“The Witchfinders” is the eighth episode of the 11th series of Doctor Who, starring Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, and guest starred Alan Cummings as King James I. It was first broadcast in November of 2018.

In case I haven't mentioned this so far, the thirteenth Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker, is a woman, with the process of Time Lord regeneration leading to her reincarnation in a female body. This was, of course, the source of much media and publicity, and some debate, when Whittaker's role was revealed, but has only been mentioned in passing in the program itself. In fact, in general, and unlike some recent past Doctors, Whittaker has foregone much soul searching or analysis of her own identity.

But in this episode, when her and her companions visit Tudor England in the middle of a literal Witch Hunt, and when the authority figures she has to meet are undisposed to listen to a woman, her gender becomes an issue for the first time.

The Doctor and company's visit to Merry Olde England prompty takes a turn for the darker when they witness an alleged witch being executed. They soon discover that the local landowner is on a witch hunt, and that (for reasons that are never fully explained), King James I has come to help as well. The Doctor's usual method of barging in and taking control falls flat, because King James I won't believe that a woman could help. Later, of course, the Doctor's supernatural skills lead to her being suspected as a witch.

I should point out, although it is perhaps extraneous, that the events of the episode are not purely historical, but there are aliens involved, and that The Doctor manages to find a last-minute solution to defeat the aliens and the witch hunting hysteria.

Much like the last episode, Kerblam! this episode starts out with a good, challenging premise that brings up social issues, shows character-driven drama, and then switches, half way through, to a more typical Doctor Who, monster of the week, story, solved by technobabble. The story doesn't really manage to reconcile one of the challenges it brings up. History is an adventure, a place where we can learn about how people used to live, and empathize with how people have built socities over the years...but history is also a place where acts of cruelty and ignorance were common. By making this a story about aliens, the episode manages to forget that the attitude of King James towards witches would have been commonly accepted at the time, including probably by his predecessor (and the Doctor's sometimes spouse, Elizabeth I. While a good episode, this story uses the painful reality of the past to raise dramatic tension, but then leaves us without a resolution, in favor of a conclusion involving poorly developed alien invaders.