Hide your set dressing, Alan Cumming is here and he’s hungry for more!
Photo: BBC

Or don’t, really—as previously established, io9 is absolutely 100% a pro-witch website. So maybe just put the torch and pitchfork down, and have a chat about the latest episode of Doctor Who instead?

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“The Witchfinders” was another classically Doctor Who-y romp—honestly, it feels like this and “Kerblam!” probably should’ve been better spread out throughout the season rather than one after the other, which would help with some of the tonal shift that season 11 has gone on. But we had creepy alien mud zombies, a good old bit of historical adventure silliness (although after both “Rosa” and “Demons of the Punjab” served serious takes on Doctor Who’s usual historical ideals of non-interference, it was both odd and delightful to see this do what Who usually does and throw that ideal promptly out the window), and it had a truly marvellous display of camp, in Alan Cumming’s delightfully scenery-chewing performance as King James I. Honestly, it was perhaps for the best that most of “The Witchfinders” was filmed on location, because if Cumming had had set after set to gorge on, we could’ve reached a wonderfully critical level of camp.

It was a hoot, even if it had a few pacing problems at the start and end, thanks to the middle’s hootenanny of witch-dunking and King James campery. But also, fascinatingly for eight episodes in, “The Witchfinders” also felt like a story that could only be told for the 13th Doctor. Outside of mentions here and there, so far season 11 has not really done all that much to highlight the Doctor’s latest incarnation being female—and perhaps rightfully so, because it’s basically been business-in-time-and-space as usual. But “The Witchfinders” deftly managed to make the Doctor’s gender an actual interesting roadblock to its plot—more than just a passing mention for a pat-on-the-back but an actual counter to the Doctor’s usual modus operandi of wandering into any given situation, talking a lot, and immediately being in charge. To see her challenged and sidelined, and have to fight tooth and nail for people to listen to her in this episode was almost as fascinating as the mud-witch-mania going on elsewhere.


We’ll have more to say about “The Witchfinders” in our regular recap tomorrow, but for now, let us know what you thought in the comments below.

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