*WARNING – contains spoilers*
Doctor Who returned this week for its 3rd episode of series 8 and for this series’ Mark Gatiss penned episode – ‘Robot of Sherwood.’ Finally, the Doc is right back on form and perhaps better than ever. This week was an absolute hoot – just as I predicted – and was funny right from the off. A delightful episode set in the middle of 12th century England with the premise that Clara wanted to meet her childhood hero – Robin Hood.
I must confess that I have always loved the mythology of the character and have always been delighted at watching a good tale about the merry men even though recent outings in TV and film have been sorely disappointing. This episode was a delightful return not only for Doctor Who, but also for that classic loveable English rogue.
The episode was slightly different from other episodes recently, especially from the last series, as it was smaller and not as ‘epic’ as other plots have tried to be in Dr Who lately so it was a refreshing change. It was paced fantastically and was a simple but satisfying story that also gave us a load of clues to where the story arc is going this series.
It was interesting as well because it played on the idea that the Doctor of all people did not believe Robin Hood existed and was constantly suspicious of him. There were lots of lines throughout referencing mythology and folk-tale and pointing to hero theory and how they can be important to give people hope in the darkest of times. The veil of history vs. mythology and the humour and important raising of these topics was fascinating in an episode of Doctor Who given the title character’s reliance on these areas to essentially deliver the sci-fi genre’s very own folk hero.
Another thing to point out was the new look of the TARDIS is really growing on me and the cinematography, I know I keep saying this, but, it is absolutely superb. They are taking these small things and making them beautiful. Some of the sweeping camera shots and CGI placements were superb.
The episode opens with a duel between Robin and the Doctor who uses a spoon instead of a sword (I see a meme developing). This was a very amusing segment and a great set piece to start the episode. It also starts the character chemistry throughout the episode. The constant bickering between the two characters throughout was top notch with great ‘bantering’ as Capaldi kept referring to it (a great nod to current trends). It was reminiscent in some ways of his ‘The Thick of It’ days. Capaldi is a great comedy performer and this script suited him to a tee in this respect. Some of the daft humour was reminiscent of classic Who and was real treat to see.
The other great thing was the ‘future vs. past’ undercurrent with some great lines referencing Clara’s foreknowledge of events and character biographies as well as the items that they are carrying such as packed sandwiches and the sonic screwdriver (magic wand). Clara’s line about Blackpool was a real chuckle for me and I felt in this episode Clara really kept up her development in this series. She’s fast becoming a truly great companion.
The story really was a stand-alone run of the mill tale but did drop a lot of clues about where this series is going. The plot is simple – a spaceship has crash landed and Robot shave invaded Nottingham in disguise and are working with the Sheriff of Nottingham, integrating themselves with the already established history in an attempt to escape. But the Robots hark back to the first episode and it is revealed, just like the former, that they are in search of ‘The Promised Land’. Although we didn’t see ‘Missy’ this week, is this perhaps where she is located? There was lots of religious symbolism with the cross shaped laser’s coming from the Robots and this is perhaps all linked together – Missy does call where she is based ‘Heaven’. These bots are also very reminiscent of Cybermen, whom we know are in the finale this year. Are Robots being called from across Time and Space for some reason? Were only speculating now, but we can kind of see where this journey is taking us – it should be interesting.
I did thoroughly enjoy the episode, the Robots were cooler than Cybermen have been recently, the story was tight and pacey, the actors were great; particularly ‘Ben Miller’ as the Sheriff of Nottingham who was terrific in his villainous performance – almost master-esque.
The story was silly, fun, reference heavy, gave us a look to where it is going but kept itself introverted as an episode. It was exactly what Doctor Who is about I felt and was a great enjoyable watch, probably even for non-Whovians.
Next week it seems we have this series’ scary outing designed to frighten the wits of the kiddy-winks with a small dark story based on our basic fears and instincts which are usually my favourite outings so I am very excited for this. It’s another Steven Moffatt penned title called ‘Listen’ so might be another instant classic so I can’t wait for next week at this point.
By David Roberts