So, that’s it. The Eaters of Light is the last episode of the Twelfth Doctor’s run that has a self-contained storyline. It was a solid entry, not without its holes, and one of the better of the current season. But with a total of three episodes remaining for this Doctor, including the Christmas special, it feels like there should be far more gravity to the coming regeneration. Perhaps that’s by design. Perhaps, and more likely, it is oversight.
Even this late in his turn in the Tardis it’s still hard to tell where the stories of Twelve stand in the canon of Who. Twelve is undeniably a great Doctor, and much like Matt Smith’s Eleven, didn’t get enough of the scripts he deserved. But overall everything feels much less urgent about his arc. Is it the lack of Time War guilt that weighed on Nine, Ten, and Eleven? Maybe. Was it the bloated Clara storylines? Maybe. But I digress. Until he’s regenerated I will focus for now, on this nice little story about the Roman Ninth Legion.
This is an episode about fear. What does fear do when it has no reigns? It very nearly destroys the world in this case. It was fun and somewhat surprising to see the Doctor getting quite stern with Kar about what she did and her justifications for it. This wasn’t the guitar-riffing, shades wearing Twelve of late. This was the “pudding brains” humanity disliking Twelve from his first season reappearing. Oddly enough this makes his arc feel full circle. And it was necessary this time.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 1 Timothy 1:7
I’ve heard this verse used many times to say that we should never be afraid. That’s not true. Kar had every right to fear the Roman legion. They did, after all, slaughter villages for gain and “empire” as she called it. They were many, she and her people were few. It’s one thing to have faith that God is in control, and another to carelessly refuse to fear a serious threat. They can coexist, and in fact, if we honestly embrace that the fear exists, faith can work with that for good. Kar, in this case, let the fear overpower her, and unleashed a beast she did not understand to destroy her enemies. And over a muddy hillside, nearly doomed the world.
We are a lot like Bill, in this case. Stuck in a cave with soldiers, hiding from a monster she has seen kill and nearly got her as well, she still knew that there was hope on the other side in the form of the Doctor. No doubt she feared, but she didn’t fade from having faith in her friend, whom she knew would take control of the situation. It’s a delightful picture of our relationship to God and the perfect evidence of why the Doctor/ companion relationship is so important to this show. I so hope they don’t mess with that central connection in the future changes coming to the show.
“That’s the trouble with hope – it’s hard to resist.” – The Doctor
Not only does scripture illustrate to us the surest hope for humanity in Christ, it also actively encourages us to hope. Faith is nothing without hope, for Hebrews 11:1 proves that faith is the substance of things hoped for. We have to hope for faith to prove itself. And I love that Twelve knows the power of hope. He is hoping so much that Missy is really changing. Yet with her previous form returning this week, you can sense the fight coming. Will the Doctor’s faith in the potential for goodness in every one prove what he hoped for in Missy? Time will tell, and it appears the answer is like “no.”
Here’s the thing about where this wonderful little sci-fi show is headed. With rumors of big changes after Twelve’s departure, and the new guard wanting to turn things on their head, it’s only going to work if we still get pictures like this of hope, faith, fear, the goodness of the Doctor, etc. Whatever lies ahead, the things that made this show, this character, and the preposterous ideas of this tale last for well over 50 years must remain. The conflict of an outsider protecting humanity despite knowing full well its flaws and misgivings is central to this story and our own story. For we believe in a much greater salvation than this, and this work calls to us from our core, no matter what our beliefs. If we aren’t able to catch glimpses of it from this quirky little show, that would really be a huge letdown.
Next time on Who-ology:
Is this the first time you’ve felt an urgency from season 10’s story arcs? It is for me. Two Masters combining to clash with one Doctor isn’t exactly what I hoped for to end Twelve’s run, but it certainly has the makings of a memorable two-parter. Let’s just hope this whole “Modassian” Cybermen thing doesn’t get in the way.