“That’s the trouble with hope. It’s hard to resist.”
This week the Doctor takes Bill and Nardole to Scotland to discover the truth about what happened to the Ninth Legion Roman soldiers. As according to the Doctor, “she [Bill] thinks she knows more about Romans than me”, which in his eyes is completely ludicrous. So in true Doctor character he sets out to prove he knows more, and to win a bet into the bargain. As it turns out, neither of them know as much as they think they do, yet neither are completely right or wrong. This was honestly to be expected (even the Doctor can’t know everything – otherwise he wouldn’t keep traveling). So now, our TARDIS crew start this journey divided: Bill heading towards the river to check to see if the legion are trying to leave and declaring that she would bring back the Doctor a Roman Centurion; while the Doctor and Nardole go in search of the legion’s last battlefield.
Bill soon comes across one of the locals who is quick to turn on her and chase her through the woods. It’s not long before Bill falls down a concealed hole in the ground, twice over the space of two consecutive episodes, is this becoming a habit? Only she is oddly surprised to be met with the tip of a Roman soldier’s sword – exactly what she was looking for although perhaps not the introduction she sought. In the meantime, the Doctor and Nardole are wandering the Scottish moors in search of the battlefield, an endeavour which at this point proves rather unsuccessful. They do, however, come across talking crows (something I am still piecing together, as honestly, I still can’t see what they really added to the story). Leaving the talking crows behind, the pair continue to walk only to be ambushed by a group of young locals and, of course, captured. This “time wasting’ ordeal leads to the Doctor losing his patience, expressed in dramatic Doctor terms, “Does everyone hear that [silence]. Do you know what that sound was? That’s the sound of my patience, shattering!”. Marking the first of one of the Doctor’s ‘perfect’ moments in this episode.
Mirrored is Bill’s much more, well, relaxed situation with the Roman Centurion, for now. Deciding to search for the Doctor, Bill leads her new friend into the woods only to be attacked by something which at first looks like a glowing ‘land octopus’, alien-type thing before reaching safer ground which they occupy until daylight. Eventually Bill finds the rest of the eight remaining of the Ninth Legion, but not without losing her new friend to the monster. It’s not long before the Doctor and Bill meet up again, but this also means a meeting of the locals and the Romans. This goes as smoothly as you would think – with one group having sought destroy the other, and the victims of the slaughter rightly hating them for it. As far as well-laid plans go, this one is a near disaster, some might suggest a lost cause. Here is where the Doctor comes into his own, uniting the enemy against a common cause. Which in this case, is an alien which devours light to survive.
If anything, this episodes star moment was the Doctor’s speech to the opposing sides, trying to convince them to unite against the alien which would surely spell the end of them all. Made better only by Bill starting the conversation, not over the immediate problem though, but discussing language: the one thing – which because of the TARDIS translators – is common between all parties. Asking the question that if they now all sound the same, what do they sound like? Answer, “we sound like children”. Through his speech, the Doctor basically asks them all to grow up and start fighting the right battles and forget the past because everyone has done some sort of wrong. All in all, it is another powerful performance from both Peter Capaldi (the Doctor) and Perl Mackie (Bill). You can’t help but get completely caught up in the emotion of the situation when either of them start to speak.
Overall this episode, was carried mostly by the writing of the script, as well as the stellar use of each character’s unique personalities to fuel the plot. My only fault would be in the actual story line and monster of the week; the latter lacking the motive and fear factor it really needed. Other than that, this episode had the perfect combination of great banter, interesting side characters, and excellent moving dialogue. A really enjoyable episode, and definitely a contender to be one of my favourites this series.
Plot: 2.5/4 – Character: 3/3 – Monster (‘Misunderstood Alien’) of the Week: 2/3