Rick Briggs’s middle story in this Eighth Doctor trilogy once again plays on the Doctor’s foreknowledge of Mary Shelley’s writings and fate, although it’s not quite to the fore as it was in The Silver Turk. Separating the travellers for the majority of the story means that the spotlight is on Julie Cox as she tries to deal with the 21st Century, while Paul McGann gets his teeth into the Doctor’s contempt for the Witch-Pricker, a great performance from Simon Rouse that lifts the character beyond the two-dimensional Hammer Horror cliché that he could so easily have been.
As Briggs points out in the CD extras, witches aren’t territory that Doctor Who has mined that often – although he seems to have forgotten the Carrionites from The Shakespeare Code – perhaps because of the amount of technobabble necessary to bring magic into the Who universe. He doesn’t treat the period lightly: at least one character dies needlessly because of the blind prejudice displayed by the Witch-Pricker, and the final scene between the Doctor and the Squire isn’t your standard fluffy happy ending discussion.
Verdict: As with recent episodes of the TV series, this has a beginning, a middle and an end. Just not necessarily in that order – and it works well. 7/10
Click here to order The Witch in the Well from Big Finish