DOCTOR WHO – SEASON 10 EPISODE 10
THE EATERS OF LIGHT
WRITTEN BY RONA MUNRO
DIRECTED BY CHARLES PALMER
We’re very close to the end of what has been one of the best seasons of Doctor Who ever. Capaldi has finally made the role his own and Bill has been the shot of adrenaline the show needed. Next week will be the beginning of the end so let’s see what the Doctor gets up to on his last standalone adventure before regeneration beckons.
We open in present day Scotland where two kids are climbing a hill so that the girl can lie on the ground and listen to the music emanating from within. The boy tells her there’s no music, it’s ghosts and the ghosts will eat her. They run away but as they do music begins to play. The girls runs back to the top of the hill as a crow lands on a rock and begins to caw: ‘Doc! Doc! Doc! Tor! Doc! Tor!’ and we see that carved into the rock is an image of the TARDIS.
Speaking of, after the credits the TARDIS arrives in the same spot but in the 2nd century. They’ve arrived in Scotland to settle an argument about the fate of the 9th Roman Legion, 5000 soldiers who simply vanished (if the legends are to be believed). They split up with the Doctor and Nardole looking for a battlefield and Bill going to the river to find the retreating soldiers.
Bill finds a woman praying to a fire. She is not a Roman and has markings on her face. The woman sees Bill and chases her with swords drawn until Bill, in classic Bill style, falls down a hole. In the hole though, she finds a Roman soldier.
The Doctor and Nardole find a stone cairn on a hill and Nardole is concerned about the crow who follows them calling out ‘Doc!’ or ‘Dark!’.
Bill talks with the Roman and is amazed that he can understand her, which feels quite late in the game as you would think the translation powers of the TARDIS would have come up before this. He tells her he’s from the 9th Legion and she asks what happened to them.
The Doctor and Nardole admire a dead Roman whose bones have been disintegrated by a total and utter absence of sunlight. The Doctor and Nardole find the encampment of the 9th Legion, which is a big pile of bodies, and are taken prisoner by women with the same dress and markings as the one who chased Bill through the woods.
That night, Bill and the Roman climb out of the hole. Something is moving in the woods, the something that killed the 9th. The Roman tells her that there are other survivors and where to find them. The creature appears and drags the Roman towards it with tentacles or tendrils made out of light. Bill runs away and finds the other Romans. The creature manages to touch her with a tentacle before they manage to block its way to their hiding place.
They take Bill to their leader and she tells them what happened to the other Roman. She touches the black residue the creature left on her neck when it touched her and collapses.
The barbarians have the Doctor and Nardole held at spear point as they wait for the arrival of Kar, the keeper of the gate. Kar arrives and tells them that she wiped out the Roman army. The Doctor, seeing that the barbarians are all young teens, is unconvinced. He asks her about this gate that she’s supposed to be keeping, and when he gets no answer he makes a diversion so he and Nardole can escape.
They go to the cairn at the top of the hill and the Doctor goes inside. Nardole is recaptured by the barbarians who tell him that with the sun rising, the Doctor won’t be leaving the cairn. Inside, the walls begin to tremble and a portal opens. The Doctor looks in and sees creatures swimming around a ball of light.
The Doctor re-emerges from the cairn to find that Nardole has now seemingly joined the barbarians (face markings and all). The scant few seconds the Doctor spent looking at the portal has been two days on the outside.
Bill is awake and with the Romans. Sunlight burns off the goo that the creature put on her and she is slowly recovering. She worries about what she’ll do if she can’t find the Doctor.
The Doctor confronts Kar with what he’s learned about the gate. Kar tells him that the creature, the Eater of Light, has always between and a warrior from the tribe has always fought it back so it can’t break through. Kar tells him that the Eater is weak and should die soon and he reminds her that there are millions of them on the other side of the portal and they’re going to want to come through. Someone screams in the woods and they run to investigate.
In the hiding place one of the Romans, Lucius, seems to have taken a shine to Bill so she has to explain to him how he’s not her type. He’s cool with it and points out a Roman who only likes men and says that he himself is normal, in that he likes both.
The beam of sunlight that’s been streaming into the cave suddenly vanishes. The Eater is circling them, looking for a way in.
