The Imperial Roman Army. Legio IX Hispana.
Subject of ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’, a famous historical novel by Rosemary Sutcliffe and interpreted and re-interpreted since.
I previously read and enjoyed ‘The Last Legion’ by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, however, it linked into the legend of Arthur and had other tales to tell.
The movie ‘The Eagle’ in 2011 was based on Sutcliffe’s book.
Now, the truth or otherwise of the disappearance of the Ninth Legion in the North of Scotland isn’t exact historical fact and pieces of artifacts show the Legion in what is now the Netherlands in the mid second century, around a century later.
It wasn’t unknown for a legion to be raised again after being annihilated, but, the Roman Army was cautious about the bad luck associated with defeats. It may or may not have been a direct continuation of the IX legion that landed in Britain.
Caledonia, as it was called by the Romans, was subject to a fair bit of Roman activity.
Ultimately, it was never truly conquered in the way it’s province of Britania was. However, their control of the rest of the island did influence all the tribes on the island and also influenced and controlled trade.
The history and archeology are unfortunately sparse in terms of what happened with the Romans in Iron Age Scotland.
There’s a lot of maybes to the history and, of course, modern settlements and roads have followed over the Roman’s initial paths.
One day, there may be an answer about the Ninth, but it’s plight leaves it open to storytelling.
And that’s what Rona Munro did and did well with ‘The Eaters of the Light.’
Bill and the Doctor want to know it’s fate. As ever, the Tardis delivers them with Nardole and the team investigate. Bill goes off one way and the Doctor another.
They come across Romans and Picts and eventually bring them on side to fight a beast that comes from a portal in the broch or cairn built into the ground.
The beast destroyed the Ninth and was released by the young pict sent to guard in case it came. Which leads to a few Romans hiding from it and a few Picts hiding too.
A tale about the invasion of a land and the desperation in defending your culture from change leads to a need to cooperate to survive.
‘Survival’ was Munro’s last Doctor Who tale, for another Scottish Doctor and the end of the original run of Who before the 2005 revival.
The guest cast was young and did well, we had a few good lines from Nardole and The Doctor back toward the edgy grumpy one of Series Eight.
So grumpy that he’d sacrifice himself to guard the portal to ensure the beast doesn’t return but Bill sensibly whacks him with a Mirror. This shows she’s beyond Professor and Student relationship and clearly now knows what’s best for him.
Why grumpy again? Possibly as he’s let Missy out of the Vault after rescuing Bill and him from Mars. He wants to believe that she has changed, but as ever, cannot be sure of his fellow Timelord and ‘friend’.
We are reminded in the last five minutes of the edges that The Doctor and Missy occupy together, their shared knowledge, their past friendship.
His fascination with Earth and her sceptical attitude to his do-gooding. We are almost back at where they were with each other in Series Nine just before Skaro and Davros.
Obviously, the Vault and the Doctor’s Oath are factors. He saved her life, she said she’d change.
It’s 8/10 from me. Capaldi, Mackie and Lucas were fine as usual. Dialogue and character dynamic working well and again keeping up with the high points of series ten.
The episode’s effects worked and the beast resembled ancient stone art. Not a dragon, not a beast, tentacles and a wolf like movement. I even enjoyed the talking crow.
A pity it wasn’t filmed in Scotland, although the Welsh countryside was convincing enough though and it worked.
We are now onto the build up to the series finale. I think we are building to what exactly Missy and the Doctor have.
She was in tears and moved toward him, he moved backward but did clutch hands with her. It’s a complicated relationship and questions can be asked on their past and where exactly they stand.
We’ve seen John Simm and the question is now as to how a multi-master tale can be pulled off.
There’s much to anticipate.