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20 July 2017 @ 09:43 pm
The Eater of Light  
Three formative things from my childhood/teenage years: The books of Rosemary Sutcliff, the folk-music inspired output of Clannad, holidays spent in Scotland.

To be honest, I also rate Survival pretty highly, so The Eater of Light would have had to try pretty hard for me not to love it. I'm not sure I can even remotely claim to be looking over this story with an unbiased eye. I loved it a lot. It does reassure me that The Teenager also loved it however, despite considerable sceptism about Rosemary Sutcliff (occasionally I give her the books, she tactfully ignores the gesture), and no memories of Scotland (or Survival).

She does like Clannad though, but I'd argue that the music here, while definitely folk-inspired, is not particularly Clannad-ish.

So if I was going to quibble at The Eater of Light I would quibble that:

  1. It was all teenagers. I have a fairly low tolerance of "young adult" literature and this smacked a little of that. That said, it was making a point about our modern perceptions of youth and maturity set against the realities of of the past, so it was hard to write it off a simply pandering to the Whiny-Vampire fans.
  2. The resolution didn't quite join all the dots. The Doctor, having made the case that only he had the longevity to defend the portal, is prevented from doing so. I think one could argue that temporal distortion around the portal means he was wrong about this - or at least that human defence could last long enough, but the story didn't quite make that case.
  3. It presented a slightly idealised version of Roman sexuality. I'm not an expert on Roman sexuality but I get the impression that there were some fairly firm ideas about things like marriage, and what age gaps made homosexuality acceptable which were lost in translation. On the other hand, did we really want a dissertation on Roman attitudes to underage gay sex? and I liked the subtle way it was poking fun at Bill's presumption of civilisation and thought it worked much better than the point Oxygen tried to make about racism.

On the plus side, as well as the setting and the music and the scenery (yes, I know it's Wales pretending to be Scotland but it looks pretty convincing), this was the moment were I went from liking the relationships between the Doctor, Nardole and Bill to simply adoring this TARDIS team. I loved Bill's cheerful confidence in setting off to prove the Doctor wrong and the sense that this was ribbing between friends not some desire or need to actually prove him wrong. I loved Nardole integrating with the picts. I loved Bill and Nardole ganging up on the Doctor.

I loved this. It hit me in all my nostalgia weak points and handled this particular TARDIS team, which I already liked, perfectly enough to convert me from well-disposed to a fan. The Teenager said she thought it might be her favourite Doctor Who story. I'm not sure I'd necessarily go that far (this is no Blink!) and I'm almost frightened to see how it would stand up to a rewatch because I'm very aware that external factors were effecting my ability to think critically about this. But on a single viewing, I'd say it was my favourite Twelfth Doctor, Bill and Nardole story.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/456737.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on July 20th, 2017 10:27 pm (UTC)
I didn't like this much. It wasn't bad, but I found it disappointing. Too straightforward, too few surprises (and I guessed the bit with the popcorn a mile off). Maybe the problem is the writer inasmuch as I like Survival a lot and Rona Munro has a bigger reputation than most people to have written for Doctor Who (probably only Douglas Adams and Richard Curtis are better known) so I just expected better. Sadly, I felt that if I had to pick between this and Survival, I would say this is the story written by the novice straight out of scriptwriting school and Survival was the work of the more mature, award-winning playwright.

