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Reviewed By: DalekbusterScreen5ReviewsReview Date: 6/24/17 1:02 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

The Eaters of Light


Since the show was brought back, there has never been a classic series writer return to the show. There's been classic series directors - Graeme Harper - and classic series actors - Elisabeth Sladen, John Leeson, Christopher Benjamin etc.... - but never classic series writers. Until now. Finally a classic series writer has written for the new series - Rona Munro, the writer of the 1989 classic series serial Survival.



The Eaters of Light sees the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) land the TARDIS in Second Century Scotland to test Bill's (Pearl Mackie) theory about what really happened to the missing Ninth Legion of the Roman army. Meanwhile, a light-eating locust has come through a portal from another dimension, and has been feeding on the Roman army...



This episode is probably the closest to the classic series the new series will ever get. Throughout Murray Gold's music is very reminiscent of classic-style incidental scores, and the Doctor is written more in the vein of the classic incarnations of the character. Peter Capaldi plays it brilliantly, and his performance allows the different approach to feel like the same incarnation we've grown to know and love over three series. He bares more similarities to the Series 8 version of the 12th Doctor in this episode than the softer Series 9/10 12, but it makes sense for the character's more pacifist tendencies. The brutality doesn't feel particularly random, the Doctor is simply fed up of the rivalry between two warring factions (Romans and Pictish warriors). It's a return to the theme of 'If we fight like animals, we die like animals!' from Survival.



One improvement the classic series approach has over the new series style is that the guest characters feel more fleshed out. We get to know these characters more; their personalities and what makes them tick. The new series generally tends to treat them as merely functions to the plot, whereas the classic series taught you to care for them as much as you do the TARDIS crew. Here they feel more like people rather than objects for the writer to play with. A particular standout is Lucius (Brian Vernel), a compassionate bisexual Roman soldier who befriends Bill.



Some viewers have taken issue with the past being shown as diverse in both this episode and Thin Ice, but personally I don't see the issue. It sends out a nice message of inclusivity to viewers who are black and/or with a differing sexuality to those of us who are straight. It's the right kind of message Doctor Who should be sending: the Doctor should be teaching the audience that it doesn't matter if you're black, white, blue, straight, gay, bisexual, have one head or no head it's who you are inside that counts. If that means showing a more ideal version of history, then so be it.



There's another and far more interesting choice that this episode makes than a bisexual Roman however. Many new series episodes tend to feature a lot of their monsters; The Eaters of Light, on the other hand, fits into that new series rarity where you rarely see the creature in full. The episode is more like Closing Time, for example, than it is The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon. For most of the story we only see glimpses of the creature, and this is a wise choice because much like Jaws when you see the creature in full its very unconvincing. The CGI appearance of the light-eating locust is poor, and it appears much more threatening when its lurking in the shadows. Once it is revealed you can tell it's not really there; it looks hideously fake, and takes all tension out of the episode.



The episode is also let down by being way too talky. There's too many conversations going on in this story, and it slows the plot down to a stand-still. A lot of the scenes are expository, with Rona Munro deciding to 'tell not show' rather than the more enjoyable 'show not tell'. This episode achieved the lowest AI of the series so far, and it's not surprising. The Eaters of Light is an episode that could have benefitted from stricter script editing to cut out the unnecessary padding and replace it with scenes that strive to show the audience something instead.



Then there are certain occurrences that take place that make the episode feel like it should have aired much earlier in the run. Bill falls down a hole...again, after falling down a hole in the previous episode Empress of Mars too. Nardole (Matt Lucas) nags the Doctor about guarding the vault...despite Missy being in the TARDIS at the end of the previous episode...yet Nardole is surprised to find her there when they return to the TARDIS. Bill doesn't know about the TARDIS translation circuit...despite having been travelling with the Doctor for quite a few adventures since the first episode. It feels as though this episode was originally episode four of the run, and these continuity errors make the story feel out of place. It's a shame more attention wasn't given to the show's continuity, as this is the kind of thing us fans notice.

[IMG]https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/1*3zQVHNmfQtXZBtK7HFC7Qg.jpeg[/IMG]

The final scene between the Doctor and Missy (Michelle Gomez) is nice, if a little too long. Rona Munro clearly understands these characters and their shared history, and whilst it's obvious Missy is playing the Doctor it will be interesting to see what will happen tonight when the Doctor tests whether she is really turning 'good'. There will inevitably be consequences, and I wouldn't be surprised if it is revealed that Missy has been tampering with the TARDIS.



