As always, DO NOT READ unless you're caught up on Series 8 of Doctor Who! *spoilers*
In the third episode of Series 8 (written by Mark Gatiss), The Doctor reluctantly takes Clara to Sherwood Forest to find Robin Hood (whom The Doctor insists is a myth). They immediately find Hood, and hijinx ensue. Now, before I dive into the meat of this review, I feel it is important to note that this episode had some very serious, and very last minute, changes. Specifically, the Sheriff was originally beheaded (which is what revealed that he was also a robot). Out of respect for the horrific murders of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, however, that scene was scrapped and reshot. As a writer, and a human being, I found the decision classy. Unfortunately, now that I've seen 'Robot of Sherwood' several times, I'm genuinely concerned that the move, while well intentioned, may have been the final nail in this episode's coffin.
Outside of the revised ending, the episode still felt a bit fanciful for my tastes. I am choosing to believe that Gatiss' predictable and shallow writing was his way of poking fun at the classic hero story tropes: heroes get captured to learn the villain's evil plans, captured female turning the tables on the villain using her wits and feminine wiles, the bad guy kidnaps a peasant woman for labor and kills the man who stands up to stop him, someone pretends to be ill to lure a witless guard into the cell and make their escape, blah, blah, blah. The underlying theme of the episode, of course, is that The Doctor refuses to believe that a fairy tale hero could be real, even though he, himself, is a fairy tale hero. He spends the majority of the episode trying to prove that Robin Hood is fake, and complaining about all of Hood's incessant laughing and bantering. Ironically, The Doctor is usually the one with whom Hood is bantering, going so far as to quibble with each other like snot-nosed, little prats. The play between The Doctor and Robin Hood was amusing at first, but quickly became tired, annoying, and useless to further along what little plot there was.
|Even robots have creepy, villain breath.|
The Doctor wakes up chained to a wall, conveniently in the presence of the previously kidnapped peasant woman, to whom he quickly sums up the plot and then illicits her help. A quick cut shows Clara waking up back in the forest with Robin Hood demanding explanations from her. An even quicker cut brings us back to The Doctor (who has now, somehow, miraculously gotten out of the same chains that had previously required that he and Hood lug a cinderblock to the blacksmith's forge to get out of) as he rallies all the peasants together to overthrow their evil, robot captors. The Sheriff shows up, Robin Hood and Clara show us, fighting happens, Robin Hood kills the Sheriff, the good guys win. Yay. Yes, it happened at roughly that speed. This left just enough time for our heroes to save the village from the spaceship (which was about to explode) by shooting a sold gold arrow into its hull as it attempted to fly away (physics be damned!), and then to tidy up the underlying plot by giving The Doctor and Robin Hood a moment to discuss the folly of being heroes and legends, and decide that they actually like each other. As if that weren't enough of a heartwarming ending, the TARDIS faded out revealing the peasant woman (she's presumably just been standing quietly behind the TARDIS during the entire previous scene) who turns out the be Maid Marion. Aw! And they all lived happily ever after...
|One of the best parts of the episode was this screenshot of the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, in his 1950s TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood.|