‘Doctor Who’ – ‘The Witchfinders’ review

An amazing episode of Doctor Who that is without a doubt a series highlight.

 

Yeah, who saw this one coming? The Witchfinders may not excel in any specific regard as a Doctor Who story, but it is this series’ best all-rounder. With tight writing and a strong understanding of its characters, this episode is one that’s fun and engaging.

My review of Kerblam! from last week can be summed up as “Really good! But…”, and that’s what separates The Witchfinders from Kerblam! for me. Because The Witchfinders is simply “Really good!”, there is no “but…”

The simplicity of this story can hardly be ruled against it, in fact it’s one of its greatest strengths. When the episode starts right away in the midst of 17th century England, it threw me off at first. I felt like we missed a beat, when in fact we hit the ground running.

If anything, The Witchfinders is a great introductory episode of Doctor Who, and probably the first one this series. You know the type, the ones that anyone can just jump into and enjoy. This is the sort of story you show someone to get them hooked on the show. It’s nimble and light on its feet.

I kind of don’t want to say anymore. So, I won’t… bye.

Okay, I’m just kidding.

But in all seriousness, this episode’s simple nature is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, for its audience, it’s light entertainment that works very well. On the other, for me (as the reviewer), there’s nothing you can talk about.

I feel like anything I do say will end up taking away from the episode. Not that reading this review beforehand will ruin your experience or anything like that.

At this point, just watch the episode, and go and have a blast. The rest of this review is probably just going to be me nerding out at all the bits I liked.

For instance, you don’t spend any time at all inside the TARDIS, and that can only mean good things. And no, I will not let this go.

Everyone in the TARDIS crew has really seemed to settle into their companion roles. They’re clearly building Yasmin up as the compassionate one, which is nice as it gives her something to do. Graham and Ryan end up becoming a strange double act and it is odd, but they bounce off each other well which makes it work. Props goes to Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole there.

I do still feel that three companions are a bit much. Rather than having one three-dimensional character, you get three one-dimensional characters. Don’t get me wrong, they’re entertaining but a bit flat. However, that is not an issue with this episode, just the series as a whole.

It wouldn’t be a review of a series 11 episode if you don’t end up praising Whittaker as the Doctor. But there is a very good reason for that, she’s a lot of fun as always. I found it especially hilarious when she started complaining about having to deal with King James’s sexism: “Honestly, if I was still a bloke, I could get on with the job and wouldn’t have to waste time defending myself!”

Speaking of which, Alan Cumming as King James. One of, if not the best guest performances this series. Like, seriously it is that good. He is fully aware that he’s in Doctor Who and chews every bit of screen time he can get his acting chops on. His interactions with Ryan are especially great. And his reveal towards the beginning, it balances tone so well.

That can be said for the whole episode in fact, it jumps between the light and the dark with confidence. In such a way that you can only really get away with it in Doctor Who.

And of course, how could I forget? THE DOCTOR SAVES THE DAY!

It took us eight episodes to get here, but the Doctor properly saves the day. With no compromise whatsoever. It’s really nice to see her be heroic. While there are a few instances of her failing to save a life, the most important thing is that she tried. She keeps trying and will never stop trying. No single life is too small, no person is not important enough to help out, now that is who Doctor Who is.

I also really like how the Doctor starts by being careful about interfering with the past but is also the first to jump in to try and save an innocent life. It’s so good!

I could probably keep gushing about all the little details of The Witchfinders forever, but I think I’ll end this review by gushing about the Doctor being a hero.

Now for next week’s It Takes You Away, which I know literally nothing about! And honestly, I kind of like that. It’s nice to go onto an episode truly blind. But in all fairness this series has done a good job in not revealing too much in the marketing.