Overall, The Eaters of Light is a solid if unremarkable episode. The guest characters are stronger than usual, and it's interesting to see a classic series style adopted for a new series episode. Unfortunately the episode is let down by too many talky scenes, and the CGI is ropey. There are various plot inconsistencies too that leave the episode feeling out of place in episode ten of the twelve episode run. There's a nice scene between the Doctor and Missy however, which demonstrates how much Rona Munro understands the dynamic between the two characters.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
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Reviewed By: DalekbusterScreen5ReviewsReview Date: 6/17/17 4:19 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

It's sad to think that Empress of Mars could be Mark Gatiss's last episode for Doctor Who. The writer has stated he is unsure if he will return, and as someone who has enjoyed the majority of his episodes for the show I will be disappointed if he doesn't return under Chris Chibnall. Mark Gatiss gets a lot of unfair criticism from certain sections of the fanbase; he is essentially the Helen Raynor of the Moffat era, who also received a lot of harsh comments (and in my cases, personal abuse) from Whovians. Empress of Mars is Mark Gatiss's ninth episode for the show, and is probably my least favourite out of his televised stories.



In Empress of Mars, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) takes his companions Bill (Pearl Mackie) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) on a trip to Present Day NASA. NASA have sent a probe to Mars, and are surprised to discover a message left by the victorians centuries ago: 'God save the Queen'. The TARDIS crew travel back in time to discover how a group of victorian soldiers managed to travel to martian soil, and a hive of Ice Warriors are woken by their Ice Queen (Adele Lynch).



There are some nicely bizarre visual images in this story, and to begin with it has a wonderfully surreal feel. I never thought I'd see a bunch of victorians having a tea party on Mars, or the Ice Warriors waging war on an army of victorian soldiers. It's also nice to finally see an Ice Warrior story set on Mars and exploring more of the race's mythology; the introduction of the Ice Queen is cool and makes a lot of sense given how the Ice Warriors live in hives. She is essentially the queen bee who doesn't want to be disturbed...but of course, this is Doctor Who. If she were to never wake up from her tomb, there would be no story.



Unfortunately the episode quickly runs out of steam. The tea party goes on for way too long, and it takes too much time for the Ice Warriors and their Ice Queen to wake up. The episode adopts more of a classic series style of pacing, and whilst it works with episodes such as Smile that use it to create a sense of mystery here it feels more detrimental to the story. This should be an episode with lots of action; a Doctor Who blockbuster, like Asylum of the Daleks. Instead it's more like The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, and its central idea of human beings as the invaders is interesting but not explored enough for it to be as thought-provoking as its potential would allow it to be.



Then there's the TARDIS misbehaving sub plot, which feels incredibly shoe-horned in and doesn't fit the episode at all. It just comes out of nowhere; Nardole returns to the TARDIS and the ship takes off, returning him to the vault he has been guarding with the Doctor on Earth. The entire sub plot seems to only exist partly so the story arc is featured in the episode and partly because Mark Gatiss didn't know Matt Lucas would be a companion at the time of writing. It's a very strange way to write Matt Lucas out of the main plot when the Doctor could have explained to Bill in one line that he's currently guarding the vault.




Mark Gatiss deserves credit for introducing the amazing Ice Queen however. The Ice Queen is an amazing addition to the Doctor Who universe and a monster who I definitely hope we get to see return sooner rather than later. She gives the Ice Warriors a nice sense of regality which directly mirrors the victorians and their beloved Queen Victoria (a portrait of whom appears in the episode - based on Pauline Collins' take on the monarch); the Ice Queen's presence is so intimidating and the design so memorable that I have a feeling she will become one of the Moffat era's most beloved creations. Here's to many more Ice Warrior stories featuring the excellent Ice Queen, and a load of Big Finish audio dramas chronicling her rise to power. Maybe we might even see standard female Ice Warriors in future?



SPOILERS BELOW























Of course, one thing you've got to mention in a review of Empress of Mars is the return of Alpha Centauri (and the original voice actor, Ysanne Churchman) - and what a triumphant return it is for everybody's favourite hexapod. Alpha Centauri returns in style, answering a distress call from Mars and welcoming the Ice Warriors to the universe - and subsequently, the Galactic Federation. You see, Empress of Mars is secretly a prequel to The Curse of Peladon and it feels completely natural for the story. The story leads up to this moment with the introduction of friendly Ice Warrior Friday (Richard Ashton), and it's both Friday and the actions of cowardly Colonel Godsacre (Anthony Calf), who shoots Captain Catchlove (Ferdinand Kingsley) (Who wants to claim Mars in Queen Victoria's name), that brings the end of the Ice Warrior-Victorians war, and sees the Ice Queen forming a peaceful alliance with Godsacre. The Ice Queen is impressed with how Godsacre is prepared to sacrifice a member of his own kind for peace with the Ice Warriors , and this falls nicely in line with the Ice Warriors' code of honour.























