This week Doctor Who trots off to Sherwood Forest to visit Robin Hood (Tom Riley) and his band of merry men. Veering away from more serious-themes, how does this light-hearted adventure fare?
Let’s bitch it out.
With three episodes in, I’m still struggling to find myself captivated by this new series of Doctor Who. I feel like I don’t know who this new Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is. Or maybe I do know, and I just don’t like him. The Doctor spends much of the episode traipsing around cantankerously trying to prove that Robin Hood isn’t real. After his diatribe against the half-cyborg in the season opener, and his confrontation with Rusty last week, it seems like Twelve is just a crusty old man looking to prove himself right time and time again. Is this the Twelve’s defining characteristic?
Sure we get the inevitable payoff near the end of the episode when he realizes he’s wrong because of the pure-heart and internal optimism of Clara has guided him to this conclusion (barf) but this journey is starting to feel formulaic and tired. I still don’t feel like we’re getting anywhere in terms of understanding what Twelve’s redeeming characteristics are. What defines him aside from his age and seeming bitterness? Heck, I feel like I know more about the War Doctor (John Hurt) after spending only a few scenes with him in the 50th special. This isn’t necessarily a slight on Capaldi as a performer – I think he’s doing the best with what he’s given. I guess I’m more griping about how the Doctor just doesn’t seem like THE Doctor. He’s just some guy we all have to get used to as the new pilot of the TARDIS.
I did however, appreciate The Doctor’s reluctance to believe that Robin Hood etc. were the real deal, because there were so many over-the-top clichés that it would have been an outrage had no one in the show addressed it. And the problem isn’t with integrating existing fictional characters – we’ve seen it done on the show numerous times (besides, it lets us keep our fingers-crossed for a Sherlock/Doctor Who crossover in the future). Although Robin Hood isn’t entirely offensive, I can’t say I felt the same kind of emotional resonance as I did when the Doctor went to visit Vincent Van Gogh(Tony Curran), for example.
I shouldn’t compare, but in that episode, the plays with truth and fiction produced some delightful outcomes whereas in ‘Robot in Sherwood’ it devolves into the silly (read: that whole ridiculous archery contest). The tongue-and-cheek self-awareness apparent when the TARDIS first lands just doesn’t play out to fruition- it’s a missed opportunity. The best part of the episode hands-down comes at the parting of Robin and The Doctor as they mutually acknowledge the fact that they simply will never measure up to their iconic status as fictitious legends. It’s a nice moment, but I think the episode would have been more successful had this sentiment served as the central narrative theme. The result is another unfortunate lukewarm episode that has me longing for the Doctor Who of yesteryear.
- Boo on the no Missy (Michelle Gomez) in this episode – although there were definitely plenty of casualties throughout the episode that would have done well to meet her in ‘heaven’. By my count, two peasants and the poor Sheriff (Ben Miller) met pretty gruesome ends.
- Speaking of which, was I the only one who felt the tone was off throughout this episode? At times it felt like it was clearly meant for a decidedly young audience (again: the ridiculous archery contest) but throwing the Sherriff into a vat of scalding liquid, or a brutal sword to the chest? That doesn’t seem very G-rated.
- This week’s evidence that the writer(s) phoned it in: The itty-bitty golden arrow that saves the day. Absolutely absurd.
What did you think viewers? Am I a grumpy guss that’s just way out of line and you’re enjoying our new Doctor? Do you want to see more Missy? Who do you think Robin was referring to as the keeper of Clara’s heart – was it The Doctor or Danny (Samuel Anderson) or Eleven (Matt Smith)? Were you as delighted as I was that there was no melodramatic slow motion to speak of this episode? Sound off in the comments below.
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9:00pm EST on BBC America and 8:00pm EST on Space Network in Canada.