I didn’t have high hopes for Robot of Sherwood when I saw it would be going back to the “ye olde” days of England, and writer Mark Gatiss can be hit or miss with his episodes, but this one was definitely a hit! Finally a fun episode without the dark and gloom. The Doctor offers to take Clara anywhere she wants, and there is one person in history she has always wanted to meet; Robin Hood. The Doctor tries to balk, claiming his to be nothing but legend and myth, but Clara insists, and they just happen to land right in Sherwood forest, where the man himself appears. After a unusual fight on a small bridge, the Doctor and Clara return to meet Robin’s merry men, while the evil Sheriff of Nottingham is collecting all the gold in the land. After the iconic archery contest, the Doctor, Clara, and Robin are captured and discover the truth behind the Sheriff’s power and ambition. All three will have to work together to stop him, if they can stop bickering long enough.
I enjoyed this episode. I mean, laugh out loud enjoyed. I feel like we are finally seeing the Doctor in full form. He is argumentative and even down right childish in his refusal to believe in Robin, and the bickering he gets into with him after they are captured. This is truly a Doctor I can get behind. It was predictable that when trying to suss out the leader of the band, it wasn’t Robin or the Doctor chosen, since they seemed more interested in one-upping each other than getting out. The duel on the bridge of Robin’s sword to the Doctor’s spoon was fun as was the myriad contents of the Doctor’s pockets, another seeming nod back to the Fourth Doctor. There was only a minor hint to this series overarching plot, the Promised Land, with gratefully no cameo by “Missy.” I was afraid the Sheriff was going to pop up with her.
I did think it was kind of odd that the Doctor so vehemently denied Robin’s existence, to the point that he was convinced he must be a robot. Maybe he’s just met too many legends and myths that turned out to be aliens/robots that meeting the actual person didn’t seem real. I would have liked to have known more about the Robots and their background. Just the heading for the “Promised Land” only gave a tangential connection. I wanted to know more about them and their goals. They felt too 2-D without any real development.
Overall I had fun watching the episode, and watching Capaldi start to fit into the role. It really felt like he was finally making the Doctor his own, and it was good to see him let his hair down, so to speak. This was also the first time this season I didn’t hate Clara. She handled the Doctor and Robin perfectly, and steered clear of the Sheriff as well. I guess I shouldn’t be surprising that it took a different writer to make Clara likable. Here’s hoping this trend continues.