REVIEW – Doctor Who Series 10, Episode 10 – The Eaters of Light

As Peter Capaldi’s era draws to a reluctant close, the TARDIS crew are taken off piste to 2nd Century Aberdeen to solve a mystery almost two millennia old; what happened to the Roman IX Legion? In keeping with the theme of the revived series, the story takes a historical theme – in this case a mystery I was completely oblivious to until the story introduced it – and then adds an alien menace. The menace in this case is the titular ‘Eater of Light’ – a beast that has entered the earth from another dimension and feasts on light and life; or as the Doctor puts it “an outer space locust.”

The adventure is by no means original in that regard; plenty of other stories feature a similar theme of a gateway opening between this world and another; an alien creature that threatens humanity; and terrified humans unsure how to deal with the monster. So much was this my impression, that I re-watched the story (while doing the ironing – top tip for multi-tasking!) to make sure I was not mistaken. While I enjoyed the story better the second time, I realised that I was really not wrong; the story had a distinct lack of originality.

That’s not to say it did not have some lovely touches. In particular, the TARDIS translation circuits are used to enable the feuding Romans and Picts to understand one another, and when asked how they sound to one another, their reply “like children” is painfully touching. Indeed, it is the Doctor and Bill that really make this story, just as they have made this series. Bill’s brash brilliance has been enervating, bringing enthusiasm and a can-do attitude that works brilliantly in a companion – enjoying adventure for the sake of adventure. Capaldi meanwhile continues to demonstrate that the BBC are making a horrendous mistake in letting him go so soon; not only is his dialogue superb, he brings an incredible depth to the character of the Doctor – you have absolutely no difficulty in believing that he has lived for thousands of years and seen so much history.

But original? Sadly not so much. Granted that it is hard to tell a genuinely no story, in which case the impetus falls to the story teller to tell the story in an interesting way. I cannot tell to what extent the blame for this lies with Rona Munro, distinctive as the first person to write for both the original series and also for the revived series, or with the production team themselves. But the story did leave me with the impression “Could do better.”

The BBC have also certainly not done themselves any favours by continually promoting a social liberal view of the world. I pondered earlier in the series whether this was a good thing – leaning generally towards the great good Doctor Who has done in being a platform for exploring deep questions of morality. Sadly, it has felt lately like the tone has moved on from provoking deep questions to preachy – and it doesn’t wear well. But the fact that much of the BBC production team has little understanding of worldviews different to their own is a much longer blog for another time …

And so the end approaches! The final two parter has much that I am looking forward to, and won’t mention because some people (like Josh in fact!) prefer to avoid the ‘Next Time’ trailers so as to avoid spoilers. I am exceedingly hopeful that episodes 11 and 12 will produce very great Doctor Who, given the elements the teaser has hinted at. I’m now hoping that this expectation does not leave me disappointed in two weeks …

Daniel Stafford

Dan Stafford has been a fan of Doctor Who since the age of 6. He lives in Oxford and blogs at www.dantalksdoctorwho.wordpress.com. Find him on Twitter - @dantalksdrwho

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