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Doctor Who: “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” [Dec. 13th, 2018|04:59 pm]
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The Doctor Who revival’s 11th season has been something of a mixed bag, in my opinion. I thought it started out strongly with “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” “The Ghost Monument,” and “Rosa,” then went through some peaks and valleys afterward. For every strong episode like “Demons of the Punjab” or “Kerblam!,” there was a mediocre episode like “The Witchfinders,” or even a straight up bad one like “Arachnids in the UK.” I’m very happy to report, then, that the season finale, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos,” is a return to the strength of the season’s early episodes.

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

It’s fitting to call “Battle” equal in quality to the season opener, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” because together they form bookends to the season. The Senza warrior Tzim-Sha, whom the Doctor banished from Earth at the end of “Woman,” reappears in “Battle” with vengeance on his mind. To be honest, I found the wounded, sick, and angry Tzim-Sha of this episode to be even scarier than he was in “Woman”! With additional callbacks to the episodes “The Ghost Monument” and “Demons of the Punjab,” it feels like the season has come full circle and offers a kind of closure. It’s not a season-long arc, exactly, but it helps make the season feel like a cohesive whole.

I liked when Graham tells the Doctor he’s  going to kill Tzim-Sha for what he did to Grace back in “Woman.” Finally, I thought, some conflict! Unfortunately, I thought the conversation that follows suffers from the same lack of emotional depth that has plagued the writing in many episodes this season. Their conversation feels very stilted and cliched. How many times have we heard someone say, “If you kill him, you become just like him”? I would much rather have seen the Doctor tell Graham about the toll that comes with taking a life, speaking from her own experience, or even seen her get mad at Graham and tell him she didn’t ferry him all the way across space and time so he could have revenge. Instead, the conversation feels rushed and by-the-numbers to me. I wanted more emotion, a criticism I found myself repeating often throughout the season.

As for Tzim-Sha’s plan, I have to admit I didn’t fully understand it. Why keep the crews from the crashed ships alive in stasis? He can’t leave this planet, so he can’t bring them back to the Stenza homeworld as trophies. Also, why shrink the other planets down instead of just destroying them? Maybe that has more to do with the Stenza idea of keeping trophies, but still, it seems overly complicated. Then again, I should have stopped trying to make sense of Doctor Who villains’ plans a long time ago, as they rarely make sense.

Anyway, I liked “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” a lot, and I’m so relieved this up-and-down season ended on a high note. I like the cast and the character development of Graham and Ryan, I just hope next season we’ll have a little more emotional depth. And also maybe a little more Yaz?

And now for some Doctor Who neepery! The Doctor mentioned the TARDIS once regressed a Slitheen back into an egg, which is a reference to the events of the 2005 Ninth Doctor episode “Boom Town.” She also mentions the TARDIS once towed the Earth “halfway across the universe,” which is a reference to the 2008 Tenth Doctor episode “Journey’s End,” which coincidentally also dealt with stolen planets. Another story that deals with stolen planets, and miniaturized ones at that, is the 1978 Fourth Doctor serial “The Pirate Planet,” in which the hollow planet Zanak would materialize around other planets, plunder their mineral wealth, and then crush those planets down to tiny rocks. One such shrunken planet was Calufrax, which turned out to be a disguised segment of the Key to Time, a cube composed of crystalline shards that look remarkably similar to the ones Tzim-Sha was keeping his own shrunken planets in!

Next up, a New Year’s Day special (in which it is rumored the Daleks, whom we haven’t seen since 2015’s Twelfth Doctor episode “The Witch’s Familiar,” will return), and then…no new episodes until 2020? Say it ain’t so! These long breaks between seasons are a drag!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Scariest Part: Ellen Butler Talks About FATAL LEGISLATION [Dec. 11th, 2018|07:00 am]
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This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is Ellen Butler, whose new novel is Fatal LegislationHere is the publisher’s description:

Lawmaking can be a murderous affair.

If any day calls for a soothing glass of wine, it’s today.

One moment, Capitol Hill lobbyist Karina Cardinal is having a heated discussion with Senator Harper, who just torpedoed her latest health care legislation initiative. The next, after a cryptic remark, the senator is dead at her feet. Hours later, she’s still so rattled she wakes to a freezing apartment because she forgot to close her back door. Or did she?

When her boyfriend, FBI cybercrimes expert Mike Finnegan, is suddenly reassigned to work a new case, he’s got bad news and worse news. The bad: the senator’s death was no heart attack — it was assassination by a hacker disabling his pacemaker. Worse: Karina’s a “person of interest.”

Certain that status could change to “suspect” at any moment, Karina begins her own back-channel investigation into who could have wanted the senator dead. Of course, in Washington, that means playing politics and following the money trail. A trail that leads to more murders…and possibly leaving the door open for a killer to change her status to “dead.”

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Ellen Butler:

Often when we think of scary things — especially when we’re talking mystery/thrillers — we expect serial killers that gruesomely torture their victims, or a psycho who kidnaps a child, or a radical religious faction getting ahold of a weapon of mass destruction that threatens the lives of millions. Well, in Fatal Legislation, the scariest part is much sneakier and more sinister due to manner in which it subtly affects not only the victims in the book, but also the way in which it can affect every American who is electronically plugged in to society. Spoiler Alert: Fatal Legislation begins with the death of a senator. We soon find out that what seems like your run-of-the-mill heart attack is, instead, a targeted murder, using the senator’s own pacemaker to kill him. Yes, you read correctly, someone hacks the senator’s pacemaker and speeds it up so fast the blood can’t pump properly through his body, and boom — dead senator.

Science fiction! You might cry. If only that were true. The idea to kill off someone in this manner for one of my Karina Cardinal Mysteries came from a recall ad that ran on television the summer of 2016. That wasn’t the first or last recall notice for pacemakers. According to CNET, in May of 2018, “Abbott (formerly St. Jude Medical) is recalling some 350,000 implantable defibrillators to help protect patients from any spy-movie style assassination attempts or other issues.”I reached out to a cybersecurity specialist to find out more about this phenomenon, and the answer I got was very unsettling. He basically said, “Anything with firmware can be hacked.” To counteract this, Abbott and other companies with pacemakers vulnerable to hacks have created firmware updates to forestall such a hack. Unfortunately, the fix is only good until another hacker finds a different weakness.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “I don’t have a pacemaker, so I’m safe.” Maybe you’re right. However, you might be vulnerable in a different manner — one that affects your right to privacy. Do you have a smart phone? Smart TV, smart refrigerator, maybe a smart HVAC system with a temperature that can be adjusted from afar. One of these items in your house may already have been hacked and been used for a nefarious purpose without your knowledge. Here’s a “for instance” that was explained to me, and the reason I’m not allowed to hook our smart appliances up to our wi-fi. Hackers that attack important systems and high visibility websites — such as government or financial institutions — will do something in the biz called D-DoS or a denial of service attack. Basically, making the site unavailable to users temporarily or indefinitely. In order to do this, a hacker will flood the intended victim’s server with a ridiculous amount of incoming traffic so legitimate users can’t get in. A hacker may have hacked your smart TV, or dishwasher, and is utilizing it to help with this D-DoS attack. . . and you’d never know it. These smart appliances are particularly vulnerable, because most manufacturers don’t continually renew the patches to keep out these types of hacks. If you have a computer or phone, you’ll notice the apps and software are being constantly updated. Not so with your fancy new air-conditioner.

Here’s another example of the insidious every day intrusion into your life. Perhaps you’re best friends with SIRI or an Alexa. Have you noticed that after talking about going on a trip to Bermuda with your friend, you suddenly start noticing ads for Bermuda hotels and travel packages popping up in your Facebook feed or Google search. Even better, did you hear about the couple in Oregon, who were debating which hardwood floors to put into their home? According to The Washington Post, the couple’s Amazon Echo recorded their private conversation and sent it to a person in their contacts list in Seattle. Daniel Kahn Gillmor, a staff technologist for the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said that the intuitive nature of connected devices can mask their complexity and the possibility of malfunction. “The Amazon Echo, despite being small, is a computer — it’s a computer with microphones, speakers, and it’s connected to the network,” he said. “These are potential surveillance devices, and we have invited them further and further into our lives without examining how that could go wrong.”

We have welcomed these devices into our homes, purses and pockets. Yet, by doing so, we have made ourselves more vulnerable to cyber attacks and surveillance. The question is no longer if you’ll be hacked, it’s when. And what the fall out will be when you are.

Fatal Legislation: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iBooks

Ellen Butler: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

Ellen Butler is a bestselling author writing critically acclaimed suspense and award-winning historical fiction. Her experiences working at a medical association in Washington, D.C. inspired the Karina Cardinal series. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Office of Strategic Services Society.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Tangent Online Review of “The Fifth Horseman” [Dec. 9th, 2018|12:02 pm]
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Tangent Online has a great review of my story “The Fifth Horseman” in Black Static 66. Here’s a snippet:

This was a deep and thoughtful horror story; here there is no right and wrong, just humanity’s fortes and foibles. A hard-to-put-down read.

Click through the read the rest, including reviews of all the other stories in the magazine as well!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Awards Eligibility 2018 [Dec. 6th, 2018|04:12 pm]
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This is my awards eligibility list for 2018!

Stories:
“The Fire and the Stag,” Black Static 63, May 2018, 7,300 words
“The Fifth Horseman,” Black Static 66, November 2018, 11,800 words

Novel:
100 Fathoms Below, Steven L. Kent and Nicholas Kaufmann, Blackstone Publishing, October 9th, 2018

And here are some books I read in 2018 that I think are worthy of awards attention:
The Sky Is Yours, Chandler Klang Smith (novel, science fiction)
The Cabin at the End of the World, Paul Tremblay (novel, horror)
After Pie, Stefan Petrucha (novella, science fiction)
We Sold Our Souls, Grady Hendrix (novel, horror)
The Con Artist, Fred Van Lente (novel, mystery)

Thanks for your consideration!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Doctor Who: “It Takes You Away” [Dec. 5th, 2018|04:14 pm]
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***SPOILERS AHEAD***

“It Takes You Away,” like many of the episodes this season, can best be described as okay, with a few standout moments, but not great. It’s more middling than anything else. The problem is that the episode is actually two different stories, and both are somewhat disappointing because the other is attached to it and by necessity truncating it.

The first story is about a blind girl named Hanne who is alone in a cabin with a missing and presumed dead father, as well as something terrible in the woods outside that comes every day at the same time. It’s a great setup, and in fact it reminded me a lot of the equally great setup to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. Unfortunately, it makes exactly the same wrong turn that The Village does with the twist that there is no monster in the forest, it’s just a recording her father left to keep her in the house. (Not to mention keeping her terrified and helpless. This guy’s not winning any Father of the Year Awards. I really wish either the Doctor or Ryan, who was abandoned by his own father, had truly taken him to task for his actions, but like in the episode “Kerblam!”, where the Doctor didn’t seem all that upset that the system had murdered an innocent person just to make a point to the villain, the writers keep forgetting to have the characters react to anything outside the main conflict.)

The second story also has a great setup: a mirror universe created by an ancient entity who was exiled from our universe and wants to come back. Most of the good things in the episode happen in this story, in particular the scenes with Graham and his seemingly resurrected wife Grace. Those scenes add a much needed emotional depth to the story — an emotional depth that, frankly, has been missing for most of the season. But there’s barely time to explore this fascinating concept of a mirror universe created by what is essentially a godlike being, because there’s all the stuff from the first story to deal with too, and also an absolutely dreadful interlude in the Anti-zone between universes with an alien named Ribbons and some dead rats and creatures called flesh moths, and really the less said about that the better. Also, the Solitract takes the form of a frog for some reason when it tries to keep the Doctor in the mirror universe, instead of taking the form of someone the Doctor loves, as it did for Hanne’s father and Graham. Probably, they couldn’t bring Alex Kingston or a previous companion back for the scene, but still, as cute as the frog was, the choice didn’t make much sense or have any emotional weight.

Everything having to do with Graham and Grace, and that scene at the end when Ryan finally calls Graham “granddad,” is wonderful. (Also, the fact that Graham carries sandwiches with him after realizing they don’t often stop for meals on their adventures. Basically, everything Graham is making me happy!) The rest of “It Takes You Away” is such a muddled mishmash that even when it’s dealing with what should be intriguing concepts, it just doesn’t have the power to grab you. Also, Ryan’s dyspraxia is gone again, as he runs through the Anti-zone and away from the flesh moths without any coordination issues at all.

As a side note, I think I’ve figured out what Chris Chibnall is trying to do with this season, and why it’s not necessarily working for me. I think Chibnall is trying to bring Doctor Who back to being a child-friendly family show with a classic-era structure of each episode being its own adventure without a season-long arc, making it easier for new and young viewers to jump in at any time. However, because I’m still used to the preceding years’ more adult tone and almost airlessly self-referential, continuity-heavy arcs, it feels lightweight to me, rightly or wrongly. I will admit that aside from a great cast, some nice character work, an almost cinematic look, and what I thought was a strong start, I’ve found this season mostly underwhelming. With only one episode to go (as well as an eventual New Year’s Day special), I don’t see things having much time to turn around.

And now for some Doctor Who neepery! When Ryan and Graham discover they can’t see their reflections in the mirror, Ryan makes a joke about how they would presumably know if they were vampires. The Doctor has actually met vampires before on several occasions. In the 1980 serial “State of Decay,” the Fourth Doctor encounters three astronauts from Earth who were turned into vampires by the Great Vampire centuries ago. In the 1989 serial “The Curse of Fenric,” the Seventh Doctor encounters the Haemovores, mutated humans from the far future who drink blood and are repelled by symbols of strong belief. There were also the Plasmavores in the 2007 Tenth Doctor episode “Smith and Jones,” and of course in the 2010 Eleventh Doctor episode “The Vampires of Venice,” the victims of the Saturnyne take on vampiric attributes. At one point in “It Takes You Away,” Yaz recommends the Doctor reverse the polarity of her sonic screwdriver to try to open the portal back to their world, and the Doctor replies, “You speak my language!” This is a reference to a long-running joke on Doctor Who about “reversing the polarity of the neutron flow,” a phrase that goes all the way back to the Third Doctor.

Next episode is the season finale. Here’s hoping things pick up a bit!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Con Artist [Dec. 4th, 2018|05:09 pm]
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The Con ArtistThe Con Artist by Fred Van Lente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Fred Van Lente’s debut comedic mystery novel, 2017’s 10 DEAD COMEDIANS, but THE CON ARTIST finds the author fully in his element. (Although Dante Dupree from 10 DEAD COMEDIANS is name-checked in THE CON ARTIST, which I guess puts both novels in the same…Van Lenteverse?) A murder mystery set at a nerdy convention isn’t exactly a new concept (Sharyn McCrumb’s 1988 BIMBOS OF THE DEATH SUN comes to mind, as does Nick Mamatas’s 2016 I AM PROVIDENCE), but what makes THE CON ARTIST special is its insider’s view of San Diego Comic-Con. (Van Lente himself has been a comic book professional for decades and is no stranger to comics conventions.)

The mystery is more grounded this time around, with less of a ticking clock, which allows the reader plenty of opportunities to soak in the narrator’s observations about the convention, which I suspect are not all that different from Van Lente’s own. Some of those observations are quite funny, such as the breakdown of the five categories of people the artists in Comic-Con’s Artists Alley regularly have to interact with, while others are more poignant or disturbing, like the trajectory that can gradually transform a fan who loves comics more than anything into someone who harasses comics creators online with insults and death threats.

THE CON ARTIST is a fun, quick read with a compelling mystery and a singular and truly enjoyable insider’s POV. Mystery readers will be entertained, but if you’re also into comic books you’ll definitely get something extra out of it.

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Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Scariest Part: Eliot Parker Talks About A KNIFE’S EDGE [Dec. 4th, 2018|07:00 am]
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This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is Eliot Parker, whose new novel is A Knife’s EdgeHere is the publisher’s description:

Six months after a drug cartel infiltrated Charleston, Ronan McCullough continues to fight the drug war that plagues the city. His investigations are halted when the body of a mutual acquaintance, Sarah Gilmore, is found in the trunk of a burning car. In an investigation that takes him deep into the professional and personal life of the victim, McCullough discovers secrets lurking in her past, and a tangled web of personal and professional conflicts, suspicion, and betrayal. Was Sarah killed for those reasons or something larger? As Ronan seeks answers, his life and the lives of those closest to him are used as pawns in a deadly game that has no ending.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Eliot Parker:

There are several parts of my book that are scary. One scary component of the novel is the sheer level of violence that occurs, at times, in the book. The violence is not present by happenstance because it is necessary to move the plot of the story forward. For example, in the book, Ronan and the police are trying to manage a crime wave and increased drug activity that is plaguing Charleston, West Virginia.  Ronan gets pulled away from that work when the body of a mutual acquaintance, Sarah Gilmore, is found butchered in the back of a burning car. The investigation takes him deep into the personal and professional life of the victim. Ronan discovers some secrets in Sarah’s past and also discovers a tangled web of personal and professional relationship contacts. Ronan has to determine if those conflicts lead to her death or was it something larger, and Ronan gets some answers, and puts himself and his family into harms way. As I got into the story and got to know my characters on a deeper level, I realized that the only way Ronan McCullough was going to survive was to become more ruthless than his adversaries.

