11.8. The Witchfinders

Series 11 - 2018

Writer: Joy Wilkinson
Producer: Alex Mercer
Director: Sallie Aprahamian
Music: Segun Akinola


The Doctor tries to take Graham, Yaz, and Ryan, to the coronation of Elizabeth I - but instead ends up at Bilehurst Cragg, near Pendle Hill, Lancashire, in the early 17th century. As they reach a group of people and annoucement is made that Mistress Becka Savage demands their presence. The Doctor, Graham, Yaz, and Ryan, follow the people down to the banks of a river. There Mistress Savage had old woman chained to a ducking stool ready for a simple test. She will be ducked in the water, and if she escapes she is a witch and will be hanged. If she drowns then she is innocent.

Becka accuses Old Mother Twiston of witchcraft and operates the ducking stool, hewn from the mighiest tree on Pendle Hill, sending her under the water. Despite telling her team not to interfere the Doctor dives into the river and drags Old Mother Twiston onto the opposite bank, but she is too late to save her. Becka order her guards to get rid of the Doctor and her team, until the Doctor convinces her she is the Witchfinder General using her psychic paper. Accepting this Becka invites the Doctor and her team back to her Bilehurst Cragg. Becka says she tries to be a benevolent landowner, but with Satan around it's difficult. She even had all horses shot as they were the creatures of Satan.

In the future Graham has done the Pendle Hill walking trail, and there was Bilehurst Cragg was never mentioned. Yaz leaves the group to go back to the village to talk to Willa, the grand-daughter of Old Mother Twiston. In Becka's house the Doctor dries off, and learns more about the witch trials, which are a weekly event. Shortly after Becka quotes from the King James bible, King James himself enters the room, and tells them he will help to vanquish the scourge of witchcraft across the land.

The Doctor shows her psychic paper to King James, and she has become demoted to Witchfinder's Assistant. King James assumes Graham must be the Witchfinder General, as a woman could never be the general. Ryan is a touch uncomfortable as King James starts to take a liking to him.

Outside the village Yaz is just in time to save Willa, who had been burying her grandmother and saying a prayer, from a large root tendril in the ground. As Willa runs off Yaz runs back to Bilehurst and meets up with the others snooping in Becka's room. The Doctor returns to the village with Yaz leaving Graham and Ryan to watch King James.

The Doctor and Yaz reach the village just before Willa is getting ready to leave. Willa invites them into ger grandmother's house, and the Doctor is impressed with Old Mother Twiston's collection of medicines. Willa reveals that she and Becka are related - cousins. She thought that because of that she would be safe during the witchhunts. Yaz realises that Willa is leaving in fear of her cousing Becka, fearing that she will be accused of being a witch. The Doctor collects a sample of the mud into a bottle, even though sonic screwdriver scans reveal nothing. In the bottle the sample starts to jump. Behind them a figure emerges from the ground - Old Mother Twiston. She's dead, and being animated by some alien matter filling her body. More animated bodies emerge.

For the next witchhunt King James introduces them to Alfonso, his personal guard, and a collection of artefacts he uses in his hunts. Despite their attempts to delay the hunt King James and Becka are keen that by the end of the day all witches will be dead. Graham and Ryan go with them on the hunt. In the forest outside the village they hear a screech and come across the Doctor, Yaz, Willa, and the bodies. King James orders Alfonso to shoot the bodies. As he sets up his stance Old Mother Twiston points towards him and he is killed, making the bodies angry. As the bodies get stronger everyone runs to a clearing, but when the bodies do not follow Graham, Yaz, and Ryan, go back to see what they are up to.

In a clearing the Doctor realises that the biggest witch hunt in England and alien invasion are connected, and thinks Becka is somehow involved. Instead Becka accuses the Doctor, and she is arrested by King James. The Doctor is taken to the river and chained to the ducking stool by Becka, and there are sparks when Becka touches the wood of the stool.

Graham, Yaz, and Ryan, follow the bodies back to Bilehurst Cragg, and to Becka's room, where they take an axe that she kpet by her head. They follow the bodies back into the forest and hear a commotion by the river. Ryan says the Doctor would not allow another ducking to happen - unless the victim was the Doctor. They arrive at the river in time to see the Doctor being ducked under the water. When the stool is lifed its empty. The Doctor manages to free herself and confront Becka. Behind Becka the bodies appear with Becka's axe. When Becka tells the bodies to stop, they do. The Doctor realises they weren't going to attack Becka - they wanted to join her. Whatever has infected the bodies has also infected Becka.

Becka tells the Doctor that she cut down a tree on the hill that had been spoiling her view, and been poisoned by a tendril in the ground. Becka, fearing she had been poisoned by Satan, hunted witches in the hope of appeasing, and being saved, by God. Becka had gone to her grandmother and asked for medicine. When Old Mother Twiston couldn't help Becka had her killed. As the bodies get close to Becka she lets out a roar and transforms - into a Morax. Becka demands the King, and reveals there is a mighty Morax army trapped in a prison - inside Pendle Hill - and that the army will rise again now the lock has been broken.

Becka, now a Morax Queen, uses an energy pulse to knock everyone out and take King James who is to become the Morax King. When the recoved the Doctor, Graham, Yaz, and Ryan, go back to the river. The ducking stool, from the tree on the hill, is not wood. It's alien technology disgused as a tree, and all that remains of the prison lock. They cut the branch up and make torches. Once lit the smoke will drive the Morax back. Willa leads them on the path up Pendle Hill where they find Becka and King James at the remains of the tree stump.

While Willa keeps Becka talking the Doctor is able to reactivate the prison, which pulls all the Morax cells back inside, taking the bodies, and Becka, with them. King James says he owes his life to the Doctor, and says no-one must know what happens, and that even the Bilehurst Cragg will be erased.

Regular Cast

  • Graham O'Brien: Bradley Walsh
  • Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill
  • Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole

Guest Cast

  • King James: Alan Cumming
  • Becka Savage: Siobhan Finneran
  • Willa Twiston: Tilly Steele
  • Old Mother Twiston: Tricia Kelly
  • Smithy: Arthur Kay
  • Alfonso: Stavros Demetraki

Original broadcast on the BBC

Channel Title Date Viewers Rating
BBC 1 (HD) 7. The Witchfinders Sunday, November 25, 2018 6:30 PM - 7:20 PM 5.66M

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