The Eaters of Light
Doctor Who Logo 'The Eaters of Light'
(Story Code 10.10)

by Rona Munro
The Twelfth Doctor, Bill and Nardole

“To protect a muddy little hill site, you doomed the whole world.” – The Doctor

In present day Scotland, two children play amongst the standing stones of the ruined Devil’s Cairn. Ignoring her brother’s stories of ghosts, Judy insists she can hear music. Nearby, sitting atop one of the menhirs is a crow that seems to say the word ‘Doctor’ – and on the ancient stone is the carved image of the TARDIS… The TARDIS lands in Second-Century A.D. Aberdeen, so that the Doctor and Bill can settle an argument: Bill believes she knows everything about the Romans, and has a much more optimistic idea of the mysterious fate of the lost Ninth Legion than the Doctor has. While Bill goes off to the river to bring back a live Roman soldier, the Doctor set off in the opposite direction to look for bodies, dragging a dressing-gown wearing Nardole with him. Making her way through the forest, Bill comes across a young girl crouched over a fire, mourning the dead of her village. When the girl, Kar, brandishes her weapons in rage Bill runs for her life, only to fall into a pit-trap; as she gets up, Bill is pleased to discover she shares her new prison with a Roman soldier. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Nardole meet a crow that warns of the dark, then find a large stone cairn and an avenue of menhirs; they also find the body of a Roman legionary, with skin blackened and bones completely disintegrated; noting that such atrophy from an absence of sunlight should take decades, the Doctor immediately suspects the cause to be alien. Reaching the crest of the hill the Time Lord and Nardole discover the fate of the Ninth Legion; but as they take in the grim sight of the mass of bodies, the two travellers are captured by a group of angry, armed Picts… As night falls, Bill and the Roman soldier, Simon, team up and climb out of the trap. The soldier promises to take Bill to where his fellow survivors - every one of them a deserter - are hiding underground, but then a dragon-like beast appears out of the darkness, tendrils flailing from its mouth. When Simon is killed trying holding back the monster Bill runs in terror; seeing a marker that the soldier described, Bill follows Simon’s directions to a tunnel in the hillside, scrabbling inside as the beast’s tendrils grasp her. Bill manages to reach the cave where the Roman survivors are hiding; seeing her predicament, the young soldiers fight off the monster with rocks, which they then use to block the tunnel entrance. Bill tells the soldiers Simon’s fate, then notices black slime on her face and neck, and passes out… The Doctor and Nardole are taken at spear-point to the Picts’ main hut, to await the arrival of the tribe’s leader; the duo’s captors are just children, whose parents were all killed by the Roman invaders. Kar the Gatekeeper arrives with the declaration that she killed the Romans, a claim the Doctor instantly refutes; then the Time Lord drops Nardole’s bag of popcorn into the fire, providing a distraction that allows them both to escape. Returning to the cairn as dawn breaks, the Doctor leaves Nardole on watch while he investigates; inside, sunlight streams through the cairn opening and strikes the far stone wall, which opens to reveal a blue portal holding a swirling mass of the dragon-like creatures. Emerging from the portal the Doctor is surprised to find Nardole outside entertaining his new Pict friends; learning that while he was inside the Portal for mere seconds, two days have passed in the real world, the Doctor realises the gate is an interdimensional temporal rift. But the Doctor is more concerned about Bill, as Nardole and his pals have been unable to find her… In the caves, Bill wakes to discover the Roman soldiers have placed her in a shaft of sunlight to burn off the incapacitating slime; the creature has them trapped, and is prowling the tunnels around their cave. As night comes, the Doctor and Nardole return to the Pict farmers’ hut, where Kar explains that the creature is one of the ‘Eaters of Light’; every year the Picts’ best warrior keeps the beasts inside the gate, but now one has broken free, and it killed the entire Ninth Legion of Roman soldiers. The Doctor offers to help, but a scream sends everyone racing outside; finding the corpse of one of the Picts, they realise that the beast is getting stronger. The Doctor faces Kar with the truth: she deliberately let the beast through the gate so it could destroy the Romans, hoping that