Doctor Who S10E10 “The Eaters Of Light” REVIEW
Airing on BBC One, Saturday nights
Writer: Rona Munro
Director: Charles Palmer
Essential Plot Points:
- The Doctor, Bill and Nardole travel back to Aberdeenshire in the first century AD because Bill wants to solve the real-life historical mystery of the disappearance of the Roman Ninth Legion…
- Nardole is surprised to find that the crows can talk. The Doctor says crows can still talk in the present, they just choose not to because they’re in a mass sulk with humanity.
- Bill soon falls down a hole and meets a Roman soldier, while the Doctor and Nardole are captured by the local Picts.
- The Picts claim to have defeated the Ninth but the Romans tell Bill they were defeated by a light-eating monster.
- The Doctor learns the Picts are guarding a portal between dimensions and they let through the monster to drive off the Romans…
- …But there are loads more monsters waiting to come through.
- The TARDIS’s telepathic ability to make people with different languages all understand each other allows the Roman and the Picts to come to an understanding.
- They join together to lure the monster back to the portal and send it back where it came from.
- The Doctor – because he can regenerate and time flows at faster rate on the other side of the barrier – volunteers to go through the portal too to fight all the other monsters.
- But the Ninth Legion refuses to let him sacrifice himself that way and they all go through the portal instead along with the Pict leader, Kar.
- The Picts ask the crows to commemorate Kar forever more.
- When the Doctor, Bill and Nardole return to the TARDIS they find Missy has been giving the time machine an MOT. Bill and Nardole question the Doctor’s sanity in letting Missy free from the vault.
- But when Missy sheds tears over the fate of the Ninth, it appears the Doctor’s faith in her may not have been misplaced.
Owing to a technical hitch this review will be a little shorter than usual… but there’s not really much to say about “The Eaters Of Light” other than, “S’all right, I suppose.”
It’s wonderfully atmospheric, has a great CG monster and there are some amusing guest characters. Nardole gets some of his best moments yet. The Doctor spouts some witty – though slightly mean-spirited – insults. There’s a teasing moment when – once again – the possibility of regeneration is dangled in front of us. It has a very sweet, but naive, view of human nature – that the young could create world peace if only they all spoke the same language. Oh, and it has talking crows, which some more strait-laced fans might find a bit too much to stomach, but which thought was a hoot. Or a “cawwwww”, at least.
But all these lovely parts never quite gel into a totally satisfying whole. Like “The Caretaker” earlier in the season, this felt like the show playing things a tad too safe. Well, aside from the crows. “The Eaters Of Light” isn’t far from a bad episode, but it is forgettably average. It’s hard to believe it’ll be on anybody’s “season’s best” list, but feel free to let us know if are such a person.
The only other thing we really want to say – now the season is almost over – is how disappointed we are that Nardole still hasn’t moved beyond the status of comedy relief. Okay, he has had a few indignant moments, but we were expecting at least one episode that explored his character in more depth and revealed that there were other sides to his character. It seems unlikely this’ll happen in the two-part finale (unless, in a major twist, he turns out to be the Thirteenth Doctor, but we seriously doubt that) so poor old Nardole, for all his amusing input, will probably go down as the second most underwritten companion character in Doctor Who ever after Kamelion.
- Oddles of lovely mythological atmosphere.
- The Doctor has come wonderfully funny insults (“your TV aerial and your lollipop”).
- But Nardole’s threat that he’ll go all squeaky voiced is the best.
- The moment when it becomes clear the Doctor had been missing for two days lifts the episode to a new level.
- Nardole promising to tell the Picts about the Lusitania.
- “Women in hats.”
- The Romans claiming to be more modern when it comes to sexuality than Bill is.
- The Missy epilogue is genuinely moving.
- Even more fairy tale than the idea of the crows talking is the quaint notion that if humans all spoke the same language we’d all get along. Tell that to the Northern Irish.
- The Doctor’s jersey this week looks like slugs have been crawling all over it.
- The shots of the Legion marching through the portal at the end lacked any sense of “major sacrifice”. It all looked a bit silly and ’70s BBC children’s fantasy, whereas it was clearly written to have more of a Game Of Thrones vibe.
- Too many parallels to last week’s episode (a pre-credits teaser set in the present; wandering through caves; Bill falling down a hole; the Doctor bringing two opposing armies together).
- It’s all a bit talky.
And The Random:
- Rona Munro is so far the only writer for the revived series who also wrote for classic Doctor Who; she wrote the last ever episode, Sylvester McCoy’s “Survival”.