10.10 The Eaters Of Light
The very welcome return of writer Rona Munro to Doctor Who – it’s being a long time since her inadvertent classic era finale, Survival – has brought with it a quieter episode of the show than I was expecting. It was only as the credits rolled at the end, too, that it really struck me it was probably the last standalone Peter Capaldi adventure we get where he doesn’t regenerate at the end, and it seems fitting therefore that it takes place in Scotland. And includes good quality Scottish gags into the bargain.
Munro sets her story in 2 AD, with the Doctor, Bill and Nardole on the trail of a missing ninth legion of the Roman army. Bill has read up on why they’ve disappeared, the Doctor has his own theories, and they set out to find out the truth.
We’re back to the steady pacing of the stories we got earlier in the series here, although there’s not quite as much to stick in the mind this time around. Still, there’s patient build up, and the some of the detective work that shone through earlier in the run.
Familiar Doctor Who themes abound in the midst of all, of the futility of battle, a strange monster, and a mystery of two to resolve. What lifts The Eaters Of Light when it hits form are some smashing one-liners from Nardole (Matt Lucas’s laser-targeted delivery is still a very rare skill), and director Charles Palmer making good use of his locations. Rona Munro, meanwhile, blends monsters, locale and one or two things to say, without feeling the need to gallop when the finishing line is in sight.
If anything, The Eaters Of Light feels quite short for a Doctor Who story. That’s not a narrative issue, though. The story is perfectly complete, and there are bits of other business the episode needs to get through as well, so it’s a fine adventure to place in slot ten of the series. I particularly enjoyed Murray Gold’s score to this one, too, his music evoking that of Survival in places, whilst also tingling its way around the story.
On the flipside, I never really felt particularly on edge by the impending threat of this one, although not every monster’s job is to burrow deep beneath your skin. But I did appreciate it giving its characters good space in the limelight, including one or two of the supporting faces. And I did appreciate some other stuff too, that’d be remiss to talk about here.
A solid piece of work, The Eaters Of Light, an episode that’s not at the level of some of the stuff we got in the first half of the series in particular. But it’s still a welcome chance to see people who really know what they’re doing at work.
A pack of Haribo’s says the ‘Next Time’ trailer might have you hunting for a time machine, mind…