Hex Dimension have once again gathered our team of Merry Men, with a noble mission to steal from the rich and give to the poor! Or possibly just to discuss Doctor Who. Emily is unfortunately away this week, presumably fighting in the crusades – but we’ve recruited the legendary, semi-fictional outlaw David Hurd to fill in for her!
As always, spoilers abound, so don’t read on without first watching this week’s episode, Robot of Sherwood.
This episode sees the Doctor and Clara visit Nottingham, and meet the swashbuckling Robin Hood. It’s a dramatic shift in tone, as we go from last week’s much darker episode – complete with many deaths, and an unsympathetic Doctor that nobody but me seemed to like – to an episode with a laughing gang of whacky outlaws, bickering rivalries, exploding archery-targets, and a swordfight using a spoon! Did this massively different tone work for us?
I enjoyed this episode more than the first two – I know the Doctor being “dark” now is the angle they want to push this series, but it was good to have such a fun episode again.
I quite enjoyed the episode too. It was a good concept having him meet up with another legend, so to speak, and it was nice to see a little lighter tone. Capaldi seemed a lot more comfortable this week in the role.
I really liked the sword fight with the spoon! That was pure genius and made me grin.
I absolutely agree. The appearance of the spoon put such a smile on my face, and really felt like the Converse-wearing, fish-finger-and-custard-eating doctor of old. He may be darker and more serious, but he’s still slightly crazy at heart.
It was also a nice reminder that the Doctor is an expert swordsman, à la Christmas Invasion. More of that physical stuff, please!
Until you mentioned The Christmas Invasion, I had totally forgotten that the Doctor has a “fighting hand”.
I’ve once again got mixed feelings.
It was quite light. Though I think it was somehow a bit too simple. Like the entire story was just the story of Robin Hood but with a few robots. There didn’t seem much else to it.
Did there need to be, really? The story had to be really close to the legend, or the Doctor wouldn’t have been so sceptical.
I think there kind of did. This episode I felt didn’t really do much to progress anything really. Anyone who had seen a Robin Hood film in the past pretty much knew what was going on. And the fact that the Doctor returned Maid Marion at the end – that was too easy. Robin should have been the one to rescue her, not the Doctor.
The spoon thing was good. Though I found that it allowed the latter scene with Robin and the Sheriff fighting on the rafters to be too transparent.
That fight on the rafters was a little simple. Although I think the part that made me cringe and sigh the most, was when the golden Arrow was all they needed to make the spaceship achieve orbit. That was just bizarre, simple and annoying!
A golden arrow they themselves made for a tournament when they easily could have kept it and used it for their ship. I’ve decided not to think about that part, for the sake of my sanity.
The three-way archery was fun, though.
Yeah, that bit didn’t make a whole lot of sense…
And they clearly had a whole vat of leftover molten gold as well.
Exactly, it felt like the writer had run out of time and just threw that part in. Whereas the rest of the story and dialogue was a big improvement over the last two episodes.
Completely. Not to mention gold is heavy, so the arrow likely wouldn’t be able to reach the altitude of the ship, even with all three of them using the bow (which would have decreased accuracy).
But, aside from their dopey nonsensical plan, what did we actually think of the villains this week? Did we like Ben Miller, his beard, and his metal knights?
I kind of want to see a creature of some sort now. So far this series, it’s mostly been robots. Disposable robots. And disposable robotic antibodies for the Daleks.
That’s a good point. I hadn’t actually realised that.
Yeah these androids do seem to be taking over, in their quest for the Promised Land!
I’m not sure what to make of the robots. The programme already has so many robot (and biomechanical) enemies. In fact, when gold came up as a plot-point, I was convinced this was a Cyberman story. Cybermen are, after all, deadly allergic to gold.
Very true as poor Adric found out. Hopefully we will see some more monsters and less mechanical ones in the coming weeks.
Could it be an intentional plot thing, though? Is The Promised Land something that only involves robots, perhaps? Or is it just poor planning of the episode order?
I don’t think so because that one soldier got taken to Missy as well.
Assuming Missy is in the Promised Land.
I quite liked Ben Miller as a villain, though. He seemed to enjoy playing a power-mad guy.
I liked Ben Miller as well. He was one of those good old fashioned over the top villains and it fit perfectly into the tone of the episode (and his beard was pretty good as well). He wasn’t quite as good as Alan Rickman though…
No one is as good as Alan Rickman!
It was great to see Ben Miller having so much fun as the Sheriff. We could do with more over-the-top baddies, and I guess his presence is the one thing that set these enemies apart from the ones in Deep Breath.
Speaking of whom – the main-story tease was interesting this week. No Missy cameo, but it turns out the Promised Land may be more important than we thought. I’m glad there’s forward momentum in this plot and we’re actually learning things, rather than just being reminded of the same thing every week.
