MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
‘Robot of Sherwood’ gave us a delightfully light-hearted adventure for Capaldi and Co. No Dalek-riddled existentialism to be found here, instead what’s found is another tribe of helpless robots disguising themselves among the surrounding area and putting their diabolical plan into action.
But first, the Doctor must fight a duel and his own belief in heroes when he comes a cropper with the swashbuckling Robin Hood at Clara’s request. Devilishly heroic as legend tells, Robin demands the TARDIS from the Doctor just as he and Clara arrive in ancient Nottingham. What follows is one of the most comic-book-like adventures of Doctor Who in recent years, yet unlike previous episodes, ‘Robot of Sherwood’ seems very happy to be that comic-book-like adventure.
This is something Doctor Who has become a master at. Once the TARDIS locks course for our television screens every Saturday night, it’s arrival means all criticism (good or bad) is squashed underneath the blue box. So far, we at A Place To Hang Your Cape have had mixed reviews of the first two episodes, and now its as if our scribblings have been picked up by the crew.
Because it seems as though this thoroughly enjoyable and carefree episode is as much a reaction to the two previous episodes mixed receptions as it is an example of critics of the series being bounced off the TARDIS all together. This episode, much like Robin Hood, swaggers along not really caring what you make of it, because it’s having too much fun on its own.
The episode’s story presents the Doctor and Clara as fly-on-the-walls as Robin Hood and his Merry Men re-enact their legend of duelling with the Sheriff of Nottingham in a bow and arrow contest, but all is not as it seems when robot knights appear on the scene and the full extent of the Sheriff’s plans for world domination unravel. All the while, the Doctor has to come to terms with the fact that Robin Hood is apparently real, and very easy to argue with.
Talk of ‘The Promised Land’ appears again, as it did in ‘Deep Breath’, only this time, instead of the clockwork robots popping up again, another band of robots struggle to reach their goal. It adds little to the story-arc of this series, if anything it merely repeats what the clockers got up to, but its still early days for this series.
And even though we are only on episode three, Capaldi bickers, plots, shouts, cheats and saves the day just about like he’s been the Doctor all his life. His bickering with Robin whilst chained and imprisoned was, as soon as Robin decides to have the TARDIS for himself, inevitable, and gave us what we can only hope is a prelude to how angry this Doctor can get.
But this episode isn’t about being angry, it’s about being happy. Not happy in the sense that Doctor Who is a series that’s immensely pleased with itself (Moffat’s got a few more adventures in the can for this series, so maybe that particular episode is on the way…), happy in the sense that ‘Robot of Sherwood’ isn’t weighed down by sheer continuity or overblown plot. It’s happy because it encapsulates why Doctor Who can be such an appealing show, and also reminds us that even with all our criticism, Doctor Who remains a show aimed predominantly at children.
That’s rather evident in this episode, but when was the last time an episode of Doctor Who offered up as many laughs as it does here? And who would have thought such a devilishly maverick Doctor would work so well against such a comic episode? It’s a testament to what Capaldi brings to the table as the Doctor, and Mark Gatiss’ light, witty script may well be all the more reason for us to start a revolution to ban Moffat from the series. What shall we fight him with? Sonic screwdrivers? Bow and arrows? Or better still… spoons!
What did you make of ‘Robot of Sherwood’? Let us know in the comments section below!