Previously on Doctor Who: The Doctor and Clara go on a fantastic voyage … into a Dalek named Rusty, natch.
Although the Doctor has faced many a fantastical character in his eons of life, even he knows there’s a line between fantastical and fictional. At least, he did, until this episode …
Here We Go Again
The episode begins with the Doctor offering to take Clara anywhere she’d like to go. She tells him there is someone she’s always wanted to meet, but that he’ll say it’s impossible, that he’s made up. He presses her into telling him anyway, and when she says she’s always wanted to meet Robin Hood, he tells her that he is indeed made up. But he sets course for Sherwood Forest in the year 1190 anyway.
As he walks out of the TARDIS, an arrow lodges in the side of the TARDIS and a roguish man winks at him from across the stream. “You called?” he announces. The two exchange sassy comments, and we find out that the mysterious man is, or so he says, Robin Hood. The Doctor and Robin fight—Robin with a sword and the Doctor with a spoon. Which makes total sense?
In a nearby village, the Sheriff of Nottingham and his guards show up. A man tries to stop them from taking a young woman, but the Sheriff kills him for his disobeyance, and takes the woman and some gold.
Back in the forest, Robin introduces Clara, who’s found period garb and extensions in the TARDIS’s closet, and the Doctor to his merry men. Robin tells the lot of them about an archery contest at the castle the next day, the prize for which is an arrow made of solid gold.
The next day, at the contest, a disguised Robin and the Sheriff have beaten the rest of the contenders. The Sheriff hits the bullseye, and Robin splits his arrow right down the middle. As Robin’s about to accept the golden arrow, another arrow splits his. The Doctor, of course, has arrived to take part in the contest. The two continue to shoot arrows that split the previous one until the Doctor grows weary of the game and just blows the target up. At that, the Sheriff’s guards go after Robin. When Robin cuts one of the guard’s arms, it turns out to be a robot. The Doctor, Clara and Robin are captured and taken to the castle dungeons.
There, Robin and the Doctor are being absolutely ridiculous with their bickering, and Clara’s taken to the Sheriff as the true leader of the group. The Sheriff shows her the gallimaufry (quite a familiar word, eh?) that was found in the Doctor’s pockets. He then tries to appeal to Clara’s interest in power, but she tricks him into telling her his story—about how he became involved with the robot knights—instead.
Meanwhile, peasants are being forced to work in a gold smeltery; the gold is being used to create some sort of large circuit boards.
Robin and the Doctor escape from the dungeons and make their way through the castle and into the robot’s ship. There, he discovers that the ship was headed toward the Promised Land when it crashed to Earth. The gold the peasants have been smelting is to run the engines. Robin escapes with Clara, but the Doctor remains and learns more about the robots and the Sheriff. He thinks Robin is a robot, too, but soon realizes his mistake.
Robin and Clara show back up, and Robin battles the Sheriff. In the end, Robin prevails, and knocks the Sheriff (who was part robot all along) into the molten gold. The castle begins to fall down all around them, and the group run. The ship takes off, but doesn’t have enough gold to reach orbit.
Of course, being thieves, the merry men have one more bit of gold: the golden arrow. Working as a team, the Doctor, Clara and Robin shoot the arrow into the ship, and it makes orbit. Where it blows. up. (So close, robot knights. So close.)
The episode draws to a close with the Doctor and Robin sharing a meaningful conversation about their places in history, and how neither of them are heroes … but perhaps they could inspires others to be. As the TARDIS leaves, the young woman from the village shows up, and just so happens to be Maid Marian.
Don’t Blink or We’ll Exterminate
The villains in this episode were both old and new. Old being the Sheriff of Nottingham, and new being the robot knights. The Sheriff—played by Primeval’s Ben Miller, once again reiterating my belief that there are only so many British actors—was a good mix of classic egotism and lust for power with a sci-fi twist. The robot knights were both well designed and, with those cross-shaped lasers, a nice nod to the religious aspect of the militaries of the age.
The New Face
The Doctor’s curmudgeonly nature shone brightly when compared to Robin Hood and his merry men, and that meant a lot of entertaining quips and grumpy faces. We also got a look at an alternate costume, at least an alternate shirt. (It was dark maroon/wine-colored rather than white. Yes, I notice these things.)
My favorite Doctorisms of the episode:
Robin: “Robin Hood laughs in the face of all. Ha ha ha.”
Doctor: “And do people ever punch you in the face for doing that?”
Robin: “Not as yet.”
Doctor: “Lucky I’m here, then, isn’t it.”
Doctor: “I am totally against bantering.”
Doctor: “Long-haired ninny versus robot killer knights? Know where I’d put my money.”
Companion Annoyance Level: The Ponds
Companion Annoyance Advisory System
Clara: Severe Risk of Annoying Entitlement
Martha: High Risk of Ridiculous Mooning
Donna: Significant Risk of Overbearing Bossiness
The Ponds: General Risk of Bothersome Smothering
Rose: Low Risk of Irritating Smugness
- Clara, again, thankfully, wasn’t awful. (And there wasn’t a slap this episode, which I very much appreciated.) She was a little smug when dealing with the Sheriff, but that was well deserved on his part. There actually wasn’t all that much of her in this episode, even though she was there the entire time?
- Robin Hood, on the other hand, there wasn’t enough of. I would totally watch more of him and the Doctor’s Odd Couple antics. We’d get more of their banter and lines like this one:
Robin: “I could last a lot longer than this desiccated man-crone.”
I really enjoyed the silly nature of this episode, and the opportunities for the Doctor’s snark to shine. (I think the fact that Mark Gatiss wrote the story had a lot to do with this.) Plus, we were treated to another glimpse of the series’ long-running storyline with the robot ship’s destination of The Promised Land. I’m kind of glad Missy didn’t show up again though; until she’s more than just a “welcome to heaven” gag, she’s not that interesting to me, to be honest.
But, what did you think of “ Robot of Sherwood”? Do you have any new thoughts on what the Promised Land truly is? Let’s discuss in the comments.
Next on Doctor Who: The Doctor examines humanity’s mutual fear of the dark—and Clara gets a glimpse at her future.