Doctor Who S8E3: Robot of Sherwood
Original Airdate: September 6, 2014
Recap by Sarabeth Pollock
I feel like we’re moving closer to the old-school Doctor with these latest episodes. Robot of Sherwood felt a lot like an early David Tennant episode, with a good story and lots of adventure.
The Doctor offers Clara a choice. If she could go anywhere, anytime, where would she go? Clara says she has always wanted to meet Robin Hood. Of course, he’s made up. The Doctor tries to convince her that Mars is a better choice, but she doesn’t let up. 1190 AD is their destination. The TARDIS lights up and off they go. (Has anyone noticed that the new TARDIS resembles the machine in 13 Ghosts?) When they arrive, the Doctor shows Clara that there is no such person as Robin Hood, no damsels in distress…until an arrow pierces the TARDIS. It’s Robin Hood in the flesh.
Robin Hood is very impressed with the “trick” of landing the TARDIS. He tells the Doctor that the TARDIS is now his property, because that’s what he does. The Doctor is still baffled that he’s seeing Robin Hood in the flesh, and he’s curious as to whether or not people ever punch him for being so cheeky. That might be an honor bestowed upon the Doctor if Robin Hood doesn’t let up. However, they’re interrupted when Clara, dressed in medieval finery, pops out of the TARDIS. Both men are stunned. Robin Hood wants to know if there are “any more in there.” She’s thrilled that her hero is there. The Doctor declares that he isn’t Robin Hood at all, but the imposter replies that whoever is, he will be relieving the Doctor of the magic box. That’s when a swordfight breaks out, with the Doctor facing Robin Hood with a giant spoon. The Doctor’s prowess impresses Clara; he has been in fights before, with Cyrano de Bergerac, Errol Flynn and his massive…ego, etc. He beats Robin Hood and pushes him into the river, but Clara notices that Robin never comes up for air. As they lean down, Robin pushes the Doctor into the river.
A village is under siege by a group of men in armor. A woman is in chains, and a man, Master Quail, tells her to stay strong. A man rides up on a horse and tells Quail that the only things that matter at the castle are work and money. He kills Quail after the older man spits in his face. That should teach the village a lesson.
Meanwhile, Robin is introducing Clara to his men. The Doctor plucks hair from one of them and uses the sonic screwdriver to analyze it. There is Will Scarlett, the cheeky rogue, and Friar Tuck, and the lute player, and Little John. Clara says they really are merry men, a name that Robin finds most apt indeed. The Doctor has done hair, blood, and clothing analyses and he knows that these people aren’t holograms, but there still are no answers. (And poor the poor lute player has so many diseases that he’ll be dead in six months, says the Doctor) While the Doctor continues his examination, Robin Hood tells Clara his story. She listens, rapt, and she even interrupts him. She sees his sadness, and he explains that the evil prince has taken his beloved Marian away from him. Clara knows all about Marian, which pleases Robin Hood a great deal. The Doctor wants to know what season it is, because the lush green forest looks nothing like the real Nottingham. Clara asks if it’s a climate change issue, but they’re in 1190, and that doesn’t explain it. Robin Hood tells his men that the Sheriff is hosting a contest to find the best archer in the land. Clara warns that it’s a trap, but Robin Hood already knows that. And besides, it won’t even be a contest. Clara doesn’t understand why the Doctor can’t believe that this is really Robin Hood, and he can’t believe Clara is so quick to believe it is. She returns her attention to Robin Hood and the Merry Men while the Doctor examines an apple that he’s eating. Something isn’t adding up.
The next day the contest begins at the castle. After many rounds, the contest is tied between the Sheriff and Tom the Tinker (aka Robin Hood) Robin suggests making the targets farther away. The Sheriff accepts and shoots a bull’s eye. Robin takes a long look at Clara before splitting the arrow. He’s about to accept the prize when his arrow is split by the Doctor. The Doctor doesn’t want a golden arrow; rather he wants “enlightenment.” He’s about to get it when Robin splits his arrow, and the Doctor has to do a trick shot. Finally, he gets annoyed and uses the sonic to blow up the target. The Sheriff orders the guards to seize the Doctor, but Robin Hood jumps in to save the day. Clara even joins in with a lance, assuring the Doctor that she has done martial arts, but once Robin Hood engages the knights in battle, he chops off one of their arms, revealing that they’re all robots. The Sheriff orders the robot knights to kill everyone. The Doctor tells Robin Hood that they’re surrendering, because the quickest way to find out someone’s plans is to be captured. Robin orders the men to flee.
In the dungeons, the woman we saw earlier is trying to help a man who can’t work anymore. The robot knight approaches and tells her that the man is no longer useful to them, and he vaporizes the man and walks away.
Robin, Clara and the Doctor are in a different cell, chained to posts. Robin and the Doctor argue about who had the situation under control. The Doctor is upset that Robin won’t stop laughing. As the two men start calling for the guard, Clara tells them to shut up—there is no guard. The two men keep competing about who will die first, and who has a plan…but Clara points out that the Doctor’s screwdriver is gone and neither one has a plan. That’s when the guard comes in (Robin Hood knew there was a guard there!) and says that the Sheriff wanted to speak with the ringleader. As Robin and the Doctor discuss the matter, the guard takes Clara away, leaving the two men to stew together.
Back in the woods, the Merry Men examine the arrow and discuss their plan to rescue Robin Hood. The lute player remarks that the Sheriff never seems to care about the jewels, which is strange. We see that in the dungeon there is gold melting and being poured into a mold that resembles a computer chip.
