Doctor Who recap: Season 11, Episode 8, “The Witchfinders,” Aired Nov. 25, 2018
As usual, the TARDIS dropped the team somewhere other than where they wanted to land. But, of course, it takes them where they need to go: A town in England about to undergo the biggest witch hunt in history. And in order to attempt to save people from a threat bigger than being accused of witchcraft, team TARDIS went undercover as “The Witchfinders.”
Drown the witch
We opened the episode with a classic witch trial. It was the classic lose-lose scenario: If the person does not drown, proving innocence, they are a witch and they will be hanged. However, when The Doctor is involved, nothing stays on course. Following a speech about not interfering, she jumped into the water to save the accused. Unfortunately, she’s too late. I agree with Ryan – this is a dark start.
Satan’s greatest foe
And in comes Alan Cumming as King James! He’s arrogant, misogynistic, and loves drama. Burdened by his past, he puts on the face of a hero while he’s secretly still hurting inside from events of his childhood. That heroic façade was presented as he aimed to kill every witch in the kingdom. Kill the witches, defeat Satan. Solid logic there, right?
In the end, I think Alan Cumming was brilliant.
Mistress Savage (great name)
This ruthless witchfinder didn’t even flinch as she murdered 36 people accused to be witches. The Doctor sensed early on that Mistress Savage was hiding something, and it took nearly the whole episode to learn exactly what that was.
Turns out the alien tentacle (more on that below) attacked her long ago as she cut down a tree. That mud tentacle was an alien race that was imprisoned on Earth, and when Mistress Savage cut down that tree, she let them loose.
Alien mud invasion
Not only were King James and Mistress Savage embarking on the biggest witch hunt ever, mud tentacles were coming up from the ground and attacking people. Even worse – it wasn’t just tentacles. There was a whole army of muddy undead. The Doctor thought the mud must be alien, and she also felt that it couldn’t have started with her arrival. When she accused Mistress Savage, she arrested The Doctor for witchcraft. Was there really any doubt that The Doctor would be mistaken for a witch at some point during this episode?
Of course, The Doctor escaped death and led her team to victory against the alien mud, returning them to their prison.
I always love seeing people’s reactions to the TARDIS, and King James’ response was no exception. I also love seeing people inspired by The Doctor, so it was lovely to hear that Willa plans to do that with her future.
Next week, we have an ominous warning in the title, “It Takes You Away.” What is it? Where does it take you? I’m already ready to find out!
What did you think of “The Witchfinders”? Let us know at @PureFandom on Twitter!
Doctor Who airs Sunday nights on BBC America at 8/7c.