(ISBN 0-563-40579-1) RELEASED IN MARCH 1998.





The TARDIS arrives in Salem Village, Massachusetts, 1692. The Doctor wishes to effect repairs to his ship in peace and privacy, and so his companions - Ian, Barbara and Susan - decide to 'live history' for a week or so. But the friendships they make are abruptly broken when the Doctor ushers them away, wary of being overtaken by the tragic events he knows will occur.


Upon learning the terrible truth of the Salem witch trials, Susan is desperate to return - at any price. Her actions lead the TARDIS crew into terrible jeopardy, and her latent telepathy threatens to help the tragedy escalate way out of control...








The Witch Hunters

MARCH 1998






I first learned about the Salem Witch Hunts rather oddly, by way of the Nirvana song “Serve the Servants”. And then just a few years later, one of my GCSE texts was Arthur Miller’s Crucible. Later still, at some point in between studying The Crucible and reading The Witch Hunters, I caught the film. But of all these various spins on the Salem tragedy, it was Doctor Who’s that I enjoyed the most.


Perhaps ‘enjoyed’ is the wrong word. Steve Lyons’ thoughtful and well-researched novel is actually an astoundingly agonising read. Even putting aside the well-documented purgatory that the victims of Salem endured, the hell that the Doctor and each of his companions go through in this novel is absolutely harrowing. The characterisation in this book is nothing short of magnificent, and I’m not just talking about its historical characters, with whom many readers will already be familiar - I’m talking about our heroes. Or should I say anti-heroes, for that’s exactly what they are here. Each of them.


And none more so than the Doctor, who for the first time has to experience the frustration that his companions feel when he tells them that they can’t change events that have already happened. He has to break a promise to condemned woman. He has to lie. And he has to turn his back on those in sufferance. His scenes with the doomed Rebecca Nurse are both excruciating and brilliant, and the role that he plays in her ultimate fate is truly disturbing but, in the most irregular way, somewhat uplifting too.



Ian is perhaps even more impressive than the Time Lord though; The Witch Hunters is most one of his strongest outings in the medium. It’s an aching joy to read about how this swaggering, enlightened “man of the future” falls so far so fast. Lyons’ portrayal of the 1960s schoolteacher is almost arrogant in how he thinks he’s so far above what’s going on in Salem, but by the time that he finds himself subjected to an intrusive strip-search in a festering dungeon, two over-zealous guards searching for his “witch’s tit”, he’s utterly broken. But what is so heartbreakingly brilliant about Ian’s arc in this story is that, come the end, he understands. He learns the hard way that he can’t change history. Even when he does manage to alter something, time finds a way to stop him, to make him part of events. Not only is this moving on a personal level, but it also makes a lot of sense within the larger context of the series.


Susan’s role is more predictable though as she becomes one of Abigail and Mary’s hysterical cohorts, but at least the way in which it is written offers the reader insight into the psychology of the Salem tragedy. And Lyons’ writing is bold in that there are times here where you will hate Susan, and yet somehow, at the end of the novel, you might just respect her that little bit more.


Barbara comes off the worst of the ensemble; she’s even saddled with Ian’s surname long before she and Ian wed. Still, her limited role is well written, and it isn’t really surprising that in a story that is so strong for the other three regulars, one came up slightly short. But only slightly.


The only real criticism that I have of this novel is that it assumes certain knowledge on the part of the reader. Were I not so familiar with the events depicted, there isn’t much in the way of descriptive prose to set the scene. The overabundant use of the fast return switch is a bit of a cop-out too, but let’s face it – without a steerable TARDIS, the Doctor’s thread of the plot would never have got off the ground.


In all, The Witch Hunters comes highly recommended. I’m not the biggest fan in the world of William Hartnell’s Doctor, but this book sets itself apart from the crowd, really pushing the “we can’t change history” idea to the limit. Indeed, at times you’d almost think that they can…


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design

 and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.



This novel’s blurb places its main events between the television serials The Reign of Terror and Planet of  Giants. Within this gap, we have placed them prior to the audio book Here There Be Monsters (which was released later) and the novel City at Worlds End (which leads into Planet of Giants).


The novel’s coda takes place shortly after the first Doctor has left Gallifrey’s Death Zone in The Five Doctors.


Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.

Doctor Who is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.