‘The Eaters of Light’ was a bit meh. It’s such a shame to say that – this season has been one of the best since the show came back, so to dump this really average story in there is a bit of a down point. It’s not that it’s terrible – no, it works perfectly well in and of itself but, come the end credits, you’d be struggling to remember much of it at all. That’s not how Doctor Who should be.
The only really notable part of the episode came at the end, but we’ll come to that. Firstly, the main adventure – Bill and the Doctor have an argument about a missing Roman legion, and so head back to ancient Aberdeen. There, the Doctor and Nardole find a dead Roman army, while Bill stumbles upon the remaining survivors, hidden away underground. What are they hiding from? A monster that has been let into our world by a clan of warriors, led by the Gatekeeper (Rebecca Benson), which the Doctor tells us could drain the world of its light.
We’re meant to worrying about the end of the world, like usual, but instead we have some guff about crows being able to talk.
Except, there’s never any real sense of threat. The monster is one of the series’ hokiest, thanks to some dodgy looking CGI, and it never feels the danger that it is built up to be. Particularly seeing as in the end, a monster which uses light to grow stronger is defeated by… light. It’s the first time this series that the Doctor has been up against a rubbish monster (I hated the Monks, fine, but there was some promise there), and it defuses the drama massively.
Writer Rona Munro (known for one of the best Sylvester McCoy stories, ‘Survival’) is better here when she deals with the more character-oriented moments. We even fit in a moment to talk about Roman soldiers and their sexuality (I swear no other companion was ever hit on as much as Bill seems to be), and yet it feels natural and relevant to the story. Capaldi gets some excellent moments with Benson, who shines as a leader coming to terms with being a leader, and there is a shining exchange between Capaldi and Mackie as Bill realises squabbling warriors sound like children.
There are good moments here, and the story stands up to scrutiny (mostly), but it just feels all inconsequential. We’re meant to worrying about the end of the world, like usual, but instead we have some guff about crows being able to talk.
Then, with the story all wrapped up and dealt with, we return to the TARDIS and find a surprise passenger – Missy. The Doctor has been using her to help with maintenance, and she again tells him that she has changed for the better (we all know otherwise, but this side of Missy is an interesting one and it’s a shame Gomez hasn’t had more to do this series).
This is the bit you’ll recall, and it sets up an exciting story next week. Missy takes charge of an adventure, and comes up against Mondasian Cybermen and a former version of herself, as John Simm makes his return to Doctor Who!