My understanding about Romans and sex (and this is largely from a sign in an exhibition in the British Museum that I saw years ago, so I could be wrong) is that they didn't think in terms of straight vs. gay, they thought in terms of active/penetrating (good) and passive/penetrated (bad) so women were always deemed to be acting in an inferior way and how gay men were seen depended on what they were doing. Which isn't at all what is presented on screen.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 21st, 2017 12:06 pm (UTC)
As I say, I've only watched it the once. I think you are correct that there is more going on in Survival, but I'm not sure to what extent that is a criticism. I felt this one gave the ideas it did have more space to breathe.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on July 21st, 2017 01:22 pm (UTC)
To be fair, I've generally only watched episodes once when I respond to your reviews. I don't usually watch them a second time until the DVD comes out. I'm not someone who watches the same episode multiple times in a short period. Sometimes a second watch improves things, away from the expectation of the opening night (and the fact that when it's on in the summer, I'm watching after Shabbat is out, around midnight or 1am). Other times the flaws are more apparent.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 21st, 2017 01:57 pm (UTC)
It's hard to know really. I like to "just watch" first time through, but I think it is noticeable that better commentary (in general) comes from people who watch more than once, and who take notes. The fact that I often end up writing these blog posts several weeks after the fact also means I'm coming into them with more of a general impression than a specific memory.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on July 21st, 2017 02:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I used to write notes when I was seriously reviewing. Most of my original series reviews have been on re-views, if you get my meaning, often of things I have seen umpteen times and I am deliberately going through Doctor Who again for my book for precisely that reason, particularly with regard to the new series - I don't have a clue what I'm going to write about the Capaldi era yet! And I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the Whittaker/Chibnall era, as it's going to (hopefully) be ongoing when I watch it - I might chicken out and say I want to wait until it's over, which is not unfair given that some eras evolved right up until the end.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 21st, 2017 02:54 pm (UTC)
There's a podcast I listen to "The Writers Room" which deliberately only looks at classic Who. It tries to focus just on the scripts (rather than direction, performance and so on) and they're on record as saying that they find all of the new series just too immediate to feel they can really separate out the writing for clear-eyed discussion.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on July 21st, 2017 03:20 pm (UTC)
There's probably a great deal of truth in that. I know that looking at the Davies era again about two years ago was interesting, as I found it a lot easier to cope with the bits I didn't like and find more to enjoy than I had on transmission and in the immediate years afterwards, particularly now that I knew that Davies' style isn't the only way new Who has to be.

I'm dreading having to write something up for my book for Capaldi, let alone Whittaker and Chibnal, though, as it's all too recent and I feel I haven't really got a hold on it, especially when compared to stories that I've been thinking and reading about since I was eight. I will probably buy the next About Time book when it comes out just to spark ideas, even though I think the About Time books have long since become too long and factually inaccurate, as well as excessively and unfairly critical.
liadtbunny: DW Twelveliadtbunny on July 21st, 2017 01:42 pm (UTC)
Has there been a Sutcliffe revival because I've been seeing quite a few of her books in charity shops of late?

I thought 'Eater of Light' was an easy watch and some what old fashioned for that. It's a shame we won't get to enjoy any more of this particular TARDIS team. I thought the raven thing was a bit cheesy and reminiscent of the Dr's mastery of baby language last series.
louisedennis: Sutclifflouisedennis on July 21st, 2017 02:00 pm (UTC)
I don't think there was a revival - I mean there was a definite spike in Sutcliff related stuff after the Eagle of the Ninth movie came out and I get the impression that increased interest has lasted better than it does for a lot of films...

This is the first Tardis team I'm really gutted to see leave. I'm resisting the temptation to throw a tantrum and claim the show is ruined if it doesn't have Capaldi, Mackie and Lucas in it.
liadtbunny: DW Twelveliadtbunny on July 21st, 2017 02:33 pm (UTC)
Ah! I missed the film as I don't go to see films.

Go on have a tantrum! What else is social media for;p

It's definitely been a less stressful team TARDIS this series.
bunnbunn on July 21st, 2017 07:54 pm (UTC)
Yes, the depiction of gay Roman stuff=well dodgy, I believe. More than slightly. But as you say, Doctor Who is probably not the place for that kind of realism.

I would have been happier if they had made some effort to suggest that Roman approaches to sex were *different* rather than so very 2017, but I can see that might be hard, and after all, this is science fiction and it's hardly at all sciency!

I ended up liking this one too in the end,
louisedennis: Historylouisedennis on July 26th, 2017 09:52 am (UTC)
I guess, Doctor Who is a show that uses Science and History as set dressing more often than not.