Witch World

By Tom Sinclair

I’ve just listened to the three existing episodes of WITCH WORLD and I keep asking myself one question: What the hell compelled me to adapt Andre Norton’s fantasy novel into a TR show? Was it the result of a spell cast by a witch? A warlock? A druid? Perhaps I had unwittingly repeated an incantation from a DR. STRANGE comic that cosmically realigned the forces of the universe—or at least my addled adolescent id—and made me believe I had hit on a great idea.

Curiously, I don’t think I was ever exactly over the moon about Norton’s Witch World series. It’s true I owned all six WW books, but I’m almost positive I only ever read the first one. Back in 1970-’71, I was much more into Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and the “new wave” of sci-fi/fantasy writers I was discovering in the monthly pulp magazine FANTASTIC STORIES.

Yet listening to these three episodes of WITCH WORLD, you might imagine I was president of the Andre Norton fan club. I certainly seemed to take the enterprise seriously, at least for the first two episodes. I even wrote a rudimentary script for the pilot, which you can take a gander at elsewhere on this page. (It was, I can tell you, highly unusual for one of our shows to be scripted; typically, we began with a one-sentence concept, and winged it from there.)

Original Witch World script, p. 1.Original Witch World script, p. 1.

Today, those first two WW episodes seem curiously misbegotten, steeped in melodrama and unconscious self-parody. Just listen to all that portentous, welling PLANET OF THE APES music, and the way Tom Soter (who played the show’s protagonist, Simon Tregarth) and I overact in classic William Shatner fashion at every turn. It’s all corny and a bit boring, no?

Yet the third (and final) episode, “Simon’s Deadly Challenge,” presents a wholly refreshing sea change. With guest appearances by those ace buffoons Sam and Jack Rosen, it’s a trash-fest almost as absurd as HUCK FINN. You can hear Soter and me cracking up all over the place at the silly plot, which features snake people and severed heads. And, as the episode draws to a close, you can hear the show’s entire premise come crashing down amid heaping helpings of chaos and illogic.

It’s kind of cool. I’d like to think that it was our intention to make a subversive art statement out of a previously pretentious bit of crap, but I know that wasn’t the case.

It just occurred to me to wonder what Andre Norton (who was actually a woman named Alice Mary Norton) would have made of the show.

Hmmm. To paraphrase Hemingway: It’s probably best not to think about it.

Witch WorldWitch World

Listen to:
Siege Perilous
Episode 1. Taped: 1970.
Andre Norton's best-selling fantasy novel comes to TR in this Tom Sinclair adaptation.Today: Simon Tregarth, ex-colonel, is a hunted man – and the hunt is coming to a deadly end. His choice? To give himself up to his pursuers or take a chance of entering a strange new world of witches and danger. Tregarth: Tom Soter. Petronius: Tom Sinclair. Jackart: Basil Fletcher. Waiter: Jack Rosen.

Simon Heeds the Call
Episode 2. Taped: 1970
Tregarth (Tom Soter) is asked to join the forces of his captors in a great battle. Jackart: Basil Fletcher. Koris: Robert Drummar.

Simon's Deadly Challenge
Episode 3. Taped: 1971.