24 November 2011

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Rick Briggs

RRP: £14.99

Release Date: 30th November 2011

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 24th November 2011

Hidden within the grounds of the estate of Tranchard’s Folly, there is an old, overgrown sealed well. When the curious owner of the house, Aleister Portillion, and his excavation team break it open, they unleash a horror that has been trapped for centuries. 

Two teenage twins, Lucern and Finicia barely escape with their lives, rescued by a woman calling herself Mary Shelley and a man known only as The Doctor.

The mystery of the ancient evil only stirs the Doctor’s curiosity, and he embarks on a journey to the past to uncover its origin. It isn’t long before things go terribly wrong, and the Doctor and Mary find themselves separated in Tranchard’s Folly’s past and future.

In the Twenty-First Century, Mary and the twins go in search of an artefact that may hold the key to the horror within the well and in the Seventeenth, amidst a wave of fear and persecution; the Doctor feels the wrath of Master Kincaid, the Witch-Pricker.

As the paths of all converge, it seems that even across centuries and universes, thou shall not suffer a Witch to live.

The Witch From the Well, the second in the new trilogy of Eighth Doctor adventures, is a rather fun story, filled with great concepts and characters. As you may have guessed from the title, there is no shortage of witch related moments, most significantly in the sequences set in the Seventeenth Century.

The Doctor’s quiet and disappointed disgust with the primitive superstitions of the villagers is written well and Paul McGann excels in his delivery.

Many of the plays most interesting scenes are the confrontations between The Doctor and Kincaid, played brilliantly by Simon Rouse. There's usually a danger of treating men of extreme faith with contempt and it is a credit to the writing and Rouse’s performance that Kincaid does not become a raving stereotype. The Doctor and Kincaid are simply men on opposite sides, both striving for a similar goal, the only difference being their beliefs and methods.

There are a great many characters throughout this play all served by terrific performances, particularly Serena Evans as Agnes Bates, the poor innocent herbalist, condemned as all women of her kind were.

Having Mary and the Doctor separated in the past and future, allows for her to stand alone for nearly the whole story. Julie Cox once again, impresses as Mary Shelley and it is nice to see the character be her own person, rather than fall into the trap of simply following the Doctor around and getting forgotten in all the mayhem. The interesting subplot in which Mary comes close to discovering her future is interesting and it is intriguing to see the character wrestle with the temptation of it. It would have been nice to see more of Mary with the Doctor as such a great rapport was set up in The Silver Turk.

This the first full length adventure by Rick Briggs for Big Finish, having previously been the lucky winner of BF’s writer’s opportunity. The result of that contest was The Entropy Composition, an excellent story which was included on The Demons of Red Lodge and Other Stories released last year. 

With The Witch From the Well, Briggs has certainly established himself as a writer to watch, as there is no end of original ideas here. Witches are foremost in the mind of the story, but they are not employed to simply put a Doctor Who spin on a popular myth. What Briggs chooses to focus on is how the persecution of others can destroy not only the persecutors but also those being condemned.

To say how this theme develops further in the play would be to spoil a surprisingly dark motivation for the story’s antagonists. It is a very neat twist, and raises very interesting questions that stay with you long after listening.

Overall, The Witch From the Well is an entertaining and thought provoking adventure that is well worth a listen.

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