Writer Rona Munro and director Charles Palmer came together for Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 11, a fairly solid tale featuring Romans, Scots, and light-eating extra-dimensional aliens.
This marked the latest meeting of the Doctor with Romans. A number of stories in the past (both Classic and NuWho) featured them to one degree or another.
Let's not forget Rory Williams spending two thousand years as a Centurion! Nor the debut of a certain Peter Capaldi during the fall of Pompeii. Or the time the Doctor accidentally gave Nero the idea to burn down Rome.
I'm not complaining, mind you. It's more an observation than anything else. But however fascinating the history of the Roman Empire is (both the brilliant and the bloody, as pointed out here), maybe a trip to a different ancient civilization is in order.
I found it odd that just after Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 10 featured soldiers, deserters, accusations of cowardice, and the obvious "finding your courage" plot, not to mention the oddly specific plot device of Bill accidentally falling down a hole in the ground to introduce her to said soldiers, it all played out again.
Viewed individually, the two stories made for decent enough hours of television. If the viewer binge-watched, however, the similarities would likely become much more obvious.
There was plenty to enjoy here, from Nardole "blending in" with the natives to the Doctor's speech about crows being in a huff to Bill's realization about the TARDIS's translation feature.
Though once the Doctor volunteered to guard the gate, every likely viewer knew that someone else would stand up and do the job in his stead. Seriously, there are two more episodes left in this season after this one!
That's the trouble with hope. It's hard to resist.The Doctor
The Legio IX Hispana, for those who might be wondering, was a real Roman legion that did mysteriously vanish sometime around 120 AD.
Its disappearance has been the source of much speculation and fodder for works of fiction (my favorite being Jim Butcher's Codex Alera book series).
On a grim note, this particular version of events glossed over that it wasn't just legionaries that the Eater of Light slaughtered. By extension, it also killed all the camp followers.
The Doctor: So, you thought the Eater of Light could destroy a whole Roman army.
Kar: It did!
The Doctor: And a whole Roman army could weaken or kill the beast.
The Doctor: Well, it didn’t work! You got a whole Roman legion slaughtered, and you made the deadliest creature on this planet very, very cross indeed. To protect a muddy little hillside, you doomed your whole world.
That painted Kar's actions of setting loose the beast on the Romans in an even darker light (ahem) than probably intended. Not just soldiers, but civilians – women and children.
Bill proved once again to be one of my favorite of the modern companions, with her genre-savvy ability to figure out the TARDIS translation field, which reminded me quite keenly of Rory Williams and his "it's another dimension" deadpan about the TARDIS interior.
The companions are supposed to serve as audience surrogates. Bill, perhaps more than any other companion, resembles Whovians the most, so it's gratifying whenever she makes particular comparisons and deductions as we would.
The monster of the week, the Eaters of Light, really didn't come off as all that threatening when it was actually there. In fact, the most ominous it got was when the Doctor talked about it.
That came off as deeply disturbing. Unlike many of the foes he's faced over the years, even the Daleks themselves, there's no reasoning with it or speaking to it. It just eats, and eats, and eats, until there's nothing left to eat.
Was the resolution a little corny? Sure. Once again, the people united to fight a common foe, complete with battle music! (The score was really good, though.)
And then there was Missy. Show of hands: does anyone actually trust her appearance of contrition for her past evil actions? And is it at all a good idea for the Doctor to let her out of the Vault?
Frankly, the reveal that she was the prisoner in the Vault turned out to be a huge anticlimax. It had been built up as a mystery, a secret, a profound responsibility, but now she's just wandering around doing TARDIS maintenance.
A genuinely repentant Missy may make for an intriguing storyline, especially if, say, she's thrown together with a past, more evil version of the Master. But her being the Vault prisoner was not a big surprise, at all.
With only two episodes left in the season, who's left wondering how long it'll be before she gets back to her old, murderous ways?
While you ponder this question, be sure to check out our Doctor Who quotes page for a rundown of some of the notable lines from this story.
What did you think of "The Eaters of Light"? Did the resolution surprise you? Have you ever heard of the missing Ninth Legion before? Is Missy to be trusted?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
Remember, you can always watch Doctor Who online! The penultimate story of the season, Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 12, "World Enough and Time," is scheduled to air Saturday, June 24, 2017, at 9/8c on BBC America.