End of spoilers


Overall, Empress of Mars is possibly Mark Gatiss's weakest story. The episode starts off fine with surreal scenes such as a victorian tea party on Mars but quickly loses steam, and it takes too long for the Ice Warriors and the Ice Queen to wake up. There's a neat return for a classic series character though, and the Ice Queen is awesome.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
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Reviewed By: DalekbusterScreen5ReviewsReview Date: 6/10/17 8:23 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

Three parters are a strange beast for the new series of Doctor Who. The first parts either act as prequels to the second and third episode or a totally unconnected story, and whether they even count as 'three parters' is always a hot topic for discussion in the Whovian fandom. Personally I tend to count the prequel-part two-part three structure as a three part and the 'unconnected story' structure as something separate. That means Turn Left/The Stolen Earth/Journey's End and Name/Day/Time Of The Doctor are not three parters in my book, but Utopia/The Sound Of Drums/Last Of The Time Lords on the other hand certainly is.

Extremis/The Pyramid At The End Of The World/The Lie Of The Land counts too.



The strange thing is that whilst all three are a part of the same story, at the same time they explore three completely different areas of science fiction. The first part, Extremis, is set inside a Matrix-style computer simulation run by the Monks as a way to plan a successful invasion of Earth. Pyramid At The End of The World, meanwhile, is an apocalyptic episode where the Monks are using the approaching doomsday as leverage to persuade the United Nations and leaders of the three most powerful armies in the world - America, Russia and China - to give consent for the Monks to invade. The Lie of The Land, meanwhile, is set in an alternate dystopian world where the Monks have been given consent and Bill (Pearl Mackie) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) are the only ones who know the truth.




It's a clever format for the three parter, and a great way to keep things fresh.

The Lie Of The Land by Toby Whithouse sees a dystopian world where the Monks have taken over. The population of Earth believe that the Monks have always been a part of Earth's history, and Memory Police take away anybody who remembers that in reality they have only been here six months. Bill and Nardole both remember the truth, whilst the Doctor appears to be making propaganda broadcasts for the Monks. If that synopsis reminds anybody of George Orwell's 1984, where the UK population are working in a dystopian society where the government are purposefully rewriting historical documents and creating a new version of history, that's because the plot is very similar. The Monks have rewritten human history so that they were present in historical events, and the Doctor's past victories against The Daleks and Weeping Angels are now Monk victories. That doesn't mean the episode is unoriginal; instead, it very much does its own thing.



The episode suggests the very intelligent notion that if we as humanity believed something was always there, we would ignore it as it would have always been the case. This is a great twist on the usual alien invasion story, and gives the Monks an implied power that means they don't need to offer much resistance as the people of this dystopia have no reason to fear them. Some have complained that this episode rarely depicts any conflict from the Monks towards the Doctor, Bill and Nardole but to me it makes sense as they assume the Doctor's plan to rewrite what the Monks have done won't work. We are told that if either the Doctor, Bill or Nardole attempt to change things back the mind technology that the Monks use will fry their brains - why would they bother fighting them when the Doctor or his companions will be dead if they attempt to rewrite everything back to normal anyway?




In this final part of the three parter in particular, the current TARDIS crew of The Doctor, Bill and Nardole function impressively well together. They feel like a unit, more so than the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack or the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory. When The Doctor says 'I've got the gang back together', he hits it totally on the ball - this current crew really feels like a gang. Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie and Matt Lucas have so much chemistry that you can't imagine one without the other. It's hard to believe now that the early episodes featured Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie with Matt Lucas merely making cameo appearances; The Doctor, Bill and Nardole are a package much like Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May were to Top Gear. Pearl Mackie in particular gives a very emotional promise, and you feel sorry for The Doctor and Nardole's cruel manipulation of her. The manipulation was justified, and Bill does forgive the pair and move on so it doesn't ruin the core unit feel but the lead up to the manipulation reveal plays to Pearl Mackie's acting strengths.




