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Jodie Whittaker
The Witchfinders
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The Morax
The Morax
 The Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz arrive in 17th-century Lancashire and become embroiled in a witch trial run by the local landowner.

 As fear stalks the land, the arrival of King James I only serves to intensify the witch hunt.

 But is there something even more dangerous at work?

 Can The Doctor and friends keep the people of Bilehurst Cragg safe from all the forces that are massing in the land?

Source: BBC Website

General Information

Season: Thirty Seven (New Series 11)
Production Code: 11-8
Story Number: 283 (New Series: 127)
Episode Number:848 (New Series: 152)
Number of Episodes: 1
Percentage of Episodes Held:100%
Working Titles:"The Witch Finders" and "The Witchhunters"
Production Dates:
Broadcast Date: 25 November 2018
Colour Status: HD Colour
Studio: BBC Wales (Roath Lock Studios, Cardiff)
Writer:Joy Wilkinson
Director:Sallie Aprahamian
Series Producer:Nikki Wilson
Producer:Alex Mercer
Executive Producers:Chris Chibnall and Matt Strevens
Co-Executive Producer:Sam Hoyle
Executive Producer (for the BBC):Ben Irving
Assistant Directors:Lauren Pate and Sion Eirug
Script Supervisor:Nicki Coles
Script Editors:Fiona McAllister and Hannah Mason (Assistant)
Series Script Editor:Sheena Bucktowonsing
Editors:Helen Murphy, David S J Davies (Assistant), Hayley Williams (Assistant) and Martyn Western (VFX)
Colourist:Gareth Spensley
Head of Production:Radford Neville
Production Executive:Tracie Simpson
Production Manager:James DeHaviland
Production Assistant:Alexandra Bahiyyih Wain
Post Production Supervisor:Ceres Doyle
Production Designer:Arwel Wyn Jones
Director of Photography:Tim Palmer
Casting Director:Andy Pryor CDG
Line Producer:Steffan Morris
Costume Designer:Ray Holman
Make-Up Designer:Claire Pritchard-Jones
Cameramen:Cai Stephens (Assistant), Drew Marsden (Assistant), Gethin Williams (Assistant) and Mark McQuoid (Operator)
Visual Effects:DNEG
Special Effects:Real SFX
Prosthetics:Millennium FX
Special Creature Effects:Millennium FX
Stunt Co-ordinators:Crispin Layfield and Dani Biernat
Stunt Performers:Andrew Burford, Belinda McGinley and Claire Hayhurst
Incidental Music:Segun Akinola
Special Sounds (SFX Editor):Harry Barnes
Sound Recordist:Deian Llyr Humphreys
Dubbing Mixer:Howard Bargroff
Music Recorded By:Olga Fitzroy
Music Mixed By:Goetz Botzenhardt
Title Sequence:Ben Pickles
Title Music:Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Arranged by Segun Akinola
Number of Doctors: 1
The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker (The Thirteenth Doctor)
Number of Companions: 3The Companions: Bradley Walsh (Graham O'Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair) and Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan) Additional Cast: Alan Cumming (King James), Siobhan Finneran (Becka Savage), Tilly Steele (Willa Twiston), Tricia Kelly (Old Mother Twiston), Arthur Kay (Smithy), Stavros Demetraki (Alfonso)Setting: Bilehurst Cragg, Pendle Hill, Lancashire (1612) Villain:Morax

The Episodes

No. Episodes Broadcast
Duration Viewers
In Archive
848The Witchfinders25 November 201846'31"7.0Yes

Total Duration 47 Minutes

Audience Appreciation

Average Viewers (Millions) 7.0


 This story exists and is held in the BBC's Film and Videotape Library.

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This is the eighth story of Season Thirty Seven (New Series 11). It was written by Joy Wilkinson and directed by Sallie Aprahamian.

This story takes place in 17th century Lancashire, where The Doctor and her three travelling companions find themselves in the middle of a witch hunt held by a local land owner.

