In the third episode of the eighth series of Doctor Who, the Doctor abides a request from Clara and takes her to the time when Robin Hood might have been alive if he were real, only to discover that he is real. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
I liked “Robot of Sherwood” so much for a very simple reason: it was fun. It’s not a terribly complicated episode, and I admit that Clara’s characterization here is often shallow and pointless. I get being excited about one of your childhood heroes! I do, and that’s an infectious part of “Robot of Sherwood.” Thankfully, there’s a point where the writing for Clara ditches the tired trope of her being constantly enamored with Robin Hood, and that’s precisely when this episode really gets good.
Honestly, as soon as Robin Hood and the Doctor started bickering with one another, trying to prove their prowess to Clara, I couldn’t help but wish that the Doctor would have turned into Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It. Mark Gatiss’s script excels at wit more than anything else, and I’m glad that after two super serious episodes, we get a chance for Capaldi to show off his comedic timing as Twelve. And it’s rewarding to watch not just because it’s funny; I think this episode further builds Twelve’s character. Why is he so argumentative? Why is he so certain that Robin Hood is not real, despite all the evidence to the contrary?
I think there’s a deliberate cynicism to Twelve that’s revealed through these three episodes, and it’s on full display in “Robot of Sherwood.” Myths and legends about impossible heroes don’t mean the same thing to the Doctor as they once meant. His recent existential crisis has forced him to reconsider what a hero actually is, and I think that makes him reluctant to view anyone else as one. Clara, however, is much more ready to believe in a hero because she still sees the Doctor as one. (Whether or not that answers the question of his goodness remains to be seen.) So it’s not a matter of who is right in this scenario; it’s all perception to them. That being said, I think that I’m going to find this all to be a lot more satisfying than recent seasons of the show as long as the writers continue to pose such fascinating questions of the main characters.
But honestly, I really don’t think this episode is that serious, and I know that’s by design. The opening scenes of this story are bright and absurd, which is the whole point. We’re supposed to be just as shocked as the Doctor that Robin Hood is real and that all of his Merry Men are real, too. Not only that, but the entire story of Robin Hood isn’t a fabrication at all; it’s LITERAL HISTORY. Understandably, this is a hard thing for the Doctor to comprehend, but then we get ROBOTS. This is not the first time (even in this series) that we’ve got a story centered on a hidden spaceship and an alien race trying to get home. But the robots were a nice anachronistic touch that provided one hell of a plot twist twenty minutes into this episode.
It’s an entertaining episode, to be sure, but not one with the most depth either. Of course, we’ve got another mention of the Promised Land. (What the hell is that???) I refuse to believe that wherever Missy is, is the actual location of Heaven. Is it some sort of trick? An alternate universe? I DON’T GET IT.
The video for “Robot of Sherwood” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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