New Who Review – “Robot of Sherwood”
Robot Hood, Robot Hood, riding through the glen,
Robot Hood, Robot Hood, and his band of men…
Clara wants to meet someone legendary, The Doctor tells her they’re all made up, so when he actually shows up, The Doctor is convinced he’s a…
ROBOT OF SHERWOOD
By Mark Gatiss
Directed by Paul Murphy
Clara admits she’s always wanted to meet Robin Hood, who The Doctor waves off as merely a legend. But as we’ve learned, one does not simply tell Clara Oswald she can’t have something, so off they go to Sherwood. The Doctor is shocked to discover Robin Hood show up and attempt to appropriate his conveyance. The Doctor is naturally convinced this is all a trick or plot of some type. He is at once right, and wrong. There is a plot, but it’s on the part of the (also real) Sheriff of Nottingham, who has allied himself with a race of robotic spacefarers whose ship is secreted within his castle. The district-wide canvassing for gold is to built circuitry for the alien craft, to allow it to generate enough power to take off, from which the Sheriff will (dare I say it) rule the world.
The episode is simply too charming and funny to call it anything from a delight. The dialogue, especially the pissing contests between The Doctor and Robin are hilarious, and for of his claims that he hates banter, The Doctor is very good at it.
At its core, however, it’s far too similar to the series opener – a spaceship, lost in time, crashing to earth and needing help from the locals to take off again, albeit the stuff it needs to repair itself is a bit different.
THE MONSTER FILES – The Robot Knights are more of a minion than a monster, but they’re far from the first. From The Robots of Death to the Heavenly Host in Voyage of the Damned, they’re powerful and useful.
GUEST STAR REPORT
Tom Riley (Robin Hood) is known for playing another historical figure; Leonardo Da Vinci on the show Da Vinci’s Demons,.and Oh My God he was in the second St Trinian’s movie as well, a film whose venn diagram with Doctor Who is rapidly approaching a single circle.
Ben Miller (Sheriff of Nottingham) looked way too much like The Master for it to have been anything but a massive in-joke by the crew. He was going to be a physicist before he met Alexander Armstrong, with whom he went off to start a very successful career in comedy. He played Johnny English’s assistant Bough in the first film, and appeared
BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details
A PICTURE IS WORTH… – That one photograph in the middle of the montage of interpretations of Robin in the alien computer?
Yeah, that was Patrick Troughton. before he was the second Doctor, he was the first person to play Robin Hood on television.
WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO CUT THIS ONE SHORT – This episode originally featured a scene of a beheading, specifically, that of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who is as a result revealed as a cyborg (and presumably puts the head right back on). Due to recent events featuring actual beheadings of two journalists by terrorists in the Middle East, it was decided such a scene might be traumatic to some, and the scene was edited. However, the episode also featured a robot’s head being severed and falling to the floor, not to mention The Doctor joking about the idea of Robin Hood’s head still laughing after it was removed from his neck, so clearly the desire to avoid triggering was somewhat limited.
“Old fashioned heroes only exist in old fashioned storybooks” – And that right there is the theme of the episode. What happens to Robert of Loxley – to sink into myth and legend – is exactly what The Doctor tried to do to himself in the previous season. He attempted to erase himself from history and all the databases in the universe. He naturally had a harder time of it as while Robin Hood only operated for a few years, tops, in one area of England, The Doctor has been poking it in and shaking it all about all over the universe throughout time.
“What about Mars? The Ice warrior Hives!” – Clara met the Ice Warriors last season in Cold War, and The Doctor of course met them a few times before.
“…or we might be inside a Miniscope!” – The Miniscope is a device designed to allow appreciative audiences to observe the activities of captive (tho unaware of same) beings in a miniaturized and sealed natural environment. The Doctor and Jo Grant were briefly trapped in one in the adventure Carnival of Monsters.
“And this is my spoon” – The Seventh Doctor played the spoons, though he didn’t use them in the more defensive manner he did here. This scene is much more a Robin Hood reference than anything else – it’s a tip of the hat to the iconic quarterstaff(*) battle between Robin Hood and Little John, as portrayed in too many iterations of the tale to count.
“I’ve had some experience –Richard the Lionheart” – Indeed he has – back in the first Doctor’s adventure The Crusade. The story was preceded by The Web Planet, the last episode of which had been recovered from a Middle Eastern broadcaster. As a result, it was edited to not include the “next episode” card for The Crusade, as for obvious reasons, that episode was not sold to the Middle East.
“Hai!” – Another callback to the Pertwee era, The Doctor strikes Robin with a Venusian Akido blow.
“Who will rid me of this turbulent Doctor?” – Henry II, King of England once famously asked “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” in reference to Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.
BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – Further increasing the similarities to this episode and Deep Breath, this alien ship is also heading for “The Promised Land”, just as the main Clockwork Droid said he was aiming to reach in the earlier episode. While we don’t see Missy back, The Doctor did notice the similarity. What’s interesting is that The Doctor assumed the Droid was speaking metaphorically, based on the humanity he’d picked up over the years, but this ship had a course set for it, as if it were a physical location.
NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – …and gentle be present…to all you’ve ever close kept in your loving heart. Listen, coming up this Saturday.
* – “Actually, it’s a buck-and-a-quarter quarterstaff, but I’m not teillin’ HIM that…”