The Thirteenth Doctor joins Doctor Who‘s Target collection in Joy Wilkinson‘s new novelisation of her 2018 television story The Witchfinders
Today marks the arrival of several new and significant additions to the Doctor Who Target Books range. An eclectic mixture of novelisations of classic and modern television stories are becoming part this beloved collection. These latest additions to the Target range will allow Doctor Who fans to finally complete their classic-era collections, and take the range into its next incarnation.
They include the long-awaited Target editions of Eric Saward’s novelisations of Resurrection of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks, as well as James Goss’ adaptation of The Pirate Planet (based on scripts by Douglas Adams). Also available is a reissue of Gary Russell’s novelisation of 1996’s The TV Movie.
Among the modern-era novelisations out today are The Crimson Horror by Mark Gatiss, Dalek by Robert Shearman, and The Witchfinders by Joy Wilkinson. Each of these novels has been adapted by the episode’s original writer. The latter marks the first Thirteenth Doctor television story to be novelised for the Target range.
As the most recently broadcast episode within this batch of novelisations, The Witchfinders will likely be freshest in the minds of many readers. Having first aired as part of Jodie Whittaker’s inaugural series as the Doctor in November 2018, this story sees the Thirteenth Doctor, along with companions Graham, Ryan, and Yaz, travel back to seventeenth-century Lancashire.
Originally intending to attend Elizabeth I’s coronation, they instead find themselves in the village of Bilehurst Cragg. Quickly, they become caught up in the middle of a witch hunt orchestrated by local landowner, Becka Savage. The arrival of King James I himself, intent on rooting out Satan’s influence, only serves to further heighten the tension. However, the Doctor soon realises that far more sinister forces are at work, as the mud beneath their feet begins to come to life…
Wilkinson‘s Novelisation Greatly Expands on The Witchfinders‘ Original Story
Even if it’s not been too long since you last watched (or re-watched) The Witchfinders, Joy Wilkinson‘s novelisation still makes for an engaging and insightful read. Whilst it does largely follow the plotline of the episode we saw broadcast on TV, Wilkinson has added several previously unseen and rather significant scenes into her story.
It’s not mid-way through the novel’s third chapter that we reach the moment at which the television episode opens, with the Doctor and her companions arriving in Bilehurst Cragg. As such, the preceding two chapters act as a prologue to the story we already know. One introduces us to the Morax, and tells the rather sinister tale of how they came to be imprisoned beneath Pendle Hill.
The other establishes an altogether more mysterious subplot, written in the form of a letter to the Doctor. It’s the most substantial addition to the story, and one which is very well-suited to the medium of a novel. Through this, Wilkinson is able to weave an extra thread of intrigue throughout the adventure which would likely not have been nearly so effective on television. This storyline’s inclusion places Willa Twiston closer to the centre of the story, and culminates a very unexpected but wonderful epilogue for her character.
The Witchfinders Gives the Companions More Time in the Spotlight
Joy Wilkinson uses this new format to great effect throughout her novelisation of The Witchfinders. She consistently takes advantage of its ability to allow the reader a greater insight into every character’s internal monologue. Free from the constraints of a fourty-five minute runtime, there’s more time for introspection and character backstory. The novel dives deeper into Mother Twiston, Willa, and Becka Savage‘s troubled shared past, as well as the latter’s motivations for instigating her ruthless witch hunt.
Similarly, novelising this episode gives the reader a far better sense of each of the companions’ mindsets. They’re all afforded a greater share of the limelight than they were on screen. This is especially true of Yaz, as we learn more about her difficult teenage years, and how Willa’s experiences resonate with her own. The friendship that forms between these two characters is far more evident, particularly in the novel’s closing chapters, giving both that extra dimension of depth and realism. What’s more, their conversations are made even more poignant now they’re framed within the context of Series 12’s Can You Hear Me?.
Similarly, these little insights and extra details also help to bring out Graham and Ryan‘s unique and endearing qualities. We learn about the rather trivial reason why Graham suggested they travel back to see Elizabeth I’s coronation, as well as Ryan’s preoccupation with preserving his pristine new trainers.
We’re even granted a peek behind the curtain at the Doctor‘s own rapid thought processes, revealing the stern mentality that lies behind her often cheerful and awkward exterior.
All of these insightful moments never come at the cost of the story’s pacing, however. Instead, they only serve to make Wilkinson‘s original story all the more vivid. She offers intricate descriptions of Bilehurst Cragg itself, including the homes of the Twistons and Mistress Savage, as well as of the sinister Morax, bringing details that may have gone unnoticed on the screen to the foreground.
The Thirteenth Doctor Makes a Grand Entrance into the Target Collection
Joy Wilkinson’s novelisation of The Witchfinders breathes new life into the story we saw broadcast on our screens, allowing the Thirteenth Doctor a grand entrance into the Doctor Who Target collections. Despite being the most recently-aired episode of all the Target novelisations being published today, it’s one that’s well worth revisiting, particularly in this new format.
Doctor Who: The Witchfinders (Target Collection) by Joy Wilkinson
‘I am an expert on witchcraft, Doctor, but I wish to learn more. Before you die, I want answers.’
The TARDIS lands in the Lancashire village of Bilehurst Cragg in the 17th century, and the Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz soon become embroiled in a witch trial run by the local landowner. Fear stalks the land, and the arrival of King James I only serves to intensify the witch hunt.
But the Doctor soon realises there is something more sinister than paranoia and superstition at work. Tendrils of living mud stir in the ground and the dead lurch back to horrifying life as an evil alien presence begins to revive. The Doctor and her friends must save not only the people of Bilehurst Cragg from the wakening forces, but the entire world.