[alert-announce]Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 stars. After two really good episodes to introduce Peter Capaldi’s “darker” Doctor, the injection of humour seems forced more than anything else.[/alert-announce]
After two weeks of getting to know the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi), I was totally prepared to have myself blown away by Robot of Sherwood, an episode written by Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat’s co-creator on the Sherlock TV series. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. Robot of Sherwood starts off interestingly enough, with the Doctor offering Clara (Jenna Coleman) the chance to go back to any time period. Clara promptly decides on medieval England, because she wants to meet Robin Hood. The Doctor declares Robin Hood to be nothing more than story, but gives in to her anyway. Naturally, Robin Hood (Tom Riley) is real, as are his band of merry men and his nemesis the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Miller).
Robin Hood, upon meeting the Doctor, wants to relieve him of the TARDIS, and the two fight it out (of course the Doctor being the Doctor has to use a spoon instead). The fight plays out similarly to the one between Robin and Little John in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), except unamused Morgan Freeman has been replaced by fangirl Clara. Robin takes the duo to his hideout in Sherwood Forest. The Doctor, however, still refuses to believe Robin and his men are real, scanning the various merry men, even going to the extent of taking a blood analysis from Alan-a-Dale (played by Ian Hollard, Mark Gatiss’ real-life civil partner). A bit of banter goes on, and Robin reveals he intends to win the archery competition and claim the prize of a golden arrow, despite knowing that it is a trap. He splits the Sheriff’s on-target arrow easily. But before Robin can claim the prize, the Doctor upstages him. Arrow splits arrow after arrow, though they eventually find themselves at the mercy of the Sheriff’s knights. Who are robots.
Turns out the Sheriff’s castle is another crashed ship trying to get to the teased Promised Land, and the gold object he’s plundering are meant to repair the engines. The Sheriff wants to use the ship to destroy London and claim the throne for himself. But of course, as it is a crashed ship, the Doctor deduces that the engines are too damaged to be able to safely navigate again. Long story short, enforced slave peasants use shiny things to reflect pews pews at nasty robots, Sheriff orders ship to take off, Robin Hood beats Sheriff…
Then he and the Doctor and Clara shoot the golden arrow at the ship to help it escape the Earth’s atmosphere so that it explodes harmlessly in space. Because when you’re repairing an engine that requires gold for its circuits, you spend a crucial amount to make a golden arrow instead. Because science. Or something. Robin Hood tells the Doctor that the two of them are similar, because they don’t aim to be heroes but are remembered as such because they inspire people. The Doctor and fangirl Clara depart, leaving behind a gift for Robin. Great. It’s over. Thoughts: I have mixed feelings about this episode. Peter Capaldi is a great comedy actor, so his delivery of some of the lines is excellent and believable, but after two episodes of building up his Doctor as a darker, sombre version, he spends 45 minutes acting like a petulant child, needing to show off and upstage Robin Hood at every turn. For lack of a better word, it feels forced. This would’ve been more suited to Matt Smith’s Eleventh, the Doctor who visits space museums to “keep score”, not the Doctor who uses a person’s death as a means of salvation. Perhaps I’ve based too much of my expectations of Capaldi’s Doctor on the first two episodes, and at the end of the season I’ll have a better understanding. Jenna Coleman, after being the strong, Doctor-slapping Clara, seems to have reverted to fangirl mode. Yes, she has some good lines, but overall it felt like the producers wanted to tone her down a bit from the last two episodes.
Tom Riley’s Robin Hood stands out, being funny, witty, and somewhat ridiculous and annoying at times (not really in a bad way). The Doctor’s allies throughout a season have a habit of making a reappearance later, so I wouldn’t put it pass Moffat to have Robin Hood return to annoy the Doctor with his laughter yet again. We didn’t get any scenes of Heaven in Robot of Sherwood, but that doesn’t mean Missy isn’t collecting dead people, either. Could that signal a return for Ben Miller’s Sheriff of Nottingham too? Only time will tell.
Overall, Robot of Sherwood wasn’t a bad episode, but neither did it leave me awed like Into The Dalek. The story wasn’t particularly original (it’s very similar in nature to the season opener Deep Breath), the character development felt somewhat bare, and the motives of the lead villain… well… you get the idea. I’m sure some people will argue that it was the best Doctor Who episode ever, but then again some people will argue over the best Doctor ever. Do let us know what you think in the comments or on Facebook/Twitter! What did you think of Robot of Sherwood?