This story is commonly misnamed as its working title The Witch Finders. This story was also rumoured to be called The Witchhunters, but this was dropped, likely because it is too similar to the title of the BBC Books' The Past Doctors Stories novel "The Witch Hunters" written by Steve Lyons.

The Twelfth Doctor also encountered witch trials in the 17th century in the comic-strip story "Witch Work".

This story is notable for being the first time on screen, the Thirteenth Doctor faces sexism in a past era due to her new gender.

The Doctor is heard to mention having once been a ‘bloke’. She then laments that she used to command more authority. She previously noted that, as a man, she was allowed to go anywhere (see the BBC New Series Adventures novel "The Good Doctor" written by Juno Dawson).

After getting knocked out by the Morax Queen, The Doctor says she has not had a hangover this strong since the Milk Wars of Keston Five.

The Doctor and Graham O'Brien claim to be Witchfinder Generals.

King James thinks The Doctor took her name from the necromancer Doctor Dee.

The Doctor has met James I before. This occurred in the Virgin Books' The Missing Adventures novel "The Plotters" written by Gareth Roberts.

The Tenth Doctor was previously accused of witchcraft by the Sycorax leader after he used excess regeneration energy to regrow his severed hand in the 2005 story "The Christmas Invasion". The Sixth Doctor was called a warlock by the Carrionites in the Big Finish Productions audio story "The Carrionite Curse". The Doctor's granddaughter Susan was also accused of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials in 1692 in the BBC Books' The Past Doctors Stories novel "The Witch Hunters" written by Steve Lyons.

The Doctor uses her respiratory bypass system when she is accused of being a witch (see the 1975 Fourth Doctor story "Pyramids of Mars", the 1982 Fifth Doctor story "Four to Doomsday" and the Big Finish Productions Sixth Doctor audio story "Return of the Krotons").

The Doctor mentions having met Harry Houdini (see the BBC Fifth Doctor audio story "Smoke and Mirrors", the online novel "Houdini and the Space Cuckoos" (made available to download from the Doctor Who website as part of the 2012 Advent Calendar) and the Short Trips story "The Great Escapes" (written by Simon Guerrier and published in the Big Finish Productions book "Short Trips 23: Defining Patterns")).

The Doctor once again is heard calling her friends ‘gang’, ‘team’, and ‘fam’.

Ryan Sinclair is heard to refer to the death of his nan and mum (see "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" and "The Tsuranga Conundrum").

Yasmin Khan refers to another time in her life where prejudice got to her (see "Rosa").

In this story it is revealed that when King James was a baby, his father was killed. James claims that he was murdered by his mother, who was then imprisoned and beheaded. James was therefore raised by regents. He later reveals that his mother left him when he was under a year old, and she was made into a scapegoat.

Bilehurst Cragg is a fictitious village located in the shadow of Pendle Hill which is a real place situated in the east of Lancashire, near the town of Burnley. Pendle Hill is famous for its links to the now notorious witch trials of 1612.

The Doctor discovers a copy of Daemonologie amongst the possessions of Becka Savage. This book was written and published by King James I and its appearance in this story could be seen as a reference to the 1971 Third Doctor story "The Dæmons".

Several Biblical sayings are given in this story. However, some are misattributed: while The Doctor is heard to say ‘Love thy neighbour’ originates from the New Testament, it is actually first said in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus.

The Doctor reminds her friends not to mess with history as she did previously in "Rosa".

James and Becka blame Satan for the local troubles. The Doctor is heard to say that she does not believe in Satan. The Tenth Doctor previously met a Beast who called himself Satan, which The Doctor speculated had inspired many cultures' myths about the Devil, or the Horned Beast (see the 2006 Tenth Doctor story "The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit").

King James is heard to mention to Ryan that people have tried to blow him up before (see the Virgin Books' The Missing Adventures novel "The Plotters", written by Gareth Roberts, and the computer game "The Gunpowder Plot").

