For the first time in ten seasons, a writer from the show’s classic era was back, as Rona Munro penned this week’s The Eaters of Light. For the second week in a row, the show had a classic feel to it. Admittedly this week’s story did take a while to get moving, but when it did, it was an entertaining and topical watch.
To everyone watching, I think it was pretty clear that this episode didn’t get its fair share of the season’s budget. The CGI for the creature consuming Roman soldiers and Picts alike, was pretty average, but we only got two or three proper shots of it in action. Therefore the episode went for quite lengthy periods without the monster, which meant the threat perhaps wasn’t as intense as it might’ve been.
The first twenty five minutes of the episode seemed to go by pretty much incident free. Bill wandered off by herself – somewhat inexplicably – and the Doctor and Nardole went their own way. Surely Nardole should’ve accompanied Bill in second century Scotland? Despite not a lot happening, the dialogue was very quirky, credit to Munro for such a witty script. This was probably Nardole’s best episode to date. Watching him integrate with the Scots was superb entertainment. Munro also succeeded in writing for the twelfth Doctor. Throughout Capaldi’s era, his character has been treated so inconsistently, to his detriment, but this week he was on top form. When he and Nardole were surrounded by the Scots with spears pointed at them from all directions, his “Patience Shattering” line, to escape, was brilliant. Moments where we see the twelfth Doctor at his daring and grumpy best are what makes him such a tremendous incarnation. It’s a shame that not every writer has managed to capture his personality.
I mentioned how this episode was a topical one, and it follows on from most episodes this year from challenging a theme that’s relevant in society. So far we’ve seen slavery, racism, capitalism, propaganda and equality all feature. Making episodes relate to serious issues like these is one of the reasons why this season has been such a success, in my opinion. This week, although maybe there were just undertones of this rather than a standout theme, the current plight against terrorism was suggested. Say the Roman Legion were the Tories, the Scottish Picts were Labour and the creature was a terrorist, indiscriminately murdering everyone in its path. The episode’s underlying message was that the only way to defeat such an evil, is to come together and fight it with all resources possible. At the start of the episode, Scottish Picts and the ninth Roman Legion coming together was unforeseeable, similar to the Tories and Labour ever uniting in real life. But this was proof that the best chance of defeating a common enemy is to cooperate, put their issues aside and fight together. It was a fitting conclusion, and one that delivered an important message, which society should learn from.
So season ten only has two episodes to go, and for the last few weeks, we’ve been teased with the idea that Missy is “turning good”. Again, we got a glimpse of her at the end of the episode in the TARDIS as she was carrying out some “maintenance”, while the Doctor and co. were out gallivanting. Surely this is just a front? Surely she’s up to something? Does the Doctor know her plan and is merely playing along to lull her into a false sense of security? It has to be said that the “Next Time” trailer at the end of the episode was one of the show’s best ever. John Simm is back. Is he going to battle the Doctor to try and coerce Missy back to her old ways? What part will the Mondasian Cybermen play in all of this? Everything is set for an action packed, thrilling two part finale. It would be slightly disappointing if Missy is trying to turn good, but similarly it would be disappointing if the Doctor had fallen for an act, so easily. I hope Steven Moffat pulls something off that does both characters justice. The Peter Capaldi era will probably be defined by the twelfth Doctor and Missy’s relationship, so I really hope they go out in style.
It’s been strongly rumoured that incoming show-runner Chris Chibnall is set to clear out the current writing team and bring in his own people. Going by what we’ve been offered this season, this would be a bold move as the standard of writing has been terrific, and Rona Munro continued that trend this week. 1989’s Survival and this week’s The Eaters of Light have been two solid Doctor Who stories and I would like to see her add to her repertoire of episodes. She wrote the characters of the Doctor, Bill and Nardole perfectly, something a lot of writers have struggled with. The visual appearance of the episode suggests it was merely intended as a pre-finale filler, but this was definitely more than that. Fear Her, In the Forest of the Night and Sleep No More have all been placed, in what must surely now be seen as the “graveyard slot” of a season (the episode before the finale begins), but this won’t be mentioned in the same breath as those episodes.
Episode Rating: 7/10