Robot of Sherwood
“The Doctor and Robin Hood in a dungeon and this is the best you can do?”
The Doctor grants companion Clara Oswald a wish. Any place, any time she wishes to visit. The result is a trip to see Robin Hood, whom the Doctor insists is fictional. When they arrive in a sylvan glen, the Time Lord comes face to face with the myth made flesh, the real Robin Hood, and he hates him. Investigating the mystery of this myth made real, the Doctor soon discovers that the evil Sheriff of Nottingham has an army of robot knights and that his castle is a crashed space craft. There is some relief in these revelations as Robin Hood is just a story… or is he?
The third story of the eighth series of Doctor Who is a light-hearted comedy from Mark Gatiss, the same fellow who gave us The Unquiet Dead, The Idiot’s Lantern, Victory of the Daleks, Night Terrors, Cold War and The Crimson Horror. I am a massive fan of his, but have to admit that his track record for Doctor Who scripts is spotty. This story is somewhat influenced by the classic 1973 adventure, the Time Warrior which has a similar but a much more interesting plot. Given that Gatiss is a fan of the Pertwee era, I suspect this was intentional. As the Doctor attempts to explain how the TARDIS could arrive in a fantasy, he even references another Pertwee story, Carnival of Monsters.
After dueling with Robin Hood using a spoon and a leather gauntlet (I really do not want to know why the Doctor has a single leather gauntlet on him), the Doctor is introduced to Robin Hood’s Merry Band and is still suspicious. He goes on to prove, use scientific methods, that these men cannot be the real characters of legend. The story progresses with a challenge in the castle to find the greatest archer (still following the myth of Robin Hood). The Doctor interferes with the challenge using extraordinary archery skills resulting in a squabble with Robin, broken up by an army of robot knights who shoot crucifix lasers from their heads (why? no idea).
Imprisoned in the dungeon, the Doctor devolves into a prattling ninny with Robin as they get into a pissing contest. This prompts Clara to ask the very question I had in mind about the episode in general, ‘The Doctor and Robin Hood in a dungeon and this is the best you can do?’ Ugh. Dire dialog… and all too apt.
Taken in by the Sheriff, Clara tries to use her feminine wiles to get some info, but she is very bad at it and the Sheriff is a comedy villain so… never mind. Using alien technology, the Sheriff has dreams of taking over the world by firing the alien rocket hidden inside the castle at the seat of England’s royalty. But the rocket ship is broken and requires new circuits which he is somehow making using an old foundry and any gold stolen from the populace.
The Doctor, Clara and Robin put aside their differences and literally work together to fire a golden arrow at the craft which could explode rather than fly. The ‘extra gold’ somehow sends the rocket into orbit… where it explodes, taking the robot army with it. None of this makes any sense and we are given some drivel about how ‘we are all stories’ at the end and Robin Hood says that he and the Doctor are similar. So all of the theories that the Doctor had about Robin Hood being fictional (and he *should know,* right?) are apparently wrong and despite the mountain of evidence Robin Hood really is a cackling loon with perfect teeth.
I recall hearing early on that Ben Miller (previously in the running for the part of the new Doctor) was cast as the Master in this series and it is downright uncanny how much he resembles Anthony Ainley (the Master from the 1980’s). But… that appears to be wishful thinking. In the end, this story was forgettable and full of contradictory ideas, moments such as the Doctor trying to get a urine sample from Robin Hood and the aforementioned spoon-sword fight.
What a mess.
One of the only highlights of this episode was the brief reference to the Robin Hood TV series starring Doctor Who Number Two, Patrick Troughton. That was a pleasurable sight!
The 2014 ratings so far (via DrWhoTV):
Deep Breath 6.8m (overnight) 9.17m (final) AI 82
Into the Dalek 5.2m (overnight) 7.29m (final) AI 84
Robot of Sherwood 5.2m (overnight) 7.28m (final) AI 82
Next time: Listen