The Doctor is heard to mention Clarke's Law. The Third Doctor and Jo Grant once discussed Clarke's Law, in the 1971 story "The Dæmons", when The Doctor made it appear that his motor car, Bessie, could move on her own, when in reality he had wired the engine with a remote control. The Seventh Doctor also once quoted Clarke's Law to Ace in the 1989 story "Battlefield".

This story was released to Amazon Prime subscribers three days before its BBC One broadcast, when the streaming service accidentally uploaded this story instead of the previous story, "Kerblam!".

First and Last

The Firsts:

 The first Doctor Who story to be written by Joy Wilkinson.

 The first time on screen, the Thirteenth Doctor faces sexism in a past era due to her new gender.

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The Plot

WARNING: May Contain SpoilersHide Text
The Witch Trial
The Witch Trial

The Doctor is attempting to take her three travelling companions to 1559, so as to see the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I, but the TARDIS takes them to the 17th century instead. The Doctor, Graham O'Brien, Ryan Sinclair and Yasmin Khan are initially unaware of this as the TARDIS withholds the exact temporal location from them. Graham though is convinced that The Doctor has missed the mark again.

As they enter a village they notice a party being held and they join in with the fun – The Doctor spying a tub full of apples and bobs for one. Thinking the villagers are celebrating Halloween they discover that the party is just because it is a Sunday. Suddenly the villagers are called to attend a meeting of some sort. The Doctor and her three travelling companions decide to follow the villagers to investigate. They soon discover that they have arrived in 1612 Lancashire at a pace called Bilehurst Cragg near Pendle Hill and that the meeting is to witness the dunking in a river of an old woman, called Mother Twiston, who has been accused of being a witch. Despite The Doctor previously insisting that they should not interfere with events that take place in the past, she is outraged when, after the old woman shares some parting words with her granddaughter across the river, is dunked into the river by Becka Savage, the landowner, who is condemning her as being a witch.

Without any warning The Doctor tosses her coat to Graham and jumps into the river to save the old woman from drowning. Though she manages to pull the woman out of the water, the shock and lack of air was too much for Mother Twiston who dies in The Doctor’s arms. Frustrated at what has just occurred The Doctor accuses Becka of being a murderer. When Becka demands to know who she is The Doctor produces her psychic paper from her coat, that she retrieves from Graham, which displays her title of authority as being Witch Finder General. To prevent any further witch trials The Doctor persuades Becka to leave Mother Twiston’s granddaughter, Willa, alone when it becomes apparent that Willa is about to be accused of also being a witch due to her being related to Mother Twiston.

A Concerned Doctor
A Concerned Doctor

Having defused the situation Becka invites The Doctor and her travelling companions to the manor house, so they may discuss how to deal with the witches. As they walk Becka reveals that they are walking because she no longer has a carriage due to having had all the horses shot because she believed they were possessed by the devil. The Doctor gets Yasmin to return to the village and talk with Willa to find out more about what's been going on in Bilehurst Cragg. As Yasmin makes her way back to the village the group are unaware that a masked figure is watching them from the trees.

Inside Becka's manor, The Doctor, Graham and Ryan discover that Becka has become paranoid about witches when she lists several natural things that have gone wrong and that she has so far successfully killed 35 witches. This makes The Doctor and her companions disgusted with Becka as she is clearly using this to explain the terrible conditions of the land. When Becka claims that she is following the guidance that she has read in King James' new bible which says ‘suffer not a witch to live’, The Doctor says that King James would have something to say about her methods. At that moment, the masked man enters the room and on removing his mask he reveals himself to be King James I. The King states that that he travels incognito due to his numerous enemies and has travelled to Bilehurst Cragg after hearing rumours of Becka's heroic efforts to drive the devil out of her estate. With the arrival of the King, The Doctor quickly loses control of the situation. She again brandishes the psychic paper to pass herself as a witch finder general but, due to the King's sexism, he instead reads it as The Doctor being a witch finder assistant, making him think Graham is in charge. Despite this The Doctor still attempts to dissuade the King and Becka against carrying out more senseless murders. But they ignore The Doctor’s pleas vowing that by the end of the day, they will have driven the devil out of the area, even if it means killing everyone in it.

