Doctor Who: “The Eaters of Light”
Not only do we have a rare use of a female writer on Nu Who — Rona Munro (the second this series) — but we have the first use of a writer from Classic Who, who wrote the last serial of that era, “Survival”, featuring the Ainley-era Master and a lesbian subtext between Ace and Kara.
I’m not convinced I’ve seen it, having developed an allergy to Sylvester McCoy and the Ace character, plus also likely not having a TV at that point. This does feel a little old school — the prehistoric location (Pictish remains — rather fibre glassy megaliths) with an alien connection (a light eater from another dimension) or the historical serial that turns sf. Somewhere between Childhood’s End and Quatermass and t’Pit. I had “The Stones of Blood” vaguely in mind, too.
So, how’s the education of Bill going?
She’s suddenly developed an interest in the lost Ninth Legion, who seem to be rather further north of York or Hadrian’s wall than I thought they were meant to be, and she’s pestered the Doctor (and Margot) away from THE STORY ARC to investigate what happened to them. Whilst the Doctor and Margot go in search of Roman remains, Bill stumbles upon a Pict named Kar — a letter away from Kara, subtext fans — and then literally falls in on the lost Romans. Some of whom, like some of the Victorians last week, are black. The second companion falls into subplot moment in a row.
And some of the Romans are gay and some of them are bisexual.
Bill is thrown.
Yeap, a lesbian of colour is schooled on the history of sexuality. Chiz.
Bill also makes a conceptual breakthrough, having realised that she can understand Latin and Pictish, she deduces that the Doctor has some telepathic thing, which translates even when he’s a couple of miles off (or, in the case of the Ice Warriors, several million miles). Smart but… plot hole.
So Kar has used a monster inside a broch to defend her people against the Roman army, only the creature, from another dimension, won’t go back behind the frankly ridiculous sliding doors to its own dimension, and wants to eat light, or people, and will eat the Sun and then the stars. Or something. Somehow.
We have a futility of war thing and the Doctor being awfully patronising about stepping in to fight the light eater because he lives a long time and can regenerate. I suspect this detail is partly to remind newcomers this can happen, but it ignores him needing to ask permission to save the Earth from a few weeks ago. Kar can step up to the plate, because, yanno, redemption and presumably to prevent that all-important first date with Bill.
And then we get back to STORY ARC, as — in the leap from Missy rescuing them in the TARDIS — Missy has been on board since they left the vault before, servicing the engines.
So, we have a few nice jokes about Scotland, a few hints about the Doctor knowing Rome (but no link to his twin in Pompeii yet) and a Doctor who doesn’t live up to his smartness. Missy is almost bearable — but I don’t trust those tears. And I really could have done without the peer edits, present day teaser.