Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole, Siobhan Finneran, Tilly Steele, Tricia Kelly, and Alan Cumming
Writer: Joy Wilkinson
Producers: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens, Alex Mercer, and Nikki Wilson
Composer: Segun Akinola
Director: Sallie Aprahamian
Doctor Who was created by Sydney Newman, and follows the adventures of the time-traveling alien known as the Doctor, along with their companions, as they explore and help the universe.
In 17th Century Lancashire, a landowner named Becka Savage is holding a series of witch trials against innocent people within a small village. When the Doctor and her friends arrive during one of these trials, they take action to do whatever they can to stop them from happening again. However, once King James I enters into the fray, things start to become out of the Doctor’s control, only becoming worse once a mysterious force within the ground starts to show itself. Can the team stop the trials before more people die? And what motives are at play behind them?
I remember when I first watched the episode Midnight from Series 4, it made me feel so many emotions involving fear, dread, anger, and frustration, but in a way that I couldn’t help but enjoy. It was a testament to fantastic writing, acting, and directing, and is one of the best Doctor Who stories in recent memory. Why do I bring this episode up? Because ten years later, Midnight has found its spiritual successor in The Witchfinders, as this episode was incredibly nail-biting and suspenseful to watch.
To start off, Jodie Whittaker delivers what I believe is her best performance as the Doctor so far. She continues to deliver in her warmth and kindness but also exudes a kind of rage and ferocity we haven’t really seen from her yet. We get to see what happens to her when her Doctor is backed into a corner when a situation starts to slip out of her control. I don’t want to spoil it, but the scene where she gets inside one of the characters’ heads is probably one of her biggest defining moments as the character and the reaction she gave once they asked her a certain question made me once again go, “Yep, without a doubt, that is the Doctor.”
The companions continue to be great as well, and just like last episode, while they aren’t in the forefront too much, they’re definitely being balanced in a fantastic way, and I’m glad that the writers have figured out how to juggle the Doctor being with three companions. The side characters in this episode were phenomenal as well, with Alan Cumming being the standout as King James I. While his behavior is crude by today’s standards, obviously, the amount of development given to him is incredible, and within just an hour they managed to make him one of the most complex and developed side characters in recent memory, at least to me.
The themes presented in this episode are more subtle, yet not unnoticeable. However, what I love about this episode is that the themes are a product of the story and not the other way around. It felt genuine, real, and able to be enjoyed by just about anybody, as it was not only incredibly suspenseful but also entertaining. While other series of the show have been far more consistent with the writing, Series 11 has been far more entertaining than others in my honest opinion. This episode could have easily been a drag, but Wilkinson made sure it could be enjoyed, and I have to give props for that.
While more serious episodes such as Rosa and Demons of the Punjab were incredibly moving and emotional, The Witchfinders was like watching two cars about to collide, and I mean that in the best way possible. It had me on the edge of my seat, in nearly cold sweat, waiting in bated breath as to what would happen next. It was a feeling of dread I haven’t felt since watching Midnight, and this episode definitely earned the right to be called its spiritual successor. With only two episodes left, I can’t wait to see how this series wraps up, and if there are any surprises in store for us!