Doctor Who Recap
Robot of Sherwood
By Edwin Davies
September 10, 2014
His approach to the situation is suggestive of a level of experience that verges on outright cynicism, which feels right for the idea of an older Doctor, but it lacks the sense of wonder or fear that typified the responses of Doctors Nine through Eleven when they were faced with the inexplicable. I don't think that's a necessarily good or a bad thing for the show or the character, but it's one of the more definitive breaks so far between Capaldi's take on the character and those that came before him.
But when The Doctor realises that the Sheriff's men are actually robots, the way he gleefully says "Now we're getting somewhere!" does speak to his essential inquisitiveness and the sense that he's as much a scientist and an investigator as he is an adventurer. The thrill of discovery comes through loud and clear in that moment, and there's this impish quality that resurfaces during his many arguments with Robin, who The Doctor initially dislikes because he doesn't believe that he is actually real, then later because he's a boisterous, constantly laughing dick. It also informs the pleasure he experiences when he thinks that he has stumbled upon the truth - that Robin is just another robot who is pretending to be this great hero in order to give the people false hope - and proceeds to hurl accusations at Robin like some kind of medium-range, airborne projectiles, like spears or darts.
This was also an exceptionally good Clara episode, one that gave her a lot to do even after she was taken captive. Rather than have her play the damsel in distress, the show had the Sheriff (played with hammy gusto by renowned sketch comedian Ben Miller) come to believe that Clara was the brains behind The Doctor and Robin's plans, and proceed to interrogate her.
Then Clara turned the tables on him, and in a funny and witty scene, she managed to convince him that she had seen the spaceship that had brought the robots to Earth so that he would in turn reveal his plans to her. It was a playful scene that puts the onus of discovery on Clara, and makes her an essential part of foiling the plan in the end without ever making her a victim. She was constantly in control in a way that no companion since Rose has been, but she still got plenty of funny lines and to revel in playing someone who was so excited to get to meet Robin Hood. All in all, it made for a nice progression in how the show treats Clara.
As much as the episode played into the established conceits of the Robin Hood legend, it also put a twist on some elements: The Sheriff's obsession with collecting gold through taxes was revealed to be part of a plan to get fuel for a gold-powered spaceship, which would then be able to escape into orbit to serve as, to borrow a term from Futurama, a mobile oppression palace. The launch would kill most everyone surrounding the launch site in the Sheriff's castle, but what's a few thousand deaths for control of the world?