Sunday, 7 September 2014

Review: Doctor Who - Robot of Sherwood

As Alan-a-Dale might say 'Tonight, the TARDIS did land in Sherwood's bonny glade/ But when the Lord and the Earl did meet was a great episode made?' 

'When did you start believing in impossible heroes?' 'Don't you know?'

Doctor Who meets Robin Hood. How has it taken fifty one years of this time-travelling show, that loves to swallow up familiar genres and give them its own twist, for that to happen? As this week's episode pointed out itself, the nobleman who appointed himself champion of the people... and Robin Hood are ideal bedfellows. However, it's fitting that the meeting of these two legendary heroes comes now as it leads to much discussing of the nature and requirements of being a hero, very much fitting in with the themes of this series. Most importantly, though, it also gave this moodier, broodier take on the show the chance to have a laugh.

In the grand tradition of lighter-hearted Doctor Who episodes, 'Robot of Sherwood' is a swashbuckling romp and proud of it. The sci-fi plot is wholeheartedly standard Who fare (aliens have crash-landed on Earth and will do anything to get off - even blow it up) but that's not really the focus of this story. Not so much a tale of a hero versus villain, this is the story of hero versus hero as Robin and the Doctor rub each other up the wrong way. Their bantering (oh, yes, Doctor, you were bantering) is the highlight of the episode, reminiscent of the Doctor's rivalry when he meets his other selves. The two heroes may have their differences but they are more alike then they care to admit.

The cast all performed well with Ben Miller playing himself as the Sheriff of Nottingham (but with added murderousness, one would hope) and Tom Riley successfully channelling Errol Flynn as the Man in the Tights. But, as he should be, Peter Capaldi was the most fun, returning to the deadpan humour of 'Deep Breath' (I adore the pure Doctorishness of the sword-on-spoon fight). In contrast to previous adventures, the Doctor's resolute po-face and grumpy nature is poked fun at here and it helps to endear the spiky new Doctor considerably.
On the other hand, while the previous two episodes have taken substantial lengths to strengthen Clara's character, here she is relegated to the traditional companion role, even falling victim of the oft-used cliché of being the object of affections for both the lascivious villain and the smitten hero,

That aside, though, 'Robot of Sherwood' is a true lark, just what the Doctor ordered after two fairly dark offerings. It may not be an instant classic but it was the fastest and funniest (with the exception of 'Deep Breath''s Strax) episode so far, making it feel like an adventure that could have been had by any of the last three Doctors. In fact, this episode could perhaps open to the door for the Doctor to encounter other British heroes that people sometimes think are real in the future, for instance King Arthur or, oh, I don't know... Sherlock Holmes? In any case, this head-to-head between the Time Lord of Gallifrey and the Earl of Loxley turned out to be, appropriately enough, a Bullseye.

Box N' the Hood - The Doctor and Robin have to work together.

Next week: 'What's that in the mirror, or the corner of your eye?' A new horror awaits the Doctor and friends. Just 'Listen'...

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