Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

There may have a dearth of Verities this week, but the podcast must go on! Join Deb and Tansy as they break down “The Witchfinders”. There’s a wealth of good stuff to dig into: history, feminism, the Doctor dealing with history and feminism, and, of course, Alan Cumming’s acting.

How did this story strike you? Let us know in the comments!


Happy things:

Eruditorum Presscast: Kerblam!
Article on King James’ sexuality
Support Verity! on Patreon!

Download or listen now (runtime 1:15:16) 

Comments on: "Ep 183 – The Witchfinders’ Keepers" (7)

  1. Andrew said:

    King James can also be seen in the highly entertaining Doctor Who novel “The Plotters” by Gareth Roberts, featuring the 1st Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki. While Barbara is off meeting Guy Fawkes, Vicki is dressed as a boy in the court of King James, who (believing her disguise) takes an interest in her. (From memory, it’s more comedically successful than the problematic scenes with Barbara and Nero in “The Romans”, but as I last read it about 20 years ago I can’t be 100% sure about that.)

  2. Thanks for a splendid podcasting duet! 🙂

    The Witchfinders was one of my favourite episodes of this season so far. There was an actual sense of threat with some healthy horror elements (YAY!), but nothing too gruesome to makie it unsuitable for family viewing. And there was plenty for our characters to do. When I knew Alan Cumming was playing James VI, I knew we weren;t going to get a sober attempt at an accurate portrayal, and I was right! We got high camp, and great fun it was.

    On Deb’s point about the Doctor not interfering with events and therefore giving people agency and the freedom to make their own terrible mistakes – I would wholeheartedly agree if the Doctor was a real person and she had the ability to interfere in real events. But she’s a fictional character, and this is a fantasy/SF adventure show. If she takes that stance all the time and simply observes events unfolding, the show is going to get awfully boring. The Doctor is a RENEGADE Time Lord, and renegades don’t play by the rules. That’s what makes them interesting characters to watch.

  3. yolatengo said:

    I really liked this episode and especially Siobahn Finneran’s performance! I thought the way she delivered her last lines before turning into the Morax queen was really touching: “I have tried to hold Satan back. I am so scared. Please forgive me!”
    She was brilliant in Happy Valley too.

    I did not understand why the Doctor was mad at King James at first, but then I thought maybe she had hoped to turn Becca back to being human once the Morax had been locked away again? After all Becca was the only one who was still alive when she turned, the others were all already dead.

  4. markalanix said:

    Not specifically on this episode, but on the interesting points raised by Deb about what sort of Doctor do “we” want.

    I’m watching “The Doctors: The Sylvester McCoy Years” made by Reeltime, which consists of fascinating interviews with Sophie Aldred, Lise Bowerman, Angela Bruce, Jessica Martin and especially Andrew Cartmel, who was the script editor for much of the McCoy years.

    Like Deb, I am a DVD Extra fanatic. Every time a new Doctor Who DVD comes through my door–yes, from Amazon, whom I hate–the first thing I go to are the extras. And this DVD is Extra Nirvana.

    The interview with Cartmel is pure gold, and, to stay on topic, I’ll quote some exchanges I found particularly relevant. He was interviewed by the great Nicholas Briggs.

    Briggs: You kind of made the Doctor as a sort of all-knowing manipulator.

    Cartmel: It’s a very cheap trick, but a very good trick. The Doctor can’t really do too much, because he’s too powerful. He’s like Superman in a funny kind of way, because, theoretically, he cand do anything, so there’s no story. Any threat can be pre-empted. So we had to give him this shtick that he had a confilict …

    The point is brought up that the scripts he had to work with were for a general Doctor, as they didn’t at the time know who the Doctor would be. Much like the current Doctor writers didn’t know it would be Jodie Whittaker, except, of course, Chibnall. But no one new what McCoy could do until the second season. Then they could begin to tailor scripts.


    Briggs: It’s easier to invent stories for Ace because she’s a real person with a real background whereas the Doctor is a more slippery proposition …


    Briggs: Do you think that Doctor Who fans may be guilty of have a too narrow an idea of what Doctor Who could, or should, be?

    Cartmel: The trouble is, they have very fixed ideas. What if these guys are given the power to actually make the show? I don’t think you’d have the greatest run of Doctor Who ever. I think you’d have … things that are perhaps very true to the history of the show, and perhaps a bit dull for outsiders. I don’t think they’d have a tremendously good grasp of television drama, how to make it work. And I don’t think you’d ever appease the fans because you have conflicting groups and … It’s good there’s a huge fan base and it keeps the show ticking over, but it’s very frustrating when you make it. And you have to remember, that all the shows they adore, and deify, had even less interest in the legend and history than I did….

    People like the stuff that they first encountered. As they get older and more critical … it’s like a musician you like and get all the back catalogue, when something new comes out, you don’t like it. There’s a lot of that with Who too.

    It’s really an interesting interview, and so apropos Season 11.

    I think that this is the longest regeneration ever. It’s taking 10 episodes.

    But, think about it: the Doctor has a *really* new body, and it makes sense that it’s going to take a longer time to get used to it, and find her new self.

    From the New Year previews, it looks like that’s when the Doctor will be 100% The Doctor 🙂

    • markalanix said:

      Correction: “And you have to remember, that all the shows they adore, and deify, had even less interest in” should be: “And you have to remember, that *the writers of* all the shows they adore, and deify, had even less interested in”

  5. I listened very carefully to what it was in the Doctor’s current way of working that was generating the feel-good factor but I didn’t find it wholly convincing.
    Tansy says she loves the ‘just save someone’ Doctor from Pompeii but when the Doctor is presented with the most clear-cut case for doing just that in the carnage of partition India, she doesn’t. Deb loves the small good deeds that, taken together, can make all the difference but that’s exactly what the Doctor doesn’t do on the bus in ‘Rosa’.
    The reason for the inaction is knowledge; knowing the ancestry of her companion and knowing the history of the civil rights movement. History is an endless loop of good things coming out of bad. It’s never been more clearly flagged up that if the Doctor had the relevant knowledge in every adventure and really wanted to be ‘good’, she’d mostly stay home in the TARDIS with a cup of tea and a custard cream. This flagging of the fault lines in the concept of the TV show hasn’t, at least for me, led to a very feel-good series especially when combined with an apparent crisis of confidence in the format of monster of the week.

    I hope that Verity! isn’t too modest to realize that some people feel like they’re staying loyal to the series to enhance their listening pleasure in your podcast rather than the other way around. A few weeks ago Deb hinted at an ‘accentuate the positive’ approach because of the goodwill that I think we all feel towards the series in a time of transition. It’s possible that this is particularly required for the approaching Moffat-less finale but I hope it never gets pushed too far that you hold back from telling it like it is.

  6. Sonja said:



    Somehow it saddens me that I can’t get aligned with Six Smart Women!

    I want to believe this is a good season and I’ve made a pact with myself to binge rewatch minus BBC constant commercial interruption and look-forwards which negatively impact my ability to get a sense of the Doctor.

    Having said that, the next episode is pretty good…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: