Doctor Who Recap: “Robot of Sherwood”
Welcome to my obsession. Massive spoilers ahoy. All the recaps are here.
Look, guys. I have a thing for Robin Hood. There may be a small portion of my childhood dedicated to long, elaborate fantasies of being Maid Marion and being rescued by Robin. There may also be a vague concern that I feel too many feels for a cartoon fox.
When I saw the trailer for this week’s Doctor Who, I freaked. This recap is highly biased toward loving the entire thing. Just fyi.
The episode opens with the Doctor scribbling a bunch of esoteric mathy-looking gibberish on a chalkboard. Yes, a chalkboard. It’s similar to the mathy-looking gibberish he was scribbling on the floor of Vastra and Jenny’s place. Interesting. Also you get a nice view of the new TARDIS control room here, which is full of books. I LOVE LIBRARY TARDIS SO MUCH.
Anyway. The Doctor is offering Clara a trip to anywhen she wants. She chooses to meet Robin Hood (yes Clara, good Clara). He tells her she’s crazy and that Robin Hood is just a legendary hero and heroes like that don’t exist. She says “uh dumbass, what about you?” The look on is face is really lovely. You can almost read his inner thoughts–“oh right, riiiight I am a hero. But also I’m kind of a villain sometimes. I’m confused about my self-image. Let’s distract her by talking about Mars.”
So that’s what he does, but Clara persists and he agrees to take her to Sherwood Forest if only to prove to her that Robin Hood, and by extension all heroes, is just a fantasy. He still has a pretty great Scottish accent.
The TARDIS appears in the middle of Sherwood forest. The Doctor emerges from the TARDIS pontificating about the non-existence of Robin Hood. As you’d expect, an arrow hits the TARDIS and Robin Hood (complete with green cap and tights) pops up to say “You called?” Heh heh. Cue credits.
Robin Hood and the Doctor have an amusing interchange about the TARDIS. Thanks to The Doctor’s Wife, I see the Doctor defending his lady’s honor in this scene and it is good and delightful. There’s this dialogue:
Doctor: You’re not serious.
Robin: I am many things, sir, but I am never that. Robin Hood laughs in the face of all. Ha ha ha!
Doctor: And do people ever punch you in the face when you do that?
Robin: Not as yet.
Doctor: Lucky I’m here then, isn’t it?
Clara emerges from the TARDIS in pretty 10th century clothing and she’s like “holy shit you actually found Robin Hood.” The Doctor is annoyed. He really doesn’t like to be wrong.
A sword fight for the TARDIS ensues. Except the Doctor uses a spoon. It’s the silliest silly thing on the show so far. There’s a beautifully timed joke about Errol Flynn’s enormous… ego. I had a momentary thought about the Doctor’s sexuality again–they never, ever pretend like the dude is wholly straight in this show and I love that. Eventually the Doctor pushes Robin Hood into the river. Then Robin pushes the Doctor into the river. Everyone is very happy. Or maybe just me.
Cue scene change, where we witness the Sheriff of Nottingham being a douche to some peasants. He and his minions kidnap the able-bodied, steal all the gold, and kill the guy who tries to stand in the way. Rude.
Meanwhile, back in Sherwood Forest, the Doctor is very confused about the existence of Robin Hood and also all the Merry Men. He starts harvesting hair and blood from them, convinced they are fake despite finding no evidence. He does point out that the forest is awfully green and beautiful for fall. There’s this interchange between him and Alan-A-Dale:
Doctor: [stabs him, takes blood] Blood analysis. Look at the diseases! If you were real, you’d be dead in six months.
Alan: I am real!
If he were a real doctor he’d have the worst bedside manner.
Clara may or may not have coined the term “merry men.” Everyone cracks up laughing. The Doctor is offended by their laughing. Robin tells Clara and the audience the basic Robin Hood plot, Prince John and Maid Marion and the whole thing. It’s sweet, he’s very sincere and earnest. If you’re not in love with him by now you’re some kind of monster alien robot. Or the Doctor, who thinks it’s all fake and the whole thing is too poetic and silly.
Robin announces that he will enter the contest to find the best archer in the land! Who knew? Clara tells him it’s a trap, duh. He says he knows, there’s no contest for the best archer in the land AHAHA. The Doctor tells them to stop bantering, he hates bantering. There’s this lovely bit of dialogue:
Clara: When did you stop believing in anything?
Doctor: When did you start believing in impossible heroes?
Clara: FUCKING DUH. Oh no. She actually says “Don’t you know?” Dawwww.
The scene with the archery contest takes the level of Doctor Who ridiculousness up a notch. First of all, the set is straight out of a Renaissance faire:
But guys. The thing with splitting the arrow? So, the Sheriff of Nottingham shoots an arrow. Then Robin Hood splits it. Then the Doctor rolls out and splits Robin’s arrow. And so on. For like six arrows. I think my nine year old almost hurt himself laughing.
There’s a point to it, though. It’s as though no matter how hard the Doctor tries to de-rail the Robin Hood story line, it keeps reasserting itself. The Doctor is seriously put out by this. He tries to win the contest to get more information about the situation, but Robin keeps interjecting and eventually reveals himself. A battle ensues, the Merry Men are instructed to flee, and eventually someone cuts the arm off of one of the sheriff’s knights.
