When I was a teeny, tiny, tot I got a bit obsessed with a show called Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, I mainly loved the theme tune, and Marian was good too, I think the point I’m trying to make is that Robots in Sherwood is not that show, but it really, really, really wishes it was.
Continuing my review of the Peter Capaldi era-Deep Breath and Into the Dalek-I’ve reached the third episode of Series 8, Robots of Sherwood.
Much has been written about this episode in fact it’s become a bench mark in badness, the Fear Her of the Steven Moffat tenure, but is it really that bad a story…
The answer is of course YES, breathe easy dear friends, but…
It’s also a NO.
The David Tennant era story Fear Her, is packed with potential, the loss of The Doctor, and being sucked into a child’s drawing, all has great nightmare potential, plus Rose really shines on her own trying to save the world.
Where the episode falls down however, is in it’s execution, clunky, cheesy dialogue, poor acting from the supporting guest cast, and a terrible sequence with the Olympic torch, which for me embodies all of the worst writing ticks of the RTD era.
In short, Fear Her is an episode, which could have been excellent, but which has gone down in NuWho history as one of the worst.
While I am not for one moment suggesting that Robots of Sherwood is anywhere near as bad as Fear Her, it shares exactly the same problem of being so close to greatness, but falling for far from the mark that it ends up being just poor.
So as always…
And let’s get on with the review.
The Madman and The Impossible Girl.
I’ve already written ALOT in my two previous reviews about the problems and tensions in the 12/Clara relationship, the negative effect I feel Clara’s reaction to this incarnation of The Doctor had on the audience, as well as the toxic relationship between 11 and The Impossible Girl, so don’t expect much more of that malarkey, well not in this review anyway.
Robots of Sherwood picks up with The Doctor and Clara, an unspecified amount of time after the events of Into the Dalek, it could be weeks, or even months later, the important thing to note is that this episode marks the high point of their relationship in Series 8, while the spectre of Danny Pink hovers on the horizon, it’s pretty clear that he’s not Clara’s boyfriend yet, and The Doctor has yet to betray Clara’s trust in the Moon is really an Egg episode.
Let’s take a moment to enjoy the intrepid duo, just being together and stuff.
The moment has passed.
In a bid to make Clara happy/spoil her childhood fantasies/prove a point The Doctor agrees to travel back in history to meet/not meet the imaginary hero Robin Hood.
Where guess what, you will never guess, Robin ‘Don’t Call Me Earl of Loxley’ Hood is actually waiting for them, what are the chances in such a big forest…the Tardis is sooo magic.
Or is she, because as we soon learn not everything is well in the forest of Sherwood.
End of plot synopsis, if you want to find out more, support Doctor Who and buy the series 8 DVD.
The Case of the Wrong Feet.
Robots of Sherwood is a master class in what happens when a writer tries so desperately to keep the audience guessing/on the back foot when it comes to a storyline, trying so hard to subvert expectations, that in the end the logic and imagination it takes to put a plot together completely vanishes.
Into the Dalek the previous episode in the Series 8 run did nothing ground breaking in terms of story, in many ways it was a re-tread of the Christopher Eccleston era story Dalek, with some added Innerspace, and a proper cinematic budget, honestly Into the Dalek is a beautiful episode to watch in terms of cinematography, but what it lacked for in story it more than made up for in guest characters and tension between our heroes.
Into the Dalek was as much about The Doctor and Clara coming to terms with their relationships, as it was about being inside a Dalek, or the nature of hate.
Robots of Sherwood on the other hand spends so long trying to establish all the clichés that it isn’t, that in the end it all becomes meaningless.
Why not have robots who think they are real, crime fighting in Medieval England, lord knows the peasants could have done with the help…
The Doctor is spot on about the artificial nature of Robin and his band of happy underlings, but again the writing ties itself up in knots in an attempt to explain this away by giving us long, and to be fair interesting monologues about the nature of history and legend, and how both The Doctor and Robin have ended up becoming myths.
With his heart badly broken, his lands stolen, and well becoming a wanted outlaw, Robin is still attempting to play the hero, laughing in the face of death an all that, this is an interesting take on the story of Robin Hood, but as with getting stuck in a child’s drawing, it’s a point that never becomes the thrust of the main story.
Instead with have The Doctor trying to prove his point at all costs, even if in the end, his point no longer makes any logical sense.
There are some good ideas in this story, how exactly The Sheriff encountered the robots of the title would have been particularly interesting to see, or even how Robin and Marian were separated, or even why proving himself right on this one minor detail in history is so damn important to The Doctor.
This is one of those or even episodes…
While we do get some nice interplay between The Doctor, Clara and Robin Hood, and then just The Doctor and Robin in the cells, its not enough to turn around this episode, which rather than being bad outright, is just messy and disjointed.
My final verdict on this episode is that on a return viewing it really isn’t as bad as I first thought, more than anything it’s a missed opportunity at a fun, ripping yarn of yore.
Over all I’d give it a 3/10, and I’d advice you to put it at the bottom of your Capaldi Era episode watch list.
On the plus side Clara’s outfit, hair and accessories in this episode are all a clear 10.
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