REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light” by Rona Munro

The Eaters of Light” wasn’t my favorite episode of Doctor Who’s tenth series – not by a long shot. But this novelization, written by the episode’s screenwriter, Rona Munro, takes an otherwise forgettable story and turns it into something that works relatively well. The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole arrive in second-century Scotland, trying to figure out what happened to the Roman Ninth Legion. Along the way, they uncover a small Scottish village under siege by a mysterious creature from another world. A creature that eats light. It’s up to the Doctor, Bill, Nardole, and the remnants of both the village and the Ninth Legion to stop this creature before it devours the universe as we know it.

Put simply, this novelization has all the same problems the original episode had. The pacing is weird, the monster woefully underdeveloped, and the plot almost an afterthought. But what the novel improves on is the story’s characters. In the original episode, Munro seemed most interested in exploring the story’s supporting characters – namely Kar and Lucius. And in this novelization, they really take center stage. In a way, they end up being the main characters here instead of the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole. And that’s honestly fairly refreshing.

Munro spends a fair amount of the novel delving deep into Kar and Lucius’s background. What happened in the days, months, and years before the story’s beginning? How did they end up in this situation, the final survivors of a deadly war and an otherworldly creature? And while this backstory absolutely grinds the novel’s momentum to a halt, it’s also the most interesting element of the book, bringing a much-needed dosage of humanity to the proceedings.

Otherwise, this is a pretty standard novelization, hewing very closely to what happened on screen. Overall, I think the book comes much closer to working than the episode did. But it still ends up being a pretty standard Doctor Who story, one unlikely to be counted among anyone’s favorites. But the novel is an enjoyable read, fast-paced and packed with lovely character moments. It’s a story that translates well to prose, even if the story itself will never be particularly memorable. Put simply, I think Munro’s novelization is the superior way of experiencing this story. It’s not my favorite of the Target novelizations. But it’s an undeniably good one.

4 out of 5 wands.

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