the final episodes? Are you happy with this season so far? Black Lightning is going on hiatus until the end of January, so I’ll be back then to see where we’re at. Enjoy what’s left of the year, friends!
Images courtesy of The CW
Winter Hiatus Blues
Even in December with the broadcast networks hiatus for scripted series starting, and pilot season underway, there’s so much to discuss!
The continuing behind the scenes drama of Les Moonves’ ouster from CBS, ABC’s entertainment president Channing Dungey stepping down, NBC’s Greenblatt moving on, and FOX setting up for its new leadership once the merger goes through…every big 4 network has a lot to deal with between now and the TCAs in early February. The exec panels will sure be a time… Especially if ratings come up at all.
As of this Tuesday, and as always, I’m talking about scripted ratings: FOX is number 1 with a 1.13 average followed by NBC, ABC, and CBS. CW of course is last with .35. Last month, four of the five networks had six shows at or above their overall average.
Now, ABC has eight shows, the CW has five, and the rest have six.
Across the five networks, only a third of new shows are performing above the average on their network. The Connors (considered a new show), FBI, The Neighborhood, Last Man Standing, New Amsterdam, and Manifest. The highest rated new show on The CW, Legacies hovers right below the network’s average.
Interestingly, across the board, long running shows are still high rating performers (or what’s high now) for the networks. The exception to this is SVU at a tenth below the average.
Their “success” indicates that we probably won’t lose any of the longest running shows anytime soon. Still, the network with the largest average season length (including shows yet to premiere) is FOX at 5.3 followed by CBS at 4.5. Removing the shows already cancelled and predicted as canceled doesn’t make an impact because of The Simpsons‘ whopping thirty seasons! (Unrelated but with the announcement for Crisis on Infinite Earths, DCTV isn’t going anywhere either.)
Of course some of this will shift when the rest of the new slate premieres begin in January. I do not envy the folks in charge of scheduling spring shows, especially as more time slots are lost to winter reality or competition shows.
You can put whatever new show after strong shows and still have a dud in the ratings race.
On The CW, ableist In The Dark has had zero promotion beyond the scheduling announcement that it starts after Supernatural. Their other new show Roswell: New Mexico or Roswell: TVD received the coveted post Flash slot plus actual promo. Except for The 100, their other spring shows already received cancellations, so ratings definitely don’t matter.
FOX only has two newbies to premiere, with The Passage starting after The Resident and Proven Innocent taking the 9PM slot after Cool Kids. I don’t know that people watching an hour of comedy will stick around for a procedural, but anything can happen these days.
ABC on Wednesday revealed that in a vote of confidence (or in hopes to increase viewers or to get Whiskey Cavalier onto the schedule earlier) is moving the last bit of A Million Little Things behind Grey’s leaving current slot holder Station 19 off the schedule until March. Considering AMLT hit a .7 last week… The Fix is the only other newbie to get a spring slot, starting in March in The Good Doctor‘s place. Grand Hotel is now a summer show. ABC what are you doing?!
NBC and CBS have yet to fully unveil their new schedules so more on that in January! However, pilot development is in full swing and reboots (and spin-offs) continue to rule the pack.
Predicting what pilots will make it to series this early is silly, but I do think that a chunk of the reboots in development will definitely make it to air. If they’ll get renewed is another question. Even though this year, only Charmed received a back 9 order (Last Man Standing was ordered with 22 episodes). Last year, all the shows that received fewer than 9 episodes in the fall except for Good Doctor were cancelled. So now in May, that trend continues, or the new trend is that any back order indicates a renewal.
Which is why even though I think it’s silly to bank on so many reboots in development, I know that networks are still going to do it. I won’t list all of the shows in development because there are a lot and many will die by January. The CW has three alone! And NBC already has a series order for Law and Order: Hate Crimes or as my friend calls it, “SVU but grittier” making it the seventh L&O series.
By late January, early February, the big entertainment sites will have lists of all the pilots in contention and then we can really get into the details. Until then, what shows are y’all waiting to see for the first time (or again)?
