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Published on September 8th, 2014 | by Brad

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Doctor Who – Robot of Sherwood review

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After the dark tone of the first two weeks, Mark Gatiss takes the Doctor and Clara into an Errol Flynn film for Robot of Sherwood. Clara’s always wanted to meet Robin Hood, apparently, so the Doctor takes her to Sherwood Forest, circa 1190AD, partly to humour her, partly to disabuse her of the silly notion that Robin Hood is anything more than a folk story. No sooner has he exited the TARDIS than there stands Robin Hood, big as life, laughing aloud at the slightest thing, firing off perfect shots with his bow and arrow, and essentially living up to every aspect of the legend. Tom Riley plays Robin as pure caricature to begin with, Errol Flynn with just a dash of Lord Flashheart, which is for the best, and he sets the tone for a very silly episode.

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There are two approaches you can take when you’re doing Robin Hood. You can take the approach adopted by Ridley Scott for his recent Russell Crowe-starring adaptation, where you present the idea of a real person, and add the more outlandish elements as you go on. This didn’t work. When you’ve gone to the lengths they went to in order to create the sense of Crusade-era England, the Robin Hood elements feel out of place. The other approach is to open big and cartoonish, and then sketch in human elements as you go along, which is the approach Gatiss has taken here. This approach works much better, as it’s much more believable to add a human dimension to a legend like Robin Hood than it is to append the legend to a notionally real person.

The Doctor is, of course, disbelieving of the reality presented to him, and immediately starts looking for the faults. This is the first time we’ve seen the Twelfth Doctor out of Steven Moffat’s hands, and, as with Eleven, he’s gone for Mark Gatiss as the safe pair of hands to follow him. This leads to a much funnier script than what’s gone before, and I think that was needed. The scenes with the Doctor and Robin locked up in the Sheriff’s dungeons were a bit much, but totally balanced out by moments like “This is my spoon” and the running gag of telling Alan-a-Dale that he only has six months to live. Is it terrible of me that I enjoyed that joke a lot?

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The plot sees Ben Miller’s Sheriff of Nottingham allied with robots from a crashed spaceship, disguised as Nottingham Castle, planning to take over Derby. Then Lincoln. Then the world! Miller is fine as the sheriff, sadly never getting into the realms of Alan Rickman, but he gets a few moments to ham it up. The robots have a cool design to them, and the Doctor’s suspicion that Robin is part of their grander scheme is pretty well played. Robot of Sherwood is a solid giggle, a bit of much-needed levity in what looks like it’s going to be quite a dark series.

Stray observations

  • They seem to be twinning up themes across consecutive episodes. The first episode had a scene where Clara couldn’t breathe even though she wanted to, as breathing would mean death, and the second had one where Clara had to breathe even though she didn’t want to, as not breathing would mean death. Last week’s saw Clara tell the Doctor that even though she doesn’t know if he’s a good man, he tries to be, which is the important thing; this week saw Robin observe to the Doctor that even though they’re not heroes, they pretend to be, so others might be heroes in their name. This may just be a coincidence of episode placing, or they may be the beginning of running themes.
  • The Doctor never recovered his screwdriver from the Sheriff. Is the replacement going to look the same, or is Capaldi going to get his own?
  • Robots seeking the Promised Land again. Does this make Missy some kind of messiah for robots? Probably not. The Promised Land appeared to be a planet on that screen. Gallifrey?
  • Patrick. Troughton. Cameo.

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Brad

Brad

Consumer. Scribbler. Occasional drunkard. Nice beard, though...
Brad

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