Becka Savage
Becka Savage

Meanwhile, Yasmin finds Willa in a nearby wood burying her grandmother. She watches from a distance while Willa carries out some kind of ceremony when she sees a tendril reach out of the ground and attempt to grab Willa. Yasmin grabs a nearby shovel and smashes the tendril reducing it to shreds. Before Yasmin can talk to Willa the scared girl runs away. Yasmin decides to return to The Doctor and finds her snooping around Becka's bedroom, which surprisingly has a large axe in it. She tells The Doctor about the tendril attack. The Doctor scans the mud that came from it with her sonic screwdriver but finds nothing untoward – it is just plain mud. The Doctor decides to go with Yasmin to talk with Willa, tasking Graham and Ryan with keeping King James occupied while she is busy. The Doctor and Yasmin find Willa preparing to leave her home. Willa tells them that she intends to get as far away from Bilehurst Cragg before the villagers kill her next. The Doctor manages to persuade a very reluctant Willa to talk to her slowly gaining more of her trust. The more that Willa reveals about her grandmother the more The Doctor feels that she would have loved to meet Mother Twiston as the woman was clearly wiser than most in this era. They ask Willa about Becka, whom Willa reveals to be her cousin - she simply got lucky and married into a life of privilege. The Doctor explains that they need to find out more about the tendril in order to find out what is happening.

At Mother Twiston's burial site, The Doctor examines a piece of the tendril, which is made of mud. However, as The Doctor examines the bit of mud in the bottle, it becomes active. At the same time, behind her, Mother Twiston suddenly appears out of her grave covered in mud. The Doctor wonders if the creature wants the sample piece of mud in the bottle. The creature absorbs the mud. As The Doctor ponders if the creature is a single consciousness or one of many, more possessed muddy corpses appear. Willa thinks they are witches, but The Doctor tells her that they are not.

Meanwhile Graham and Ryan are conversing with the King but are unsuccessful in stopping him from instigating another witch hunt. They try to talk him out of it but the King is very determined and leaves promptly. Both reluctantly join the King and Becka on the hunt. As they enter the wood they hear a scream. The King's group then arrive and witness the muddy corpses rising from the ground. Becka declares Willa a witch despite the obvious fact the mud creatures are being hostile towards her. The Doctor brandishes her sonic screwdriver, but the King orders Alfonso to kill the witches. Despite The Doctor's pleas to stay away, the creature that was Mother Twiston unleashes a shockwave that kills Alfonso. The Doctor orders everyone to run.

King James
King James

When they are a safe distance away The Doctor instructs her companions to go back and follow the creatures to see what they are doing. When they have departed The Doctor tries to question Becka, as she believes that she is hiding something, but instead finds herself being accused of being a witch. The King asks Willa if she believes The Doctor of being a witch. Out of fear, Willa states it was odd her friends call her ‘The Doctor’. The King believes that the name comes from the necromancer Dr. Dee, telling his men to seize The Doctor so she can be tried as a witch.

Elsewhere in the wood, Graham, Ryan and Yasmin follow the mud creatures to Becka's manor. There they watch them enter Beka’s bedroom and take the axe that they discovered earlier. They then follow the creatures as they leave the manor but loose track of them as they re-enter the woods. They then hear a bell ringing and realise that another witch is going to be tried. They all come to the deduction that this could very well be The Doctor herself as she would have put a stop to another senseless murder, and so rush towards the river. There the discover The Doctor chained to the tree stump attempting to reason with King James before she is dunked into the river. When The Doctor emerges from the water a few feet away, King James declares that this means that The Doctor is a powerful witch. However, The Doctor replies by saying that she is just very good at holding her breath and learned how to escape from chains from Houdini. The Doctor then confronts Becka again just as the corpses arrive. Becka reveals that she was infected by an alien entity while chopping down a tree on a nearby hill because it blocked her view. However, when doing so a tendril stabbed her leg, infecting it. Believing it to be witchcraft seeking vengeance, Becka started killing the women in the village in the hope of receiving divine protection. However, with the infection becoming worse Becka approached Mother Twiston to cut off her leg, but when she refused, Becka used the witch trials as an excuse to kill Mother Twiston so as to keep her secret.

