The last time Rona Munro wrote for Doctor Who, the end was here. The end for Doctor Who – at least for a bit. (With Peter Capaldi leaving the role of the Twelfth Doctor, the cynics among us may say this is happening again.) But Munro was a welcome name added to the Series 10 writing roster.
The Scottish playwright returned with The Eaters of Light, a tale of Scotland starring pre-Picts, gloomy weather, a Scottish Time Lord, and a Scottish Time Lady (briefly). Aye, all it was missing was a deep-fried Mars bar, bagpipes, and Karen Gillan reading an Oor Wullie annual. Och, I do like a bit o’Scotch. But what did you think of Eaters, dear DWC readers? We put up a poll directly after its BBC1 transmission, and here’s what you said:
The results were definitely weighted towards the sunnier side of things, with only 6 people in total – just over 10% of those polled – giving it either a 1/5 or 2/5 (or “Caw-fil” and “The Clan McLaren would have handled it better”, as we called it; kudos to James Baldock for coming up with the poll options here). 17.24% gave it a 3/5, whereas 25.86% awarded it top marks. Presumably, the 27 voters (i.e. 46.55%) who gave it 4/5 thought only Karen Gillan reading an Oor Wullie annual was missing from the episode. Heck, every episode can be improved with more Kaz.
In the comments section, however, no one even mentioned Amy Pond! I’m ashamed of you all.
Still, Ranger enjoyed it, enthusing: “Yes, Rona understands Doctor Who. That was damn near pretty perfect, in fact I am going with 10/10. How wonderful were Capaldi and Pearl? I’m even liking this version of Missy. And I liked Nardole tonight. Must be in a good mood!” The Lazy Womble agreed: “Close to perfection. 9/10.” FrancoPabloDiablo was also pretty positive: “Knee-jerk reaction is that it was good. Really good in fact. Just not a classic like Survival.”
Mack59 also liked it, but realised: “Solid Doctor Who story but unfortunately I imagine it’ll be the last 5 minutes and the “Next Time” trailer that will be the main talking point.” Peter Rabytt wasn’t too keen, and said, “The Doctor was really grumpy! I don’t mind grumpy but he did slip into being a bit unlikeable here? The episode would indeed have fitted better around episode 3, for all sorts of reasons. It’s not bad but in the wrong place for series 10. Not great though.”
I agree with Peter – he was grumpier. Yet I stand by my highlight of the episode: the Doctor and Nardole, surrounded on all sides by spears. Then he pretends to hear something and cuts through the crowd, saying, “That was the sound of my patience breaking.” Wonderful. So Doctor-y.
And I especially liked Bar’s comment:
“Moffat has a time machine. He went forward to June 2017, then went back and wrote what would be topical when his series would be broadcast. So on the day we remember Jo Cox we have Picts and Romans realising they have more in common than that which divides them.
“And Scotland is beautiful, rain or shine.
“Other than that it just didn’t grab me. Maybe I’m not in the mood today, or have just got used to Bill being brilliant, The Doctor being in his stride, Nardole being Sooooo much better than we’d expected, and even Missy toning it down.”
In his review, the DWC’s Leon Hewitt agreed with the sentiment:
“And so [the Romans and Picts] work together, two enemies, to stop the light in the world being eaten. Enemies coming together, understanding one another, enlightened, banishing the darkness that threatens.
“Can this episode be looked at as a historical in the tradition of The Aztecs or Marco Poloor is it more in the vein of The Visitation or The Time Warrior? Well, maybe it’s neither. Modern science points to the existence of dimensions beyond our own and who knows what may live there. We may one day discover locusts that feed on light lurking in the depths of the Large Hadron Collider. Then the only fantastical element is the Doctor and his magic blue box. Just as stories set in the present day can be thought of as contemporary science fiction, perhaps this story is historical science fiction.”
Elsewhere, James Baldock reckoned:
“This is a self-contained narrative that is sure of its own identity. It is well-constructed and frightening when it needs to be, with decently-realised set pieces: it helps, also, that director Charles Palmer takes his visual cue from Nick Hurran – and, in particular, The God Complex – by showing us the monster only sparingly, a wriggling, tentacle thing where the gaps are filled by the limits of the human imagination.”
And Tony Jones enjoyed The Eaters of Light too:
“With the best CGI monster of the season so far, Rona Munro gave us an intriguing angle on us as seen by the Doctor. We’re all children, a point made stronger by the young characters, and even if the jump to resolution was nothing special, the direction and performances were all strong and effective.”
All in all then, The Eaters of Light received a pretty average reception, although on the wide spectrum of “Average”, it was certainly more favourable than negative. Does that make sense? Or do you need some sort of translation? Essentially, Rona Munro’s second contribution to Doctor Who erred on the lighter side of things: you can pict holes in it, but you should always look on the bright side of life…