This week's Doctor Who features Yaz asking to travel back in time to see her family history, with tragic revelations.
The Doctor: I have apologized for the Death Eye Turtle Army. Profusely.
It has been a staple of Doctor Who to take a companion back or forward in time to see their own history or their future. This time, the 13th Doctor is faced with Yaz, who wants to know about her Nani Umbreen (Leena Dhingra) and her history and travel back to see it live, just for an hour. Just to see if her nan's claims of being the first woman married in Pakistan are the real deal, and why her late granddad's watch can never be fixed.
Upon landing though, the Doctor encounters perhaps the most frightening moment of the series so far. A hallucination in black and white and voices growling threats at her. Yaz is too excited to worry about such things, managing to hail a cart full of flowers bound for Umbreen's. While Yaz manages to fake something about being from a part of the family "15 valleys over" she's shocked to discover nothing about her grandmother's life adds up to what she knows. Young Umbreen (Amita Suman) lives on a farm, her famed "first wedding in Pakistan" is tomorrow and the groom is a Hindu named Prem (Shane Zaza), the dude driving the cart. The last piece of information shakes Yaz to the core, as this man is not her grandfather -- but he's wearing the to-be shattered watch. So much for staying only an hour.
At least Umbreen's claim is easily explained. Team TARDIS has landed on August 17, 1947, the day the Radcliffe Line was published, marking the partition of Pakistan from India. As the Doctor reminds everyone, this was an enormous and hellish upheaval for those in residence with millions displaced from their homes and killed as Muslims and Hindus were forcibly divided by an imaginary line drawn in sands thousands of miles away from the UK. The same line is being drawn here now too, by Prem's little brother Manish (Hamza Jeetooa), who all too eagerly has started hammering property markers along the creek, putting Umbreen's family farmhouse in the new country, while their family's stays in India. Manish, it seems, is upset his brother is marrying into Umbreen's Muslim family, and his hope by putting the house on the Muslim side of the line, Prem will rethink his choices.
And then, the demons show up.
Ryan: If I were to guess, I'd say we're going demon hunting.
The Doctor: Gold star for Ryan!
Obviously, they're not actually demons. They're some alien race, projecting into the Doctor's head. And they've killed the Holy Man who was on his way to the farm to bless the marriage. Prem's seen the demons before, in the battlefields of World War II, standing over his older brother's dead body. He's also quick on the uptake that whoever Yaz and friends are, they're not from 15 valleys over. And just like that, he's part of Team TARDIS, on his way to track down the demons with Ryan and The Doctor.
Upon finding the Demon ship, the Doctor identifies the creatures as Thijarians, and this is their hive. They apparently are an ancient race who evolved into some of the deadliest assassins in the universe. As Ryan notes, that's a bad thing. The Doctor is determined to stop these creatures from killing again. Prem and Ryan escape back to the house, as she puts a plan into action. Yaz, on the other hand, is trying to comprehend how she knew so little about her grandmother's life with Graham when the three of them come crashing back.
Umbreen is determined to get married no matter what, as this relationship is the only stabilizing force in her life in a country being torn apart but the aftermath of war and colonist government meddling. With the Doctor having temporarily locked the "demons" out of the farmstead for the next 12 hours, she announces she and Prem will wed in the morning. The Doctor is determined to stay now to make sure Umbreen's marriage goes off, as otherwise there could be a timeline with no Yaz as a result if they don't. It's the "protect the timeline" of "Rosa," but this time, instead of the history of Civil Rights, it's the life of a companion at stake.
The Doctor gets henna'd for the first time, to her complete delight. Unfortunately, Umbreen's mother, Hasna (Shaheen Khan) is worried this intermarriage will bring nothing but despair, while over at Prem's, Manish swears their older brother, had he lived, would not approve. But the Doctor continues to do what she can to make this marriage happen, even agreeing to officiate, even as Yaz still can't get over her nan is marrying the wrong man.
The Doctor: I've got to go analog. I need oil, water, tree bark, a saucepan, nine containers, an old newspaper, a touch of ox spit, a chicken poo, and a biscuit.
But the course of true love and marriage does not run smooth. The Thijarians break through and kidnap the Doctor, insisting she's got the wrong end of the stick. They are not assassins, they've changed. The purple dust she thought was killing people is really the dust of their destroyed homeworld. They are now witnesses to those who die alone, the unacknowledged dead, over all of time and space, in effect making up for their own past as killers, and atoning for not being able to save their own people from destruction. They're here on the Radcliffe Line because so many will die, alone, unmourned and unknown in the coming days. Prem is next on their list. Not because they kill him, but because the timestream says he is next to die. The Doctor returns, knowing time cannot be altered, but determiend to make it a happy last few hours.
At the wedding, the Doctor gets to make a marriage speech for the ages, one I hope will be recited at Doctor Who themed weddings for decades to come. Umbreen handfasts with Prem with the rope Manish used to divide the two regions, celebrating in the Hindu tradition. In return, Prem gives her his watch as a gift in the Muslim tradition. Unfortunately, he drops it, breaking it and stopping it forever in time at that moment, just as the mob Manish called to stop the wedding arrives. It turns out Manish is the one who killed the Holy Man in hopes of stopping the marriage. Having failed, he is ready to kill his brother for marrying outside the faith. The Doctor cannot stop what happens next. Umbreen and Hasna run for the hills to get away, as Prem stays to confront the mob of men he grew up with and fought alongside, men who shoot him where he stands for his choice. Now a widow on her wedding day, Umbreen gets away, heading to a place called Sheffield, in England, where she will start life all over again. The future and Yaz's life is secure.
Next week: A delivery for the Doctor from Kerblam!