Doctor Who - Episode 11.08 - The Witchfinders - Review
Hot off the heels of Kerblam! Doctor Who shows what its capable of by giving us an adventure that couldn't be more different. From the biggest store in the universe, to a witch hunt with King James. "The Witchfinders" had stakes, emotion, and an interesting alien race.
Regardless of what you think of Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, there is no denying she gives it her all. The amount of time she spent wet in this episode was quite a lot. The team enters the story when a someone is about to be drowned as witch.
Eventually the team encounters King James, played by Alan Cumming. I don't think I've ever seen someone have more fun playing a role. "Chewing the scenery" was an understatement. The Goldeneye and X-Men 2 star was electric in every scene. Even when he was being sexist, he did it with a flare that is unseen in performances now.
It was said that these episodes would have no connective tissue. That they would all be standalone. While I like an arc, the biggest shame will be if we never see Cumming as King James again. It's a great thing that the show even got his caliber of actor to show up. But to use him only once? I hope the Doctor runs into him again.
I liked the story very much as it had a lot of the elements that make Doctor Who, Doctor Who. But this script would have worked with just one companion. I like all 3 companions. They are all unique characters, and their relationships with the Doctor are special . But sometimes one job gets split between the 3 of them. 1 gets to shine while the other two tread water. Writer Joy Wilkinson did a good job giving them as much to do as possible, but it would have been a stronger story if there was only 1 of them. Think about it this way - if you have too much for someone to do, you can invent another one-off character. But not enough to do, makes characters seem wasteful.
This was another one of those episodes where you could substitute a different Doctor in it, and you could still see it working. Granted, the fact that 13 is a woman played into the sexism of the time, so there was a bit more depth to it. But overall it was one of those "The Doctor outsmarts the aliens and uses their own power against them" episodes, and it was a welcome story.
There was barely any TARDIS again, and I am not sure whose fault that is. Even when we get TARDIS scenes, there isn't enough to get a feel for the new interior. It is the thing I miss most about this new run, more so even than the big "the Doctor saves the world" ones. The TARDIS is just as an important, iconic and integral character as the Doctor is. It is not getting the respect it deserves. That feels like it is more Chibnall, and less Wilkinson though, as it has happened in other episodes.
If you had a "Doctor Who Checklist" this checks more boxes than most of the episodes. It was enjoyable, and I can see myself rewatching this one from time to time.
We are at the tail end of the season now, and despite my complaints there has been a ton to like. Hopefully the penultimate and finale episodes stick the landing!
Doctor Who airs Sundays on BBC One and BBC America.