‘Legends of To-Meow-Meow’ Cranks the Insanity up to Eleven
It’s that time year of again. The Arrowverse crossover, but the Legends misplaced their invites. While Kara, Barry, and Oliver were getting acquainted with Batwoman and dealing with body switching, the Legends were dealing with their own alternate reality issues. Or should I say the Custodians were dealing with their own issues. Or, should that be the Sirens? Or the Puppets?
Yep, this was one of those kinds of episodes. ‘Legends of To-Meow-Meow’ didn’t just surpass the insanity of every other episode this season. It multiplied it, as Charlie and Constantine broke the timeline more with each attempt to fix it.
At first, Charlie hits the town on her own, going to Las Vegas to stretch her newly returned powers. Going out as Marilyn Monroe, she runs into a prison buddy, a leprechaun. She barely has the chance to warn him about faulting his powers when Mick, Nate, and Ray strut in dressed like they just walked out of an 80’s action show. Which they did, apparently, as they introduce themselves as the Custodians of the Chronology and we get ‘A-Team’ style opening credits. They kill the leprechaun without hesitation, which is a big clue for Charlie that not everything is right.
She returns to the Waverider with cat-Zari to figure out why the team is suddenly so murder-happy. She transforms into Sara, planning on just ordering them to stop. But it doesn’t work because in this timeline, without help from Constantine, Sara was killed by the unicorn at Woodstock. The team attacks her, recognizing her as a shapeshifter. Charlie makes a quick retreat from the ship, taking cat-Zari along to find John.
He’s being kept imprisoned at the Time Bureau. Because he was the epicentre of the timeline shift, he has memories from both timelines and his brain isn’t keeping up very well. When they find him, John turns Zari back into a human. Only to turn her right back when she’s against his and Charlie’s idea to save Sara instead of fixing their alteration. Charlie breaks John out, with some help from Mona and a very emo Ava. Some of the Lege- Custodians die in their fight out, but everything will be fine once they save Sara. At least that’s what Charlie and John tell themselves.
They travel to Woodstock, blasting the unicorn into rainbow gloop before it can gore anyone. But this time, when they return to their time Nate, Ray, and Mick are the ones with the memorial plaques. Plus, without the guys around, Sara, Ava, and an android?Gideon have formed a Charlie’s Angels style team that assassinates fugitives. Charlie attempts to infiltrate the team as Amaya, but her cover is blown almost instantly. She does learn the boys were killed by the Fairy Godmother. The fairy is also the reason Zari’s a cat.
John and Charlie go to Salem for their next patch job. Charlie transforms into the Fairy Godmother to trick Prudence into releasing the fairy before she can kill the boys. It seems to go off without a hitch until she returns to the jumpship. Good news, Zari is no longer a cat. Bad news, she’s now a puppet.
So is the entire team, as John learns when he boards the Waverider. They aren’t just puppets. They’re puppets that sing their own intro and have a historical figure of the day. Since the Fairy Godmother didn’t kill Mick, he became her new charge. She turned the team into puppets before Mick took her along on a crime spree.
Charlie and John keep trying to Band-Aid the timeline, but each fix ends with someone else dead in the new timeline. Yet, even when they get to a point where no one has died, John’s mind has so many timelines clashing in his mind he collapses from the strain.
He finally agrees with Zari that they need to fix the timeline properly and stop Dez from leaving. When Charlie refuses to help they leave her behind, but she’s not giving up without a fight. She transforms into Ava, heading to the Waverider to clue the team in on the magical ongoings in New Orleans. But there’s something still wrong with this timeline. All the Legends are alive. No one is made of cloth. But they still have a ‘shoot first ask questions never’ policy when it comes the fugitives. Gideon picks up on the three Constantines at that point in time. The team assumes the extras are shapeshifters, sending Mick and Ray to blast them.
