The Eaters of Light

Written with no prior knowledge of what’s going to be in the episode – I watch the ‘Next Time’ trailer and make sure I see, hear and read nothing else – and written immediately after my first viewing. This is my unfettered, emotional response to this week’s DOCTOR WHO fare.

A lot of the reviews I read of last week’s episode talked about how classic series WHO it felt. The same could equally be said of this one. There’s no timey-wimey stuff, there’s the single threat that’s defeated when bickering opposing parties come together, while even the pacing allows for a longueur in the middle.

Yet, I definitely liked this more than last week’s.

Maybe it’s the case of matching expectations. ‘The Empress of Mars’ I knew was going to a Victorian soldiers vs Ice Warriors grudge match by Mark Gatiss, and I thought it was going to be fantastic but it wasn’t. ‘The Eaters of Light’ though, I knew nothing about and I found myself positively charmed by it. It’s not the best episode of DOCTOR WHO this series, but I think it will be one that will reward multiple viewings.

First off, I’m always going to be a sucker for a threat like this. Weird pan-dimensional creatures likely to destroy the fabric of reality is so Lovecraftian I’m going to find it difficult to resist it. But unlike last week, the script made some attempt at creating some actual characters to face this threat. And characters who had a neat kind of symmetry. There was the guilt-ridden Pict chief who realised she had to carry out her destiny; and on the other side the guilt-ridden Roman soldier who knew he had to face his. This could have been trite, but the fact that it was all done with actors and characters who were little more than children made it so much more affecting. I didn’t expect it to be, but this was DOCTOR WHO to tug at the heartstrings.

The resolution of it all was a bit ham-fisted, and – seriously – it’s taken until now for someone as bright as Bill to question why everyone in the universe speaks Twenty-First Century English? It’s not a perfect forty-five minutes of TV. But in its more measured pace, it’s A to B to C storytelling and it’s archetypal characters, it has a charmingly old fashioned feel to it. A tantalising look at what Twentieth Century DOCTOR WHO would look like if they were still making it – and making it well – now.

All of the above perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising, as Rona Monro is the one person to write for both Classic WHO and Nu WHO. Her last story was ‘Survival’ which turned out to be the final ever tale for the classic incarnation (and she must be delighted that there are at least more episodes next week). It’s a long time since I’ve watched ‘Survival’, but I saw definite echoes of it here – the lost youth, the alternate dimension, a sense of other worldly wildness. So, I think the thing I’m going to do is watch this again and watch ‘Survival’ right after it. Already, it feels like a worthy double bill

Yes, all in all I think I can say I was pleased by this episode.

End notes:

  • As Mrs Jameson pointed out, popcorn is never that loud.
  • She did like the reason for crow-kind’s modern-day call though.
  • Seriously BBC, if you wanted a true WTF moment, this trailer should have been the surprising appearance of John Simm’s Master, not the first one. What, oh what, were you thinking?

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