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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Witch from the Well


Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 602 7

Available 30 November 2011

A shrieking, killing nightmare erupts from an overgrown well, hidden in the grounds of an old house - and Mary Shelley, the Doctor’s latest travelling companion, rescues teenage twins Finicia and Lucern from the clutches of the monster. But a TARDIS trip in search of the origin of the horror goes terribly wrong when the Doctor, Mary and their two new friends find themselves stuck in the middle of a 17th-century witch scare. While the Doctor investigates the strange lights at Vetter’s Tor, and the twins go in search of an artefact from the Hecatrix Dimension, Mary confronts the secrets of her past - and her future. The truth will out: Master Kincaid, the terrible Witch-Pricker himself, commands it...

This Mary Shelley trilogy is proving to be appropriately gothic and horrific in its subject matter. We’ve had Cybermen in the style of Frankenstein’s monster in The Silver Turk; we’ve got walking skeletons coming up in Army of Death (a trailer for which is presented on Disc 2); and here, as you had probably guessed, we have a witch.

There are two main ways in which Doctor Who has tackled the topic of witchcraft: as alien science (as seen in the comic strip The Time Witch and television stories such as The Dæmons and The Shakespeare Code), or as an historical presentation of the real-life persecution suffered by innocents during the witch trials (as depicted in the novel The Witch Hunters). So, which witch approach is taken in The Witch from the Well? Well, in his first full-length drama, writer Rick Briggs (who previously contributed The Entropy Composition to the anthology The Demons of Red Lodge) manages to combine both, as an alien spacecraft crashes in 17th-century England, and a blameless nurse suffers the consequences. Well-rounded performances by Simon Rouse as Master Kincaid and Serena Evans as Agnes Bates add to the drama and tragedy of the situation.

Pay close attention, especially during the opening tracks, as this is a complicated plot concerning two time periods: the present day and the 17th century. (In fact, the writer’s original storyline submission was a lot more complicated, as he explains during the 15 minutes of interviews at the end of Disc 2.)

You might think that the Doctor (Paul McGann) would know better than to casually pop back in time to see how a present predicament came about, as he does here. It’s surely a recipe for disaster, especially with a couple of teenage strangers (Alix Wilton Regan as Finicia and Kevin Trainor as Lucern) tagging along. For me, it seems out of character for the Time Lord to travel to the past on a reconnaissance mission rather than deal with the danger in the here and now. Following that tricky opening, however, the plot unfolds quite pleasingly. The time travellers end up separated, with the Doctor stranded in the 17th century and Mary (Julie Cox) in the 21st. Though out of her element, Mary adapts with remarkable skill, casually brushing aside her ignorance of such things as mobile phones.

Though I preferred The Silver Turk, The Witch from the Well does quite, um, well.


Richard McGinlay

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