My only criticism of The Lie Of The Land is the fake regeneration. Somehow the Doctor manages to trigger a full regeneration without changing his face, and it's never explained how he manages to avoid becoming thirteen. It's not even like the regeneration had only just started, been siphoned off or only focused on one part of the Doctor's body; the golden glow covers everything and disappears without 12 showing a different face. An explanation would have been nice - was it a projection, for instance? Also: why does he ask if the regeneration was 'too much'? Bill doesn't know anything about regeneration, so why would he even need to fake it when he shoots her? He could have simply pretended to die.



Overall, the Monks trilogy starts off poor with Extremis but by the second and third parts it soon improves. Extremis is too confusing; basically Steven Moffat trying to be too clever. Pyramid At The End Of The World on the other hand is a classic and shows off The Monks at their very best, whilst Lie Of The Land portrays an interesting dystopian world. The Monks trilogy isn't the show's finest three parter - that honour still lies with Utopia/The Sound Of Drums/Last Of The Time Lords - but it does provide some nice variety, with all three parts exploring three distinctively different forms of science-fiction. Some may argue it's not a three parter, but to me it most certainly is.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
10
Plot Rating:
10
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
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Reviewed By: DalekbusterScreen5ReviewsReview Date: 6/10/17 8:20 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

Three parters are a strange beast for the new series of Doctor Who. The first parts either act as prequels to the second and third episode or a totally unconnected story, and whether they even count as 'three parters' is always a hot topic for discussion in the Whovian fandom. Personally I tend to count the prequel-part two-part three structure as a three part and the 'unconnected story' structure as something separate. That means Turn Left/The Stolen Earth/Journey's End and Name/Day/Time Of The Doctor are not three parters in my book, but Utopia/The Sound Of Drums/Last Of The Time Lords on the other hand certainly is.

Extremis/The Pyramid At The End Of The World/The Lie Of The Land counts too.



The strange thing is that whilst all three are a part of the same story, at the same time they explore three completely different areas of science fiction. The first part, Extremis, is set inside a Matrix-style computer simulation run by the Monks as a way to plan a successful invasion of Earth. Pyramid At The End of The World, meanwhile, is an apocalyptic episode where the Monks are using the approaching doomsday as leverage to persuade the United Nations and leaders of the three most powerful armies in the world - America, Russia and China - to give consent for the Monks to invade. The Lie of The Land, meanwhile, is set in an alternate dystopian world where the Monks have been given consent and Bill (Pearl Mackie) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) are the only ones who know the truth.




It's a clever format for the three parter, and a great way to keep things fresh.

The second part - The Pyramid At The End Of The World, written by Peter Harness - is definitely my favourite of the three, and a massive improvement on Extremis. It's a return to the more straightforward plots of the rest of Series 10; a simple, easy to follow end of the world storyline that demonstrates the power the Monks hold. A mysterious pyramid has appeared overnight, and The Doctor, Bill and Nardole travel with the previously mentioned U.N. and military leaders to investigate. The pyramid turns out to be the Monks' ship and base of operations, and they offer to save humanity from the approaching apocalypse if they give their consent to invade.




The Pyramid At The End Of The World is without a doubt the best episode of Series 10 so far, and it's hard to find much fault with it. It's well-paced, expertly directed and as with some of my favourite Moffat era stories such as The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon and The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion it has a nice epic feel. This is an episode that could easily be broadcast on the big screen with its sweeping desert vistas and it wouldn't look out of place. It also presents a wonderful irony to the approaching apocalypse, when the end of the world turns out to be taking place in a small British laboratory in a Yorkshire village.




It's a clever move by Peter Harness to make the end of the world be caused by a simple mistake from a male and female scientist duo; the man who turned up to the lab drunk and the woman having broke her glasses on the way to work. Not a massive catastrophe or a third world war as often portrayed in apocalyptic films but simple human mistakes. Doctor Who feels right exploring the very scary idea that the end of the world could happen anytime and caused by the smallest of human errors.




The Monks make for fantastic monsters, and I have a feeling they will go down as the most iconic of the Peter Capaldi era. The second part is the most Monk-heavy, and the concept is very unique. The Monks need a consent of love in order to invade a planet, and it must come from a person who represents a form of power. Offering permission to invade out of anything other than love and you're dead. In the show's entire fifty four year history it's a wonder there's never been a monster that asks for consent first before invading, and it's refreshing to see a monster different to your typical invaders in science-fiction.




I won't spoil the cliffhanger of this episode, but believe me: you won't see it coming. The consent of love comes from the most unlikely place, and it makes complete sense for the character involved. To me it is up there with the cliffhanger to Utopia; very high praise indeed given how much Utopia's final scenes were very much a punch the air moment.

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