Doctor Who Recap: King James Brings His Bible (And Torture Box) To The Witchfinders


Guest stars Alan Cumming (The Good Wife) and Siobhan Finneran (Downton Abbey, Happy Valley) totally stole the show on this week’s episode of Doctor Who, clearly loving every second of playing an over the top version of King James I (son of Mary, Queen of Scots) and a Satan-obsessed landowner, respectively. When the TARDIS lands in Lancashire instead of at the coronation of Elizabeth I, it’s almost immediately obvious that the Doctor is there for a reason. A quick round of bobbing for apples is followed by a much darker game: Dunk the Witch.

The thing about Dunk the Witch is that there’s no way to win. If you live, you’re a witch (and are scheduled to be hanged). If you die, you… die. Early on in the episode, the Doctor and her companions come up short trying to rescue one of these condemned women. Her granddaughter, Willa, appears to be next on the dunking list but the Doctor intervenes, presenting herself and her companions as the Witchfinders General, there to investigate the three dozen people condemned to dunking by landowner Becka Savage.


The whole thing might have been wrapped up quite quickly if it weren’t for the arrival of overzealous witch-hunter King James. His highness is paranoid AF (to be fair, people have been trying to kill him his whole life) and his zeal is no match for Ryan and Graham’s stalling tactics. While Yaz and the Doctor are getting to the bottom of the problem the village calls “witchery” (alien mud people, naturally—there’s no such thing as witches!) a mob is forming to have the Doctor dunked as a witch, herself. Blatant sexism. “If only I was still a bloke,” says the Doctor, “I could just get on with the job without having to constantly defend myself.”

The Doctor has the village’s actual problem figured out: Becka Savage had unwittingly unleashed a horde of alien invaders who wanted to inhabit the bodies of dead villagers and take over the world, a plan that involved using King James’ own corpse which they intended to sacrifice to their king. Savage had been infected by the alien Morax queen when she chopped down the tree that had been trapping them for eons. She’d been trying to hide it ever since, but at the moment the Doctor gets dunked the truth is revealed. Once again, the Doctor saves the day. With King James alive and well (and his witch-hunting zeal unfortunately intact) Team TARDIS sets off for their next adventure, leaving the village with a new doctor: young Willa.


5 thoughts we have about this week’s episode of Doctor Who:

1. What horrible crime did the Morax commit that sentenced them to be entrapped at Bilehurst Cragg for all of eternity?

2. Feminism, secularism, and a little bit of fetishism (courtesy of King James). We love the way this season’s Who has continued to be politically right on.

3. Is this season of Who leading up to a bigger revelation? Will we see any of the previous monsters again?

4. Can Alan Cumming be in everything, please?

5. There are only two more episodes left in this season. Will Team TARDIS remain intact after that?