The Doctor is many things. A Time Lord. A survivor. An impeccably well-dressed smart-arse. And to some, a hero. But that’s a role that the Gallifreyan struggles to identify with, as his latest incarnation has begun to question whether he is even a good person these days as runs around the universe. But good or bad, the Doctor is a legend that has spanned various planets and eras in all of reality. So what happens when two legends collide, when Robin Hood meets the Doctor? You get perhaps the most fun Doctor Who episode filmed in recent years.
You’d think that in all of his 50 plus years of history, the Doctor would have run into Robin Hood by now. Hell, you’d at least expect Matt Smith’s Time Lord to have made him another member of his gang. But he hasn’t, and that’s a character who finally gets to make an appearance, with Tom Riley just nailing the role of the youthful romantic hero, to fantastic effect, contrasting perfectly with Peter Capaldi’s older and grumpier Doctor.
There’s some genuinely good chemistry here, as Riley and Capaldi constantly cross paths, starting with a sword vs spoon fight, an archery contest between the two and an eventual attack on a castle full of robots in search of that fabled Promised Land that was hinted at in the first episode of the latest season.
Robots Of Sherwood may descen into lunacy at times with a cliffhanger resolution that makes no sense whatsoever when the Doctor super-charges an alien space-ship by having a golden arrow fired into it, but the best bits undoubtedly come from his interaction with Robin of Locksley and his merry band of diseased scoundrels.
But there’s more than a solid partnership at work here. Robots Of Sherwood works wonderfully because it’s an episode that deconstructs several action movie cliches, the kind of tropes that swashbuckling flights of fancy rely on. Stuck without his trusty sonic screwdriver, the Doctor is forced to put aside his ego and descend into these cliches, resulting in a few fresh takes. With poor Clara becoming clearly exasperated by the contstant competition between her childhood hero and her faithful Time Lord pal.
And there’s a clever spin on the whole Robin Hood myth here. For starters, the Doctor doubts that he even exists, taking every opportunity possible to look for an explanation that Robin Hood can’t possibly be real. It takes an entire episode for him to finally give in and admit that Robin Hood is real, after having thrown everything from robotic dopplegangers to manufactured hero theories at the exiled prince in a mad attempt to be proven right.
But it’s the robot knights patrolling their spaceship/castle and the Sherriff of Nottingham who are the real threats here, with Ben Miller eating some fantastic scenery as the fabled villain from the myths and legends. Then you’ve got the entire comparison between Robin Hood and the legend of the Doctor, with Robin remarking that perhaps it is better to be a legend, for history is indeed a terrible burden to bear. And legends are far more inspirational than facts anyhow, as the Ood once explained that the story of the Doctor shall never end.
But above all that, Robots Of Sherwood is fun. The constant contests between the Doctor, the dip in the fantastic and a simmering climax that ends with the Sherriff getting his just rewards and the faulty robots blown up, all combine for one fast-paced and exciting adventure.
An upbeat episode,with some great ideas woven in about not just being a hero, but being an inspiration as well.
Last Updated: September 8, 2014