Robot of Sherwood
|244 – "Robot of Sherwood"|
|Doctor Who episode|
The Doctor, Robin Hood, and Clara
|Directed by||Paul Murphy|
|Written by||Mark Gatiss|
David P Davis|
|Produced by||Nikki Wilson|
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Originally broadcast||6 September 2014|
"Robot of Sherwood" is the third episode of the eighth series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, written by Mark Gatiss and directed by Paul Murphy, and first broadcast on 6 September 2014. The episode stars Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, with Tom Riley and Ben Miller guest-starring. The episode was watched by 7.28 million viewers in the UK and received positive to mixed reviews from television critics.
Clara Oswald insists that the Doctor take her to meet Robin Hood, despite the Doctor's claims that Robin Hood is only a legend. When the TARDIS lands in medieval England in the year 1190, they are met by a man who claims he is Robin Hood. Robin challenges the Doctor to a duel and the Doctor accepts, using a spoon instead of a sword. The Doctor manages to push Robin into a river, only to be pushed in by Robin later. Still, the Doctor remains in disbelief even as Robin takes the two to meet his band of Merry Men. Clara enjoys her time there and learns that Robin is still looking for his Maid Marian, but the Doctor remains distrustful of Robin and is convinced there is something wrong, particularly with the weather – it is far too green and sunny for the season.
Robin, his men, and the Doctor and Clara attend to an archery contest held by the Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin, disguised as Tom the Tinker, faces off against the Sheriff in the final round to win the prize of a golden arrow. As legend states, Robin is able to best the Sheriff by splitting his arrow with his own shot. The Doctor then suddenly appears and challenges the result, readily splitting Robin's arrow with his own. The two begin to challenge the other with more arrows until the Doctor impatiently explodes the target using his sonic screwdriver. The Sheriff, intrigued by the Doctor's power, commands his knights to capture him. When Robin cuts off one of the knight's arms, it is revealed they are disguised robots. The Doctor allows the robots to capture him, Robin and Clara so he can learn more about the Sheriff's plans.
The Doctor and Robin, in trying to come up with an escape plan, bicker to a point where Clara's admonishments make her seem their leader by those watching, and she is taken to meet the Sheriff herself. Clara is able to manipulate the Sheriff into revealing his plot: he witnessed a spaceship crash and has been trying to repair it by collecting all the gold in the nearby land, so that he can use it to travel to London and take over the kingdom and eventually the world. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Robin manage to escape their confinement and locate the spacecraft. The Doctor realises that the craft had fallen back through time from Earth's future on the way to the Promised Land (as mentioned by the Half-Faced Man in "Deep Breath"). Disguising their ship as the castle, the robots took on the guise of knights to further the illusion. The Doctor determines that the engines were damaged in the crash and are leaking radiation into the atmosphere, causing the surrounding area to be more like the Sherwood Forest setting of the Robin Hood myth. He also discovers that the craft's data banks contain the myths and legends of Earth's history, including Robin Hood. The Doctor becomes convinced that Robin is a robot, created by the "knights" to give the people false hope. The Sheriff arrives with Clara in tow, having been alerted to the Doctor's presence. Clara and Robin jump out of a window into a moat below and escape, but the Doctor is taken prisoner again.
Robin and Clara reunite with the Merry Men, where Robin, shaken by the Doctor's revelations about his future, commands Clara to tell him who the Doctor is and what he knows about the legend of Robin Hood. Meanwhile, held captive in the gold refinery, the Doctor realises that the robots are creating a "gold matrix" to repair their ship's engines. However, there is not enough gold in the area to fully complete the repairs on the spacecraft. If the Sheriff should try to use it, it will destroy "half the country". With the assistance of a young woman held captive by the robots, he leads the prisoners in a revolt against the knight robots. Most of the robots are destroyed, and the prisoners flee. The Sheriff appears and while trying to persuade him to abandon his plan, the Doctor realises from the Sheriff's reactions that his belief about Robin was wrong — he is the real Robin Hood. At this point, Robin, Clara and the Merry Men arrive to save the day. The Sheriff challenges Robin to a duel. Robin's arm is wounded in the fight, but he defeats and kills the Sheriff by knocking him into one of the gold vats with a move that the Doctor used against Robin in their earlier duel.
The spaceship, controlled by the few remaining robots, takes off and tears apart the castle. The Doctor and Clara help the surviving prisoners to escape. Knowing that unless the ship achieves orbit, it can still decimate the countryside, the Doctor plans to provide just enough gold to the craft to give it the spurt of power needed to force it away from the Earth's surface. Since Robin's arm is injured (and the Doctor cheated during the archery contest), the Doctor, Clara, and Robin work together to fire the golden arrow from the contest into the ship, which is then able to climb above the atmosphere where it detonates harmlessly.
