On Doctor Who, the Pict tribe and the Roman Legion face a creature that feeds on light. While the story has potential, it never fully coalesces.
“The Eaters of Light” is a bit of a throwaway episode, but that’s fine. It doesn’t intend to be anything more than another adventure with a cool creature and setting. The entire plot is jump-started because Bill and The Doctor disagree on who knows more about the fate of the Ninth Legion of the Imperial Roman army. Right before the arc-heavy finale, there’s nothing wrong with a breather episode.
Of course, in the context of Doctor Who, a low-key story is still one where the world is threatened. This time, a monster from another dimension pushes through into our world. The gatekeeper of the Pict tribe, who defends the world from the creature, let it through to fight the invading Romans. While it kills most of the Legion, the Light Eating Locust sets its sights on everyone else. The Doctor warns that unless the creature returns to its home, more will follow, eventually absorbing all the light in the universe.
As destructive as this sounds, the episode doesn’t elevate the danger to match The Doctor’s words. The alien design is super-cool, looking like a radioactive blue dinosaur with electric tendrils in its mouth. But we rarely see it in action on a visceral level, like the Smile robots or the insects from earlier this season. Our heroes never seem that out-of-sorts about the challenge. Bill doesn’t get much to do either, hiding out in a cave with the surviving Romans. Nardole has his best episode yet though. Matt Lucas brings his funniest lines and delivery to his interactions with the Picts.
The Doctor is particularly impatient in dealing with the fighting between the Picts and the Romans. There’s a great line where he acts like he heard a noise, only for him to say, “That was the sound of my patience shattering into a billion little pieces.” At the end, as you can guess, the two sides work together to push the creature back. Some Romans and Picts offer to remain on the other side of the gate, protecting our world from harm forever.
This was not a bad episode and an improvement over last week’s, but it won’t blow anyone away. Again, the most intriguing part comes at the end with Missy. The Doctor has let her into the TARDIS, to help with its maintenance. While his suspicions remain that this is all a trick, part of him is starting to hope that he has his friend back. We’ll soon find out!
– This episode was written by Rona Munro, who also wrote “Survival,” the last episode of the classic series run for Doctor Who! This makes her the only writer so far to have a story in both the Classic and Revival shows.
– So in Roman Britain, not only did The Doctor govern, farmed and juggled, but he was also a vestal virgin-second class. As always, he has quite the resume!
– The Doctor: “It’s Scotland. It’s supposed to be damp.” Not the best tourism slogan.
– I like Bill’s poke that the TARDIS auto-translation somehow does lip-syncs to English as well.
– Next week, the two-part finale begins. And it looks INSANE. Missy on the TARDIS team, Mondasian Cybermen and John Simm’s Master returns!