Yeah, I’m intrigued by this whole Promised Land. Its certainly an interesting titbit every week, which is being bought forward. It seems that everyone wants to go…
I’m wondering whether Missy’s absence had anything to do with the edit that had to be made to this week’s episode (the whole beheading thing).
Yikes, I hadn’t heard about that.
If Missy’s scene did get cut I’m actually glad of it – she could get very annoying if they overuse her.
Agreed. It’d be better if they either had it as a small side plot (where something goes on on the side) or just left Missy out until her appearance. It’s not like they could do another Bad Wolf or a more subtle version of the crack with it.
I thought the crack plot was basically perfect. We learned something new every single week, leading up to The Big Bang, but it didn’t just shove a crack in our face every week. Really well handled.
I quite like the fact that they have introduced Missy early on – hopefully it will mean she has more of an impact when she finally becomes part of the main story
I do agree that they need to avoid overusing her though.
I concur with the whole not over using Missy, but she intrigues me. I want to know how she knows the Doctor. I’m an impatient bugger!
Any crazy theories, David, since you missed the first week we met her?
Nothing that people haven’t already suggested. But it will be interesting to see if she’s an old character, or someone completely new.
So we’ve talked about the bad-guys this week – what about the good-guys? Did we like Robin of Loxley, and what he brought to the table?
I thought his banter with the Doctor was great, and his emotional parts (his internal sadness, and when he thought he might be a robot) were even better. The episode kind of hinged on him working, and I thought he really did.
Disagree. I felt he was actually fairly plain.
Everything he did, he pretty much did with the Doctor. The Doctor became a more important character than Robin even within Robin’s own legends. Which kinda meant that the legend made no sense.
Certain elements perhaps, yet he was already living in Sherwood and battling the Sheriff before the Doctor arrived.
I liked him, and how both legends were at loggerheads. How they both interacted with each other and the lighter tone he bought with him.
There didn’t seem to be much time for the rest of the Merry Men though. Would have been nice to see more of little John, although Alan Dale and his songs might have annoyed me a little more!
I thought he worked as well. He was a good mixture of the legend and the man.
But does the legend only exist because the Doctor was there to help him do those things? (paradox)
I thought they did a good job showing how the legend came about, because Robin was playing a heroic cartoon of himself the whole time. And it’s interesting how they contrasted that to this spoon-fighting, archery-cheating, show-off of a Doctor.
But the archery contest, the aftermath and the death of the Sheriff are all a major part of that legend – and that’s what the Doctor was embroiled in. That’s not counting the fact that the Doctor doesn’t like to dabble too much in historic events.
He’s been involved in enough historical events that I feel like we can give this one a pass. Thinking that way – “Why does no-one remember that Churchill had space-planes?” – would mean dismissing vast swathes of the show.
This is true, plus he’s always dabbled in history even though he’s not supposed to.
And history was already being changed, by the robots. So another paradox may have arrived.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Doctor having the occasional pissing contest with historical figures (real or legendary) every once in a while. It was nice to see that jealous streak in him that hasn’t really been since since the Eccleston days with Captain Jack.
The jealousy felt a bit strange to me, if only because it was never really established that Clara saw him as her hero. But that’s because, y’know, Clara.
There a few mentions this episode to her hero worship of the Doctor, which is, again, another part of her we haven’t actually seen yet. Most of the time she just insults him.
It’s probably because she’s slowly coming to terms that he’s still the Doctor – even if it isn’t shown on screen and implied way too quickly.
It was nice to see Clara as a person again rather than a plot point. Something I felt we had gone back too last week.
I still think Robin Hood should have been a simulation of some kind – I kind of wanted the Doctor to be right (rather than just being stubborn). It seems like they’re trying to push Clara at the expense of the Doctor.
I agree – Clara being right all the time is kind of getting annoying, especially as she keeps one-upping someone as smart as the Doctor!
I appreciate that this doctor is clearly fallible, though, and it was handled much more gracefully than last week where Clara literally just school-teachered the message at him.
I felt mixed about Clara this episode. I like the fact that she’s stepping outside of the Doctor’s shadow, but there still seems to be something missing at the core – and I think it’s a case of “why is she there?”
The whole “you choose the destination” thing reminded me of the second episode of Billie Piper’s reign. Almost as if she’s gone from kept around because she’s an enigma to being an old style companion. But there’s nothing really to explain that shift (or at least that’s how I felt).
Yeah they seem to be crossing over from different seasons. Clara’s got a long way to go but I’m pleased with the direction they are taking her
Pretty much, the change has been rather sudden. As you say with no real explanation.
The problem is that they never knew what to do with her or why she was there. Her character this series is as new as the Doctor’s, and neither of them have quite found their footing yet.
At least they’re trying this time – seeing her fangirl out about meeting Robin Hood was one of the most human moments she’s ever had. Even if the relationship between Clara and the Doctor isn’t quite defined, at least it feels like there is actually a relationship now.
