Saturday, 6 September 2014

Hardly Legendary - Doctor Who: Robots of Sherwood Review

In the first week we saw the Doctor flirting with a T-rex. In the second he turned a Dalek good. Unfortunately, Peter Capaldi’s third outing as the time-hopping hero held nothing particularly memorable, and will likely come to be known as “that one with Ben Miller in it”.

At Clara’s request, the TARDIS lands in Nottingham, and much to the Doctor’s confusion, Robin Hood appears. It isn’t long until the Doctor finds himself embroiled in a plot by the Sheriff of Nottingham to kill King John and take over England with the help of robots that fell from the sky. It sounds like a fun plot, putting a distinctly Doctor Who twist on the classic legend of Robin Hood, but the execution doesn’t deliver.

Instead we get a drab tale in which nobody really does anything. The Doctor, Clara and Robin get  captured, Clara gets taken to the Sheriff who explains where the robots came from, Robin and the Doctor escape themselves and find their way to the control room where they realize that the castle is a ship powered by gold, that the Sheriff plans on flying to London to kill King John. Insert two boring action scenes and a painfully predictable ending, and roll credits! It’s the first time in my memory during an episode of Doctor Who that I’ve been bored, and at the end I felt like the episode was remarkably short, due to the lack of anything happening.

The episode’s true highlights came in the arguments between Robin and the Doctor. Each competing to be the alpha male, arguing about who is the “ringleader” and fighting for control of the situation. Some of their banter is genuinely funny, and watching Clara explode at them as a mother would with fighting children provides the episode with some much needed humour.

However even this relationship brings faults to the episode, such as the lack of development between them. Clara remarks at the end that the Doctor secretly has come to like Robin, although he wouldn’t admit it, but there are no significant events that would cause the relationship between them to shift. They become friends for the sake of basic plot resolution, with no real reason for them to be friends all of a sudden.

One thing in particular that I picked up on – whether it was done intentionally or not, I don’t know – is how the Doctor’s screwdriver was taken away from him near the beginning, forcing him to resolve the problem without it. I hope this marks the start of some screwdriver-free episodes. The reason I have hope for this is because Clara herself may have acknowledged Moffat’s Screwdriver-ex-machina attitude to solving problems in a sentence that pretty much sums up my feelings towards the entirety of Moffat's span on the show so far – “Can you explain your plan without the words ‘Sonic’ or ‘Screwdriver’?”.

The Doctor’s trip to Sherwood is undoubtedly the least eventful and least entertaining in a long time. With no particularly stand out moments, and a distinct lack of humour or thrills that the series usually nails, Robots of Sherwood will soon be forgotten amongst the heaps of far better episodes out there. But hey, next week looks good!

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