Doctor Who Series 10, Episode 10
“The Eaters of Light”
Posted by Kim
You know, I think I have FINALLY put my finger on what’s been bugging me so much about the Doctor this series.
The Doctor is 100% done with everything and everyone. And it shows.
Let the record show that is NOT me saying that Peter Capaldi is phoning it in this series. (Far from it, I think he will be remembered as one of the most magnificent actors to have graced this show.) And it’s not because I know we are on limited time with Twelve, who is right up there with Ten for me in regards to being “my” Doctor. No. It’s not that. I think it’s the task of guarding the vault and being stuck in the same place for so long that’s getting to him. I’m not familiar enough with the Pertwee era (though I DO love what I’ve seen of it) but I have seen plenty of comparisons as far as the Doctor’s state of mind. The Doctor is a natural wanderer; he is a man who cherishes his freedom to move about through time and space as he pleases. So this whole being Earthbound concept? It’s doing one hell of a number on his psyche. (It’s either that or he knows he’s dying, as Shannon just said to me on gChat, and he just wants to get this regeneration over with, which is why he keeps throwing himself in harm’s way with reckless abandon. So, okay, fuck you, Shannon. You’re fired.)
Listen, Twelve has never been the warm and fuzziest of Doctors. This is the Doctor who has frequently referred to humans as “Pudding Brains” after all. Twelve’s grumpiness has been part of his charm, especially coming out of his more effusive Eleventh regeneration. But’s what’s been amazing about watching his journey is that we’ve watched him soften. We’ve seen him be awestruck at basically every tiny human he’s come across. He’s laughed over Chinese takeout with a ragtag group of purported thieves and he’s flown Santa’s sleigh with the pure delight and innocence of a child. He spent 4 billion years in a confession dial JUST so he could figure out a way to save Clara Oswald. He gave River Song a twenty-four year long dinner date. So yeah, Twelve will never be a teddy bear, but god dammit, he is at LEAST a hugging person now. Or at least he was. It’s been a bit jarring for me this series to see the Doctor almost revert back to the short fuse he had when he first regenerated, even more so when you add in a massive dose of world-weariness. The Doctor is fucking tired, y’all. And with that exhaustion comes quite a bit of jadedness and cynicism. I mean he’s gone from this:
Wilf: Nine hundred years. We must look like insects to you.
Ten: I think you look like giants.
Bill: So now that we all understand each other, how do we all sound?
Lucius: You sound like children.
Kar: You sound like children too.
Twelve: You all do.
From giants to children. That’s a pretty massive shift in world view, don’t you think? It’s almost like he’s tired of humans making the same mistakes over and over again. He’s tired of being the one to save them but at the same time it’s all he wants to do JUST so he can feel like he’s useful. Which brings us to “The Eaters of Light” and the Scottish Highlands.
All of that being said, I loved this episode. (Ha! I tricked you. You thought I hated it, right?) In her recap last week, Sage posited that one of the reasons the series has been a little difficult this go-around because of What’s Going On In The World™ and the way the writers are processing it through their craft. “The Eaters of Light” follows in that same vein but what makes it stand out to me is the way Rona Munro (who wrote the final episode of the Classic Era of Who) understands the similar emotions that opposing sides of a war face (guess what, we’re all scared of the other) and the need for us to put aside our differences in the face of an even larger battle. There’s something so HOPEFUL about this one? That’s why it really resonated with me. Hope is something that’s been sorely missing from a lot of this series so far and I’ve missed it.
Because it’s hard to resist.
SEE WHAT I DID THERE? I’m getting way ahead of myself.
Another reason this episode works so well is because Munro REALLY got the dynamic between Bill and the Doctor. (It’s so Ace and Seven, after all.) Team TARDIS winds up in ancient Aberdeen because Bill and the Doctor were bickering about who knows the Romans the best and what exactly happened to the Ninth Legion. Bill is insistent that the legion survived while the Doctor is certain that they were annihilated and they are both desperate to prove each other wrong and it’s ADORABLE. Thus, they separate, with Bill off to look for a living soldier and the Doctor and Nardole looking for the big pile of bodies.
They both find what they are looking for, in a way. In a scene that’s VERY reminiscent of Claire finding the red coats in Outlander, Bill stumbles upon Celt girl in the middle of a ritual. The girl is enraged and chases her and Bill falls down a hole only to come face to face with a very frightened Roman soldier named Simon. (Her DELIGHT at finding him AND realizing that the TARDIS translates languages for her though. Bill Potts is so pure.) Why is he so scared? There’s a monster on the loose. Duh-doy. It wiped out the Ninth Legion and the only survivors are the ones who ran because they were too afraid to face the monster. So naturally, the monster, a giant looking crawfish thing with glow in the dark tentacles, chooses that moment to attack. Bye-bye, Simon. We hardly knew thee. The monster nearly kills Bill but she manages to make it into the cave where the rest of the soldiers are.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Nardole find the big pile of bodies that he KNEW he would find…only they aren’t dead for the reasons he thought they would be. All the bones have completely disintegrated as if they have been in the complete absence of sunlight; an impossible feat considering the bodies are relatively fresh otherwise. Conclusion? Alien. But before they can do any more investigating, the Doctor and Nardole are captured by the Celts and taken to their leader. A “gatekeeper” named Kar…who turns out to be a very young girl. (IT MERIDA CAUSE SCOTLAND.)
And here’s what I mean about the Doctor having an incredibly short fuse this series: he’s in the captivity of the Celts for all of five minutes before he drops the “Do you hear that? It’s the sound of my patience shattering into a billion little pieces” bit. (WHAT A GREAT LINE THOUGH.) Sure, he knows there’s a big bad monster on the loose, but it just rang a little “that escalated quickly” to me. It gets even worse when Kar finally shows her face. He’s immediately dismissive of her, asking where all the grown-ups are. He mocks her by calling her an embryo and asking if she defeated the army by throwing her action figures at them. It’s way harsh, even for Twelve. However, he DOES hit at the heart of the matter when he says “Listen, you are all very, very angry, but really you’re just very scared.” That’s it. That’s the whole thing.
The Doctor discovers that the “gate” that Kar is referring to is actually an interdimensional temporal rift and JUST on the other side of it, an army of Light Sucking Locusts is lying in wait. Not just one. An army. And that just pisses him off even more? “You don’t know anything, do you. You just stand around making speeches and waving a TV aerial about!” Kar is like “Yo, bro, I know exactly what it is. It’s an Eater of Light and the duty of protecting the world against it has passed through my family for generations, so maybe stop being so fucking dismissive of me.” But the fact of the matter is that Kar let the Eater of Light pass through the gate because she thought it would help them win the battle against the Romans, and it backfired on her. As the Doctor puts it succinctly, “To protect a muddy little hillside, you doomed your whole world.” (THAT IS VERY REAL, RONA MUNRO. DAMN.) But still, he didn’t have to be so harsh in order to teach her this lesson. Kar already knew she was at fault and she already knew she was going to have to make this right somehow. She didn’t need to be shamed into doing it, you know.
The rest of the episode is all about bringing the two sides together. Bill and her unshakable faith in the Doctor moves the Roman soldiers to follow her (“Why are you listening to her?” “Because no one else is saying anything.”), while the Doctor urges Kar to face her own fears. The Doctor is ALL over the place in this episode, because one minute he’s demeaning her and the next he’s giving her a lovingly firm speech about the realities of war. “When you want to win a war, remember this. It’s not about you. Believe me, I know. Time to grow up, Kar. Time to fight your fight.” Okay…but you could have said this without being a dick to her first, you know.
(Also the IRONY of him calling her out for mourning the people she’s responsible for killing when he was urging Missy to do that very thing two episodes ago. PICK SOMETHING CONSISTENT.)
Once the two factions are joined, the result is exactly what you would expect it to be: they are immediately at each other’s throats. At this point, the Doctor and Bill’s exasperation is merited. There are bigger fish to fry here and as HUMAN BEINGS, the Romans and the Celts should be on the same side now. Thanks to a little TARDIS magic, the first little seeds of peace and cooperation are planted. Bill gets them to realize that they are all speaking the same language now, thanks to the Doctor. (His PRIDE at her explaining everything!) And I get the “You all sound like children” thing. I do. The Doctor has seen this over and over again with human beings hating each other because they are really afraid of each other. It DOES have to be exhausting seeing the “Well you hurt me, so I’m going to hurt you back” argument play out again and again. It’s WHY his big speech is so moving because it’s so fucking true, whether it be in ancient Scotland or it be in modern-day America.
The Doctor: Okay, kids, pay attention. She slaughtered your legion. You slaughtered everything that she loves. Now, you all have a choice. You can carry on slaughtering each other till no one is left standing, or you grow the hell up! Because there’s a new war now. I think these creatures are light-eating locusts, looking for rents and cracks between worlds to let themselves into dimensions of light. Once they break through, they eat. They will eat the sun, and then they will eat the stars. And they will keep eating until there are no stars left. So, whose side are you on now? Because as far as I can see, there’s only one side left.