The barbarians, Doctor, and Nardole find a dead, drained body. The Eater is getting stronger and draining light from their surroundings so that everything is bathed in a twilight filter. Kar reveals that she let the Eater out. She reasoned that the Eater would kill the Romans but they would weaken it enough that it would die or they could easily kill it. Instead, it killed the Romans and that just made it stronger.
Bill persuades the Romans that they need to go looking for the Doctor if they want to survive.
In the barbarians’ camp, the Doctor hatches a plan for putting the Eater back into the portal. The barbarians have a weapon that looks like a table tennis paddle, which poisons the light as the Eater tries to consume it. They have until sunrise to put the Eater back in its box or it will be too powerful.
The Romans make their way through the passages in the cave until they come to a chamber with a ladder. One of the Romans makes a run for the ladder and is grabbed by the Eater of Light which eats his light. While the Eater is busy the rest of the Romans and Bill climb the ladder which leads into the hut where the Doctor is making his plan.
There is a standoff but Bill points out that they don’t have time for it and the Doctor says that they’ve wiped each other out, and now they need to work together or everyone will be dead. The Eaters will come through and eat the world and the sun and the stars until there is nothing left.
But the Doctor has a plan.
The plan is to get everyone in the cairn, make a lot of noise, and wave around some torches until the Eater comes to them and they can kick it back to its own dimension. The barbarians, the Picts really, start to play music and make noise. Nardole goes outside and talks to the crow which warns him, “Mon! Star!”
The Eater arrives.
It chases Nardole into the cairn where the Romans and Picts hit it with the light poisoners. While it’s trapped by the poisoners they give it a good stabbing. The sun rises and they push it back into the portal. The only thing is that someone needs to guard the portal forever. And only one person in the cairn has that kind of life span. The Doctor tells them he can guard the gate until the sun goes out.
Bill is pissed. The Doctor says there is no other way but Kar disagrees. She says she’ll hold the gate and Lucius says he will hold it with her. And so will the 9th Legion and a load of the Picts.
The Doctor cries out to them not to do it, but they ignore him and march into the portal.
The cairn collapses and the gang escape. Outside, Kar’s brother tells her story to a crow and tells it to remember her name, which it does by saying, “Caw! Caw!”
They get back into TARDIS and find Missy there. The Doctor explains that she’s been doing some work for him. She’s been performing engine maintenance and the Doctor offers her the job of maintaining the TARDIS. Nardole is pissed but Missy explains that she is bio-locked from the controls and cannot leave the TARDIS making the TARDIS essentially the Vault now.
The girl from the start stands on the hill, listening to the music and we see that Missy is doing the same within the TARDIS and crying. She doesn’t understand why she keeps crying and the Doctor tells her it could be because she’s trying to impress him, and that feels better than the alternative, which is that Missy is reforming, and its time for them to be friends again. Something that it doesn’t seem like the Doctor’s ready to believe yet.
This was a perfectly good episode but it felt as though it had been written for the start of the season instead of the end. Bill not knowing about the TARDIS’s translation powers and having to give the ‘I don’t like men’ speech again felt like stuff we should have seen in an earlier, establishing episode instead of one so close to the finale.
It also felt very like the previous episode with the lost soldiers in hostile territory and its thesis statement that imperialism is bad. Again, if the episode hadn’t aired right on top of something so similar it wouldn’t have really mattered but the one-two punch of Empires are rubbish episodes, made it a bit too much.
On the other hand, Pearl Mackie gave another stellar performance as Bill and Capaldi keeps making me want another year or two with him as the Doctor. Just a few more episode instead of just the three we’ve got left.
This was an entertaining adventure in the vein of classic Who stories and anywhere else in the episode sequence of this season it would have been a complete belter but too close to the end it felt, like the last episode, more like filler before the main event, which isn’t the episode’s fault rally and I look forward to seeing more episodes written by Rona Monro. She has a great voice and packs in the plot and action with no wheel spinning in sight. The finale of the two armies making peace to conquer their fears and guard the gates together forever had me welling up and was an excellent ending to a cool, little adventure.
Body Count: 3
Best Line: The whole sequence about Romans and sexuality was very well done with enough humour to make it not seem too message-y.
Predictions for Next Week: Looks like we’re going to arrive at the fireworks factory.