Although Season Eight promises a darker and gloomier arc, Doctor Who took some time this week to lighten things up. In “Robot of Sherwood,” The Doctor upholds his tradition of asking his companion where she’s always wanted to travel in time and space. Clara’s answer: Sherwood, home of Robin Hood and his Marry Men. Immediately suspicious of a fictional legend existing in the real world, The Doctor’s beliefs are put to the test.
I’m very conflicted about “Robot of Sherwood.” Doctor Who is known for its historicals and I didn’t dive into the episode expecting much excitement. Robin Hood is a timeless legend in fiction, but not a childhood hero that I could personally relate to on Clara’s level. It also felt a bit odd watching The Doctor play a rather minor role so early in the season. This is the time to win over the skeptics of Peter Capaldi, which is difficult to do when he’s not standing front and center.
Writer Mark Gatiss is a Who veteran with fantastic episodes such as “Night Terrors” and “Cold War” under his belt, but his characterization of Clara was disappointing. Despite finally developing as more than just a flirt, it’s as if she spun a 360. Apparently forgetting Danny Pink, Clara sends flirtatious signals toward Robin Hood that don’t seem to make much sense given the last two episodes portrayed a stronger new side to her. Placing Clara in the “damsel in distress” position didn’t quite help matters either.
Nor did the resolution with the golden arrow, which felt a bit childish. I’m not opposed to silly episodes, considering Season Five’s “The Lodger” proved so successful, but Gatiss needs to be aware of when the show tries to be too funny for its own good. Essentially, it felt like he took the easy way out in defeating the enemy of the week.
Despite some flaws, “Robot of Sherwood” is successful in many regards, especially during moments that surround The Doctor and Robin Hood’s banters. Both jealous of each other, the two compete to gain Clara’s attention and admiration in many humorous scenes. Their sword fight and jail cell argument stood out as moments that emphasized The Doctor’s crotchety and grumpy nature. The script gave Peter Capaldi a chance to successfully unleash his comedic side in an otherwise darker season.
Although subtle, it was great to see The Doctor escape a sticky situation without the help of his sonic screwdriver. Through Clara’s dialogue, it felt as if Gatiss intentionally commented on the sonic’s overuse throughout the show. It’s an iconic gadget for the Doctor, but fans can agree that it’s frequently a tool to write The Doctor’s way to safety.
Even subtler, this marks the season’s third mention of the Promised Land in what appears to be the arc toward the season finale. Although missing from this episode, mysterious character Missy has made two cameo appearances so far; inviting the dead into a place she calls Heaven. It’s too early to know what she’s planning, but numerous theories have spread across the Internet like wildfire, the most common linking her to The Master or The Rani. But who knows, she could be an entirely new villain from the mind of Moffat. We’ll have to wait and see.
I went into Doctor Who’s third episode expecting a decent story and my expectations were met. “Robot of Sherwood” offers up some laughs and is by no means the worst episode in Doctor Who, but it’s overall an episode that most likely won’t be remembered as one of the season’s highlights.
Robert Sperduto is a freshman at the College of Charleston, majoring in English. He loves all things entertainment; movies, T.V., music and reading.