Well, here we go, friends – into the final stretch run of this series (season) of ‘Doctor Who,’ with only three episodes left to go (and the end-of-the-year Christmas Special, of course). ‘The Eaters of Light’ is the final “standalone” episode of the season, coming in before next week’s first of the two-part season-ending finale. As I outlined in last week’s review, this episode was written by Rona Munro, who has past ‘Who’ experience in dealing with The Master – so would tonight’s episode be the “featured” story that brings Missy to the forefront? Well, as it turns out – no, not really. Read on to find out more!
WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘Doctor Who’ lie ahead, obviously. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!
RECAP: Opening with a fairly standard “hint of things to come” type of setup, we see a few children in the “present day” (relatively speaking, of course) playing near a cairn in Aberdeen, Scotland, where they can hear “the music” if they press their ears to the ground. You’ll find out the how/why in a bit, but for now, post-opening credits, we get the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole landing the TARDIS in almost the exact same spot in Aberdeen – only in the Second Century, not the present.
Bill has long been fascinated with the Roman Ninth Legion, you see, a group of ancient warriors who mysteriously went missing in the history books. Bill figures that, now that she has access to a time machine, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a poke around and see if she can figure out what really happened to them. And she does: even though she is separated from the Doctor and Nardole – who have gone off and gotten themselves captured by the local “barbarian” folk – she stumbles across a handful of Ninth Legion survivors, who only escaped with their lives because they essentially deserted their posts.
What were they running from, you ask? Well, it’s a particularly scary-looking alien giant wolf-thing with multi-faceted glowing blue tendrils that can suck the life right out of a human’s body. So, y’know, every reason to run and all that. Eventually, our time-traveling trio are reunited, and they manage to convince the feuding Romans and locals to work together in order to defeat the common extraterrestrial foe. The creature is coming through a dimensional rift, you see, located in the cairn; because of the temporal distortion, a single human doesn’t have the lifespan to fight off the monster and keep it contained in the rift so the Doctor gallantly volunteers for the job. However, his words have had an impact on the locals, and they decide instead to team up and enter the rift together, to bravely defend their land. It’s a bit confusing, but I guess because multiple humans enter the rift, they are able to fight the beasts indefinitely? Because no one has to ever go back into the rift afterwards – and the music they were playing as they entered is the music that can still be heard to this day.
In an extended wrap-up, Missy is found aboard the TARDIS, per the Doctor’s allowance, and much to Nardole’s chagrin. She seems intent on truly changing, and the Doctor definitely seems like he hopes they can be friends again – but will that really be the case?
- As outlined extensively last week, Munro wrote the final episode of the “classic” TV version of ‘Doctor Who’ before the show went on an extended hiatus in the late 1980s. That episode, ‘Survival,’ really shouldn’t be held in any sort of contempt by fans as “causing” the series to be canceled. The show was already on the rocks long before it aired. Indeed, the episode was actually very well written, and Munro has gone on to have quite a successful stage and screenwriting career.
- Is it a coincidence that we’re visiting the time of the Roman Empire near the end of Peter Capaldi’s run as the Doctor, when the first time we met him was also in ancient Roman times? Remember, Capaldi first guest-starred as Caecilius, a nobleman who lived in Pompeii immediately before the impending destruction of the city via the might of Mount Vesuvius, in the episode ‘The Fires of Pompeii” during the time of the Tenth Doctor…
- Speaking of ‘The Fires od Pompeii,’ this was also a time in the series where the TARDIS was seen etched into stone – just as we saw it carved into stone here in this episode as well. More coincidence?
CLOSING THOUGHTS: The coda for ‘The Eaters of Light’ seemed specifically designed to heavily set up next week’s episode, the beginning of the two-part season-ender. Indeed, the last 8-10 minutes of the show felt like a completely different episode than the first 30 minutes or so – and the “Next Time On…” preview showed us, plainly, the return of John Simm as The Master. What does next week have in store for us? Well, I have no idea – stop back here next Sunday morning and let’s talk all about it!
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Peter Capaldi as the Doctor
Bill Mackie as Pearl
Matt Lucas as Nardole
Michelle Gomez as Missy
New episodes of ‘Doctor Who’ air on Saturday nights on BBC America.