The Eaters of Light
By Rona Munro
Doctor Who is the same, but also different, in each iteration and that is what makes the characters so interesting. The Twelfth Doctor is one of the latest incarnations and one that reflected on the Doctor’s past as much as the present. The humour was still there, but also more of the historic grumpiness you would expect from their earliest lives. The Doctor can lean towards being omnipotent at times, but they can also be petty. Take The Eaters of Light by Rona Munro as an example. The story only starts because the Doctor wants to prove a point to Bill - what happened to the famous Ninth Legion? Did they die is a battle or escape? This being Doctor Who, the truth is a lot less natural than that.
Second-century Scotland was a harsh landscape ruled over by various tribes, but that did not stop the Romans wanting to conquer it. The Ninth Legion were sent across the wall to break the tribes, but not one solider returned. Bill cannot believe this is true and sets out to prove that some soldiers survived. When the TARDIS lands The Doctor, Bill and Nardole are soon split. It appears that an antient evil sleeps under a nearby cairn and it is waking. This evil feasts on light and the lifeforce of anything close by.
The Target imprint of books have always proven popular with Doctor Who fans as they give additional insights into episodes of the show. The new set has started to adapt later episodes, in this case as recent as 2017. With better special effects, the books no longer quite have the advantage over the show in being able to explore the spectacular, but they do still provide more depth than a 45-minute episode can provide.
In the case of Eaters, written by the original screen writer Munro, the novelisation explores some of the darker elements of the book and relationships further. Many of the greatest Who episodes are scary, and the series has terrified children, and many adults, for decades. Eaters is a creepy episode, but the book allows Munro to push the suspense and terror even more. In places, this book is a horror as we learn more about the beast and witness the fate of some of its victims.
The characters in Eaters are also given a little more depth. This episode is an early Bill outing and helped form the relationship between her and the Doctor. The finale has a pivotal moment in the dynamic of the Doctor and companions, and hinting at the turmoil the Doctor is going through. Munro’s writing for the actors was always good and the dialogue in the book also works well. The grumpy nature of Capaldi’s Doctor really gets to shine.
A good outing for the Doctor often rests on the guest characters, in this case the children of a Scottish tribe and some Roman soldiers, many not older than children themselves. They work with the Doctor to save the day and make sacrifices along the way. This adaptation really allows Munro to flesh out the characters, especially of Lucius and Kar, making the finale have a larger impact on the reader.
In isolation Eaters is a typical one and done Doctor Who episode. It has horror, action and a bit of humour, but it is a linear one-shot story. The Target adaptation has allowed Munro to explore some of the inner workings of the characters, that came across in the show, but much more on the page. I would say that this is one of the Doctor Who books that would appeal to the fans of the show as it does not stretch enough in its concepts to appeal to other science fiction fans. What you do get is a new and deeper understanding of the episode that still contains all the action from when it was originally aired.
Written on 12th July 2022 by Sam Tyler .