In the tenth episode of the tenth series of Doctor Who, the Doctor and Bill have a bet about a particular point in British history and go to discover who is right. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
Oh, I really enjoyed this one, y’all. I love that the show finally traveled far, far into the past with Bill, that it doesn’t open with a trick or a distress call to compel the Doctor to travel to this point in time and space, and that Bill gets so much more influence on the plot than she did in the last episode. LET’S DISCUSS.
Look, I don’t know how else to explain the working theory I had that Kar was actually the girl from the present day, just lost in the past. In hindsight, I kinda get why I thought that? After she heard the music at the cairns, she ran toward them, and then the camera cut away to the stones, so I just assumed she disappeared into something? Let me also say—in hindsight!!!—that the younger girl in the present time had REAL blonde hair, and Kar did not, soooooooo…. this is just my fault, okay? BUT I TRIED. I sounded so damn confident when I thought I had this figured out LMAAAOOOOOO.
The Missing Ninth Legion
There’s a tone at the beginning of this episode that I adored a lot: the Doctor and Bill are being playful. Through context, we can assume that the Doctor traveled here SPECIFICALLY to prove Bill wrong about the Ninth Legion. And she’s so confident, too!!! She is so certain that her loving obsession with this period in time makes her right. And in those few minutes at the start of “The Eaters of Light,” we’re given so much information on how this relationship has developed. These are the kind of conversations these two have, and it suggests a comfort and familiarity that has grown over the various adventures they’ve gone on together. EXCELLENT.
And thus, the two set out in 2nd century Scotland to prove the other wrong. What did happen to the Ninth Legion? (Which really did disappear!!!)
“The Eaters of Light” benefits from its split storyline: Bill discovers Simon and the survivors of the Ninth Legion, all of whom fled the fight against the light-eating locust. (Which felt a little similar to Godsacre’s choice in the previous episode, I admit.) Meanwhile, the Doctor finds a Pict clan who are justifiably furious at the presence of the Roman troops. And so we’ve got two groups with their own interests and desires, who are harming one another to get what they want. And from the perspective of the Pict clan, the Roman soldiers are the invading force! But what does Kar do to take care of this problem? She unleashes the light-eating locust on the Romans, and… lord, THAT CREATURE. I love that it’s less like an insect and more like a raptor? With tentacles that come from its mouth and STEAL LIGHT? Holy shit, I’m so in love with this creature design, bravo!!!
But it’s the way this script brings up the moral issues of the two camps that made this interesting to me. It was completely understandable that the Pict clan hated the Romans. On some level, I could even understand why Kar made the choice that she did as the Gatekeeper. The whole reason that role exists for the Pict is to protect their people. That portal has to be guarded so that the locusts don’t invade Earth. My guess, then, is that Kar believed that she could control this, that one of these monsters would be easy to kill after it did what she needed it to.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happens, and LORD, those corpses were so disturbing. The locust has such an unending appetite, and it absolutely slaughtered the Ninth Legion. So how do you solve this? How can the locust be stopped? And what of the future of these two groups? This script manages to be deeply, deeply personal at times, and I’m thinking of Kar’s emotional motivations for what she did and what she continues to do as the gatekeeper. And hell, I can’t help but talk about that amazing sequence in the cave in which the Roman soldiers talk about desire and sexuality with Bill. These secondary characters might not have the most detailed character stories, but that moment was so powerful and casual. This script peels back the outer layers of the soldiers and the barbarians, revealing the deeply human cores at the center of all of them.
Which is why this episode had to end the way it did. The Doctor was not the one destined to protect the gateway. The Ninth Legion had to do this, as did Kar. The folks either responsible for this or the indirect causes of it agree to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. It’s a classic Doctor Who moral struggle, isn’t it? Do people continue to war with one another for eternity? Or is there an alternative? That alternative is sung throughout history: the crows say Kar’s name, and the stones sing the music of that final battle to save the world from the Light Eaters. It had to be them.
Seriously, Michelle Gomez was in this for like… what? Four minutes? Maybe five? And her acting STOLE THE SHOW. That struggle is slowly taking center stage: Is the Master capable of doing good? Can she change? Is the display of emotion that we see here real, or is it a ploy? I cannot wait to find out, and I hope we get to see her in a full episode soon.
The video for “The Eaters of Light” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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