Discussing Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light

Eaters of Light Doctor Who review

Take a historical mystery and add a interdimensional monster, well of course the Doctor is going to show up. This week Kevin and I shine light on “The Eaters of Light.”

Kevin Harvey is the author of All You Want to Know About The Bible in Pop Culture and a fellow Whovian who enjoys watching and breaking down the latest adventures of the Doctor. You can follow him on Twitter at @PopCultureKevin.

Previously, we rebelled against “The Empress of Mars” rebuffed “The Lie of the Land,” felt fine at “The Pyramids at the End of the World,” went to the extreme in “Extremis,” breathed in “Oxygen,” opened the door of “Knock Knock,” stepped out on “Thin Ice,” emoted about “Smile” and navigated “The Pilot” If you need a refresher on last season, here is our recap of season 9.

As this was the last standalone episode of the season, where would you rank “The Eaters of Light” among the others?

Kevin: Here’s my season recap on my rankings so far: “Extremis” was amazing; “Empress of Mars” was pretty bad; all the others, including “The Eaters of Light” fall under “good but not great.”

As we discussed in last season’s wrap-up, season 9 is at least in the discussion of best seasons ever for Doctor Who. Though neither of us put it at our number one, it still deserved attention to the question.

So because of how great last season was, along with the second half of season 8 after Capaldi got some ground underneath his feet, season 10 has been a bit of a letdown thus far, with “The Eaters of Light” being the perfect example of why.

As far as tone, including this episode, it seems to be much lighter than normal. You and I both love the witty and humorous dialogue as much as anyone, and I think we can also agree that Matt Lucas as Nardole has been a welcome cast addition.

But whereas I feel the best approach for a Doctor Who season is urgency, horror, and great villains—with a few lighter episodes sprinkled within—season 10 has been just the opposite.

I know this is more of a season recap, rather than an individual episode one, but I feel “The Eaters of Light,” though still a good episode in its own right, represents well my overall problem with this season as a whole.

Aaron: I’m basically on the same page as you, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed “The Eaters of Light.” It is definitely one of my favorite episodes this season.

I definitely teared up as the Picts and Romans join forces to guard the gate and the Doctor says, “Stop being brave! I can’t stand brave people.” Of course, he is the epitome of bravery, but he doesn’t want others to make the sacrifices he is willing to make.

That’s summed up when Bill tells him that this is not his job, to which he replies, “No, but it’s who I am.”

Extremis” is weighed down by how disappointing the payoff of the trilogy felt. I know I liked “Thin Ice” more than you, but that’s the other episode this season I really enjoyed.

Coincidentally, both of those are the ones where we see the TARDIS actually functioning as a time machine to travel to a different point in Earth’s history. Sometimes I think having those guardrails of actual historical events, people and places pushes the writers to be more creative in other areas.

We got an actual monster this week, so perhaps that’s an improvement. What did you think of the Eaters of Light?

Aaron: I at least appreciated that the Eaters of Light weren’t a misunderstood monster. They were trying to eat people and suck all the light out of our world.

No one was trying to understand their motivations; the Doctor, his companions and the humans were simply trying to stop them. I needed that.

But once again the monster served more as a prop to the larger story, this time between the Romans and the Picts, The Eaters of Light were merely the thing against which the two groups needed to bravely unite.

We still have a two-part story left that will supposedly bring back the Master and an older version of the Cybermen. Those two have potential, but in terms of the villains, this season feels like a disappointment.

The lackluster bad guys are made all the worse by this being Peter Capaldi’s last season. His brilliant performances have been largely wasted on insignificant threats.

Kevin: Ditto on everything you just said, especially the last paragraph. I may be a little more forgiving than you about the monster simply being a prop for dealing with the animosity between the Romans and the Picts.

I think since it was a straight-up monster, and not someone that needed character development, dialogue, etc., I would say it served its purpose well. At least it actually killed people and there was some minor urgency around surviving its attacks.

But the best villains/monsters are ones in which the Doctor has to pull a rabbit out of the hat at the last minute to try and outsmart. Though we did get that in “Oxygen,” the monsters weren’t actually the space zombies but their human bosses back home.

And in “The Lie of the Land,” I think we both agree that even the Doctor’s last-minute plan that ended up working was actually pretty disappointing with all the buildup leading toward the Monks’ invasion.

Will the finale give us the villain we’ve been waiting for, along with actual danger for the Doctor and others involved? Fingers crossed.

Was it just me or was Bill taking charge a lot during this episode?

Kevin: I noticed that it seemed that as soon as she learned she was older than the Roman soldiers, she felt she could step up as their leader. Really? I’m sorry, but though I’m well older than almost every US soldier out in the desert, if I’m held up in a hole in the ground with them, I’m following their lead.

I’m not sure what to think about Bill’s evolution this season. It feels rushed to me. I know not every Doctor Who fan loved Clara as much as I did, but by the time she was taking charge of situations and stepping foolishly into dire situations, she had earned that character change from all her travels with the Doctor.

But in ten episodes (whose events seem to happen one after the other), Bill is acting in many ways like Clara did last season when she was becoming more and more like the Doctor, to the point of death.

Aaron: Remember, the events of the trilogy took place at least over six months, so she’s had more chronological time than TV time, but even then your point still remains about treating her as if she has the same depth of relationship with the Doctor than Clara.

Honestly, I had the same issues with Clara during her first season. Matt Smith’s Doctor had spent his entire run with Amy Pond and then Clara comes along and she’s supposed to be this “impossible girl” that immediately sacrifices herself to save him. It felt rushed.

