Saturday, June 24, 2017

Doctor Who Is NEW!: The Eaters Of Light

Tick tock, goes the clock! The Doctor's running out of time.

Tonight is the first of the last two episodes of Doctor Who Series 10. Steven Moffat's last two parter, his last episodes as head writer, his last season finale.

And likewise for Peter Capaldi who really came into his own this year as the Doctor. I mean, he was good before but this year, he was something special.

After the finale for Series 10, we're still not done with Steve and Peter yet. We'll have the Christmas special where we will truly say good-bye. Oh, that's gonna hurt. 

But before move forward towards the future, we need to sort out the past. What about episode from last Saturday? We'll, I'll get to that right after the break. 

The Eaters Of Light
by Rona Munro

The Doctor and Bill have a difference of opinion regarding the fate of the Ninth Legion of the Imperial Roman army. Bill says they survived; the Doctor says they all died. Well, that’s the beauty of having a time machine as they travel in the TARDIS to the 2nd century in Scotland to sort this out themselves.

Bill goes her own way, looking for live Romans while the Doctor and Nardole go in a different direction looking for dead ones. 

After falling down a hole (for the 2nd week in a row!), Bill finds Roman Legions soldiers hiding from a creature drawn to any light source, killing those in its path. 

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Nardole discover the corpses of the remaining Legion. So Bill found live Romans AND the Doctor found dead ones. I guess you could call that a “win-win”.  

But then, there's... the monster.

The Doctor and Nardole also meet a Pict tribe guarding a cairn. The Doctor enters the cairn, passing into an interdimensional portal. The Pict explains that a warrior goes through the cairn to defeat an "Eater of Light", but with the invading Roman army, she allowed one to escape to fight them. 

Bill leads the surviving legion away from the creature and end up reuniting with the Doctor and Nardole. The Doctor works out a plan to lure the Eater back to the portal during daylight, but it requires someone inside preventing the creature's escape. Which the Doctor figures will be him. But once the creature is trapped, former adversaries the Pict and the Ninth Legion come together to sacrifice themselves to stop the creatures. 

Back in the TARDIS, Missy awaits their return, to the surprise of Bill and Nardole.

“The Eaters of Light” marks the first script for the revived series written by a writer for the classic series. Rona Munro wrote Survival which was a pretty good script for the 7th Doctor but also has the unfortunate distinction of being the last ever episode of the original Doctor Who series. Munro is in fine form here with a cleverly conceived scary monster tied to a piece of arcane history of Scotland and the Roman  Empire. Some good character work; I like that Nardole goes native to bond with the Scottish tribe. And Bill’s sexual orientation comes up in a clever bit; one of the Legion soldiers is super flirting with Bill. She tells him she likes women… and he’s OK with it. This is the 2nd century. But the Legion has a guy who likes men and Bill’s would be suitor has an even more expansive view of human sexuality. (Capt. Jack Harkness should meet this guy.) 

I noted that that the monster was “cleverly conceived” but I’m not sure it was clearly explained. Mostly, I just accepted that the creature was a tentacled alien thing from another dimension that kills people and left it that. The whole “light eating” aspect was not clearly invoked. 

One thing working against the episode is it's placement in the season. Two weeks in a row, we’ve had stories of an invading army and a native population at odds with each other but they need each other to survive.  And two weeks in a row, Bill Potts falls down a hole. 

I have a feeling this episode or Empress of Mars was originally conceived to appear earlier in the season. It seems unlikely that the producers would’ve deliberately put these similarly themed episodes back to back. Also, the level of surprise Bill and Nardole express in finding Missy in the TARDIS seems a bit much as she was just there last week. There’s a quick line from the Doctor reminding them how they got home from Mars but still, Bill and Nardole over react to Missy’s presence.

All in all, a good effort all around. I wouldn’t mind seeing Rona Munro take another turn at a Doctor Who script.  

But next time? The Cybermen from Mondas? Missy on a mission? And the return of John Simm as the Master? Will Bill fall down a hole for the 3rd week in a row?!

“World Enough and Time”, tonight at 9 PM on BBC America.

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