03 “Robot of Sherwood” (Doctor Who series 8)


doctor who peter capaldi

I have a feeling I’m going to be pretty alone in this opinion, but I don’t tend to get on brilliantly well with the “historical” episodes of Doctor Who. It seems a bit of an odd thing to say, of a show about a time-travelling alien, but there we go.

For every “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances”, we have to endure something as lazy as “The Shakespeare Code”. I’m not against exploring the rich tapestry of history, but simply popping up outdated dress and saying “Here we are! Ye olden days!” is a bit weak as story goes. It’s a touch “Downton Abbey”, which is not where I want my Doctor Who to be going.

So on that note, this week’s episode is the snigger-worthily named “Robot of Sherwood”; and out we pop at in medieval Sherwood Forest looking for Robin Hood.

Why is it that whenever the Doctor gives his companions free reign of where to go, they always pick the dullest time periods? Where’s the Battle of Alexandria? Where’s the Declaration of Independence? Where’s the building of the Pyramids?

Still, Sherwood Forest it is, with the Doctor insisting all the way that Robin Hood is fictional. Until an arrow hits the TARDIS next to where he stands (and a brilliant moment where the TARDIS heals itself once the arrow is removed). The Doctor refuses to believe that Robin is the real deal, and winds up caught up in the Sheriff of Nottingham’s gold-grabbing plan. Which, of course, is related to strange robot knights abducting people to work in a gold smelting plant beneath the castle.

It’s the sort of witty, farce-esque thing which Doctor Who does, usually well, but it fell a little flat here. I’m not too sure why, actually.

The competition between the Doctor and Robin — whom the time lord is convinced is a robot in league with the Sheriff — is quirky and amusing, but despite the near-constant hints of something greater behind Robin, it falls flat. I was hoping for a big reveal, and the big reveal being that Robin Hood is exactly as legend has him is a bit…weak.

What I am (still) liking a lot is Peter Capaldi. What stood out here was that the flirting with Clara (a la Matt Smith) is definitely gone. And good riddance. The other thing is the undertone of the nature of legends and heroes. There are serious parallels between this and the previous episode, in the “Am I a good man?” strain. This time around it is more like “What is a legend?”. This is the Doctor discovering his new self, and viewed in that light his petty squabbles with Robin are rather endearing.#

I am still not 100% sure of the writing here. Capaldi is doing a great job, and even Jenna Coleman raised her game here. I wish the writers would give them something with real weight and substance to sink their teeth in, I have a feeling it could really be the making of the new Doctor.

Closing thoughts:

  • More of this “promised land” thing. This is the path which always seems to lead to Michelle Gomez’s character, and the key word(s) have had a connection with robots both times it has come up.
  • The Sheriff of Nottingham in an episode of Doctor Who is the scenery-chewing role Ben Armstrong was born to play.
  • Next episode looks dark, haunting Doctor Who-style horror. Which is my favourite flavour of Who. I’m hoping for something weighty, some blend of psychological and philosophical. I’m hoping for “Blink”. I’m hoping for “Midnight”.
  • I didn’t even notice where they had cut the scene from. Just saying.
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