So what happened?
In the middle of a disagreement about the fate of the infamous Ninth Legion of the Roman Army, The Doctor, Bill and Nardole travel back to 2nd Century Scotland to find answers. Once there, insistent that they’ll be found near the river, Bill goes off on her own in search of them, whilst Twelve and his assistant look nearby for a battlefield that might explain their mysterious disappearance.
As Bill walks through the woods, she encounters Kar, the leader of the Picts, and ends up being chased by her, soon falling through a hole in the forest floor and finding herself in close proximity with members of the very legion she’s been searching for. With the help of the TARDIS translation circuits, she’s able to ascertain that they’re hiding from a ‘light-eating locust’, which was responsible for the deaths of the other men in the legion and apparently seeks out any light source, killing anything in it’s way that stops it from sapping its energy. Around the same time, The Doctor and Nardole come across the battlefield they expected to find, and see that it’s strewn with the boneless corpses of most the Ninth Legion. Soon after they encounter a tribe of Picts, who take them prisoner as they continue to guard a mysterious cairn, and wait for Kar, the ‘Guardian of the Gate’, to return. When she does, Twelve creates a distraction with the bag of corn Nardole pulled out of his dressing gown earlier, allowing them to escape their captors and go and search for Bill.
With the search proving fruitless, the duo once again encounter the Picts, and The Doctor enters the cairn that’s being protected by the tribe, passing through into an inter-dimensional portal that’s packed full of the creatures which were responsible for the massacre of the Roman soldiers. In spite of only being in the portal for what seems like a matter of seconds, when he goes outside again Nardole reveals he was actually in there for two days. It’s then that Kar explains a warrior from each generation of her people is chosen to fight an ‘Eater of Light’, which attempts to escape and wreak havoc. She was the chosen one, but the invading Roman army distracted her from her task, allowing one to slip through. Realising the gravity of the situation, Twelve muses that if they can’t get the creature back into the portal where it belongs, it will go on to consume every source of light in the Universe until there are no stars left.
In the aftermath of her watching one of the soldiers killed by the monster, and then spending a few days recovering after fainting, Bill leads the remaining Romans out of the cave, and they soon meet up with The Doctor, Nardole and the Picts. It’s then that Twelve convinces the two adversarial groups to put aside their differences and work together to defeat the deadly entity threatening the very existence of the planet. Hatching a plan to lure the ‘Eater of Light’ into the cairn during daylight hours, once it’s there and pushed into the portal with a group effort, The Doctor then explains that he’s already decided to sacrifice himself by going after the newly repatriated creature. After stating that his superior Time Lord physiology will allow him to regenerate as time marches on within the portal, making him a much better candidate to be the ‘Guardian’, an outraged Bill knocks him over, whilst Kar and the last members of the Ninth Legion take on the role jointly, failing to take any notice of The Doctor’s protestations. After the portal closes, rocks fall over the entrance to the cairn, further bolstering human defences against the ‘Light Eaters’.
With the danger gone, stones bearing depictions of Twelve’s latest adventure are left over the cairn for a little girl and her brother to find in modern day Scotland. Ravens are also taught to say ‘Kar’ in remembrance of the brave Pict leader. Meanwhile, back in the TARDIS, Bill and Nardole discover that The Doctor allowed Missy out of the vault on the proviso that she conducts repairs on time machine whilst they were away. After finding herself in tears when she hears music, Twelve frets as her giving up her psychopathic ways will mean they can be friends once again.
Monster of the Week
Marieke: The light eating beast. I am still not sure how it works with eating light and the Sun in particular, and then there’s the portal to the end of the world. The beast looked like a Game of Thrones dragon reject with weird luminescent tails. The monster was more of a vehicle to drive the story by getting the Romans and Picts on the same page, rather than being a true menace, but I guess it had a motive, albeit a shallow one. Those Monks could learn… Oh never mind! New monsters are great, but if they are not memorable, calls for the older always the same ones is getting higher.
Danielle: Apparently the beast was a ‘light eating locust. Hmmm. Perhaps locusts look slightly different in other dimensions? The day glow tendrils were a nice touch though, and just in time for Glastonbury.
Marieke: Absolutely nothing creepy at all about this episode. A reason why the stakes did not feel that high. The dark is a very scary concept, and it is a shame they couldn’t do more with that.
Danielle: I suppose the fact the creature turned its victims into a husk of their former selves is a tad creepy. I’m not sure why it did that, or what facilitated that special skill, but nobody likes the idea of having their insides sucked out by an inter-dimensional beast, do they?
Marieke: Missy’s motives. Does she want to and can she be the Doctor’s friend? Capaldi and Gomez have been playing off each other wonderfully, and partly I would like to see them having a friendly adventure together. At the same time, we’re reaching the finale of this series so something bad needs to happen. And then there’s the Simm!Master in the preview for next week. Will Missy regenerate back? Will it be some added timeline which makes two Masters happen? Will she be responsible for the Doctor’s regeneration, or Simm!Master? The biggest mystery is how this will play out, and what will trigger The Doctor’s regeneration this Christmas.
