Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10
Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, Michelle Gomez, Rebecca Benson, Daniel Kerr, Brian Vernel, Rohan Nedd, Ben Hunter, Sam Adewunmi, Billy Matthews, Lewis McGowan.
Even the brave can stumble in the face of the unknown, it is in our very nature to shrink back occasionally against the dark and the mysterious, the unspecified threat; it does not make you brave to be flippant against such threats, what makes you strong is facing it anyway; a lesson for life, face the future or die regretfully in a cave and never see the reward of the valiant effort.
It is easy to look back on history and see moments in time where the brave become unstuck, where they fell and were forgotten to all but the inquisitive of history buffs; for the fabled lost Roman 9TH Legion, history is all full of thoughts and possibilities; yet fable they remain, open to interpretation and conjecture and one that is ripe for a story in Doctor Who as Rona Munro’s The Eaters of Light takes centre stage.
Surely for the multitude of fans Michelle Gomez has come of age in this series, and it must be said that the final few scenes in which her character Missy appears in this particular episode are amongst the most heartfelt, the most absorbing of the entire run. She truly has mastered the art of psychological evil but more than that, she has taken the role to a sense of wonder, the redemption before the inevitable fall from grace. With John Simm shown to be in the next episode, returning to the role of The Master for the first time since 2010, the evil is there ready to erupt but Ms. Gomez has offered so much in the relatively few short scenes throughout series 10 that the battle ahead, the conclusion to a very fine series might dwell more in the conscious of a mad man than in the tears of a woman looking to save her soul.
The Eaters of Light is also harbours a first for the popular programme since its own re-birthing in 2005, the return of a previous writer, the excellent Rona Monro. Her story grasps one of the true points of Doctor Who, the question of why, of how something historic can become fable and myth, how along the way we have become so cynical and less open to possibilities that some mysteries in our shared past are not of our making but involve using the imagination, our greatest strength, and making a story sound plausible, possible and believable. For Rona Munro to bridge the gap between two very different eras of Doctor Who is not only one that deserves respect but huge congratulations.
A very fine episode that does much to cement the reputation of the series, one that has captured Peter Capaldi in much the way that the makers envisaged Colin Baker’s tenure all those years ago, and one that has really gotten to the essence of what stands between good and evil, one of reward or being unseen.
Ian D. Hall