DOCTOR WHO “The Witchfinders” review

Doctor Who (BBC One)

Doctor Who airs Sunday nights on BBC One in the UK and BBC America in North America. Time slots may vary.

The series stars Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan, Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair and Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien.

Synopsis

Arriving in 17th Century Lancashire, the TARDIS team become embroiled in a witch trial. With the arrival of King James I, the hunt for witches intensifies. However, could something more dangerous be at play? Can the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan keep the populous of Bilehurst Cragg safe from the forces surrounding the land?

Review

I was not impressed with Doctor Who last week. In hindsight I’m even more disappointed that the season took a generic turn with the episode “Kerblam!” (reviewed here). With “The Witchfinders” the show was able to recover from that momentary relapse and regain some stability

Interestingly this episode decided to go with a truly cold open. With the gang already in 17th century Lancashire and part of the action. This certainly helped to up the ante for the episode as I spent much of the first act wondering what had led them to this place.

Seeing the murder of the witch certainly cleared marked the episode as a commentary on female gender politics. But it also cleverly gave the episode a chance to flip on its head for the audience. It felt as though we were in for a heavy handed tale of the mistreatment of women veiled in this 17th century tale. But from the moment Alan Cumming strode into the room as King James I it was clear the episode would be much lighter in tone.

In fact “The Witchfinders” possibly struck the best balance in tone between the serious and the comedic so far this season. It was socially conscious throughout but never took itself so seriously as to become dull.

Cumming’s guest performance provided most of the comedic moments. Particularly in his scenes with the companions. He clearly took a shine to Ryan!

The usual charismastic performances by Whittaker and co. easily carried the episode to its dramatic conclusion. Of course there were plenty of opportunities for Whittaker to carry off a dramatic monologue. But in doing so gave the episode its weakest point.

When The Doctor is captured by Becka and King James she is tied up to be dunked in the river as with all the other witches. There was certainly merit in doing this, Whittaker being the first female Doctor after all. But the moment came across as all too obvious given this being the first female Doctor.

Speaking as a male audience member I felt the episode could have gone in a different direction at that particular moment.

The creature effects makeup in this episode was outstanding. The reaimated murder victims and Becka in her true form were easily the standouts. This season continues to look the best that Doctor Who has looked in years.

Verdict

This episode improved on the previous week. Despite some obvious plot decisions it was able to deliver a story with heart and a political message for the #MeToo movement.

6/10

Coming up next week “It Takes You Away”


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About Neil Vagg 2006 Articles
Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & Tv and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember. Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG