February 2020 follows on from the previous month’s Purgatory 12 and Chase the Night with another pair of stories, first of which is The Planet of Witches. Writer Alan Barnes puts the Fourth Doctor, Romana, Adric and K9 through their paces in a tale of magic and mayhem.
The Planet of Witches
The synopsis spells it out:
Whilst attempting a detailed scan of E-Space, K9 detects the trail of a large spacecraft. Seeking a lead for their escape, the Doctor sets out on its trail towards a misty yellow planet.
Arriving just in time to witness a crash-landing in the planet’s swamps, the Doctor and his crew discover a number of escaping prisoners fleeing from someone claiming to be a Witchfinder… whilst terrifying ‘familiars’ float around them.
For this is the planet of the witches… and the witches may just know the way home.
Alan Barnes creates an intriguing marshy world for the witches to inhabit and as we begin to understand just what witches are, we realise there are various threads at play: one is advanced technology on a mission, the other the battle between faith over science.
There’s a rich cast of characters; Abigail McKern’s Crone is central to much of the story though Samuel Clemens does a sterling job as Tiresias. Of course the quest for the Charged Vacuum Emboitement (CVE) is driving most of the TARDIS team’s actions, but Adric is also driven by desire to prove himself a worthy team member, able to make decisions without reference to the Doctor. I wonder how well that will work?!
The Doctor, Adric and Romana all get plenty to do, with K9 perhaps making up the numbers at times – difficult not to when you’re a robot dog I grant. It’s a solid story and goes in directions that weren’t obvious at the start. It even manages to finesse just who the actual baddie is – a good example of a story with some depth. There’s a lot to like in this tale.