For all his talk about Kar needing to grow up face her own beast, it sure is rich that when the time finally comes for someone to sacrifice themselves that the DOCTOR suddenly is like “IT ME.” Seriously? I mean on one hand, I get his logic. He does have the longer lifespan, so it would make sense for him to be the one. (Also the casual way he keeps tossing “regeneration” around lends credence to the “he’s slowly regenerating already” theory. SHIT HE’S ALREADY REGENERATING ISN’T HE?) But on the other hand…what the fuck, Doctor? You’ve spent the entire episode telling them to fight their own fight and then turn around and try to white knight them? Absolutely not. I CHEERED when Bill called him on his shit. It’s so important that she did, especially when you contrast how she “selfishly” saved his life during the Monk trilogy. Bill’s refusal to let the Doctor sacrifice himself had nothing to do with her love for him and had EVERYTHING to do with her saying “This is not your destiny, Bro.”
Seriously, what was he thinking? (He’s not thinking, cause he’s dying, STOP KIM.) Talk about ruining a whole universe just to save a muddy hillside, Doctor. “Time to grow up, Doctor,” Kar says as she seizes her destiny and walks into the portal, surrounded by the Legion of the Ninth, who are cowards no more. “The Ninth Legion and the Keeper of the Gate, seizing the day till the sun goes out. Holding back the dark.”
They sure look like giants to me.
As has been the case for the past few episodes, we close out with a Missy scene. (Also ALL DISRESPECT to the BBC America promo department who chose to air the “Time for us to be friends again” snippet during the commercial breaks BEFORE the scene had aired. Way to spoil, you guys.) These scenes are always a little jarring for me because they have very little to do with anything that happened in the main story of the show. But trust me, I’m not complaining. Not when there is THIS MUCH flirting going on. The sexual tension is killing me.
Lending more credence to the “the Doctor is already dying” theory is the fact that Missy seems to be CONSTANTLY in tears. (I’m reminded of how Carrie would burst into tears any time she mentioned Big’s heart condition. THAT IS WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE.) Has he told her? He has to have, right? And that’s why he’s trying to teach her to be good and to “hear the music”? OH MY GODDDDDDDDDDDDD I’m going to have a meltdown. And then they fucking JOKE about Missy trying to impress him with her tears and really having a devious plan because they are desperately trying to normalize the situation and ignore the reality they are both facing.
This whole final scene with them is HORRIBLE because of the obvious LOVE between them and the way the Doctor is STILL fighting it because he is both hopeful and SCARED of that hope. THEIR HANDS. THEIR FACES. To quote Shannon once again, these two have loved each other for thousands of years and this is a lot. THEIR FACES. THEIR HANDS. The way the Doctor takes a step back from her because he’s so fucking scared. It’s all so real and there’s so much in this scene that is NOT said. I need to lay down.
- So many Outlander feels in this episode. 100% would see that crossover.
- Note to Chris Chibnall: the two best episodes of the series have been written by women. Do with that what you will.
- I loved the whole Crows can talk thing. Especially when it turned into them remembering Kar for all eternity.
- In which I am Nardole and Nardole is me.
- When Bill went to look for a Roman soldier, I know that this is the one EVERYONE wanted her to find.
- I want Bill’s jumper.
- “Vestal Virgin, second class.”
- I didn’t see any hand-wringing from the color blind casting of the Roman Army, Mark Gatiss. *sips tea*
- Doctor Who in a nutshell.
- OPEN MINDED AND MODERN ROMAN SOLDIERS NOT EVEN FLINCHING AT SAME SEX LOVE GOD BLESS.
- “What about the Wi-Fi code, how about that?” SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME THE OBSESSION WITH WI-FI THIS SERIES.
- “It’s called charm.” “I’m against it.”
- “We’ll look after you.” Lucius is a precious sunflower.
- “If you come with me, I can’t promise that you won’t all die. But I can promise you this. You won’t all die in a hole in the ground.” BILL POTTS.
- “He always ends up being boss of the locals.”
- THIS FUCKING HURTS.
- “Totally found them.” “Yeah, you totally did.” BABIES.
- Lucius’ little smile to Bill before he walks into the portal. STOP.
- Kar’s brother vowing that her name would be remembered BROKE MY HEART.
- THIS FUCKING HURTS, PART TWO.
- I’ll leave this here.
- “Well, team, who’s going to help me hide his gee-tar?”
Two episodes to go, guys. We’re going to be in D.C. this weekend with our Whovian fam and I’m SO GLAD because I feel like we’re all going to need a LOT of emotional support for the penultimate episode. Until then, leave your thoughts on “The Eaters of Light” in the comments!