Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Doctor Who: 8.03 Robot of Sherwood

Okay, now I am officially worried. This has been the longest run I’ve gone without liking a single episode of a new series of Doctor Who. This week’s episode, Robot of Sherwood, was very simply put, pretty terrible.

There are a handful of things that the actors pulled off mighty well, the rest of the episode left a lot to be desired. Let’s cross our fingers for next week and in the meantime, join me under the cut for my review of Robot of Sherwood.

You could probably count the good things about this episode on one hand so I think I will try to focus on those and give you all a quick overview of what the episode really was about.

Clara asks the Doctor to take her to see Robin Hood, her favourite hero of her childhood. Convinced that Robin isn’t a real person, the Doctor begrudgingly takes her to the time and place that Robin would theoretically be, only to immediately encounter the man himself. He fights Robin with a spoon, pushes him into a lake and then gets pushed in himself. It isn’t very funny. Clara is wearing a nice dress.

The Doctor spends the entire episode scanning Robin and his gang, poking around their belongings and trying to poke holes in their stories, determined to prove to Clara that he is right and they are figments of the imagination. Why the Doctor is so caught up in this childish pursuit after hitting us over the head with how much more mature Capaldi’s Doctor is just beats me. He spends the episode doing nothing other than bickering with Robin and basically, that’s all Robin does as well. That and laugh endlessly and annoyingly. If there was something hidden under the surface, a sad and lonely man as Clara suggests, then unfortunately I neither liked nor cared about him. In fact, while I found Robin unbearable, it was almost worse that I cared so little about the Doctor, a character who I have cared consistently about for a very long time. Childishness and slapstick humour is not Capaldi’s strongest talent.

The Doctor is wrong about Robin and his men being aliens or robots or anything supernatural, he is right that something strange is going on though. The castle is actually a space ship and the guards are robots. Gold is being collected from across the land to repair and launch the damaged vessel. Woot.

In the end, working together, Robin, the Doctor and Clara manage to save the day as anyone could have predicted and would have ordinarily hoped if they were paying attention anymore. The Doctor leaves ‘wiser’ and returns Marion to Robin. Why such a smart lass would want this particular Robin Hood is beyond me.


So let’s talk about the good bits, few though there were.

1. Clara and Clara’s dress.

Clara was pretty fantastic in this episode. Her sass is something that has always been lurking beneath the surface and that we’ve seen come out a handful of times. I loved her youthful wonder and also her eye rolling dismay at the Doctor and Robin being such halfwits. I also enjoyed getting to see her again, off on her own, doing her own recon and holding her own. She was smart and fun and more of the companion that the audience can identify with and likes. Also, although it made only a little sense why she took the time to get changed into something so fancy, Coleman once again proved that she totally wins at pulling off old-style clothing. Her dress and costume was wonderful. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of cosplay from this episode.

2. Capaldi’s sarcasm and loathing.

Although the Doctor spent most of this episode being a whiny old/young man, when he was dry and irritated, he was at his best. His annoyance at Robin’s laughter, though overplayed, was laugh out loud funny initially. He’s got the perfect attitude and face for a man who is kind of over this whole thing. If only that meant he didn’t revert into a childish old brat. Stick to the loathing and the gasping and I think they will nail this Doctor’s vibe.

3. The little speech between Robin and the Doctor at the end.

If I cared more about those two characters in that moment I think I would have been really moved. As it stood, I simply thought it was some good writing with some good delivery. Robin tells the Doctor that him as a person is not as important as his story and that perhaps the Doctor, since he does not consider himself a hero, will fade out of memory, but his story will live on and inspire other people to be heroes. That was a touching moment and a cool concept that moved the Doctor’s character forward more than the rest of the episode did.

4. Marion.

I am not sure if I missed her name at the beginning or if it was supposed to be a surprise that the young girl we saw throughout the episode was Marion, but it worked for me. I thought she was great and I didn’t pick up that she was Marion until the end. Every time they showed her I was more interested in seeing more of her than I was with seeing Robin and the Doctor try to out boast one another. Her performance was understated, she came across as brave and awesome.

5. They didn’t have Missy.

Oh thank goodness. I was about to switch the television off if they showed Missy again. The beating over the head of the Missy and The Promised Land thing again makes me long for the Ninth Doctor. How well was Bad Wolf done? SO WELL. It snuck into the background of things and only got mentioned occasionally. They make a really heavy handed point of mentioning that the ships destination is The Promised Land in this episode too, but at least there was no added Missy moment. Perhaps it was because no one died for the Doctor or at the Doctor’s hand/instruction.

All up, the season isn’t filling me with confidence, but next week’s episode looks like it’s going to be a scary one and I think Capaldi will be fantastic at that kind of Who story so maybe there is still hope. I love the scary episodes and I miss them when they haven’t happened in a while. Fingers crossed this one delivers on both Plot and the Doctor finally seeming more like the Doctor.

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