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The Witchfinders Recap

The Doctor and her companions wander around the village of Bilehurst Craff in 17th century England looking for the coronation of Elizabeth I. When she sees a boy running an apple-bobbing barrel as part of a village celebration, the Doctor goes over to participate. A spokesman appears to tell the villages that Mistress Becka Savage demands their presence and the ceremony will begin. The group goes along with the villagers, while a plague-masked figure watches them.

The villagers go to the nearby river, and the Doctor warns her companions not to interfere in the fabric of history. Yasmin sees a woman, Willa, crying and asks if she's okay, but Willa quickly walks away when Yasmin asks her what's wrong.

A woman is manacled to a tree suspended over a pod, and Becka steps out on the platform as Graham works out that they're in Lancashire. Becka says that Satan stalks the land and they must continue to root him out and save the soul of their village. Yasmin says that they have to do something, and the "witch"-- Old Mother Twiston--tells her daughter Willa that she'll be with her. They dunk the witch and the Doctor leaps into the water, pulls Old Mother out of the water, and Becka says that the Doctor will be punished for her interference. Yasmin confirms that Old Mother is dead, and the Doctor apologizes to Willa.

Becka orders her guards to seize Willa, and the Doctor tells Becka that she's a murderer. She flashes her psychic paper, showing that she's the Witchfinder General, and she and her team are taking over the village. Becka has no choice but to beg the Doctor's pardon and accede to her authority, and invites her to her home so that they can talk in private. The Doctor agrees as long as Becka swears not to harm Willa or anyone else, and Becka agrees. Everyone goes home except Willa, who says that she has to bury her grandmother. The masked figure watches from the trees.

As they travel through the woods, Becka explains that she is the landowner and the area passed to her after her husband died. She says that horses are banned because they are creatures of Satan and she had them all shot. Graham and Ryan point out that there's no historical record of Becka killing dozens of witches, and the Doctor promises that they'll find out what happened. Yasmin goes to find Willa while the others enter Becka's manor.

Inside, Becka says that discovering any witch is cause for celebration. She explains that Satan is bewitching crops and animals, and as King James has written, they shall not suffer a witch to live. The masked man--King James--comes in and announces his true identity. He says that he has come to banish the scour of witchcraft across the land, and he wore the mask to travel incognito. The Doctor explains that they're witchfinders, but James points out that the psychic paper says that the Doctor is only an assistant and a woman couldn't be general. Graham takes over as the Witchfinder General, and the Doctor says that she works undercover to capture women. Ryan says that he deals with paperwork and James suggests that they talk later. James says that Becka needs assistance and together they will purify Becka's land. Becka is happy to agree with saving the souls of her villagers, even if they have to kill them all.

Yasmin approaches Willa as she buries her grandmother and performs a ritual. A tendril made out of mud animates and reaches out of the ground, and Yasmin runs over and hits it with Willa's shovel. Yasmin finally smashes it apart, and Willa wonders what it was. She tells Yasmin that no one can help and runs off.

At the manor, the Doctor complains about being patronized. They go to Becka's bedroom and find a lot of her handkerchiefs. Ryan finds an axe beneath Becca's bed, just as Yasmin comes in and tells them what she saw. The Doctor says that they'll talk to Willa while Ryan and Graham stay with Becka and James and make sure that they don't kill anyone else.

James has his man Alfonso bring in his witchfinding tools, and gives Graham the hat of his Witchfinder Generator who saved his life but then later betrayed him so James had the man shot. The king puts a brooch pin on Ryan and says that he'll be keeping an eye on him, and gives Becka a spare needle to prick the "mark" of witches with and determine if it bleeds. James prepares to go, and Ryan and Graham try to stall him. James and Becka don't see the need, and James promises that every last witch in the village will be destroyed.

Yasmin and the Doctor approach Willa, who says that she's going as far away as she can. They say that they want to find out what's going on and fix things, and Willa takes them into her hut. The place is filled with medicines, and Willa says that perhaps Becka was ashamed of the women who brought her up. The girl admits that she and Becka are cousins and were close until Becka married up and left them all behind.

As they go through the forest, Becka tells Graham that Satan is all around them. She says that good people have nothing to ear and insists that her conscience is clean.

Willa serves Yasmin and the Doctor tea, and the Doctor scans Willa with her sonic. She finds nothing unusual, and Yasmin figures that Willa is suffering from fear. Yasmin explains that she took it reminding herself that she'd stand up to it eventually, but Willa says that she can't stand up to Becka. The Doctor gets a vial to take a sample of the mud and asks if Willa wants to go with them.

James talks to Ryan about how Alfonso will eventually let him down, and Ryan asks why he finds it so hard to trust people. The king explains that his father died when he was a baby, murdered by his mother who was imprisoned and beheaded. Regents raised James and they died under various circumstances, and Ryan advises him to go back to London and keep himself safe. James insists that God will keep him safe as long as he does His work, takes out his needle, and says that now they can have some fun.

The Doctor scans the mud and confirms that it's just mud. Willa tells Yasmin that Willa was performing a prayer to put Old Mother's soul at peace. In the vial, the piece of mud moves on its own. The mud-covered body of Old Mother emerges from the ground and the Doctor warns Willa that it's not her grandmother, and that the tendril attacked Willa to fill her and take over her body.

The body reaches for the mud in the Doctor's vial, the mud in its body rippling. The Doctor gives her the vial and the Mud Witch eats it. More bodies appear out of the ground.

