The 10th episode of the 10th season of Doctor Who feels like a return to form after a couple of underwhelming weeks, but registering that that episode number means that there are only two more installments in the Peter Capaldi era is gutting.
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In “The Eaters of Light,” the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Bill (Pearl Mackie) drag Nardole (Matt Lucas) off to ancient Scotland to settle a dispute about what became of the Roman Ninth Legion, which mysteriously disappeared early in the AD era. Nardole is concerned about leaving the vault unattended again, but the Doctor and Bill are hell-bent on proving to each other that their respective theories about what happened to the ninth are correct, so they exit the TARDIS and split up to look for answers.
Almost immediately, Bill falls into a Pictish trapping pit, where she finds a Roman soldier from the ninth who has also fallen into the trap. We can see that she’s being stalked by something before she falls, and when she lands, the soldier explains that except him and a handful of other deserters, his 5000 fellow soldiers were wiped out by some kind of monster.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Nardole encounter what looks like a deflated human corpse just ahead of the remains of the ninth– all of whom have been similarly killed. The doctor recognizes the signs of sunlight depravation as the cause of death, but he knows that naturally it would take decades of this to have the effect he’s seeing in the deceased soldier. He is sure there’s something alien afoot. Before they can hunt up Bill, though, a band of Picts surrounds them and takes them captive.
Bill and her soldier friend help each other out of the pit and begin making their way to a hideout where his friends are waiting. As soon as they’re moving through the woods, the monster emerges and captures the soldier in what look like glowing, electric tentacles. It covers him with black slime and leaves him deflated, and Bill takes advantage of the gruesome distraction to get away and find the hideout.
The monster is hot on her heels, and as she bursts into a fire-lit cave full of Roman soldiers, the tentacles follow and grab her. The soldiers pull her free and block the entrance, and she tells them that their friend was killed by the creature. As the soldiers try to determine what to do with her, she touches the place on her neck that the creature made contact with, comes away with a handful of black slime and passes out cold.
Now that the soldiers have an unconscious Bill to care for and the Doctor and Nardole are in the Picts’ headquarters, surrounded by their captors, all of the players are assembled. The bulk of the episode follows a healing Bill as she befriends the Romans (and gets a small taste of their progressive-by-today’s-standards approach …read more