Mysteries of Pendle came from an idea suggested by my daughter Brandon, who told me she had just seen a film called Witchfinder General and suggested a Doctor Who story based on witch trials. Not alien witches like the Carrionite of Shakespeare Code, but ordinary girls and women such as in that film.


Now, I haven’t seen Witchfinder General, but I have seen several versions of The Crucible, both on stage and screen, which deals with girls under hypnotic suggestion or mass hysteria, and I have also read every book there is about the Pendle Witches.


Now, having gone to boarding school in Pendle, it is that region and the famous witch trial of 1612 that comes to mind when I think of 17th century witches. But the actual story of the Pendle witches is really difficult to get a Doctor Who story out of.



HOWEVER, when I was at boarding school in the 1970, there was a book that was practically required reading, called Mist Over Pendle, by a writer called Robert Neill. It is a romanticised telling of the witch trials through the eyes of a fictional character, Margery Whitaker, the teenage relative of Roger Nowell, the local magistrate. Now, any Doctor Who fan reading that book will find some familiar territory here. Roger is a wise old man with a quite liberal view of life and a dry sense of humour. Margery is a bright young girl with some new ideas about herself and her world. Essentially, they are The Doctor and just about any one of his young female companions. So it seemed to me that it was time to write my first cross-over fiction. Not Doctor Who meets Superman/Spiderman/Alien and Predator or even Stargate Atlantis, but Doctor Who meets Roger and Margery.


Margery is not a teenager any more. And I made her a widow for one simple reason. I couldn’t find a copy of the book and I couldn’t remember the name of the young man she was romantically involved with. I have since remembered his name. it was Frank Hilliard, but never mind. We got on without him. She gets on like a house on fire with Wyn, who is also a companion who has a second shot at it later in her life, while Stella is the wondering teenager, and Jamie takes the supporting role that Margery’s young man, Frank, did in the original story.



Lady Penistone, is named after a landmark, Penistone Crag, mentioned in Wuthering Heights, since we’re being so literary in this story. She steps into the role of chief villainess, replacing Alice Nutter, the most infamous of the Pendle Witches because she was a Lady of substance, not merely a peasant hag. In the Neil book, Alice Nutter was a LOT like Lady Penistone, proud and haughty, and with her own secret agenda.


Lady Penistone’s agenda, though, is one that takes the 17th century witch country story back into the realms of science fiction, when it is revealed that she is, in fact, one of the Sisterhood of Karn. The Sisterhood were featured in the 4th Doctor story, Brain of Morbeus, a sinister group of witchlike women who had some powers similar to the Time Lords. Now, in that episode, they didn’t in fact seem to be on the planet of Karn, which is apparently in the same solar system as Gallifrey, but they seem to have come from there. So when The Doctor reveals that both planets are gone, he is the bearer of bad news to Lady Penistone.


I have dealt with the Sisterhood of Kahn elsewhere, in the Marion and Kristoph and Theta Sigma stories, portraying them as renegade female Gallifreyans who want to be equal with the Time Lords. That slightly confuses the issue, but not irretrievably so.


The Doctor smoking with Roger was something of a gentle joke. It’s quite hard to imagine David Tennant smoking a pipe. The First Doctor DID smoke a pipe, and in the very first story, Tribe of Gumm, his lighting of a pipe is actually a plot device. But by the Second Doctor the pipe was gone, and after that smoking was starting to be regarded as unsociable. In the 1970s Doctor Who followed the general rule of thumb that only baddies smoked, hence the lovely Catherine Schell as the Countess in City of Death with her long cigarette holder. Since the series returned in 2005, NO character has been seen smoking. But in the 17th century it WAS considered to be the norm for gentlemen to light up by their fireplace.