This week’s Doctor Who episode achieved a first.
It’s the first time, since Doctor Who returned to television screens in 2005, that the reimagined show has really felt like what is now known as the classic show it was based on. For the most part that’s down to this script being written by Rona Munro, the Scottish writer credited with the last Doctor Who story of the classic era.
For a good portion of this story team TARDIS find themselves on different sides of the war for Roman Scotland, a story which could just as easily been told in the classic era. In fact Munro calls back to the First Doctor (William Hartnell) story The Romans early on in the script.
Bill (Pearl Mackie) is trying to impress the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) by finding the legendary ninth legion, which vanished from history. The TARDIS crew separates as she heads one way, and the Doctor and Nardole another. As Bill stumbles across what remains of the legion the Doctor and Nardole are captured by Pictish warriors. But there’s something far more sinister going on than human battles, there’s a killer alien monster on the loose, and the future of humankind depends on what happens next.
The Doctor must unite the two sides, at the satisfying climax of the story, if the world is to be saved.
The Eaters of the Light is a clever script, it’s fun who it uses the lore of Doctor Who to explain Scottish folk tales of music coming from below the ground as heard in the opening and closing scenes in modern Scotland.
But there’s another, broader, story going on here, as the TARDIS crew discover Missy (Michelle Gomze) waiting for them in the Doctor’s space-time ship upon their return. The scenes between the Doctor and Missy are just so watchable, as he (and we) are led to believe that she is a reformed character, and not the megalomaniac Time Lord the Master/Missy has always been.
This dance of the Time Lords, which really shone through this week, isn’t a stone’s throw from the relationship between Third Doctor Jon Pertwee and The Master’s originator Roger Delgardo.
Next week looks promising, with a return of John Simm’s Master and the Mondasian Cybermen first glimpsed in the Hartnell story The Tenth Planet. Doctor, what the heck?