Sunday 25 November 2018

Doctor Who - The Witchfinders

Doctor Which?

Doctor Who - The Witchfinders
Airdate: 25th November 2018

Aaah... well... that one was what it was, I guess.

For me this episode was a bit of a dud again, alas but, to be fair, I’ve never really liked the idea of witchfinders and the persecution of innocents to push through personal agendas. That period of history always rubs me the wrong way and so, to be fair to this episode, this was never really going to be one of my favourites.

That being said, yeah... there was loads of good stuff here and so I’ll flag up some of this and try and suppress my own prejudices on this one.

So a nice thing about this was we had a great Hollywood actor in this episode, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve always had a soft spot for Alan Cumming since I saw him as Boris in Goldeneye (reviewed here) back in 1995. I was also impressed with him as Nightcrawler in the second of the X-Men films (before the franchise lost it and ate its own continuity on a film by film basis) and, if you appreciate this actor, then you owe it to yourself to see his absolutely brilliant villain in the astonishing but, alas, under appreciated modern masterpiece Josie And The Pussycats. So I don’t know how they got this guy for Doctor Who but here he is and he’s playing King James.

And it was absolutely brilliant to see the four series regulars... Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole more than holding their own against him in terms of commanding the screen. Not that it’s a competition, of course but... sometimes strong personalities can inadvertently dim the fire of their fellow actors in a scene but, I’m glad to say this wasn’t the case here.

And we had a plot with the background of the Pendle Witches in Lancashire, although it gave us an addition to actual events, I suspect, rather than interpenetrate with the recorded history of those times as they occurred. I can only assume that’s the case because... well, there were no mud filled alien prison cell trees in the records as far as I know but, as I made clear, I’m not likely to be an expert on this period or subject matter.

That being said, though... everything just seemed a bit flat on this one, to me. We had The Doctor highlighting the prevailing attitudes of men and how difficult it is to be a woman in that time period and, frankly, things probably haven’t changed all that much since those days. I just get tired of hearing about that myself and it seemed such an obvious point that pushing it into the audience and highlighting it in this manner just seemed a bit... well... a bit like ‘old news’ I guess. Still, at least the message behind that sentiment is a worthy one for younger audiences to hear so I can’t see that as a hugely bad thing, personally. Just a little dull, in all honesty.

The music was lively in some scenes but I wondered if the composer was trying to be authentic to the time with all that fiddling (I have no idea but it kind of felt out of place to me here). I did get the feeling that the music was being deliberately written up-tempo to try and disguise the fact that, yes, this was a very slow moving episode. At least that’s how it seemed to me. Elmer Bernstein had the same problem with his score for The Magnificent Seven but that was much more suited to picking up the pace of that movie, it seems to me.

The special effects on the alien creatures were quite good in places... at least on the leading alien... but I did wonder if we needed all that CGI’d facial movement (I’m assuming that’s how it was done). Especially since the latest series has been further whittled down to only ten episodes. Personally, I think I’d prefer it if more stories were produced with slightly less than special effects rather than try and lend an air of credibility to some of the writer’s creations. Maybe I’m being a little cynical here but I suspect the effects have had a make over since the last season and this might be where some of that ‘possibly missing’ budget might have been rerouted to.

Okay, so this is once again a very short review for this week’s story but, honestly, this one didn’t inspire me. That being said, I hope people are now beginning to realise that Jodie Whittaker is doing a fantastic job here and I think she deserves a lot of credit for carrying the show in the way she is right now. I have absolutely no problem with her playing The Doctor at all... I just wish they’d get some better stories because there have been a few this season which felt like they didn’t have much of anything interesting to say and, to boot, weren’t all that entertaining. And this one, for me at least, was one of them.

Never mind, despite the protests of others in my near vicinity, I shall still be ready for another tale from the UK’s much loved TV hero next weekend. Let’s hope we get a really great one.

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