The meeting of heroes is always a cool event. Whether it’s Alien and Predator, Frankenstein and the Wolfman, or Superman and Batman, it’s always fun (and in the case of that last one, we hope it still will be…). Here in the third episode of Peter Capaldi’s run in the lead role of “Doctor Who,” we have The Doctor meeting Robin Hood, and things are not as we thought. Ha, they are never what we think, with The Doctor. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on “Robot of Sherwood.”
While it hasn’t actually happened in the official canon, Robin Hood has appeared in the Who-niverse before. The First Doctor met the outlaw of Sherwood Forest in a short story in the prose anthology “Short Trips: Past Tense.” Robin Hood also had a hand in an episode of the “K-9” 2010 TV series that ran in Australia. And he even ran into Iris Wildthyme, a renegade Time Lady from the Big Finish Audio adventures. So yes, Robin Hood has danced on the edges of Who for some time, but gets his first canon appearance here.
The way The Doctor talks about Robin Hood however and dismisses him as a made-up character when Clara suggests him as a destination indicates that they know each other or know of each other at least. Whether they actually do or not is not apparent in this first encounter of the episode, as the two enter into combat over the TARDIS, Robin with a sword, and The Doctor… with a spoon. Peter Capaldi certainly is putting the madman into the phrase ‘madman with a box.’
All Made Up
Throughout the first quarter of the episode, The Doctor seems quite sure that Robin Hood is in fact a made-up character as he’s told Clara, even when confronted with ‘the real thing.’ This Robin Hood is charming, good looking, dashing, exactly the storybook rendition that Clara had hoped for. In fact, most of the adventuring that takes place in Sherwood Forest are reenactments from the legend – the fight on the log, the archery contest. I almost shot Coca-Cola out of my nose when The Doctor referenced Errol Flynn.
Clara is all into it, even raiding the TARDIS wardrobe for the proper Ren Faire maiden attire. Just as The Doctor tries to prove Robin Hood and his Merry Men frauds, Clara almost falls into their midst as one of them. It is so much fun, especially the archery contest where the peeing contest between The Doctor and Robin Hood splits arrow upon arrow upon arrow with much hilarity… until the robots show up. The episode is called, after all, “Robot of Sherwood.”
The knights under the command of the Sheriff of Nottingham appear to be robots, whose stylized cross on their helmets is also on their faces, sort of giving off a Cyclops of the X-Men vibe, as that cross is a purple death beam. Robots? My first thought is more of those clockwork creatures from “Deep Breath” or “The Girl in the Fireplace”?
The contest between The Doctor and Robin Hood continues in the dungeon, as the best way to learn an enemy’s plans are to get yourself captured. It works most of the time. Our hero definitely has a problem with the hero of the day, and it’s more than just the constant laughing. What might be the real problem is that they are so much alike. As far as peeing contests go, I have to say I much prefer the Christopher Eccleston Doctor and John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness. Capaldi and Hood gets old very quickly. Robin Hood is no Captain Jack.
The Promised Land
Once escaped, and while Clara tries to charm the Sheriff of Nottingham, The Doctor and Robin Hood stumble upon a control room. As it turns out, the whole castle is a disguised spaceship (just like a TARDIS chameleon circuit?), and The Doctor finds out its destination – The Promised Land. He recognized that immediately from the Half-Face Man in “Deep Breath.”
But what does this have to do with Missy? A TARDIS-like ship that can disguise itself does kinda lend itself to the Missy is The Rani theory, as does a woman who calls The Doctor her boyfriend. Fortunately that’s all there is to the Missy references in this episode. I was suspecting that the gold-plated Sheriff of Nottingham might have joined her in The Promised Land, but no such luck. Again I ask, who do you think Missy is? Keep those guesses coming…
Heroes and Villains
The Sheriff of Nottingham however is out to conquer the world with his recent access to a robot army. The Doctor determines what his real plan is. He’s repairing the ship with gold, melting it down for circuitry, and prepping to attack London. However, by The Doctor’s calculations, if he takes off the ship will explode and lays waste to the countryside. Darn this hero stuff, he must stop him.
The epilogue, and a meeting of the minds between The Doctor and Robin Hood, reveals who the real heroes are, and why. Clara has a big mouth, and told Robin everything, from his own legend to The Doctor’s origins. Turns out, in his own words, Robin Hood is just as real as The Doctor is.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
What did I love? The Doctor’s grouchiness, and how he leads a rebellion to stop the robots with shield, mirrors, and dinner plates (the second time this season such methods have proven vital to a villain’s defeat), and also the Ice Warriors shout out in the beginning. I also kinda dug that Jenna Coleman’s Clara’s was not quite so annoying this time out. She’s shown to be clever outwitting the Sheriff without being the all-purpose savior character, the Impossible Girl that she was with Matt Smith. I also dug that The Doctor was wrong about Robin Hood.
What didn’t I like? First and foremost that The Doctor was wrong about Robin Hood. If Peter Capaldi is going to be a cross between Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee, he needs to be right about stuff. The Doc/Hood rivalry went on far too long. What did I really not like? The Impossible Girl saving the day like a Princess Merida stunt double. If she continues to do this, I wouldn’t mind if the rumors are true and she leaves come Christmas.