James' party hears Willa scream, and James insists on going to check it out.

The bodies advance on the Doctor, and James and the others arrive. Becka figures that Willa is response, and Willa insists that she's innocent. James tells Alfonso to shoot them, and the bodies blast the man back. The group retreats into the forest until Yasmin realizes that the bodies aren't following. Ryan, Yasmin, and Graham go back to find out what they're doing, and the Doctor says that something in the mud was controlling the bodies. The Doctor wonders why the aliens appeared at the same time that the witch hunt began, and figures that Becka knows something. Becka accuses the Doctor of being a witch, and James says that she sees the Doctor for who she really is. When Willa supports the Doctor, Becka asks her if Willa trusts her king and her family to save her, or the Doctor. Willa admits that she thought it was strange when they called the Doctor "the Doctor", and James figures that the Doctor is a necromancer like Doctor Dee and has his guards drag her away.

Graham finds holly berries on the ground and they follow the trail.

James visits the Doctor, tied up in the village, and says that he wants to learn more about witchcraft. He asks how her sonic works, and the Doctor tells him that true knowledge has to be earned. The Doctor points out that it must be comforting hiding behind his title of King, and James notes that she hides behind her title of Doctor.

The companions spot the bodies walking through the forest and follow them.

The Doctor asks who James really is behind the drama, and points out that he's killing and scapegoating. James insists that there is no darkness in him, and the Doctor points out that her mother was scapegoated. He says that his mother left him when he was younger than a year, and the Doctor tells him that he has to be better than the darkness that abandonment left in him. She says that she knows such things because they all want security and he should start with the mysteries of the heart. The Doctor tells James that she could show him everything if he'd stop being afraid of what he doesn't understand, and insists that she is not a witch. James figure that there's only one way to know who the Doctor is, and tells his guards to summon the villagers.

The companions follow the bodies back to Becka's manor and her bedroom. Old Mother's body grabs the axe and leaves with the other bodies.

The villages assemble at the river and the guards attack the Doctor to the dunking stool. The Doctor tells Becka that she's a bully and wonders what she's hiding, and points out that Becka has killed 36 witches and things haven't gotten better. When Becka touches the stool, there's a flash of energy, and the Doctor asks for Becka's handkerchief. Becka says that she doesn't have one with her, and the Doctor points out that she has a dozen in her bedroom. The woman promises that once she has dealt with the Doctor, she will go after her friends.

The companions hear a bell from the river and realize that the Doctor must be the one being dunked.

Becka declares the Doctor a witch and tells James to give the word. He finally says to do it, and a drop of mud falls from Becka's eye. The Doctor sees it and realizes that it was right, just as she's dunked into the river. Her companions arrive and Ryan and Yasmin tell James that the Doctor is his only hope of getting out alive. Becka insists that they must keep the Doctor submerged to be sure, but James tells her to raise the stool. They do so and find it empty. The Doctor steps out of the water downriver and says that she's good at getting out of chains. Willa apologizes for turning on her, saying that she was scared.

The Doctor tells Becka to tell her the truth, and insists that the animated bodies aren't witches. The bodies arrive and the villagers panic and run. Becka tells them to stop and the bodies obey, and the Doctor realizes that they've come to join Becka. The woman explains that she cut down Old Mother's favorite true because it was spoiling her view of the hill. A tendril pricked Becka in her leg, and the "mark of Satan" spread across her body. She eventually turned to Old Mother for medicine, and had to tell her what happened. Old Mother was too weak to cut off Becka's infected leg, so Becka killed her by dunking.

James and the others arrive, and Becka says that she is the "witch". She begs for forgiveness and then transforms into one of the mud witches, and the now-alien Becka says that they are the Morax. She says that the mighty Morax army was trapped in the hill, imprisoned on Earth for war crimes. They will fill James with their king, and then they will possess all humans.

The Morax blast the group, and later Yasmin wakes up and wakes Graham up. She tells him what happened. The Doctor figures that the tree Becka chopped down is the same one that she used for the dunking stool. It's actually ancient alien technology and a lock used to keep the Morax army imprisoned. When Becka touched it earlier, it reacted to the Morax fragment in her. The Doctor has them break it apart and make torches, as the smoke will be toxic to Morax. Her companions will rescue James while she gets to the tree and seals the Morax back inside of it. Willa joins them and says that it's time to stop being scared, and they need her to lead the way.

At the top of the hill, the Morax queen--the former Becka--tells the captive James that they will put her king's essence in him. She hacks open the trunk and a vast tendril of mud rises from it. The group arrive and fend off the Morax while rescuing James. The Doctor orders the Morax back into their cell, and Willa calls to Becka. The queen says that there is nothing of Becka left in her. The Doctor reactivates the "key" and the tendril is pulled back into the stump. The security system reactivates, pulling out the Morax from every body that they hijacked. When the queen refuses to go, James grabs a torch and thrusts it into her. She explodes, and the Doctor tells James that he's got what he came for and no more witch hunts.

The next day, the Doctor and the others, including James and Willa, go to the TARDIs. The Doctor refuses to speak to James, and James promises that no one will speak of the incident and the village will be erased from all the records. Willa says that she will become a healer and a doctor, like her grandmother. James invites Ryan to come back to London with him to be his protector, and Ryan thanks him for the offer but says that he has things to do. They get into the TARDIS and it dematerializes.

Written by Gadfly on Nov 25, 2018

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