Hmm… it’s taken a while for me to summon up the energy to write this one. Not because it was a bad episode. It wasn’t. It was certainly the best of the last four episodes, but there’s a weariness that I’m feeling that doesn’t bode well.
I don’t think I’ll ever *not* like Doctor Who, but I am tiring of half arsed, baffling choices made from the writers and production team.
I mean, last week we had people tunnelling through Mars. The tunnels had flat floors, were over lit and way, way too big. I complained about the lack of claustrophobic feeling. This week’s episode also featured underground tunnels but appeared to have been filmed on location. There were low tunnels, claustrophobia some great lighting. Makes you wonder why they couldn’t have double up on the location, really. A bit of different camerawork and some clever lighting and it would have worked.
Except that the stories were pretty much identical. Two factions coming together to make a better world? Yeah, Ice Warriors and Humans becoming part of the Galactic Federation, Romans and Celt coming together to fight off a world eater. The lack of variety is beginning to get boring. The thing is, Doctor Who has the biggest brief imaginable. You can go anywhere in the universe at any time and tell a story. So why are we getting the same stories time and time again? I mean, it was bad enough when ‘Fear Her’ (hugely underrated, btw… awesome except for the Olympics bit) was rewritten as ‘Night Terrors’ a couple of seasons later and then in the episode straight after, ‘The God Complex’ was the same story again.
That isn’t the only peculiarity. The Eaters of Light contained ‘that’ conversation, you know the one about how the Tardis translates for you? We’re on episode ten. Bill has met aliens before. She would have noticed this being whip smart and uber-intelligent. It seems to me that this episode was intended to be earlier in the run and for some unknown reason was put back. As a result, it jarred and actually made her look stupid. Wandering off and looking for a Roman Legion on her own probably wasn’t sensible, either.
Okay, so The Eaters of Light – in isolation – is actually a pretty good episode. It’s not the greatest episode ever and there’s some questionable science, but it’s solid, engaging and, unlike the last few episodes, has a satisfying and affecting resolution. It’s nice to see that it was written by Rona Munro who wrote the last episode in the ‘classic’ run called ‘Survival’. It’s one of those stories that tends to get ignored being part of Sylvester McCoy’s run. There wasn’t much love for the final two seasons which is quite sad as there are actually some great tales in there. The lack of budget and ‘light entertainment’ values didn’t do them any favours but the last three stories – known by fandom as The Perivale trilogy – are among the best Doctor Who ever.
That final line still makes me all misty eyed:
“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream. People made of smoke, and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold. Come on, Ace — we’ve got work to do!”
I mean, isn’t that gorgeous!
Munro is now the only writer to write for both classic and modern Doctor Who and as such, I wish it had been as emotional as Survival with a similar disquieting atmosphere, but that is the problem with a 40 minute episode. It doesn’t have time to do an unsettling ‘slow burn’. I think a two parter and a bigger budget and we’d have had a stormer from her. Mind you, coming hard on the heels of three duff episodes and a meh one, The Eaters of Light is a minor miracle. As a slightly gleeful aside, The Eaters themselves reminded me of The Hounds Of Tindalos and almost anything of a Lovecraftian bent gets my seal of approval.
Again, the real meat of the episode came in the conversations and speculations regarding the relationship between Missy and the Doctor. What is going on there? Is she really ‘becoming good’? If yes, to what end?
I’m finding it very weird that the new Doctor is due in about six months time and there has been no indication of who is taking over from Capaldi. Bearing in Mind we knew about Capaldi and Matt Smith a year before they turned up on screen, this is puzzling. I had this mad notion that Missy was ‘being prepared’ to become the next Doctor. Wearing her down perhaps makes her less ruthless and less able to defeat the old Master and there’s some sort of metacrisis (a la the Doctordonna) fusing the two of them together to defeat him. But y’know, it’ll never happen.
But yes, it’s odd that I’ve talked about everything but the episode. I’ve circled the subject and made the odd comment, but when it boils down to it, there’s very little to distinguish it. It’s better than the previous four episodes, but is probably on a par with The Long Game in season one in terms impact.
I think one of the things that has been confusing about this season is the lack of out and out villains, Monks aside. We’ve had puddles that wanted a friend, a giant fish that was being abused, the afore mentioned Ice Warriors, the Eaters of Light weren’t evil and the wood cockroach things…they were just doing what they did. I’m guessing this harks back to the Doctors comment in episode one that “Hunger looks a lot like evil from the wrong end of the fork”. It feels like we’re being battered across the head with it to be honest.
Still. Mondasian (as opposed to Telosian or Lumics) Cybermen and the Master next week.
That should rattle some cages…