The Doctor is immensely pleased with himself. The three of them–Robin, the Doctor and Clara–get captured. In the dungeon, we see peasants being forced to haul gold around. Other evil knight robots are guarding everyone. When one peasant falls down, they decide he’s outlived his usefulness and kill him with a laser beam forehead gun. There’s a particular peasant girl that gets a lot of lines and tries to help others.
The three heroes are chained up. Robin and the Doctor have an extended argument about plans, laughing and arrogant peacocking which I can only assume is for Clara’s benefit. They are both petty and ridiculous. Robin calls the Doctor a “desiccated man-crone” which is my favorite new insult.
Clara: This is not a competition for who can die slower.
Doctor: It would definitely be me, though.
Eventually a guard comes to take Clara away, because she appeared to be the ringleader of the operation.
Cue a brief scene where we see that the Merry Men grabbed the golden arrow, and learn that the sheriff has only been looting gold from the land. Nothing else seems to interest him. Cut back to the castle, where we see the robots making a big circuit board thingy out of gold. Okay then.
Clara and the sheriff interrogate each other, and we learn that the sheriff is an idiot and also that he made a deal with robots from outer space. He gets them all the gold they need to fly their ship again, and they will fly him to London and install him as ruler of England.
At one point, he gets inappropriately physical with her. Instead of just “taking it” for more information, Clara takes the guy to task, and if you were still kind of hating the fact that she’s been more of a plot device than a person, this clears it up. She’s pretty great.
Simultaneously, the Doctor and Robin lure the guard into the room by insulting each other. They knock the guard out and try to steal the keys. Because of their arguing, they instead lose the keys to floors below. One hopes the Doctor is learning (again) not to let his ego get ahead of practicality. Probably not, though.
Instead, they wind up picking up the iron weight that was holding them down and dragging it around. The Doctor makes a joke, Robin laughs at it, the Doctor is annoyed that Robin thinks everything is so damn funny. Somehow they find a way to remove the chains off screen, then they find the space ship at the heart of the castle. The Doctor says they must have crashed on Earth, and accesses the ship’s data banks to see where they were going.
What? Missy’s magical garden of weird!?!? Okay. If you were hoping for more about that, give it up now.
The Doctor posits that leaking from the ship’s engines have created a climate of “benevolence.” Summery weather in fall and Robin Hood, a hero to the masses so that they have a reason to keep going when everything looks bad. He basically decides that Robin Hood is a story that has become real thanks to leaky ship magic. There has been a lot of leaking in this season of Doctor Who.
Robin Hood is pretty offended to be called a made up story. Go figure.
Before they can have yet another banter-based interchange, the robots break in. Robin grabs Clara and jumps out of the castle into the moat. They disappear for too long, then Robin appears with her on the other side of the bank so we know they’re okay.
The Doctor is left behind with the sheriff. He tells the sheriff the robots don’t have enough gold to get off the ground, and that they’ll probably blow up England if they try. The sheriff doesn’t care. They drag him down to the dungeon where the Doctor organizes a pretty great peasant revolt against the robots using… plates. It’s a cutlery-themed episode.
My favorite part is when “mysterious peasant girl who is obviously Marion” thanks him for saving them all, and kisses him. The Doctor touches his face where she kissed him, looking kind of confused. I feel like this guy’s self image is mad confused right now, but there’s no way he can deny he enjoys being a good guy.
There’s a very brief scene where they pull a little bait and switch. Robin tells Clara “the time for games is over.” We think maybe Robin is a fake after all.
BUT–we discover instead that he just wanted to know everything he could so he could go back to the castle and rescue the Doctor! We are super happy about this outcome.
The Doctor and the sheriff have some banter, which annoys the Doctor, but the sheriff points out the flaw in the Doctor’s theory. Why would the robot dudes create a person to fight back against them? How would that benefit them. The Doctor has no answer for that one, and looks pretty annoyed he didn’t think about that sooner.
Doctor: He’s a legend!
Robin (surprise appearance to rescue Doctor): Too kind!
There’s a cool swashbuckling, rope-riding up to high things scene where Robin and the sheriff fight. Eventually Robin tosses the sheriff into the big vat of molten gold using a move he learned from the Doctor during the spoon fight. It’s all very sweet and symbolic.
They get out, but the ship is still going to take off and probably blow up England! What will we do? Wait, the Doctor has a plan. We’ll… shoot the fucking golden arrow into the ship. Yep. It will be enough gold to boost the ship into space and keep England safe. This makes total sense and we will never question it.
They banter over who will shoot the arrow. Robin is injured. The Doctor confesses that he rigged the ridiculous archery contest earlier and he has no idea how to shoot an arrow. In the end, they compromise.
The ship explodes, England is saved. Hooray!
Cue emotional goodbyes between Robin and Clara, where she tells him to never give up on Marion and to always be amazing. Then the Doctor and Robin have a conversation about whether it might be good to become a legend instead of a real person. Legends have power, and can inspire others. Legends can change the course of history. No, neither of them are heroes. But yet, they inspire so many. *sniffle*
In the end, the Doctor leaves him “a present.” The TARDIS dematerializes and there is the peasant girl. She’s Marion, kissy kissy. QUELLE SURPRISE. I take issue with a woman being a present like a shiny new bicycle. I’m like that.
Next week’s episode–creeeeeepy. I can’t wait!
(screencaps from http://kissthemgoodbye.net/)