Robot of Sherwood
By Mark Gatiss
Reviewed by Jeffrey Zyra
“Shut it, Hoody!”
Being a fan of Robin Hood I was somewhat lukewarm to the prospect of Doctor Who doing an episode centered on him and Sherwood Forest and the overall Robin Hood legend. That and the writer for this episode was Mark Gatiss who has been really hit or miss with his stories. In Series 7 he wrote the good “Cold War” and the very bad “The Crimson Horror.” So he now delivers to us his next story “Robot of Sherwood” and from looking at the trailers it could be one that could very well be uneventful and not all that good.
Well I have to say that I surprisingly actually liked and enjoyed “Robot of Sherwood.” Robot of Sherwood was an episode that did not take itself seriously and that is why it worked as a Doctor Who story. Sometimes Doctor Who has to be funny and light hearted especially when you are going in the direction of being darker. Robot of Sherwood fit that bill very well and it also wasn’t overly silly. Well maybe it was a tad silly. At times it felt like a Black Adder episode. I could see Rowan Atkinson doing the scenes in the dungeon where Robin Hood and The Doctor were chained to each other. Those scenes were pretty good and were performed really well by Peter Capaldi and Tom Riley. In fact this story was pretty funny and found myself laughing through it a lot which doesn’t normally happen when you watch Doctor Who and for it once it was ok to have a story this different and funny and I am glad they tried something different again this week.
If you are a fan, as I am, of the Errol Flynn “The Adventures of Robin Hood” which came out in 1938 you’ll be happy to see a lot from that movie made it into this episode. Like the fight on the river and the archery contest it was all there. If you’re going to do a Robin Hood episode you do need to have some of his familiar exploits. Even the fight at the end of with the Sheriff of Nottingham was sort of in the same vein as the one from the Errol Flynn movie. I did like the sword fight at the beginning. The Doctor using the spoon and bragging on how he was trained by the best was pretty funny and you knew how it would end up. It was funny seeing The Doctor getting pushed into the water after beating Robin Hood with the spoon. What shouldn’t go unnoticed is that there is also a cameo by Patrick Troughton as Robin Hood from when he played him in the 1953 TV series which in itself was pretty cool thing to see.
I could see “Robot of Sherwood” fitting in the Tom Baker era. In fact it kind of reminded me of that era when I was watching it. It had that type of feel to it with the comedy and then seriousness. Especially when The Doctor is confronting the Sheriff and trying to deduce his plans and saying a bunch of silly nonsense that does not make sense and then figuring it out that is was nonsense. That was purely a 4th Doctor moment. Plus just the way The Doctor presented himself made it feel like a 4th Doctor story especially with him bragging about Robin Hood not existing and then seeing the arrow go into the TARDIS. It sure looked like Peter Capaldi was channeling his inner Tom Baker.
The story on a whole was pretty simple. Robots have crashed landed on Earth and using the habitants as slaves to help repair the ship. This time using them to collect gold and melting it down so it can be used into making new circuits for the ship so it can continue to the promise land. Not a very original idea and one that has been done before in Doctor Who and in fact better than “Robot of Sherwood”. But it was till enjoyable and did not really detract from the fun of seeing Robin Hood and The Doctor interacting and bickering with one another. Have to say the robot knights looked pretty good and I thought they were pretty neat especially when they revealed their faces.
Jenna Coleman was again in top form and was really good in this story. Clara as a character has grown a lot from being the impossible girl to what she is today. She is actually using some brains in figuring out the plan by tricking the Sheriff and she also has no problems of being really sarcastic to The Doctor. I like her being sarcastic to The Doctor as it works really well and works well with Peter Capaldi as there is really good chemistry there.
Robot of Sherwood is a story that I had low expectations going into and ending up enjoying it. It was a story that did not take it self all too seriously and in the end it ended up being very entertaining and funny which comes as a nice change of pace for Doctor Who.
Grade B +