Synopsis: The Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz arrive in 17th century Lancashire and become embroiled in a witch trial, run by the local landowner. As fear stalks the land, the arrival of King James I only serves to intensify the witch hunt. But is there something more dangerous at work? Can the Doctor and friends keep the people of Bilehurst Cragg safe from all the forces that are massing in the land?
Review: This episode gave us the intense and passionately humanitarian Doctor that I have been waiting to see from Jodie Whittaker. I loved how she dived into the lake to save Willa’s grandmother and the way she stood her ground against Becka Savage, whom Siobhan Finneran played with a great balance of humanity and nastiness. I liked how the theme of 13 and her friends exploring the nasty bits of history was continued this episode and I loved the Doctor’s somewhat meta line “If I was still a bloke I wouldn’t have to defend myself…” I enjoyed how events seemed to spiral out of the 13th Doctor’s control which seemed to call back to David Tennant’s episode Midnight. It also served to provide contrast between 13 and her predecessor. I adored the way 13 always believed in the goodness of people even at the point where she is about to be executed.
Alan Cumming plays a fantastic role in this outing. From his somewhat hammy introduction to the moment of genuine humanity achieved in his conversation with Ryan to the Doctor’s impassioned plea to King James to let her help, Alan Cumming provides a complex and very three dimensional antagonist. Mandip Gill gives a very affecting speech about discrimination which is called back to when Jodie Whittaker challenges Becka Savage as the former is about to be tried as a witch. I thought that the scene where 13 is imprisoned and attempts to talk King James back to sanity was brilliantly executed by both Jodie Whittaker and Alan Cumming. I loved the Doctor’s line “True knowledge has to be earned” as well as her advice to the king to “Start with the mysteries of the heart” if he wanted to understand the universe. Some great historical accuracy was on display through King James’s initial reaction to the Doctor being a woman. I thought 13 was much more Doctor like overall this episode in her desire to help the people she met and because of Jodie Whittaker’s general intensity throughout.
There were some heart warming moments to be found as well like when Graham put the Witchfinder’s hat on the Doctor and when Willa said she was going to be a healer and doctor at the end. The 13th Doctor showed a very David Tennant like distaste for wanton killing when King James murdered the Morax queen as well as a grudging recognition of his humanity at the very end. The visuals of the Morax and the gothic setting were beautifully realised and there was some great CGI at the episode’s climax. I liked how the Doctor got to say “Team. Gang. Fam” more confidently this time after surviving her execution. The Doctor’s “poetry under pressure” line was funny and something I hope is revisited in the future. Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole performed admirably as two ordinary blokes completely out of their depth which grounded the episode and gave us some great humour. It was touching when King James asked Ryan to be his protector.
Overall, a brilliant and gripping outing for 13 and her friends.
- Incidental Music9.5