The writing really seems to have upped its game.
I thought the dialogue was good this week, and the petty banter between the Doctor and Robin was good, even though I think there should have been a better reason than “I don’t believe you exist”.
I wonder if this is the first we will see of perhaps an even more stubborn Doctor. One, who has to be right all the time.
I actually think he’s always been like that. The difference is that the others generally were right, where this one only thinks he is. He does keep getting knocked down a peg.
He doesn’t seem to have some of the charm of the previous two (which to me were Matt’s conniving roguishness with lying and keeping things hidden, and Tennant’s which was to make a bit of a joke about things). So being stubborn is probably a good thing.
I just hope that they keep him “brilliant” and not just a stubborn old man. He needs more “Brilliant” moments.
Yes, that he does. I’m sure they will though, and I’m sure we will see a few more traits appear during the season as well. Generally takes a few episodes to really get going after a regeneration.
I think it’ll take a few more weeks to really see a better picture of him. I’m not blaming Capaldi, because I think he has the potential to be an incredible Doctor. I’m kinda blaming the writers at the moment.
I have a feeling that they might tease him out as slowly as they can – I’ve got the impression that who he is is going to be a be a big deal this series.
That’s probably why they put so much emphasis on his face looking familiar in the first episode (although, interestingly, he hasn’t mentioned it since…). He knows himself but also doesn’t know himself.
Absolutely. The whodunnit element of the cyborg’s death in the first episode showed that uncertainty, and all the soldier talk and legend stuff these last two weeks too.
With what we’ve currently seen, though, I feel the same about this Doctor as I do about House or Sherlock. I like watching him, but I’m not convinced I actually like him.
It certainly makes sense, he seems to be on a journey – finding himself as the episodes progress. I’m going to give him a couple more weeks, I think Capaldi has more to give than were seeing at the moment.
That could work. There’s definitely a story to be told there. I’m kind of glad they’re not reminding people of it at the end of every episode, unlike Matt Smith’s Doctor.
There’s one last question I wanted to ask. I (happily) never saw it, but did anyone else ever watch the BBC’s other Saturday-night version of Robin Hood? If so, how did this portrayal stack up to it?
Doctor Who‘s Robin Hood was certainly more in tone with the old Errol Flynn movies – which can only be a good thing.
Yeah, this was ten times better! That other series never existed – I have deleted all memories for sanity!
Never saw Robin Hood, Atlantis, or Merlin. I do feel like I’ve missed out, but by the same token it’s not really my interest. I’m more of a sci-fi geek than a fantasy geek.
Atlantis was better, in my humble opinion.
Not as good as Merlin though.
Robin Hood was better than Merlin… but I’m not emotionally involved enough with any of those three to fight over them!
Sorry to bring back those painful memories, guys.
All that’s left to ask is what we all thought of Robot of Sherwood as a whole? Was this a good week for the show?
I liked the episode, it had great dialogue and a lighter tone. The only thing that really bugged me was how they made the space ship achieve orbit with that stupid golden arrow. Capaldi is really growing as the Doctor and seems to be loving every minute of it.
As a whole, the episode seems a lot lighter than previous and it contrasts well with Capaldi’s Doctor. There were a few niggles that I thought could have been improved, but on the whole, the series I think is improving, but that’s not hard mostly because the other episodes were also quite flawed.
Come on you writers, you can do better – give Capaldi what he needs!
I was definitely a fan of this episode. The lighter tone certainly helped against the barrage of “darkness” we’ve had in the first two episodes and in all the advertising, but it still successfully managed to show that his Doctor is a lot less enthusiastic (and therefore “darker”) than his previous incarnations.
Mark Gatiss has always been one of the show’s better writers, and he certainly delivered with this episode, with some fantastic dialogue and some memorable characters (Robin and the Sheriff), which even left me willing to overlook a few plot holes.
Capaldi is still the most intriguing thing about this new series, so I’m looking forward to seeing what else we find out about him next week.
As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode.
Doctor Who hasn’t indulged in this kind of irreverent fun for quite a while, and it was extremely welcome. The characters were fun, the banter was great – and yet Robin Hood still managed to pull my heartstrings more than anyone in the last two episodes. Add to that the continued character-development, subtle hints at a bigger plot, and a swordfight with a spoon, and I’m willing to forgive any number of stupid golden plot-points. This was a great episode for me, and I hope we get more like it to break up all the darkness.
That’s by far the most positive our team has been about an episode so far – but what did you (yes, you!) think of it? How much did you like this version of Robin Hood, how do you feel about all these robots, and just how dumb was that golden arrow? Let us know in the comments, on social media, or through the timeless medium of bardic song!
That’s it from The Companion Piece and our look at Doctor Who‘s lighter week of silliness – things are swerving back in the other direction next week in a Moffat-penned horror episode. Join us then, read our thoughts, and Listen…