The work that Ronan does is dangerous work and the physical and emotional toll it takes on him in this book (like in the last book) is tremendous. Those feelings impact Ronan’s relationship with Ty and Nick (his nephew), who Ronan loves more than anything, but struggles to keep them away from his work and keep them safe as the story unfolds. Ronan and Ty have to hide their relationship so that Ronan is not ostracized as a member of the police department and that serves as another layer of conflict. There is a more dangerous, more deadly set of criminals that have moved into Charleston now as a result of what happened in Fragile Brilliance and as they ratchet up their lethal behavior, Ronan has to lift himself up to match the challenge. Ronan finds himself in this book having to fight “eye for an eye” in several moments in order to get the information and help he needs.

The scariest part of my book centers on the premise of the plot. A Knife’s Edge is a sequel to an earlier novel, Fragile Brilliance. One of the subplots in Fragile Brilliance involved Ty (Ronan’s boyfriend and an emergency room nurse) leading a fundraising team at Charleston Mercy Hospital. The hospital was trying to raise money for a new children’s cancer center. In this book, the money has been raised and the new wing has been built onto the back of the hospital. The hospital was able to complete the fundraising thanks to a donation from a new blood diagnostics company called BTech, who was promised a floor of lab space in the new hospital as a “thank you” for the donation. Also, due to a severe state budget crisis, the state of West Virginia no longer operates the state police crime lab in South Charleston, and instead has outsourced their blood analysis work for police investigations to BTech. I was at a bookstore a few years ago and I picked up a copy of Time Magazine. On the front cover was a woman named Elizabeth Holmes, whom the magazine had named as the most influential woman in the country. She founded a company called Theranos which created technology and equipment that could diagnose diseases, infections, illnesses, etc. in patients with just a drop of blood from the end of a finger. The idea was that hospitals and crime labs wouldn’t need all of this expensive equipment that has to be purchased and maintained. Instead, Theranos developed two machines that could do all the blood analysis work. Unfortunately, the company ended up being a fraud, but when I read the story, I started thinking, “What would happen if that type of technology made it into the wrong hands?” That’s when I decided to include it in my plot.

An emotionally “scary” part of the book for me as the writer was writing a sequel to a novel. This is the first time I have ever written a sequel. I think the scariest challenge when writing a sequel, for me, comes with characters. In the second book, you (as the writer) want to make sure that the characters remain true to themselves, but at the same time, you want them to grow and develop as the book progresses. That was a real challenge for me. However, it was so much fun spending time with all of these characters again.

A Knife’s Edge: Amazon

Eliot Parker: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Eliot Parker is the author of four thriller novels. His third novel, Code for Murder, was a finalist for Best Thriller Novel by American Book Fest in 2018. Eliot is a graduate of the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. A recipient of the West Virginia Literary Merit Award and also a finalist for the Southern Book Prize in Thriller Writing, Eliot teaches writing and literature at Mountwest Community and Technical College.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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A Night of Dark Fiction [Nov. 29th, 2018|04:48 pm]
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Join multiple award-nominated and critically acclaimed New York City authors Karen Heuler, John C. Foster, and Nicholas Kaufmann for a night of thrills, chills, and astonishment!

Come for the amazing stories, stay for the glamorous prizes*! What better way to spend a winter’s night?

Thursday, January 17th
7 PM – 9 PM

Otto’s Shrunken Head – 584 East 14th Street, between Ave A and Ave B

Karen Heuler is the author of The Inner City, In Search of Lost TimeOther Places, and others.

John C. Foster is the author of Mister WhiteNight RoadsThe Isle, and others.

Nicholas Kaufmann is the author of Dying Is My Business, In the Shadow of the Axe100 Fathoms Below, and others.

Feel free to RSVP at the Facebook event page if you like. Hope to see you there!

