Doctor Who 'Robot of Sherwood' [TV-EPISODE REVIEW]

The third episode of Series 8 sees the Doctor and Clara arriving in Sherwood forest in the most lighthearted episode we have gotten in a while. Typically in the Moffat era of 'Doctor Who'; the third episode is one of the weakest of the season (if not THE weakest) so does 'Robot of Sherwood' continue this trend or has it finally been broken?

Now the thing with Mark Gatiss is that he has not exactly had the most glamorous body of work on 'Doctor Who' as his episodes are usually considered to be one of the weak points of the season whether it is 'The Idiot's Lantern' or 'Victory of the Daleks'. Despite all of this he is still a writer who is very hard to dislike as he has written quite spectacular scripts in his career - just not on 'Doctor Who'. The best script he has written though is actually tied to the show - 'An Adventure in Space and Time' which is an absolute masterpiece, if it got a theatrical release then I would consider it to be the BEST movie of 2013. I really do not know why Mark Gatiss cannot bring the same kind of magic together for a lot of his episodes because sadly, 'Robot of Sherwood' is yet again one of the weaker episodes of Series 8 - however even though it is one of the weakest, it is not bad episode. Series 8 for me is one of the best the new series has had and there is really only one episode that I believe just straight up sucks and it is not this one. No, it does not stand on equal heights with a lot of the other episodes, but it is still a very entertaining episode worth watching.

What this episode does is offer a lighthearted and fun side adventure for the Doctor and Clara next to some rather dark stories ('Deep Breath', 'Into The Dalek' and 'Listen'), if we would have gone from 'Into The Dalek' directly to 'Listen' then it really would have been a bit too many serious episodes with rather dark themes in a row so we need an episode like 'Robot of Sherwood' to lighten the mood a little bit and show that this new Doctor CAN be involved in fun and light adventures. The only difference here is that while he is involved - he is not necessarily fun and lighthearted himself as he does not believe Robin Hood is actually real. He is pretty much a stick in the mud but that is what makes it work because he contrasts the rest of the episode and it makes for very funny banter between him and Robin.

In terms of screenplays however, this episode definitely needed another draft. The Doctor being silly is all right but not here at the very start of the very next episode after a Dalek just declaimed him to be a bad man in 'Into The Dalek'. If anything the opening scene were he fights Robin Hood should have been cut out because right afterwards he is the Doctor we came to know in those first two episodes. Then we have the actual plot which is where most of the rewrites should have taken place because while it is a funny and entertaining episode - if you start to think about the motivations and the logic behind it what is happening for more than a second you start to notice all the flaws in the writing. What the Sheriff and the robots ultimately want is gold because that is essentially fuel for their spaceship - yet they hold an archery contest were the prize is a gold arrow. Now of course the arrow they reward the winner (which of course is the Doctor) did not have to actually be made of gold - but then in the end that arrow comes into play which proves that it actually had to be made of gold. I really do not get the Sheriff's motivation behind that and the way the arrow comes into play is one of the dumbest things this entire season.

Despite that random out of character moment at the beginning of the episode; Peter Capaldi is great here. He is clearly relishing being the Doctor and his grumpy personality has truly come into place and contrasts the upbeat and happy nature of Robin Hood and the Merry Men. This is the episode however that began a weird subtle hand gesture from Capaldi which is quickly giving the camera the middle finger (which more recently you could also see in 'Last Christmas'). I have no clue why his mission seem to have become "how many times can I give the audience the middle finger before the BBC stop me?" but I am enjoying it every time it happens because it is so random.

Jenna Coleman is great of course, it is not often we see Clara acting like a child in this way and it works for this episode as Robin Hood being real should definitely need a reaction like that - as well of course the reaction that the Doctor has. This does make me wonder though why we have not seen the Doctor and Clara visit Markus Aurelius seeing as we have heard multiple times that he is essentially her role model or childhood hero (we most recently heard it in 'Deep Breath'). I can only imagine they did it in an unseen adventure because I doubt she will stay beyond Series 9 and it certainly does not seem like we are going to get that story. Jenna has definitely proven herself to be a magnificent actress and stands out as possibly the best actress to have ever played a companion in the show (and the best from her has yet to come this season).

We also have Tom Riley and Ben Miller as Robin Hood and The Sheriff respectively and they are both really good here. The ultimate success here is that I could actually imagine these two in these roles in a regular Robin Hood adaptation. I hope we have not seen the last of Tom Riley as Robin Hood as I could imagine a scenario like 'A Good Man Goes To War' were the Doctor recruits a bunch of old pals. In fact Series 8 has a lot of great and memorable characters beyond Robin Hood which I will obviously get into once I reach those episodes.

Overall though, while the screenplay needed another draft - 'Robot of Sherwood' is a very fun and very entertaining episode that was needed at this point in the season and it gives this new Doctor an opportunity to make the audience laugh for a whole different reason than why we laughed when the eleventh Doctor was funny. The direction by Paul Murphy is fantastic, everything from the visual effects to the sets look gorgeous and shows yet again just how far the show has come in recent year. Definitely not one of the best this season but it is not really supposed to be.


- Lucas


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