The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Mary to an English village where it is said that a witch haunts the unwary. Skeptical of this story, the Doctor investigates and discovers that an alien being has inhabited the body of an elderly woman – the one now regarded as a witch – and holds the village in her thrall. And if that’s not bad enough, the presence of the “witch” has given rise to religious zealotry that is as much of a threat to the people of the village (and the time travelers) as the alien being. The Doctor and Mary have to deal with threats from beyond Earth and with more Earthbound superstition.
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Julie Cox (Mary Shelley), Simon Rouse (Master John Kincaid), Andrew Havill (Aleister Portillon / Squire Claude Portillon), Serena Evans (Agnes Bates), Lisa Kay (Beatrix), Alix Wilton Regan (Finicia), Kevin Trainor (Lucern / Cornet Swallow)
Timeline: after The Silver Turk and before Army Of Death and Storm Warning
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Anything after steampunk Cybermen was going to find it had a hard act to follow, and “The Crucible with aliens” is no exception. It’s hard to do a story of a literal witch hunt that doesn’t invoke the ghost of Arthur Miller, and given that Miller’s “The Crucible” is a classic drama of guilt until innocence is proven (and, though set during the height of superstition’s hold over Salem, was actually written in protest of McCarthyism), it’s going to have to be something extraordinary to withstand the comparison. The Witch From The Well doesn’t quite measure up, and yet it still has much to say.
The Doctor gets quite a few punches in where the science vs. superstition debate is concerned, with a few choice words reserved specifically for religious zealotry. Since it’s McGann delivering these diatribes, they’re charming and earnest, but the eighth Doctor does have a few moments of acrid wit.
If I had any misgivings here, it was the mention of companions-we’ve-never-met Samson and Gemma, the memory of whom would later be erased from the Doctor’s mind by Davros (Terror Firma). Their entire existence, thus far, has been to serve as a Shockingly Gut-Wrenching Plot Twist in the aforementioned story; they’d have to be fantastically compelling characters if they were to be brought back.