Doctor Who Review: “Robot of Sherwood”

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Week three of Doctor Who and Clara and the Twelfth Doctor are at it again! This time traveling to Sherwood Forest to meet the legendary Robin Hood, per Clara’s request.

We start the episode with the Doctor giving Clara her choice of all of time and space on their next destination and she decides on a favorite childhood tale – Robin Hood. The Doctor is immediately put off by this suggestion as “Robin Hood doesn’t exist”, and a brief argument ensues. Finally the Doctor gives in and sends them off to Sherwood Forest around 1190 to prove her wrong.

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It’s just a flesh wound.

Upon landing, lo and behold, Robin Hood shoots the TARDIS with an arrow and the Doctor and Clara dive right into the heart of an evil plot, hatched by none other than the Sheriff of Nottingham, to take over the world using a crashed space ship and the robots that manned it. Through quick wits, a little teamwork, and a lot of bickering, the three manage to ultimately foil the Sheriff’s plans, reunite Robin with his true love Marian, and everyone lives happily ever after. Maybe.

First off, lets get the major question out of the way: the ship in Robot of Sherwood was going to the same place the cyborg in Deep Breath was – The Promised Land. Coincidence? Not in Doctor Who-land. Yet another clue drop revolving Missy and The Promised Land (or otherwise referred to as Heaven in Into the Dalek). The anticipation is becoming palpable with her storyline and how long we’ll have to wait to find out just what type of sorcery she is up to (and how the Doctor is going to foil her plans!).

There are several other key parts in this episode that leave us with major questions. The Doctor is yet again shown scribbling notes on the chalkboard. Is that just an idle way to pass the time or is he working on something bigger and exciting that will be revealed? The gold covered hands coming from the vat of liquid gold, insinuating that the Sheriff of Nottingham may have survived his little dip and perhaps it ultimately protected him from the explosion? Or maybe now he’s in The Promised Land with Missy to play as another pawn in her evil scheme.

Let’s not forget that we never actually saw the Doctor recover his sonic screwdriver, he’s been using the same model as the 11th Doctor up until this point, but the Sheriff presumably had it on him when he was dispatched into the vat of molten gold. Would it go with him to The Promised Land, if that is in fact where he ended up?

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The Dreamlord

Lastly, probably bordering on conspiracy theory here, but everything is fair game when it comes to the Whoverse – did anyone else find it mildly convenient that the Doctor happened to pick a random time to visit the Sherwood forest and it just so happened to be the exact time to find what he was looking for? Especially considering a mere two episodes ago he couldn’t fly the TARDIS well enough to avoid getting eaten by a dinosaur (and avoid bringing said dinosaur into the middle of London). Maybe he’s remembered enough from his previous regenerations and it’s somewhat explained, but perhaps it could also be something along the lines of the Dreamlord way back from series 5 in Amy’s Choice (remember when the psychic pollen had infiltrated the TARDIS and the Dreamlord ended up being a manifestation of the Doctor’s bad side?). Maybe Missy (or Missy’s boss) has a little more control over things than it seems. Maybe they’re all dreaming and The Promised Land is real life (please, please let that not be true). Who knows?! But, it’s an exciting thought exercise and definitely compels me to keep watching (not that I wouldn’t, mind you).

In addition to giving us some great things to look forward to, Robot of Sherwood finally delivered that traditional Doctor Who story we have been waiting for this season. The writing finally focused on the story line and had enough substance in its own right to allow the actors the freedom to play their characters rather than letting the writing dictate the characters for them. We’re still getting used to and discovering Capaldi’s Doctor and he is evidently settling right in with that old, cranky, slightly distracted, snarky, and skeptical demeanor.  But he was able to reveal and really showcase his brand of humor and wit, especially as he went toe-to-toe bantering with both Clara and Robin.

While not quite the epic levels of Madame Pompadour with 10 or Vincent and the Doctor, Robot of Sherwood was still a delightful Who-twist on a historical (or rather fairy-tale, in this case) event and how the Doctor interferes with it. The lightheartedness was very welcome given the levity of recent episodes (for both 12 and 11) and gave great opportunity to let Clara and the Doctor continue to banter and bond. Hopefully this is just the beginning into a stellar line-up of episodes for the Twelfth Doctor and Clara, we shall soon find out!

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