This review contains spoilers.
When 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' first aired on BBC Two here in the U.K. in 1999, I really enjoyed the Pilot ('Welcome to the Hellmouth' / 'The Harvest'), but was slightly weary that it would be one of those cases of a great Pilot that soon gets watered down and nosedives for the subsequent series. I needn't have worried – as 'Witch' perfectly demonstrates, 'Buffy' would always have plenty of engaging stories and lots of creative concepts to engross us.
I know some don't like this one, and it was most definitely superseded as the series progressed, but for me, as a first regular hour-long instalment after the Pilot, it does superbly.
As with the Pilot, Buffy herself here is likeable and funny (something that, I'll dare to say, I didn't find to be the case in some later episodes). Willow and Xander too are again very funny, adding just the right amount of humour to the proceedings.
The script is sharp, with just the right balance of drama, comedy, mystery and mild horror, and is littered with the show's trademark pop culture references (I love "She's our Sabrina"), coming over as very amusing, not trying too hard to be cute or "cool" as was the case in late seasons.
This episode also serves to show that – particularly in this first season – it's not just vampires that Buffy will be battling, but a much wider array of supernatural beings. There are no vampires at all in this one – which I don't mind, as it gives more variety – and that includes no Angel (which, as my reviews for the Pilot reflect, I can live with personally!). There is no reference to the Master or any of his minions; the overall season "big bad" story arc is much less prominent than it would be pretty much from the second season onwards.
I disagree with a couple of other reviewers who class 'Witch' as a "filler episode" – the non-vampire, non-"big bad" thing was a common trait in season one, and far from being thrown in to bump up the episode count (as is the case with most fillers), I felt this one built on the premise set-up in the Pilot perfectly. And while I enjoy the on-going unfolding plots of later seasons, I also really like the many "stand alone" stories we get here in the first season or so.
I found this to be a really engaging and well-executed story, and, on first viewing all those years ago, really didn't see the revelation of the Amy-and-her-mother body swap coming (though, on subsequent viewings, all the hints are there). Elizabeth Anne Allen puts in a great performance as young Amy – or rather, her mother in Amy's body; Amy will feature in a number of later stories (Allen, by the way, auditioned for the role of Buffy).
I also personally enjoyed seeing Robin Riker; I'm a huge 1980s action-adventure TV fan, and Riker did many guest parts in those various shows, so it was good to see her again here, playing Amy-in-her-mother's-body (y'all following this?!).
As I go through the DVDs, watching the episodes in original broadcast order, I am reviewing them "as I find them", and not rating them down simply because even better episodes came later (as I feel some other reviewers might subconsciously do sometimes). When I first watched this episode back in 1999, I really enjoyed it, and it really pulled me into the series; Viewing it tonight on DVD, I still seriously like it. Yes it would certainly be superseded by later episodes, but on its own merits, I like 'Witch' enough to give it a solid 10.