Saturday, June 24, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10 - The Eaters of Light - Episode Review

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My review of the previous episode: Empress of Mars.


It's been a while since we've visited the home of the Twelfth Doctor's accent. With all the kilts and accents, it makes me nostalgic for Jamie McCrimmon and Amy Pond, and now I'm wondering what this story would have been like with an all-Scottish TARDIS team. I mean, it's still okay. It's even good. Honestly, it's probably one of the better episode this season, after the disappointment that was the Monks trilogy.

Also, a fun fact: this episode was written by Classic Who writer Rona Munro, who wrote the final episode before the show was cancelled.

As it is, we have Bill and Nardole, complete with Missy as TARDIS mechanic (one more Scottish team member). They're in search of the ninth Roman legion, so Bill can prove a point. Immediately upon arrival, the gang split up (they should really know better, after all this time), and go looking for the legion's remains. The Doctor and Nardole stumble across a dead light-deprived soldier pretty quickly, and then find a battlefield of dead soldiers right before they're captured by the locals.

Meanwhile, Bill runs across the remainder of the legion - a crew of scared boys hiding underground from a monster that sucks humans dry. (Insert awkward moment of Bill coming out to the soldiers which felt annoyingly out of place - yeah, we know you're gay - don't have to announce it all the time.)

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Apparently, these creatures - the eaters of light - were released by the Scottish locals in a bid to defeat the Romans. But things got out of hand, and now it seems like these "light-eating locusts" will not only consume the Romans, but "they will keep eating until there are no stars left."

Happily, the Doctor has a plan. The gate doesn't run on quite the same timeline - a few seconds inside the gate translates to days outside. So, in theory, someone could spend their life inside the gate and protect the Earth for hundreds of years. And who's got a really long lifespan, never dies, and guards ancient monuments for a long, long time? Rory the Roman! *whispers offstage* What? No, I mean the Doctor. *more whispers* What, still Romans? But not Rory? *sigh offstage* Oh, well, some random Romans, a Pictish lass, and a band go to fight the light-eaters. No, really, a band. There's a guy badly playing what's supposed to be some sort of fiddle thing, because there's got to be music, because *is flattened by a heavyhanded metaphor*

But of course, the Doctor offers to sacrifice himself first. To have begun as such a cold-blooded, almost misanthropic incarnation, the Twelfth Doctor has become one of the most giving. In fact, he reminds me of the Ninth Doctor, who was quite willing to be consumed by Reapers to satisfy Rose's desire to save her father, and then quietly sent Rose away while he waited to die at the end of the universe, alone.

The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, by contrast, are rather melodramatic about sacrifice. Ten gave a whole speech about how unfair it was that he had to absorb radiation to save The Best Man In the World Wilfred Mott. The Eleventh Doctor sacrificed himself in The Big Bang, but he still had time for a tearful goodbye and a hollered catchphrase. He did it with style. When he was "shot" in The Wedding of River Song, he literally invited his companions to see him off. Even his final, long-term sacrifice in the town of Christmas, sans Clara, found him surrounded by adoring children and capped itself with a flamboyant explosion.

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Twelve, by contrast, is modest about it. In Mummy on the Orient Express, he lied to everyone to maneuver pieces into position, and then - out of the blue - threw himself in the danger's path to save a vulnerable woman. Admittedly, he knows he's "less breakable" than humans, but he also knows the cost of such decisions, and he nevertheless makes them quickly, willingly, and without show.

Without honor, without witness, without reward, I guess you could say. Which is exactly what he's trying to teach Missy to do.

Indeed, the Twelfth Doctor is just the sort of man who would be able to pull off the long, hard rehabilitation of an old friend's character, and it's in this episode where I start to believe Missy really could be changing. Sure, she's sassy and snarky (note Michelle Gomez's little throwaway gesture at Bill to stop gaping), but there's a new vulnerability about Missy, a neediness, that contrasts well with Capaldi's stern concern. These two people really feel like they go back a thousand years. And it works far better than David Tennant and John Simm making eyes at each other. (Though just for the record: I'd love to see Simm try flirting with Capaldi and get squished like a bug.)

By the way, Peter Capaldi is really terrific throughout this episode. He's funny and rude and heartbreaking and is given a number of wonderful lines to chew. The Doctor is again in the role of a teacher, teaching young people who will go on to take his place. Quite literally, in this case.

It's the fourth time in a row where the Doctor doesn't effect the story's final solution. In the second and third of the Monks trilogy, the Doctor was saved by Bill, against his will. In last week's episode, he passively observed a truce being made between two secondary characters. And here, the secondary characters take control again. If the Doctor's such a genius, he does seem to be quite a pushover.

Hopefully that changes next week, but it's looking like the Doctor is slowly but surely handing over his duties to his companion, his arch-nemesis, and ultimately, humanity.

And why's that?

My review of the next episode: World Enough and Time.


Remember this section? At some point, I forgot to do it, but since we're right up on the series finale, I think I'd better go ahead and make some predictions.

The Doctor's behavior has been unusual this last season, even for a man who knows he's going to regenerate. One Reddit theory is that something has happened so that the Doctor has lost the ability to regenerate, so he's training others to take his place in the universe. That actually makes sense to me - though of course, there'll have to be some sort of switcheroo (probably thanks to Missy) because the show must go on.

Will Susan turn up? There's so much unfinished business left for the finale to deal with that I have a hard time imagining they'll go that route. If they bring it up, I suspect it'll be in the Christmas special.

Speaking of Classic companions though, what if we replaced the increasingly tedious Nardole with Jamie McCrimmon? Hear me out...


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