Monday, September 08, 2014

My Review of Doctor Who's 8x03: "Robot Of Sherwood"

Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Paul Murphy

The Doctor (to Clara): “No damsels in distress, no pretty castles. No such thing as Robin Hood.”
Robin: “You called?”

It’s interesting that for a show that went out of it’s way not so long ago to prove that Sherlock Holmes was a work of fiction that the show decided to go down the route of giving us a Robin Hood episode – one that I am more than grateful for as well.

After the last two episodes being mostly darker, this was something of a lighter experience with the Doctor and Clara showing up to 12th Century Sherwood forest in order to have the former prove to the latter that a certain Prince Of Thieves did not exist at all. Then came the bit where he was proved wrong of course.

I love the casting of Tom Riley as Hood. He’s so utterly charismatic, sexy as hell and his take on Robin was one of the matinee idol persuasion, providing an excellent foil and eventual ally for Capaldi’s acerbic Doctor. Seriously, I could’ve watched a whole 45 minutes of the two of them bickering and constantly scoring points off each other. This episode certainly went to town on having the pair of them constantly challenging each other and all the better for it.

It’s because of this that Clara had to assume the role of mediator when the three of them got captured at the tournament and were locked up in the Sheriff’s dungeon. It was also Clara that managed to deduce that neither hero had a decent escape plan and that there wasn’t a guard outside. The last bit for plot convenience Clara got wrong but her cleverness certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the Sheriff either.

The scenes with Clara and the Sheriff trying to outwit each other were superbly played by Jenna Coleman and Ben Miller. I liked that Clara managed to get the Sheriff to confess his master plan with the Mechanical Men who fell from the stars and even though the Sheriff was clearly miffed at being outwitted by the Lancashire lass, he certainly admired her directness nonetheless.

The plot involving robot knights enslaving the townsfolk and using gold to fuel their ship was pretty interesting as well, if a bit similar to what we got with the Clockwork Droids two episodes ago. As monsters, they worked reasonably well but I did find that they were a little too easily defeated and obviously not quite as interesting as the Doctor’s ongoing quest to prove that Robin was a fraud.

By having the episode actually acknowledge Robin’s true existence, not only did the Doctor learn a valuable lesson but somehow, it made the episode more satisfying. The comparisons between the Doctor and Robin were far from subtle but between the excellent banter between Capaldi and Riley and Clara’s firm belief in both, it certainly gave the episode a lot punch than expected.

As for the Sheriff – I do think Ben Miller did the best in a great role and I certainly loved the final fight with both him and Robin but the weakest aspect was probably the Maid Marion plotline, but only because it wasn’t given as much attention. On the plus side, at least the Doctor did manage to reunite Robin with his true love as the episode ended. I think this Doctor cares a lot more than he’s willing to let on.

Also in “Robot Of Sherwood”

All the episodes have had the Doctor writing mathematical signs and what not on either the floor or on a chalk board. Is he trying to figure out where Gallifrey is?

The Doctor (to Clara): “That is not Robin Hood.”
Robin: “Well then, who sir is about to relieve you of your magic box?”
The Doctor: “Nobody sir. Not in this universe or the next.”

Loved the call-backs with the Venusian Aikido and the spoon fight with the Doctor and Robin. It’s little things like that.

The Doctor: “All those diseases. If you were real, you’d be dead in six months.”
Alan: “I am real.”

The Doctor (re Robin/Merry Men): “Right that wasn’t even funny. That was bantering. I’m totally against bantering.”

Friar Tuck was played the same guy who previously appeared in a rather popular Sixth Doctor story and Alan A Dale was played by Mark Gatiss’s partner, Ian Hallard.

Robin: “If you had not betrayed me, I would’ve been triumphant.”
The Doctor: “You would’ve been a little puff of smoke and ashes.”

Robin: “Soiled myself?”
The Doctor: “Did you? That’s getting into character?”

Anyone else spot a certain former Doctor who was also one of the first actors to portray Robin Hood during a certain moment in this episode?

Sheriff: “Doesn’t every King require a consort?”
Clara: “Right, you do that again and you’ll regret it.”

Robin (to the Sheriff): “Everyone should have a hobby. Mine’s annoying you.”

I’m not sure how one golden arrow could’ve really completed the take off of the spaceship but at least it didn’t blow up England I guess. Oh and the Sheriff got a death similar to Viserys and we got another mention of the promised land as well.

Clara: “Be safe if you can be but always be amazing. Goodbye Robin Hood.”

Robin: “And remember Doctor, I’m just as real as you are.”

Chronology: 1190 Sherwood of course.

I had some initial reservations about this episode but fair play to Mark Gatiss because “Robot Of Sherwood” was a blinder. Maybe not a future classic but a delightfully entertaining episode with some sparkling dialogue, a great double act with Capaldi and Riley and some truly madcap moments. Every once in a while the show really does thrive from stories like this one.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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