My one paragraph, instant reaction to this week’s DOCTOR WHO.
It’s an interesting phenomenon that this series seems to be on its surest footing in the historical episodes. The two before – ‘Rosa’ and ‘Demons of the Punjab’ – could have both, with a few tweaks, been straight historicals with no sci-fi elements at all. This one ends up leaning more heavily on the fantastical, but that’s where it let itself down for me – with a rushed deus ex machina ending which wasted a lot of the atmosphere and tension that had been built up. Why this is, I have no idea – but at the moment DOCTOR WHO, in its evoking bygone days – is more than meeting co-creator Sydney Newman’s mandate for that show, that it be educational tool for the kids. Anyway, that’s a long-winded way of saying I was on board for most of this episode. I loved the way it looked, I loved Alan Cumming’s delicious and flirtatious performance, the way the script built up to the big witch trial climax and the fact that this Doctor – for the first time ever – gets into trouble because of her gender. The last couple of episodes she has just taken control because she is The Doctor (and Jodie is brilliant at the part), but it was so right and so real that at this place and this time, The Doctor, as a woman, would find herself in jeopardy, (And I liked yet another Houdini reference thrown into the show when she saves herself, the two of them must really have been fast friends.) Yes, there were flaws – not only the rushed ending, but the fact that most of the Time Team just wandered around aimlessly half the episode. However, in the main, I really enjoyed ‘The Witchfinders’. If you’ll excuse me, though, I’m going to go off now to ponder why DOCTOR WHO can’t do sci-fi properly anymore? And if it isn’t a sci-fi show these days, what on earth is it?
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