Doctor Who: The Witchfinders Review

DW The Witchfinders

Well, the Thirteenth Doctor’s run of really strong historically set stories has now come to an end. While The Witchfinders wasn’t terrible, it was let down by some poor acting and some extremely over-the-top scenery-chewing, which while funny, hurt the tone to the point of making it a comedy, despite all the killing and stuff… Let’s have a look!


Team TARDIS lands in early 17th century England in the midst of a witch trial, and despite her own non-interference policy, the Doctor cannot help but try and stop the killings. However, with King James growing suspicious of the Doctor and her ways, it is up to her friends to play Witchfinders and uncover the hidden mysteries behind the trials.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

DW The Witchfinders 1

The Doctor comes face to face with her worst fear: Beggars!

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) – The TARDIS has once again accidentally landed the crew in the wrong era, and soon The Doctor is faced with a witch killing. Despite every logical part of her brain telling her she has to let it happen, well…

Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) – Ryan wasn’t really into the whole history thing, so ending up in the wrong past-set period didn’t both him… seeing an innocent woman get drowned on the other hand…

Yasmin Kahn (Mandip Gill) – Yaz was happy to go along with Graham’s plan of seeing Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, though she’s not exactly disappointed when they end up at a different time period entirely.

Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh) – Graham wanted to see the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, but instead he got to see an old woman get drowned to a cheering audience… bit of a letdown, really…

King James (Alan Cumming) – King James has had a rough time of it, being a King so young and constantly nearly being assassinated, so he’s focused his attention on catching and punishing those guilty of witchcraft… While acting super campy!

Becka Savage (Siobhan Finneran) – Becka has been infected with a mud-based alien creature, not that she’s aware of the details. In her mind she has been plagued by the devil and the only way to fix it is to wipe out the witch problem entirely…

Willa Twiston (Tilly Steele) – Willa’s grandmother is about to be killed after being accused of witchcraft, and that’s not even the worst thing that will happen today…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW The Witchfinders 2

Moments before the tree burning, a scene that was actually quite good for a while!

There were a few good bits. The Doctor, for the first time, finding it hard to take control of a situation because she’s in the past and a woman now, that was good and the sort of obvious thing that had to be shown sooner or later. The idea of the main threat and their taking over of corpses was at least creepy, even if it wasn’t that exciting in the end…

Okay, so I did find Alan Cumming camping it up to panto levels funny, for the first while…

The Bad:

DW The Witchfinders 4

No jokey line I could write here would do it justice…

Nearing the half way point, Alan Cumming’s King James just… drove me up the wall. I get he was intentionally over-egging it, but it completely ruined any drama or tension, even in the scenes where The Doctor was dissecting him based on her knowledge of his past and he was supposed to be acting all serious! Even the ending, where he burned the leader of the mud zombies alive was empty because by the end I just didn’t care anymore…

I don’t want to upset the young girl, but I’m afraid Tilly Steele was just not up to the task of playing Willa Twiston. Her attempts at looking like she was going to cry, her sorrowful speeches, they were all delivered really badly. It stuck out like a sore thumb.

The companions didn’t get any real time to interact or do much of consequence. I guess Ryan and King James hitting it off was quite funny, in places…?

The rest was just dull, basic run-around, with some promising bits ruined by either scenery-chewing by Alan Cummings or bad acting from Tilly Steele. The director should have taken better control of the situation…

The Continuity:

DW The Witchfinders 3

The Doctor warms herself by the fireplace… *sigh*, I wish these BBC promotional pics would be a bit more exciting…

Not much to say, as per usual for this series of Who. The Ninth Doctor encountered a gasseus form of life that lived inside corpses and reanimated them in the TV story “The Unquiet Dead”, which is similar to what the mud is doing here. Other than that, not much continuity!

Overall Thoughts:

The Witchfinders is a poor effort all round, I’m afraid. The acting was either bad or panto-levels absurd despite a more serious threat and historically bad time period. It made everything a joke, and often a joke that wasn’t funny. This is a story best avoided…

2 Star Watch

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