Danielle: Tears again from Missy, this time because music moved her to them. So again, the question seems to be, is her vault rehab really paying dividends? Or is the Time Lady simply playing The Doctor like a fiddle? I’m having a hard time explaining to myself how Missy wouldn’t know that a visit from her previous incarnation is on the cards, unless of course all the talk of other dimensions this series is indeed leading somewhere.
The oldest, remaining Ninth Legion member is better known to us as the Younger, Odda the Younger to be exact. Brian Vernel played that part in the first series of another Fezzy favourite, The Last Kingdom.
Twelve and his Companion(s)
Marieke: Nardole shone here, and his sense of humour brightened the episode. Also he showed his capacity to adapt, by easily blending in with the Picts when the Doctor was gone for a while. It is a shame we haven’t seen Nardole more as the capable companion. He’s either been a tea boy, Missy fetcher, or simply a scared individual. Bill was great on her own with the Romans too. Her sexuality is a bit limited, no? Anyway, she also figured out the TARDIS’s forcefield strength and how it made everyone speak the same language. One that made them all sound like children. She gets how thing work with The Doctor, but by figuring them out she does not have the air of a smart arse. It was also a joy that she and the Doctor were both right about the Romans. Not so much a joy for most of the Ninth Legion though. Bill deserves a proper send off from the show too, but the track record for new Who companions’ departures has not been that great. It speaks volumes that she has made such an impression in only one series.
Going back to Twelve, where he won me over at the start, he is starting to lose me again. It would have been nice to see him under a different show runner. This sadly not being the case means Moffat will always stick to Twelve like a bad sore. The one thing done right is the Missy/Doctor pairing. Gomez and Capaldi are incredible together and it is a shame to see this chemistry leave the show too. New Doctor could very well mean new Master. I will be waiting for that ‘Missy’s adventures!’ spin off in the mean time…
Danielle: Move over, Arthur Dent, there’s a new pyjama wearing adventurer in town! I can only echo Marieke’s sentiment that Nardole was an absolute blast here, with those funny moments allowing Matt Lucas to flex his comedic muscles in a much more concerted way than we’ve seen before. I’d happily see more of that. Again, Bill proved she could carry some of the plot on her own when she took off on her own to figure out what happened to the Ninth Legion. Pearl Mackie has been a revelation in Series 10, and I’m keeping fingers and toes crossed that Chibnall will want to keep her around as he takes over the reins.
I adored that final scene between Twelve and Missy too, as he tries to contemplate being friends with her again. Capaldi and Gomez do have a unique dynamic within the show right now, and it is going to be a blow to lose both of them. It’s just a shame that the writing over the last couple of episodes seems to have regressed his character back to shouty, Series 8 Twelve. That said, I still love this Doctor. I just wish his evolution wasn’t so uneven.
Marieke: Another light filler, stand alone episode right before the last two episodes might not have been a great idea, especially as there are quite a few overlapping themes with last week’s outing. Enemies working together for the greater good, be it Ice Warriors and Victorians or Picts and Romans. Sacrifice. Protecting your own land. Whovians might have looked forward to an episode written by a writer who also wrote for old Who (Rona Munro). It did not add anything for me. It could have felt very old school, but because it felt so similar to ‘Empress of Mars’ it was not something which made the episode stand out. It would have been better had the episodes been a little further apart.
The idea of Bill and Doctor going to Scotland to settle a bet was a great idea though. Particularly because they were both right. The Romans died, but a few of them still lived underground. This shows that Bill has become the Doctor’s equal in some ways. Also Nardole playing his part worked wonderfully, and showed us the trio we were promised in the series trailer. Because it was such a filler episode, it was enjoyable but not really memorable. Such a shame for a series which started out so well. I have no idea what happened, I really do not want to mention -those- enemies again, but this series feels like it could have been so much better than it’s turned out. When next week’s trailer looks more exciting than the episode itself, it shows that the execution should have been so much better. The humour and especially Nardole it what this episode made it worth it for me. Now I am holding onto my fez, wondering what they are going to do with the Simm!Master. He’ll come knocking no doubt.
Danielle: Yet again, ‘The Eaters of Light’ was another paint by the numbers offering. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a good deal of merit to the episode. There absolutely was, as Matt Lucas finally got material befitting his comedic timing, and Who veteran, Rona Munro, delivered some cracking lines of dialogue. The Doctor’s speech foretelling how the light eaters will eventually consume every source of light in the Universe was particularly poetic, and I did enjoy the conceit that rather than engaging in a ‘mass sulk’, crows make the noise they do because they’re remembering Kar’s bravery. Nevertheless, the episode as a whole still felt too generic, especially as Capaldi heads into his final stretch. I honestly wanted more. For his sake as much as mine. The man deserves to go out with a bang, rather than a whimper.
As disappointed as I was with this adventure for The Doctor, I am completely psyched for the arc coming up in the final two episodes of the series. Seeing Simm!Master twirling Missy around in the trailer was something I didn’t realise how much I wanted until it was right there in front of me. Should they truly join forces, then The Doctor will really have to up his game to defeat them. I can’t wait to see how that turns out!
- Wait, The Doctor was a Vestal virgin?? (M)
- That portal looked a lot like the old BBC One ident with the hippos swimming around in a circle. I’m just saying! (D)
- Nardole is rocking quite the wardrobe, huh? (M)
Our Fezzy Score:
So what did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments…