Tuesday, 20 June 2017

By the bi

I have a feeling I already knew that Rona Munro had written a Doctor Who episode this series but had forgotten, so I got to get excited again when I saw her name pop up in the credits for this week’s episode.

“The Eaters of Light” by Rona Munro, directed by Charles Palmer. Spoilers after the cut.

Of course the official reason to get excited was that she’s the first person to have written for both the original series (the last-ever broadcast serial, no less) and the 21st century version (surely Ben Aaronovitch would be a good bet to be the next one, what with his profile as a novelist in recent years.) Needless to say it was actually because of her playwrighting that I was keen to see what she’d come up with, so it was great fun to see her tackling Scottish history – although don’t forget, you still have three more King Jameses to go Rona, don’t get too distracted with time lords.

Reception to the episode seems to have been a bit tepid and it is in the end a monster-of-the-week episode to tide things over until the two-part finale, but I still enjoyed it a lot, talking crows notwithstanding. Funny to have Brian Vernel turn up in a Scottish story and then not be Scottish, and as for the famous “gay agenda” I love that this has now reached the level of outright trolling, with Bill ending up being seen as the sexually conservative one for only fancying one gender. I like that, once again, this can genuinely be seen as returning to the show’s educational remit by showing that certain “traditional” attitudes to sexuality are much more recent constructs than people might think. Educational trolling, what’s not to love?

It’s also fun to see that it’s an original series writer who plays around with something that they used to do, of splitting everyone up when there’s more than one companion, and I think Matt Lucas’ Nardole is really feeling like a valuable addition to the dynamic now after being in the background at the start of the series: His affable stick-in-the-mud persona is a contrast both to the impatience of Capaldi’s Doctor and the wide-eyed (literally - her eyes look like they're going to pop out on stalks half the time) enthusiasm of Mackie’s Bill.

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