Sunday, 18 June 2017

Doctor Who - The Eaters Of Light

Rift Raff

Doctor Who - The Eaters Of Light
Airdate: 17th June 2017

Well this was... hmmm... well, I’m sorry but it really did seem kinda bland to me.

It wasn’t terrible, for sure but... it wasn’t that engaging either.

The Eaters Of Light uses a hook of music being heard in the Scottish hills and a crow apparently cawing “Doc-tor!” near a centuries old depiction of the TARDIS engraved in a rock. It also fashions its quite simplistic story under the guise of The Doctor and Bill trying to settle an argument about the fate of the real life ‘mystery’ of the Roman Ninth Legion... accompanied by Nardole, of course. Various books have been written and, of course, films made about this particular mystery... such as Centurion (reviewed by me here).

Here, we are asked to believe that the majority of the legion were literally filleted by a monster who has come through an inter-dimensional rift and, although that’s good Doctor Who, it all feels like it's a bit thrown away here and I think that’s due to the shorter running time of modern Doctor Who stories than anything else. I mean, this has all the makings of a classic episode and feels very much like an old Tom Baker episode from the late 1970s. Indeed, there are moments when the always excellent Peter Capaldi delivers some of his line readings just as the Fourth Doctor would have done... close your eyes at certain points and just listen... it’s almost like he’s deliberately trying to evoke him.

The problem is, though, that in a story which has such a simplistic, one track story line as this week's episode, then you maybe need a bit more time to set up the various characters and turn them into something more complex than just the bare sketches we have here, to maintain a certain level of interest and sympathy with them. Alas, single 45 minute stories of Doctor Who are much shorter than the multi-part affairs of the old days, when an average story would last between four and six 25 minute episodes per story. And it feels like the ideas presented here suffered because of it.

There was also some stuff that didn’t quite make sense.

For instance... Bill is rendered unconscious and when we see her come around, everyone is reacting like she’s only been unconscious for an hour or so... however, we also know that in the same time, The Doctor has been absent in the rift for over two days. So how the hell does that work out? Another thing that didn’t quite work for me is that a creature who feeds off sunlight (and presumably bones) is frightened of small shafts of light trained on it to keep it at bay. I’m sorry, what? I maybe missed something there but it did seem more than just a little incongruous, if truth be told.

The main trouble for me, with this story, is that there was no really great, stand out sequences that made you sit up and think... yeah... this is what Doctor Who does well. Instead we had quite a few missed opportunities, it felt like.

For example, when The Doctor explains to Nardole that crows do talk and they’re not in any way significant, you think he’s fobbing him off (and the audience) to accomodate a brilliant story twist later in the episode. Alas, it turns out The Doctor’s explanation is actually correct and that the crows have just been single minded in what they are saying over the years... which really is a rubbish explanation and does nothing but let down the opening hook, as far as I'm concerned.

Then we have... and I don’t know how many times we are going to have to go through this again and again in this show... Bill talking about being a lesbian. Seriously people, we’d got it the first time. Okay? We don’t need to be beaten over the head with it every other week as though it’s some kind of special thing we are supposed to be in awe of. We don’t need this stuff continually.

Another thing which really does highlight what I was saying about this resembling an old Tom Baker episode is the design of the creature itself. Now I’m not the biggest fan of CGI and I personally prefer practical effects where possible but, the ‘man in suit’ style creature running around on all fours looked preposterously bad here. Just like an old, cheap episode of Doctor Who from the late 1970s or 1980s, to be honest. It wasn’t as bad as the Myrka from the Peter Davison story Warriors Of The Deep (reviewed here) to be sure but... it wasn’t that far removed from those days either, in all honesty.

And, of course, we have the drama of the stuff with Missy crying as though she’s not a bad person and The Doctor’s true nemesis anymore. Seriously, are people buying this? Well, we’ve got an older incarnation of her dropping by next week so I guess that can’t go too well. In fact next week see the story I’ve been looking forward too since finding out about it, with the return of the original Cybermen whose only other appearance was in William Hartnell’s last story, The Tenth Planet (reviewed here). So I’ve got my fingers crossed that’s going to go well. It also, as it happens, marks the 100th TV Doctor Who story which I will have reviewed for this blog to date so, you know, let’s hope it’s a good one.

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