Doctor Who: Robot of Sherwood (Wired UK)

We were expecting a lighter, almost twee-episode of Who
this week, and Robot of Sherwood  certainly delivered
on that front. It’s arguably the lightest, dare-we-say fluffiest
episode from the series in a good while, with only a hint towards
the darker arc the season is building. Even that feels slightly
tacked on, a brief mention for sake of continuity, rather than
something key to the episode.

Writer Mark Gatiss offers a light-hearted tale, starting with
Clara demanding to meet Robin Hood, only for the Doctor to declare
him a mere legend. He’s correct, of course — in real life, the
myth of Robin was cultivated over centuries, with his Merry Men
added in waves as other stories were blended in. However, in the
world of Who, he’s real, much to the Doctor’s

Gatiss presents a familiar band of renegades setting up camp in
Sherwood Forest, with Robin himself (Tom
) heavily influenced by Errol Flynn’s dashing
swash-buckler take on the character. Riley delights as the Prince
of Thieves, playing an over-the-top, unashamedly heroic rebel. He
feels much more like the Robin viewers expected, and probably ended
up wanting, after the overly-serious, anachronistic 2006
. Here, the presentation is much more romantic, idealised
even. Gatiss clearly knows his Hood lore too, touching on the
Robert of Locksley origins and the fabled archery contest with a
golden arrow as prize.

It’s a banter heavy episode, largely between the constantly
doubting Doctor and Robin. It’s opportunity for Peter Capaldi to
prove his comedic worth in the role, and for the most part he
succeeds. It’s impressive to see how much of a physical comedian he
can be too, as a sword versus spoon fight early on shows. Capaldi
also channels a bit of William Hartnell’s impatience and Jon
Pertwee’s judo skills, in subtle homages to past Doctors. Some of
his verbal barbs towards Robin wander into Malcolm
territory, but most of the humour comes from him
spending the episode trying, and failing, to prove Robin is just
part of some alien conspiracy. It’s a nice meta-gag — after 2000
odd years of encountering situations just like that, it’s
smile-raising just to acknowledge the Doctor is almost in
Scooby-Doo  territory, always waiting for the big
villainous reveal.

That actually comes from — to no surprise — the Sheriff of
Nottingham (Ben
), in league with alien robots disguised as knights.
While the visual of these new enemies is fantastic, particularly
the retracting helmets revealing their true faces, not much about
them or their plot makes sense. Their ship crashed, so they
disguised it as a castle to blend in. Then they need gold, so they
plunder the land for any they can find, melting it down to rebuild
circuitboards. But their engine is also leaking radiation which,
somehow, makes the weather better in surrounding Nottingham and
will cause the vessel to explode and destroy “half the country” if
it actually takes off. It’s convoluted, to say the least.

The latter half of the episode unfortunately also descends from
comedy into farce. The robot knights are rather pathetically
defeated with some tableware, while the bickering between Doctor
and Robin starts to grate after a while. Jenna Coleman has the
meatiest role this week, whipping the boys into shape and
uncovering the Sheriff’s ambitions in working with the robots:
simple money and power, though he later starts saying he’ll become
immortal if they succeed, adding to the confusion of the episode.
The oddly unnamed robots’ ultimate defeat is the result of a
well-timed shot of that golden arrow — yet another nonsensical

There’s no Missy this week, though snagging the Sheriff of
Nottingham and whisking him to “heaven” just as he’s defeated would
have fit her growing modus operandi. Instead, we get that
aforementioned hint, with the robots looking for the “Promised
Land”, much like those in the first episode. Interestingly, last week’s episode features characters paranoid that anyone
could be a Dalek sleeper
 — could Gretchen, whose death was so sudden, have
been one? If so, that would make a pattern of robots and cyborgs
being taken to the promised land, and could prove important as the
series progresses.

Perhaps Robot of Sherwood’s most important purpose in
the structure of this season was its exploration of heroism as a
theme. The Doctor has already positioned himself as darker and
consumed with regret, uncertain if he’s a good man. Robin leaves
him with the idea that it may be better to be a legend and to
inspire, than be judged for every accurately recorded deed. A nice
sentiment to leave a broadly enjoyable but otherwise forgettable
episode of Doctor Who on.

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7 September 2014 | 9:04 pm – Source:

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