As the travellers prepare to leave, the Doctor admits to Robin that while he still cannot accept his story as real, he confirms that Robin will be remembered as a legend rather than as a man. Robin takes a moment to accept this, then states that the Doctor, based on the stories that Clara told him, is a hero of similar background as well. The Doctor denies this, but Robin Hood suggests that their role is not to be heroes themselves, but to inspire others to take on that role. The Doctor and Clara depart, the Doctor leaving Robin a gift – he found Maid Marian (revealed to be the woman who helped him lead the prisoner rebellion) and reunites her with Robin.
Sceptical about the reality of Robin Hood, his men and their environment, the Doctor initially believes that he and Clara might be in a miniscope. A miniscope was featured in the Third Doctor story Carnival of Monsters.
In an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, writer Mark Gatiss stated that his intent with the episode was "to do the Doctor and Robin Hood in 45 minutes". He went on to state: "The premise is inherently funny, but I didn’t think of it as the funnier episode when I was doing it. It’s still asking big questions. But it’s definitely more frivolous.”
The read-through for the episode was on 20 March 2014. Filming for the episode began on 25 March 2014, with location filming taking place in Fforest Fawr on 15 April 2014, and later at Caerphilly Castle on 17 April. Both Fforest Fawr and Caerphilly Castle had previously served as locations for Doctor Who, the former as a setting for scenes from "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End", and the latter for "Vampires of Venice" and "Nightmare in Silver". Several external shots of Bodiam Castle were also used. Filming completed on 3 May 2014.
One of the images of the Robin Hood myth that the Doctor shows to the real Robin is that of Patrick Troughton in the 1953 TV series Robin Hood, the first TV appearance by the character. Troughton played the Second Doctor between 1966-1969.
On 4 September 2014, the BBC announced that a beheading scene from the episode's climatic battle had been edited out due to the recent murders of James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In the original scene, Robin would have decapitated the Sheriff, revealing that the Sheriff was a robot. A line spoken by the Sheriff alluding to his unique nature remains in the edited episode; after replacing his severed head on his robot body, he goads Robin as he pursues him that someone who is "half man, half engine" is too much for him to fight.
Trevor Cooper, who plays Friar Tuck in the episode, had previously appeared on Doctor Who, playing Takis in 1985's Revelation of the Daleks from season 22. Ian Hallard (Alan-a-Dale) played Richard Martin in An Adventure in Space and Time.
Broadcast and reception
On 18 August 2014, a rough version of the episode was leaked online. The leaked version is black-and-white, and its visual and audio effects and music are preliminary and incomplete. It contains the Sheriff beheading scene (about one minute of footage) that was cut before the episode was broadcast. This leak followed the leaks of the previous two episodes, "Deep Breath" and "Into the Dalek". The BBC released a statement urging fans not to spread spoilers from the unofficial copy.
Overnight viewing figures showed that the episode was watched by 5.2 million viewers. Final figures show that the episode was watched by 7.28 million. In the United States, the original broadcast on BBC America was watched by 1.14 million viewers.
The critical reception of the episode was positive to mixed. Dan Martin of The Guardian praised the writing and acting, but criticised the more minor role of the Doctor in the episode, and the length, which did not do the mythology justice. Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times called it "a superb, witty, heart-warming encounter between two heroes," praising Gatiss' "elegant, hugely witty script that delivers a coherent plot," and calling the Doctor and Robin Hood "one of the funniest double acts ever seen in Doctor Who." Michael Hogan of The Daily Telegraph gave the episode five stars out of five. He said this was the episode in which "Capaldi truly came into his own as The Doctor," noting his channeling of Malcolm Tucker in his Doctor made for some truly comedic moments. Simon Brew of Den of Geek commended the lightness of the episode, in contrast to Capaldi's opening two episodes and called it "hugely entertaining," and "wonderfully silly." He writes that "Robot of Sherwood" is "the kind of Doctor Who you reach for when you've got a spare hour, and just want to get a great big smile on your face."
Tim Liew of Metro criticised the episode for trying to be "too funny" and presenting a Doctor "whose behaviour jars with previous episodes". Forbes also noted the shift in personality for the Doctor, but commended Capaldi for finding "enough rope in the script to bring his interpretation to the role." They enjoyed the "extra layer the story delivered by setting everything in a 1930′s Errol Flynn movie," and the development of the characters in that "every character had another shell around them." However, they felt the story had very little "substance," and that it "suffer[ed] from poor editing and direction." Neela Debnath of The Independent was likewise critical of the episode, calling it "a dull and nonsensical disappointment." She thought it to be "an oddly-pieced together episode that didn't make much sense," with "no silver linings either." She criticised the backward development of Clara as reverting to "the school girl with the crush." IGN gave a mixed review, calling it "a frivolous, flimsy throwaway adventure for the new Doctor."
However, the episode received an Audience Appreciation Index score of 82/100, considered excellent.
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