Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light

The story begins at Devil’s Cairn in Scotland, with a girl who wants to listen for music, and a boy who says it is ghosts who may drag her to hell. On a stone cairn nearby, we see the TARDIS carved.

The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole go back to the 2nd century looking for the ninth legion that disappeared, as a result of a debate about who knows more about Roman Britain. The Doctor talks about the Picts and their stone cairns as like churches. When the Doctor finds a body that has been deformed by the total absence of sunligt, Nardole quips, “death by Scotland.” Meanwhile Bill finds deserters who survived the annihilation of the Roman legion, and is attacked by a strange creature whose slime knocks her out.

One of the Scottish children talks about the Romans and offers a critique of empire. The Doctor finds that one of the cairns is indeed a gateway to another world, an interdimensional temporal rift. A creature the locals call “the eater of light” has been fought and held back for generations, but recently got through and destroyed the Roman legion. We learn that the keeper of the gate let the creature through hoping it would destroy the Romans and that they would in turn weaken the beast.

I loved where the Doctor, asked if he is looking for Bill, said he is looking for the most dangerous place, because either Bill is there and he will rescue her, or she isn’t there in which case she is safe already. I also loved how Bill discovered the very “modern” Roman views of sexuality, after she explains that she only likes women.

The Doctor persuades the Scots and Romans to unite to drive the creature back through the gate. But when the Doctor says that he will stay and fight the creature to keep Earth safe, the Scots and Romans insist that they will do it. It is their music that can still be heard in the present day at the Devil’s Cairn. And the Doctor suggests that Missy’s problem is that she never learned to listen to the music of the universe. We also see her crying at the end, and the Doctor hoping that perhaps they can be friends again.

I’m really sorry to think of the fact that the Peter Capaldi era is drawing towards its end. There is a cycle that fans go through with each new regeneration, and I have seen it in my own case. I was excited about the prospect of an older Doctor, then unimpressed as the early stories tried to make him simply mean and disagreeable, to thinking that some of his speeches, but also the portrayal of the Doctor by Capaldi himself, represent some of the best moments in the history of the show.

Brace yourself for the cycle to begin again…

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  • myklc

    I have a concern that we’re heading for a sudden but inevitable betrayal moment with Missy. I hope that I’m wrong.
    Where were the elderly Scots? Why didn’t the rift rupture after being blocked from the sun for hundreds of years?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      The older Scots had been killed by, or fighting, the Romans – when Kar is first spotted by Bill, she is performing a ritual of mourning for her parents and other elders who have been killed.

      • myklc

        That those who could fight would have died is clear, but I was talking about the elderly. It felt contrived that the only deserters from the 9th were teenagers and that there were no elderly Scottish survivors (no infants either). Yes, I understand it’s fiction, but it seems like there’s a lot more handwavium about in the Whoniverse than usual. IMO.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Yes, I suppose the absence of the elderly is rather contrived – although on the other hand this is a relatively minor contrivance compared to other episodes of Doctor Who!

        • Ursula L

          The Romans customarily took slaves from conquered people. So I expect those who fought, died, and those who didn’t fight would be either killed or taken away as slaves. The people who remained would be the lucky few who both escaped being killed in the fighting and escaped being captured as a slave, after.

          The elderly likely couldn’t run fast enough, adult women with children would be slowed down by the children, and more likely to be captured. Among the captives, those healthy enough to be marched away, and to be forced to work, would be enslaved, while those too old or too young would likely be killed.

          The survivors we see are those who were able to run away – young, fast, unencumbered. Old enough to care for themselves, young enough not to be slowed by having to care for others.