Charlie finally realizes it wasn’t just John’s absence from the team that caused the changes. It was her absence. Without her, the Legends don’t learn fugitives aren’t all unicorns with a taste for hearts or Fairy Godmothers that sing about murder.
In New Orleans, this-episode’s-John stops Desmond after last-episode’s-Constantine broke up with him. He tells him he’s sorry for all the pain he’s going to cause him and wipes his memory just before still-in-a-relationship John can return. As Mick and Ray fire on this-episode-John, past-John and Desmond share a kiss which becomes the point from which the timeline fixes itself. Reality is right once again, where the only puppet person is the possessed Professor Stein and the Legends aren’t mythical creature murders. Ava and Mick even heal their rift from the last episode, finding some common ground.
John comes clean to Sara about their misadventure. He even tells her about Neron. Sara promises to help him take down his demon. So all’s well that ends well. Except, there’s no word on what happens to Mona after she met the business of the Kaupe’s claws. Nor is Hank happy the Kaupe escaped, which he learns about in the middle of a golf game with someone… something wearing Desmond’s face.
Was this the strongest’s episode of Legends? Probably not. It sacrificed some substance for the sake of 80’s spoofs and sing-alongs. But that’s not to say this episode wasn’t good. Far from it. The alternate timelines were laugh out loud funny and the Puppets of Tomorrow song is going to be stuck in my head. They were so good I’m willing to overlook characters like Ray, Nate, Sara, and Ava feeling so drastically different in their respective spoof realities. I’ll chalk up to the discrepancies in their characterizations to time being so broken.
It could have easily become frustrating watching John and Charlie patch broke timeline after broken timeline while they ignored the obvious answer. But it never got to that point because every step of the way you knew John was doing this to keep Desmond alive. John Constantine, always the tortured soul, willing to let his mind be torn apart by multiple timelines before he gives up on his love again. It’s a tragedy the timeline being fixed has to come at the cost of Dez’s soul. But maybe it isn’t lost forever.
The scene between John and Desmond pulled at the heartstrings. As did the moment when Charlie finally realized she was the missing the link for the Legends. It’s always a good moment when a Legend finds their place on this mismatched, rag-tag team. It’s hard not to compare this episode to ‘Here I Go Again’, when Zari found her place on the team. Which is a glowing compliment when that episode is one of the best of Legends entire run.
The brief callbacks to the earlier episodes was a nice way to tie off the first half of the season as well. The Unicorn was only eight episodes ago. Yet, monsters, magic, and pure insanity feel like they’re always been a part of Legends of Tomorrow. Well, pure insanity has been a fundamental part of Legends since season two.
It just shows how this series isn’t afraid to shake up its own formula. Thus far it’s worked every time, with each season being better than the last. It’s still early to call season’s four place for certain. Season’s three back half had some heavy ringers, but so far this season is on the right tracks to be the most memorable one yet. They’re sure to come back strong when they return in April.
Only Legends Could
- “You missed calls from Barry Allen, Oliver Queen, and Kara Zor-El,”
“Sounds like the annual crossover,”
“Yeah, that’s going to be a hard pass,”
This whole exchange is amazing. Easily wins favorite lines of the episode.
- You can tick off Sara Lance’s annual dalliance with death. Sara dying, almost dying, or faking dying should be a running gag at this point, but for some reason, I can never find it funny.
- Everyone just understands cat-Zari. No explanation needed. Much like when Nate understood pig-Ray.
- The CW tradition of bad wigs continues with emo Ava. (Kate Kane, by some miracle, avoided the curse.)
- In the Siren’s reality, Sara’s wielding Mick’s gun and Gideon has Rip’s.
- I want more of DC’s Puppets of Tomorrow.
- There’s a timeline where Nate and Hank die from a Garden Gnome.
- Why yes, Legends did give us the true love’s kiss fixes everything. And yes, it was a kiss for a mlm couple. Legends never ceases to amaze.
- I got a flirty vibe from Charlie and Zari at the end. Time will tell where that goes.