But knowing all that, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt this time and trust that this is all leading somewhere. There was a scene toward the end of the episode—after Bill had knocked the Doctor out again demonstrating she has no qualms about getting physical if she believes he is wrong—where she is the one leading people out of the collapsing building. She even pushes the Doctor out of the door.

I think the writers and, for storyline purposes, the Doctor are trying to build her up so that she realizes she can be a leader without a Time Lord around. He’s going away and she needs to know that she can handle herself when that time comes.

Who’s more hurt: Missy because the Doctor doesn’t trust her or the Doctor because he knows Missy is going to turn on him?

Aaron: I’m not sure we can praise Michelle Gomez enough for her turn as Missy. The scene with her and the Doctor discussing her tears and his hope was exceptional in large part due to her.

You could almost believe that Missy is actually reformed and rehabilitated, and that she was genuinely hurt by the Doctor’s rejection. But this is Missy/Master we’re talking about. You have to assume that she is going to turn on the Doctor at some point soon.

Still there is something so poignant about the Doctor looking at her, dropping her hands and saying, “That’s the trouble with hope; it’s hard to resist.”

But in the meantime, I just want to appreciate how tremendous Gomez has been as Missy.

Kevin: Gomez has already been in more episodes this season than all of last year (three versus two), yet it hasn’t been nearly enough. Every scene she has been in has been far and away the best moment of the show. Why could the writers not have figured out more ways to fit her in?

I for one genuinely buy into her remorse and wish for repentance, although I’d love to know more about why she is suddenly trying to be good again. But even though I am unsure of her motivations, that shows you just how good Gomez is in the role—I’ve bought her words (lies?) hook, line, and sinker.

How will her character arc tie into the Doctor’s regeneration? I’m dying to learn.

Favorite quotes or one-liners?

Kevin: As I said earlier, this season for the most part has been ripe with funny lines, this episode notwithstanding. Though I always laugh, I still think it’s been a bit too much this season, however.

“She’s not a warrior. She’s an embryo. What did you do, throw your action figures at them?” — the Doctor referencing the young Kar when she claimed to have killed all the Roman soldiers.

“Nardole, what happened to you?” — Bill
“Oh, I’m blending in. [In a Scottish accent] Welcome to our land.” — Nardole

“Sir, I must protest in the strongest, most upset tone as possible. Don’t make me go squeaky voice” — Nardole

Aaron: The riffs on Capaldi’s Scotland were fantastic, especially Nardole’s “Death by Scotland” line. This episode was definitely filled with great quips and dialogue.

“It’s called charm.” — Nardole
“Yeah, I’m against charm.” — Doctor
“We all know that.” — Nardole

“I think we’ve lost her.” — Nardole
“No, we just don’t know where she is. That’s entirely different.” — Doctor

“That’s the part you never tell me.” — Bill referring to the “clever part” of the Doctor’s plan
“Don’t I? Probably just get interrupted.” — Doctor

“Well team, who’s going to help me hide his guitar?” — Missy

What are some spiritual takeaways from this episode?

Aaron: I’m going to go in a different direction with this. I’ll leave the spiritual parallels to you and talk about an apologetics issue dealing with Bill’s approach to sexual orientation.

Her interaction with the Roman soldiers and their viewpoints on sexuality surprised her, as she did not expect them to be so “modern.” The point the show wants you to take away is that relationships besides strictly one male and one female have been around for centuries. If that’s the case, why should we care about it today?

This line of reasoning contradicts the arguments many give for dismissing biblical teaching on sexuality. If the homosexual relationships were common in Roman culture, then the concept would not be foreign for Paul, who explicitly condemns same sex acts in Romans (and other places). He would know exactly what he was talking about when he called those sin.

You can’t simultaneously say, “Same sex relationships are totally common and have been at least since the days of Rome, so surely we should accept them today,” and “In biblical times, writers didn’t know anything about the type of same sex relationships we have today, so surely we shouldn’t accept its teaching against them.”

Kevin: Great point on that issue. I’ll only add that Bill seeking to enter into the conversation concerning her sexuality felt extremely forced, which is what bugs me the most about the agenda-pushing TV and film makers.

Her having any kind of long-term relationship with the Roman soldier was never going to be an issue, as she knew she’d be jetting out soon on the TARDIS, so why would she go ahead and just jump right into that conversation, other than so that the writers can just take a minute to preach to us a little?

Or maybe it’s all just my paranoia when I’m watching things like this with my kids.

Anyways, to the question at hand … I know the point the show was trying to make at the end when everyone could understand each other was how great things can be if we would simply put down our weapons and talk with each other, truly understanding one another. But I was reminded of what eternity in heaven will be like.

I’m not a linguist, so I can’t even begin to take a stab at how many different languages and dialects have been represented during earth’s history, but I bet it’s so high that I would be surprised. But in heaven, somehow, some way we will all understand one another!

I don’t think we’ll be taking Arabic classes or anything when we get there; rather I imagine it’ll almost be just as it is with the TARDIS. Being in heaven with the Creator of the universe simply allows us to all speak and understand a universal language. How amazing is that?!

3 Comments

  1. There was so much spiritual stuff in this episode: the cairn was an Iron-Age “church” with a gatekeeper, a mythological beast that ate the light, the stone carving of a fish. And most important was what the Doctor said to Missy: “See, that’s what I’m trying to teach you, Missy. You understand the universe, you see it and you grasp it, but you’ve never learned to hear the music.” Music that transcends time – always hear the music.

  2. Brian roden Reply

    Another funny line was Bill’s comment on the “lip-sync” of the TARDIS’ translation being so perfect.

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.