Although not necessarily the most well written episode, The Eaters of Light is still a fun adventure. Featuring a blending of science fiction and ancient history that is a staple of Doctor Who, this episode doesn’t exactly live up to the high bar set by previous episodes in the season, but it also doesn’t disappoint.
The concept of the Romans being evil invaders was one that hasn’t been explored in Doctor Who, at least not in the revived series. This was a fresh take on the Romans, and they historically accurate one. Although most people remember Rome as a great empire, they often forget that in order to build the empire the Romans needed to conquer. One character even quotes an old saying, “The Romans create a graveyard and call it peace.”
The weakest part of this episode is the monster. A creature that comes from another dimension, which the ancient Celts were able to slay… Somehow. What’s most confusing about this monster and is that it’s power is the ability to eat light. This doesn’t really make a lot of sense. The creature feeds off of humans, extracting the sunlight from their bones which leaves the corpse covered in a sort of black goo. Of course, if the thing really eight light I don’t understand why it wouldn’t be able to feed off of the abundant life to that is present during the day. Honestly, it seems to me like the writing staff of Doctor Who came up with the title of the episode first, and then decided to create a monster that fits it. And don’t get me wrong, The Eaters of Light is a great title, but a monster that literally eats light from humans and not from the sun is just kind of stupid.
What’s great about this episode is the episode is the characters, not the monster. This is an episode about finding common ground with your enemies, something that The Doctor has always been excellent at. This episode doesn’t waste any opportunities here. The Romans and the Picts are both bitter enemies, but they come together in order to defeat the monster. What is truly remarkable about this episode is that it isn’t The Doctor who helps the two factions come to terms, it’s Bill.
Bill is quickly proving herself to be an excellent companion. She not only very quickly determines that the TARDIS acts as a telepathic universal translator, but she is able to take the place of The Doctor in motivating the Romans to fight the monster while the doctor does the same with the Picts.
This episode has some flaws, but as I mentioned above they all stem from the monster. The interplay between the characters and the overall theme of the story is compelling enough to make the sub par villain just barely forgivable.
Of particular note are the scenes with Missy. We don’t yet know what she will be in the series finale, friend or foe to The Doctor. But it appears that she is sincere in her desire to turn over a new leaf. The Doctor still doesn’t trust her, but it seems that he is beginning to, allowing her to give the TARDIS’ engines a tuneup. This does seem a bit reckless however, even if she is bio locked out of the controls.
These brief glimpses into the character of Missy have been the best things about these standalone episodes. I don’t want to get into too many speculations about future episodes, especially since that would involve spoilers, but whether Missy turns out to be good or evil the tension has been bracketed up brilliantly.