the battle would weaken it enough for the Picts to kill it; but Kar’s plan backfired, and unless stopped the Eater of Light will destroy the world. The young Picts explain that the gate opens when the sun goes down; the cairn was built to control the gate, a means to vent it every year; only one monster can emerge at a time, and is kept back by the Picts’ bravest warrior. Noting the optical cancellation properties of one of Kar’s weapons, which poisons light, the Doctor announces that he has a plan to lure the beast back through the portal before it closes. In the cave, Bill encourages the young soldiers to shirk off their cowardice; agreeing to stop hiding and help her find the Doctor, the men take up arms and a flaming torch and make their way with Bill through the labyrinth of tunnels, keeping a watchful eye out for the Eater of Light. They soon find a ladder leading up to the farmers’ hut, but then the creature attacks, killing one of the soldiers; as the others rush up the ladder and into the hut, Bill is overjoyed to be reunited with the Doctor and Nardole. Once the trapdoor is hastily blocked to prevent the Eater of Light following, Bill, Nardole and the Doctor start comparing notes – until they realise that the Romans and the Picts are standing at loggerheads, their weapons drawn. The Doctor shares his link to the TARDIS telepathic circuits, allowing everyone to understand each other; he then makes them declare a truce and join forces against the Eaters of Light, warning that unless stopped the light-eating locusts will devour first the planet, then the sun and then every star in the universe… That night, the Doctor’s plan is put into effect: the Picts and Romans create noise and music to lure the beast into the cairn and back through the gate. It isn’t long before the Eater of Light appears, following the sounds into the stone building. Inside the cairn, the Doctor, Bill, the Picts and the Romans use crude lenses to focus the light from burning torches, shining the poisoned beams onto the creature, trapping it in a web of light; they hold the monster until sunrise, then drive it back through the opened portal. But their success is short-lived: although each Pict warrior who goes into the portal can buy sixty years of peace, what is needed now is a permanent solution – and only the Doctor can live long enough to provide that. To Bill’s dismay the Doctor orders her and Nardole back to the TARDIS, which will take them home; but then Kar intervenes, her people holding back the Doctor back while she goes through instead. Seeing Kar’s sacrifice, the Romans vow to join her; together with the Pict musicians they form the Soldiers of the Light, and step into the portal to hold back the monsters forever. With too many people going through the portal at once the cairn starts to crumble, and the Doctor, Bill, Nardole and the Picts only just get outside before the building collapses into a heap of rubble, sealing the portal forever. Kar’s brother Ban promises to put her story in the stones for everyone to remember; he teaches a crow to say Kar’s name, which is remembered by every other crow for all time. Returning to the TARDIS, Bill reproaches the Doctor for considering abandoning his duty to protect the Vault; agreeing they were both right about the Roman soldiers, the Doctor points out that the Legion was not lost, it has always been there holding back the dark. As Bill follows the Doctor into the ship, she thinks she can hear music – the same music heard by Lucy in the present. Inside the spaceship, Bill and Nardole are astonished to see Missy, freed from the Vault and apparently carrying out maintenance for the Doctor. Ignoring Nardole’s furious admonishments, the Doctor dematerialises the TARDIS... Later, after Bill and Nardole have been dropped off, Missy listens to the music of the highlands in the TARDIS, weeping at its poignancy. The Doctor is still not convinced that Missy has changed her evil ways, but hope is hard to resist…

Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Pearl Mackie (Bill Potts), Matt Lucas (Nardole), Michelle Gomez (Missy), Rebecca Benson (Kar), Daniel Kerr (Ban), Brian Vernel (Lucius), Rohan Nedd (Simon), Ben Hunter (Thracius), Sam Adewunmi (Vitus), Billy Matthews (Cornelius), Aaron Phagura (Marcus), Jocelyn Brassington (Judy), Lewis McGowan (Brother)

Directed by Charles Palmer
Produced by Nikki Wilson
Executive Producers Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin
A BBC Wales production

TX (BBC 1 & BBC 1 HD):
17th June 2017 @ 6.45 pm

*Featuring the Twelfth Doctor, Bill and Nardole