* Prizes may not be glamorous.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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New Class in January [Nov. 28th, 2018|05:01 pm]
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My LitReactor class on writing fast-paced novels, Runaway Prose, is starting up again on January 24th! Enrollment tops out at 16 students, so be sure to sign up today! Click below for more info:

Want to keep readers speeding through your novel? It’s all about pace. In this four-week workshop, multiple award-nominated author Nicholas Kaufmann will show you how to keep readers engaged.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Doctor Who: “The Witchfinders” [Nov. 27th, 2018|12:07 am]
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***MILD SPOILERS AHEAD***

“The Witchfinders” is a fun episode, but for a story dealing with such heavy themes — paranoia, scapegoating, the senseless murder of villagers accused of being witches, the way women were generally belittled, disregarded, and mistreated in 17th century England — it felt curiously lightweight. If this were a season with more of an arc, “The Witchfinders” would be a filler episode, a placeholder between episodes more important to the overall story. But that sounds harsher than I intended. It’s not a bad episode by any stretch, it just doesn’t go deep, and as a result it’s kind of forgettable.

One thing that is not forgettable about the episode is Alan Cumming as King James I. He’s hilarious through most of it, but also brings his acting chops to the quieter moments when he needs to. There have been a lot of well known actors doing character work on Doctor Who, in the classic series as well as the revival, but Cumming stands out as one of the best. He looks like he’s having a great time, and that feeling is contagious.

It was nice to see Siobhan Finneran again, too. She was great as Miss O’Brien on Downton Abbey, and when she left that show her absence was definitely felt. The episode’s zombie women were appropriately scary, but unfortunately, this being Doctor Who, they turned out to be possessed by disembodied aliens instead of being actual undead revenants out for revenge, which would have been so much cooler. But there’s always a scientific explanation in this show, so aliens it is. Interestingly, this is the third “aliens in history” episode of the season, which is an unusual number for Doctor Who. Normally, we only get one historical per season, maybe two. If this is going to be a theme of Chris Chibnall’s era, I hope he will find a way not to make it too repetitious.

I thought there was a missed comedic opportunity to have the Doctor forget she’s female now and wonder why King James refuses to believe she’s the Witchfinder General, before she remembers. We do get a funny line later about how people used to listen to her more when she was male, though.

So, all in all, “The Witchfinders” is a good if not entirely memorable episode. There isn’t any further character development for the companions or the Doctor in this one, and once again Ryan’s dyspraxia seems to have disappeared. Graham gets to wear a funny hat, though, so at least there’s that!

And now for some Doctor Who neepery! The Doctor has met actual witches before. In the 1971 Third Doctor serial “The Daemons,” the Master leads a coven of witches in Devil’s End in his effort to summon Azal, an alien who looks like the Devil. In the same serial, Olive Hawthorne, a resident of Devil’s End trying to stop the Master, claims to be a “white witch” (as did the actress who played her, Damaris Hayman). Although the Doctor himself wasn’t involved, the one-and-done 1981 spinoff K9 and Company saw Sarah Jane Smith and K9 Mark III face a coven of witches determined to perform a human sacrifice in the name of the goddess Hecate. And of course in the 2007 Tenth Doctor episode “The Shakespeare Code,” the Carrionites, led by Lilith, took the form of very Macbeth-like witches.

For all the talk about Satan in “The Witchfinders,” the Doctor has met several aliens who are supposed to either have created the myth of the Devil or who were mistaken for the Devil. Among them are the aforementioned Azal from “The Daemons”; Sutekh in the 1975 Fourth Doctor serial “Pyramids of Mars,” whose name the Doctor says is “abominated in every civilized world, whether that name be Set, Satan, Sodos…”; the Malus in the 1984 Fifth Doctor serial “The Awakening,” an alien war machine lying dormant beneath a church whose walls feature its image as a representation of the Devil; and the 2006 Tenth Doctor episode “The Satan Pit,” in which the giant horned entity known as the Beast claims he is Satan, as well as other, less terrestrial religious figures. (I’m tempted to include Abaddon from the 2007 Torchwood episode “End of Days” too, but although he looks very Devil-like, he is never referenced that way.)

Lastly, the Doctor met another disembodied alien lifeform that possesses the bodies of the dead in the 2005 Ninth Doctor episode “The Unquiet Dead.” In that story, the Geith take control of corpses for their new bodies, which inspires Charles Dickens to finish writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood, although sadly he doesn’t live to complete the novel.

Next episode, the Doctor finds a cabin in the woods, and that’s never a good thing!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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