Since 2005, Mark Gatiss has had seven attempts at crafting the perfect Doctor Who episode. While each of his stories have their advocates, the universal consenus seems to be that none of them have really properly hit the “fantastic” mark. So how close did Robot of Sherwood come?
While it didn’t quite make it plot and characterisation-wise, this week’s story certainly outdid most previous Gatiss episodes. It wasn’t a standout, but it had the right balance of dark plotlines, light Doctor-y jokes and a fun and satisfying ending – perfect for an acceptably mediocre psuedo-historical romp. It wasn’t boring like The Idiot’s Lantern, poorly paced like Victory of the Daleks, or painfully childish like Night Terrors; it delivered what it promised, and satisfied us for another week.
But what else did the story offer? Well, I guess we should take a short trip back in time…
A Few Initial Reactions
- Clara’s dress. I love that dress. I mean, thanks to Twitter I’d gotten glimpses of her get-up when early location filming pictures for this episode first surfaced, but the more I looked at the costume from every angle the more I liked it. The velvet, the sleeves, the earrings, the everything was fantastic.
- The Doctor is wearing a purple shirt. YES. Everyone, we have our variation. Let me guess: white shirt if the story is in the present/future, purple if the story is in the past. Like Eleven’s red and blue bow ties in series five, and Ten’s brown and blue suits in series four.
- The Doctor defending himself with a spoon. SO MUCH WIN. I wonder if that will become his new accessory? And, can I just say, the button is gone. The button is GONE!!! For one episode, at least. Yay!!!
- “King Richard is away on crusade, my lady. His tyrant of a brother rules instead.” The Doctor’s piloting was actually correct (for once) – the TARDIS seems to have landed them in 1190 AD. And he’s been to this exact year once before, when he, Ian, Barbara and Vicki accidentally stumbled across King Richard the Lionheart in Pallestine in The Crusade. I really wish there had’ve been some throwaway reference to that in this episode, like the Tenth Doctor in The Fires of Pompeii claiming that that great fires of Rome “had nothing to do with me“.
- The Doctor blowing up the target with his sonic made my day. Twelve’s bluntness is hilarious, any other Doctor would have “gotten themselves captured” by insulting the Sheriff or challenging him to a sword fight. But why do things the hard way when you can opt for spontaneous combustion?
- Clockwork robot knights. Now that’s interesting. The Doctor himself observed that they seemed to be a “more advanced” version of the half-faced man. Interestingly, the half-faced man seemed more advanced than the original clockwork men in The Girl in the Fireplace – those ones didn’t even have faces. It seems they have more of a connection to the arc then we first thought….
- It’s becoming more and more apparent that the show has taken a darker turn – even the traditional ‘episode three romp’ was gloomy. I like it, it’s a powerful change that, so far, seems to be for the better.
- “When did you start believing in impossible heroes?” “Don’t you know?” I loved this little touch, it seemed fitting to remind everyone that, at the end of the day, the Doctor is a hero.
- The Doctor’s childish rivalry with Robin Hood was hilarious. He’s apparently Clara’s hero – is that a hint of jealously I detect, Doctor? You’re just going to love Danny Pink.
- I loved how Clara addressed the Doctor as “the Last of the Time Lords”. No other companion could get away with that, that’s what I love about her.
- “Can you explain your plan without using the word ‘sonic screwdriver’?…It’s always the screwdriver”. This was clearly a reference to the criticism of the sonic being the Doctor’s magic “get out of jail free card”. That, my friends, is the Doctor Who way – grab the controversy and make a joke of it (I believe they’ve been doing that since the 70s…or was it the 80s?).
- Ah, the spaceship was on it’s way to “The Promised Land”. Which, by the way, looks like a planet (the ‘Nethersphere’, perhaps?) . Nice little addition to the arc there. But here’s a question: why didn’t Missy save the Sheriff? Perhaps those robots are her enemies, and they were travelling there to conquer her. Or, maybe it’s because the Doctor was watching – I think she definitely saves people by materialising around them at the last second.
- Robin Hood is real? Say what? That was a nice twist! The Doctor was right about everything, except for the only thing he was sure of.
- An arrow with a homing device! That’s genius! This is the exact reason I already love Twelve.
- Overall, the story actually seemed decently paced. The “gold plate” resolution actually worked somehow, and I liked how Robin Hood (as opposed to the Doctor) got the victory over the Sheriff in the end. And the “golden arrow” ending, though unlikely, was actually quite a fun way to round the episode off.
- I liked Robin Hood’s speech about how “he’s not a hero” – but if he pretends to be, others may be the real hero in his name. It echoes Clara’s remarks last week about how the Doctor “tries to be a good man – and that’s the point”.
Next Week: Listen
Oh, you know, it looks like a pretty standard Moffat story. Monsters under the bed, frightened children, Danny Pink as a child…wait, what?!
Yes, we have on our hands what seriously appears to be “Danny’s Story”. And I absolutely cannot wait.