A Fun but Silly Misdirection
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
After two solid episodes, albeit not great ones, Doctor Who returns with an installment that is far too whimsical to land a solid one, much like the TARDIS sort of crashing everywhere these days. Doctor Who has done historical visits and funny, loose episodes before and some of them have been solid in the comedy department. Robot of Sherwood is a funny episode but an obvious placeholder that begins with the Doctor and Clara being bored. It’s a fun outing, don’t get me wrong, but ultimately it falls a bit flat and it is the weakest of the three episodes yet. The largest annoyance is that it clearly undercuts the dark tone established by the previous two episodes. Not that Doctor Who cannot be funny from time to time, but this episode arriving right after Into the Dalek really doesn’t do it any favors.
Let’s start with the negatives and save the best for last. The plot tries to build itself around the Robin Hood mythology and add Whovian traits into it, but that coalesced narrative is shaky at best. Unlike the wasp episode with Agatha Christie, legend and Who don’t gel together on a thematic plot level. The Robin Hood mythology is simply too expansive and entrenched into our minds for a forty-five minute sojourn to do it justice. Adding in a robot plot and a completely different Doctor in many ways from last week just doesn’t work. There is a scene where the Doctor literally takes out a spoon and takes a threatening pose with it. It would have worked with Matt Smith but it doesn’t work here.
The Sheriff of Nottingham (expertly portrayed by Ben Miller) is too Alan Rickman-esque in phenotypical appearance to stand as an original take on the classic character. The Sheriff’s plot of using aliens to dominate the world is an recycled plot that has “This isn’t going to really work” written all over it. There’s an element of betrayal that is entrenched from the moment the plot begins, the Sheriff’s inevitable end is coming as one would expect it to, and everything is so crammed in, it feels as if it’s going to suffocate underneath its own weight. The Sheriff’s facial hair is, as per the standard of Doctor Who, excellent.
Where Mark Gatiss’s script works is when it revolves around the Doctor and Robin Hood going back and forth. Robin Hood, played excellently by Tim Murphy (who is clearly having a blast in the role) is the more mischievous version in this specific adaptation and it works. Peter Capaldi gets to do what he does best – play the sarcastic misanthrope, one who hilariously thinks that Robin Hood is an illegitimate hero. Capaldi is fantastic at humor and it was a good idea by the team to try and use that side of him to prevent the current season from becoming too dour and dark. But this was neither the time, nor place, to make such an attempt. What would have gone over better, perhaps, was a two-parter at the half-point. It would have been the right juncture for a bit more comedy and swelling the time limit from 45 to 90 minutes would have allowed the mythology and the story mix to actually breathe. Nevertheless, this was a fun episode filled with good performances that is a welcome addition too the Who lore, if not the most memorable one.
Episode Title: Robot of Sherwood
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Paul Murphy
Image Courtesy: J Lo Coleman @ Tumblr