Saturday, September 6, 2014

Review: "Robot of Sherwood"


A goddamn "Doctor Who" episode that didn't feel as though it was written by a deranged five-year-old on acid.

So, standard deal. I'm going to offer my opinions and they'll contain spoilers. I'll try to obscure them with that font tag, but... well... it may not work, so be warned.

Still there? Okay...

"Robot of Sherwood" is written by the ever-brilliant Mark Gatiss. Plot summary:

The TARDIS is in the vortex. The Doctor offers Clara the choice of their next destination as he works away writing obscure stuff on a chalkboard and licking food off a spoon. Clara says she wants to meet Robin Hood.

The Doctor assures Clara that Robin Hood is a myth, but takes her to Sherwood Forest all the same to prove he's not real.

And that's when they meet Robin Hood.

The Doctor duels Robin Hood in a somewhat ludicrous battle with Robin using a sword and the Doctor using a spoon. The Doctor mostly wins, establishing animosity between the Time Lord and the outlaw.

The Doctor and Clara go to meet the Merry Men and learn of the whole Sheriff of Nottingham deal.

The Doctor is convinced Robin Hood and his Merry Men are not real, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. The one thing that the Doctor finds to be off is the weather. The sun is shining and the forest green in Autumn.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff has taken away a damsel in distress with faceless knights at his beck and call. His interest is in gathering slave labor and gold.

Robin Hood intends to interrupt the legendary archery contest. Clara warns him it is a trap but he claims to already know and intend to interrupt all the same.

The archery contest goes down as expected, though the Doctor trumps it by his own fancy archery seeming to be a match for Robin Hood. The Sheriff's guards come to arrest everyone and in a battle, one has its arm cut off revealing the Sheriff's men to be robots with laser-beams that shoot out of their faces.

And then the fun begins.

The Doctor, Clara, and Robin Hood are captured. After some bickering in a cell, Clara is taken to the Sheriff where she learns that the robots come from a crashed spacecraft and they elicited the Sheriff's aid. The Sheriff gathers gold to help them repair their ship and they will help the Sheriff conquer the world.

The Doctor and Robin, in the meantime, argue and bicker endlessly (and stupidly). They finally cooperate to escape and stumble across the control center for the spaceship. Turns out the Sheriff's castle is the spaceship in disguise. The spaceship and its robot crew is going to "the Promised Land" (the strange and somewhat stupid story-arc for this season) and they crashed on Earth.

The Doctor determines that the ship is too badly damaged. If it tries to take off, the explosion will obliterate half of England.

Another fight. Robin Hood escapes with Clara. The Doctor is captured by the Sheriff.

Robin interrogates Clara on what she knows of Robin Hood from history. The Doctor, in the meantime meets up with the girl captured earlier in the episode and brings about a revolt of the captives, using plates and trays to reflect the robot lasers and destroy most of the robots.

Robin and Clara then arrive and it's all Robin vs. the Sheriff. Robin wins, the Sheriff falls into a vat of gold (ouch). They flee the launching spaceship. The ship takes off but can't get into orbit. The Doctor, a wounded Robin Hood, and Clara use the golden arrow won from the archery contest to shoot gold into the spaceship (in fairness, that was probably the stupidest part of this whole story).

The spaceship gets into orbit and blows up.

The Doctor and Clara leave. Robin learns he is not considered a historical figure. He seems cool with it.

The TARDIS fades away and the saved damsel-in-distress appears behind it. Turns out she's Maid Marion, who Robin has been looking for but somehow unable to find. Happy kissing reunion. Good times.

So, yeah. Gatiss wrote an episode that was silly but felt more true to classic "Doctor Who" than anything I've seen in a good, long time. Classic villains, robots, the Doctor having to resort to tricks rather than exclusively using the sonic screwdriver, and not too much focus on the Doctor.

There were parts I found disappointing: I wasn't keen on how ridiculously-contrary the Doctor was. I enjoyed him being dark and crotchety, but that got old fast.

Overall, pretty entertaining episode. Best one of the season. I hope Gatiss writes many more.

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