Stand-alone episodes have been the strong point of Doctor Who this series. While episodes like ‘Smile’ weren’t extraordinary, ‘Thin Ice’ and ‘Oxygen’ stand out particularly as very successful episodes. In fact, it was when the only multi-episode storyline started in ‘Extremis’ that the series started to spiral out of control and into mediocrity. ‘Extremis’ was excellent, but the following two episodes, and then last week’s Mark Gatiss-penned stand-alone, ‘The Empress of Mars’, were all subpar, considering the standard set in the early weeks of the series.

Understandably then, my excitement for the series has decreased since ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’. Pearl Mackie went from the best thing about the series to the only real positive.

Step forward, Rona Munro. Munro had previously written a three-part Classic Who story, ‘Survival’ in 1989, and made her return at the weekend with an episode that restored life into the series that was starting to lose its appeal.

‘The Eaters of Light’ sees Bill and the Doctor arrive in ancient Aberdeenshire, both hoping to prove the other wrong about what happened to the Ninth Legion of the Roman army. But they come across far more than just the missing Romans.

Encountering natives and Romans (alive and dead), both hiding, and stories of a monster roaming the forests, the Doctor and Bill soon discover a portal to another world in a cairn.

To avoid too many spoilers, I’ll leave the plot summary at that. But what we do see is a genuinely fearful monster for the first time in quite a while (although the spacesuit zombies in ‘Oxygen’ were good too), a support cast that offer plenty, and a sweet moral of the story.

Rebecca Benson was especially impressive as Kar, a native whose fault it is that the monster escaped from the portal in the first place. Her determination to right her wrong is admirable, and her youth helps to further exemplify the anti-war moral that we’ve seen a few times before under showrunner, Steven Moffat.

The Romans are great too. I especially enjoyed the scene in which Bill comes out to them, rather uncomfortably, before learning that they too have gay and bisexual soldiers among their ranks.

It was a genuinely fun and endearing episode, again showing Doctor Who is at its best in stand-alone stories. It’s where the Moffat era has peaked; the multi-story arcs don’t seem to suit him, so I hope the next few episodes aren’t a let-down. All the talk is that the final two episodes of the series are brilliant, so fingers crossed.

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