The Good: Good development for Bill, Good ending, Decent performances
The Bad: Mediocre/Derivative CGI, Somewhat predictable plot development
The Basics: "The Eaters Of Light" is a fun episode of Doctor Who that does a generally good job of utilizing the characters currently in play.
There's something ballsy about the current season of Doctor Who. The show opened the new season with the announcements that the current season is the final one for Peter Capaldi as The Doctor and the disappointing aspect of that was that Capaldi's Doctor has been much maligned and much-misused. So, the idea that a new showrunner was taking over was a glimmer of hope for fans that perhaps Peter Capaldi's Doctor would be better-written and better-developed . . . but, as has become the habit, new executive producer, new Doctor. So, Peter Capaldi - great actor - is given the short straw on content for The Doctor and a severely limited challenge in that he has not had much material to rise to his talents. Similarly, Pearl Mackie's tenure as The Doctor's Companion Bill was quickly announced as a one-season character. These observations come at the outset of the review of "The Eaters Of Light" because the episode finally finds a pretty brilliant way to write The Doctor, Bill, Nardole and (even for her brief part) Missy. In other words, "The Eaters Of Light" is a bit of a "fuck you" to fans of Doctor Who; showing viewers the potential of Peter Capaldi's Doctor and the Companions unique to his tenure . . . a mere couple of episodes before they're all gone.
"The Eaters Of Light" follows upon and (eventually) references "Empress Of Mars" (reviewed here!) and is enough to remind fans of Doctor Who how excited they were about Peter Capaldi being announced as The Doctor. "The Eaters Of Light" is a pretty typical "invader from another dimension" episode of Doctor Who, but writer Rona Munro and director Charles Palmer manage to make it feel fairly fresh, even if it cops out in the first of the episode's two climaxes.
The Doctor, Nardole and Bill arrive in the 2nd Century, Scotland, where Bill is excited because there is a historical mystery in Cairn. The Ninth Legion of Roman soldiers abruptly disappeared and Bill believes something mysterious happened. The Doctor points out, when they arrive, that five thousand Roman soldiers retreating ought to be visible, from their landing point. When Bill goes in search of the Ninth Legion, The Doctor and Nardole head off in the opposite direction. Bill finds a Celt, who chases her and she falls down a hole, where she meets a Roman soldier. The soldier tells her that the Ninth Legion was wiped out by a monster and only the deserters survived.
The Doctor and Nardole, in the meantime, meet up with the local tribe, who informs them that the Romans have been wiped out by a creature and The Doctor visits the gate that the Celts are guarding. There, The Doctor identifies the invaders and recognizes that they will eat all of the Universe's light if they are able to break through. As the two communities meet again, The Doctor and Bill have to convince them to work to save the world.
Almost entirely disconnected from the rest of the episode is a final scene that involves Missy that works to set up the next episode of Doctor Who and it enhances the promise represented in "The Eaters Of Light." "The Eaters Of Light" develops Bill's character exceptionally well; Bill realizes that The Doctor or the TARDIS are responsible for how she can understand other languages when she encounters Romans and recognizes that she is understanding Latin as English and speaking English, while the Romans she speaks with hear Latin. Bill figures out what The Doctor usually explicitly has to tell his Companions, which is very cool.
In a similar fashion, The Doctor is written as witty, resourceful and a decent blend of crabby and clever in "The Eaters Of Light." Peter Capaldi rocks as The Doctor in a way that he has seldom been allowed to do. The plot might not be the most original idea for a Doctor Who episode, but Capaldi makes it feel fairly fresh. Similarly, Matt Lucas's Nardole continues to grow and be more intriguing, as opposed to simply used as comic relief.
The creature design and special effect for the interdimensional being seemed incredibly familiar as opposed to audacious and the effect was a little less refined than some of the other effects in Doctor Who. But for the most part, "The Eaters Of Light" is a solid episode that makes viewers wish The Doctor and Bill might stick around for quite a bit longer.
For other Doctor Who episodes directed by Charles Palmer, please check out my reviews of:
"Family Of Blood"
"The Shakespeare Code"
"Smith And Jones"
For other television episode and season reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page!
© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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