Series Ten, Episode Ten – “The Eaters of Light”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. The Doctor, Bill and Nardole solve the mysteries of Highland cairns and the limited vocabulary of crows in an episode with structural echoes of “The Empress of Mars.” Like last week, The Doctor arbitrates between two groups with runaway egos, Bill falls down a hole and Missy appears as an afterthought to spout remorse and question The Doctor’s health. While these similarities bore no huge significance, they were just visible enough to distract from the overall story.
The TARDIS & Co. land in Iron Age Aberdeen in search of the lost Roman 9th Legion, and find themselves face-to-face with a rogue Light Locust instead. Looking a bit like a Pictish Dragon (if such creatures had a clew of Day-Glo, whip-like flatworms for tongues), the Locust pushed its way out of a portal deep within a cairn, and made short work of Caesar’s troops. Kar, a young gatekeeper with designs on using the beast to vanquish her enemy, is to blame for this breach, and The Doctor spends much of the episode berating and verbally abusing the pint-sized Pict.
Seeing The Doctor sneering his acid-tongued accusations (“You doomed your whole world”) at this poor girl feels terribly harsh at first, until you remember that he knows a thing or two about endangering one’s own world. A rhetorical smack-down is his most tried and true method of snapping someone out of a sulk and calling them to arms.
After making sure Kar shoulders the blame for the death of 5,000 troops and potential Earthly demise, The Doctor tries to dive into the portal himself, citing the paltry length of human lifespans as insufficient for getting the job done. Was he piling the guilt on Kar partially to fuel his own satisfaction at being able to play Time Lord martyr? Jumping into the portal almost felt like an excuse for him to go and hang out in a place where he’d only have to deal with one foe for the rest of his days.
It’s far from a glamorous retirement, but he seems to be getting a bit sulky himself these days – though I suppose a few billion years locked in a confession dial would take its toll.
As luck would have it, multiple humans jam up the portal, crashing it in on itself so lifespans are no longer an issue, leaving The Doctor to continue cleaning up the rest of the Universe’s messes (not least of all, whatever Missy is cooking up on maintenance duty deep within the TARDIS). Even given her limited screen time over the past few weeks, we know she senses The Doctor’s growing weakness. We don’t have too much longer to learn just how much playacting she’s been doing.
“I’m against charm.” – The Doctor.
“Basically he always ends up being boss of the locals.” – Bill.
“This is worse than jazz.” – Nardole, on the Celtic drumming, in what might be my favorite Nardole line yet.
“Oh, is she reviewing us now?” – Nardole, in still-twisted knickers regarding Missy.
BEST MOMENT: There was a cute moment of self-referential humor towards the beginning: As Bill and the Romans are trapped underground, Lucius dramatically avers that “no one is going to die today.” Cue Bill dropping to the ground with black slime on her neck, then cut directly to The Doctor exasperatedly huffing at a Pict, “Oh, for Heaven’s sake!” It made me giggle, at least.
EPISODE’S MVP: I rather liked Nardole toddling around in his nightwear, whether it really added anything to the episode or not. If an episode lacks novelty or suspense, we can always count on Nardole to carry the dead weight.
– The romanticism of crows eternally calling Kar’s name in remembrance was a charming way to ground a mythical, mystical storyline.
– I always feel like there’s something missing when the creatures are just mindless monsters seeking sustenance rather than plotting masterminds. But that’s just me.
– Nardole still hasn’t really warmed to Bill – he all but admits his attempts to find her were completely half-arsed, and he’d rather ingratiate himself with the Picts.
– I was expecting more drama out of Bill’s encounter with the black slime, maybe a la Amy Pond’s affliction in “Flesh and Stone”.
7.5 out of 10
Next: “World Enough and Time”, in one week.
Before: “The Empress of Mars”, here.