The Sheriff has Clara seated at his large dinner table, playing the part of the consummate host. He says that Clara’s words are strange, but that he likes how direct she is. He has the screwdriver and wants to know if she is from “beyond the stars.” She points out that he’s the one with the robot army.
Robin is trying to hatch a plan with the Doctor. He tells him to groan so that they can get the guard’s attention. Clearly the Doctor is older, and as a Scot he’s pale. Robin starts moaning and the guard comes in. The Doctor explains that Robin is having a nervous breakdown, but the guard doesn’t seem to care until the Doctor adds that there is a ransom on his head for the message he carries. The guard bends close and Robin says that his breath smells like serpents. He head-butts him and sends the guard to the floor. “I soiled myself,” he tells the Doctor. “That’s getting into character,” the Doctor replies. Unfortunately, they argue about the keys and they succeed in kicking them down the grate in the floor. The bright side, the Doctor says, is that Clara wasn’t there to see that.
The Sheriff wants to get down to business. Clara tells him that she has seen the lights in the sky, and she wants to hear his story. Great men always proceed, she says. He tells her that his master, Prince John, doesn’t respect him. There was a great ship that crashed, and the robots saw him as their leader. With their help, he plans to take over the local kingdoms, and then the world.
Robin and the Doctor carry their chains and the block they’re chained to out of the cell. They need a blacksmith.
Clara admits that she doesn’t actually have a story. The Sheriff is angry, but he wants her as his consort. When he tries to kiss her, she warns him that he will regret it if he tries again.
The Doctor and Robin find the computer room of the space ship. The ship is projecting an image of a castle, but everything is too perfect. It’s too sunny, green; the Sheriff is too evil, and Robin Hood is too perfect (no one has a jaw like he does). The Doctor points out that the ship’s memory banks have access to every story and fairy tale, so it chose Robin Hood. As Robin watches the images on the screen, the Doctor accuses him of being a robot. Before they can argue the point too much (Robin threatens to skewer him) the door blasts open and the Sheriff drags Clara into the console room. The Doctor still thinks that Robin is a robot, but the robots want to kill him. He grabs Clara and jumps out a hole in the wall, down into the moat. The Doctor and the Sheriff look out and don’t see them come up for air. She would have made a great queen, the Sheriff sighs. The Doctor looks up and sees Robin carrying Clara to land. Knowing that she is safe, the Doctor turns his attention to the Sheriff and his plan. He tells the Sheriff that he won’t be able to repair the ship so that he can take over London. He’s growing a bomb. The robots knock the Doctor out.
In the dungeon, the Doctor awakens to see the robots building their gold circuits. The woman watches him in wonder.
Clara wakes up and sees Robin. Robin tells her that the time for games is over.
The Doctor tells the woman that they need to incite a riot.
Robin Hood wants to know everything about this legend called “Robin Hood.”
The Doctor captures the attention of the guards, who want to assign him to work duty, but they don’t know that he’s already free (a scene that should provide GIFs galore…). He has armed the captive villagers with gold plates so that they can fight back against the robots. Soon they have all been destroyed and the woman kisses the Doctor on the cheek for being so gallant. Once everyone is safe, the Sheriff turns up and tells the Doctor that he can’t stop the ship’s progression. They will depart for London. The Doctor warns him that he’ll change the course of history in the process. He urges the Sheriff to release Clara, but the Sheriff says that Robin Hood has her. The Doctor still thinks that Robin Hood is a robot, but the Sheriff points out that it wouldn’t make sense for the robots to create an enemy. He’s a legend, the Doctor states adamantly. Above them, Robin and Clara appear. Robin wants one more duel with the Sheriff. The castle is about to blow up. A daring swordfight moves to the beam above the vat of molten gold. The Sheriff is able to knock the sword from Robin’s hands, so Robin borrows a page from the Doctor’s book and uses the same move the Doctor used on the branch over the river, only now it sends the Sheriff into the molten gold. Once Robin is back on the ground, they flee from the dungeon, which is already starting to come apart.
Outside, the villagers and the Merry Men watch as the ship tries to go into orbit. They need to shoot the golden arrow into the ship to help it gain enough power. Robin defers to the Doctor to do the honors, but the Doctor admits that he cheated during the tournament, using arrows equipped with homing devices. Clara grabs the bow, much to the Doctor’s consternation (this isn’t Tae Kwon Do, after all…). Robin Hood suggests that they do it together, and they do. The arrow hits the ship, the ship goes into orbit…and then it explodes.
Robin Hood tells Clara that the Doctor is a lucky man to have her. She tells Robin Hood that Marian is lucky to have him, and that he should never give up hope of finding her. They say goodbye to each other. Robin Hood asks the Doctor if it’s true that he’s been forgotten in the future, relegated to being a legend. When the Doctor confirms it, he says that it’s better that way. Robin Hood says that though he might not see himself as a hero, if he acts as one, it will be true. Clara had told Robin all of the Doctor’s stories, and Robin says that he is indeed a great man. The Doctor goes inside the TARDIS. Clara tells him to admit that he liked Robin Hood. The Doctor smiles and says that he left him a present. As the TARDIS fades away, there is a woman standing there. Indeed, the woman from the dungeons was Maid Marian. Robin Hood kisses her, and then he shoots an arrow into the air and thanks the Doctor.
This was a fantastic episode. I think that a return to good storytelling is exactly what the Doctor Who franchise needed. Obviously there is something happening with all of the robots this season, but it’s a welcome departure from the past seasons.
What did you think of tonight’s episode? Leave your comments below!