During this revelation, mud trickles down from Becka's eyes and she starts to wither in pain. As Becka begins leaking more mud, the mud creatures surround her as the alien entity takes over her body completely. The King thinks that the devil is possessing her but as the alien entity fully takes over Becka's body it reveals itself as the queen of the war criminal race known as the Morax. The Doctor learns from the Morax Queen that Becka, when she chopped the tree down, inadvertently damaged an alien prison system, disguised as the tree, that was designed to imprison the Morax. Learning that the Morax intend to have their king possess King James before conquering Earth, The Doctor uses her sonic screwdriver on the tree to save King James and reactivate the prison. While the other Morax are forced out of their host bodies, the Morax Queen refuses to leave Becka's body and so King James kills them both when he stabs the Morax Queen with a burning branch that was being used as a torch.

The following day King James declares, that as he owes his life to The Doctor, he promises that the recent events will all be erased from the records and to keep all that has happened a secret. He and Willa then watch in surprise as The Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yasmin enter the TARDIS. The TARDIS then dematerialises, leaving the King confused and Willa smiling.

Willa Twiston
Willa Twiston
King James on a Witch Hunt
King James on a Witch Hunt
Willa With The Doctor
Willa With The Doctor
Mother Twiston Rises From the Dead
Mother Twiston Rises From the Dead
Accused of Being a Witch
Accused of Being a Witch
The Morax
The Morax
King James Kills Becka
King James Kills Becka

Quote of the Story

 'I know, because we're all the same. We want certainty. Security. To believe that people are evil or heroic. But that's not how people are. You want to know the secrets of existence? Start with the mysteries of the heart. I can show you everything if you stop being afraid of what you don't understand, if you trust me.'

The Doctor

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Release Information

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)Code NumberCover ArtRemarks
The Complete Eleventh Series Box SetJanuary 2019BBCDVD 4296Photo-montageDVD boxed set containing 10 stories
The Complete Eleventh Series Box SetJanuary 2019BBCBD 0437Photo-montageBlu-Ray boxed set containing 10 stories
The Complete Eleventh Series Box Set (Limited Edition Steelbook)January 2019BBCBD 0455Photo-montageLimited Edition Blu-Ray Steelbook boxed set containing 10 stories
Original Television Soundtrack - Series 11January 2019Photo-montageMusic by Segun Akinola

In Print

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)PublisherAuthorCover ArtRemarks
The WitchfindersMarch 2021BBC BooksJoy WilkinsonTarget Collection. ISBN: 978-1-78594-502-1
Doctor Who Magazine - PreviewIssue 532 (Released: Winter 2018/2019)
Doctor Who Magazine - ReviewIssue 533 (Released: January 2019)

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Photo Gallery

The Doctor and Companions

Jodie Whittaker
The Thirteenth Doctor


Bradley Walsh
Graham O'Brien
Tosin Cole
Ryan Sinclair
Mandip Gill
Yasmin Khan

On Release

Complete Series DVD Box Set
Complete Series DVD Box Set

Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set
Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set

Complete Series Blu-Ray Limited Edition Steelbook Box Set
Complete Series Blu-Ray Limited Edition Steelbook Box Set

Original Television Soundtrack Cover
Original Television Soundtrack Cover


In Print

BBC Books Target Collection Cover
BBC Books Target Collection Cover



Doctor Who Magazine - Preview: Issue 532
Doctor Who Magazine - Preview: Issue 532

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - Review: Issue 533
Doctor Who Magazine - Review: Issue 533

Marvel Comics

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