Part-way through the third episode of Doctor Who, ‘Robot of Sherwood’, the Doctor proclaims ‘this is getting silly’ and this assessment is an apt judgement of the episode as a whole. Generally I am not a fan of the camp historical episodes. We usually have at least one a series – ‘The Curse of the Black Spot’, ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ and ‘The Shakespeare Code’ are just a few of these dreaded tales. And like these predecessors, ‘Robot of Sherwood’ wasn’t all that great at all. In fact, the twenty-second teaser of episode four, ‘Listen’, was ten-times better than the majority of this episode.
Nor am I a fan of Mark Gatiss’ work. His last two episodes ‘Cold War’ and ‘The Crimson Horror’ were amongst the best episodes of series seven, but every episode prior to these penned by him were dire. Need I mention ‘Night Terrors’?
This week saw the Doctor marginalised somewhat, and Clara and Robin Hood take centre stage. Robin, played by Tom Riley, was utilised efficiently, but his sparring with the Doctor began to grate instantly. The scene in the dungeon made for cringe-worthy viewing; this was an episode aimed solely at the child viewers. The darker tones of the series, much welcomed as they are, were gone here. In its place was a lame attempt at humour. Some may have loved it. Most probably loathed it. Another example came from the Doctor and Robin sword fighting… or rather spooning (ahem). Camp, clichéd, and childish. The three C’s.
Clara was on top form here, belittling Robin and the Doctor’s fighting, staring awe-struck at her childhood hero (this part of the story stunk of Amy’s fascination with Romans – although thankfully Robin and his Merry Band weren’t revealed to be Autons) and tricking the Sheriff into revealing his story. Ben Miller was rather brilliant as the Sheriff of Nottingham, although the material he was dealt was rather the opposite. He deserved so much better than this episode.
And can I just say – how flipping beautiful was Jenna Coleman this week?! Like seriously, she was gorgeous. Just wow.
The monster threat this week came from some robots (yes, again!). They were rather beautiful themselves, and their method of attack was realised strikingly via the purple crosses appearing on their heads. Like Ben Miller, they weren’t used to their full potential, I believe, but the scene in which one of them is destroyed by its purple bolt reflected back upon itself was excellent CGI. More scenes like this next time please Mark, and less of the camp humour.
Most of this episode was dedicated to showcasing how much of a hero the Doctor really is. The Doctor is Robin Hood; he robbed from Gallifrey and gave life and happiness to countless poor souls whom he has saved throughout his travels. That is likely why the Doctor didn’t instantly gel with Robin, because he could see how mesmerised Clara was by his very presence and she isn’t struck dumb in the Doctor’s own presence. But like Robin said near the end of the episode, Clara does view the Doctor as a hero. I am really loving Capaldi’s chemistry with Coleman this series, but I do wish they would stop splitting the Doctor and Clara up. It’s happened every episode thus far this series, and these two leads work best when they are together. It’ll be a very sad day indeed when Clara says goodbye to Twelve.
There was no glimpse of Missy this week, but the overarching story arc played a pivotal role in the climax of ‘Robot of Sherwood’. A spaceship, disguised as a castle, is destined for the Promised Land. Quite what this Promised Land truly is we probably won’t find out until the series finale, but the hints are extremely tantalising. We didn’t see any departed souls welcomed to heaven by Missy, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if we saw the Sheriff again alongside Missy at some point.
So, will ‘Robot of Sherwood’ go down as a classic? No. Not in a million years. It will be forgotten almost as soon as the television is switched off. Perhaps it’s partly due it being scheduled after the sublime ‘Into the Dalek’, but the third outing for Peter Capaldi felt like a hangover from Matt Smith’s era, and even Smith probably wouldn’t have been able to make this one work. Roll on ‘Listen’ – the teaser was excruciatingly creepy.