Doctor Who: Robot Of Sherwood Review (Contains Spoilers)

Two great heroes of English folklore meet. And start bickering like children...

Well I think everyone can agree that we certainly needed that. After one episode of him possibly getting a bit murder-y and another of his hatred being enough to turn a Dalek into Space Judas, Robot Of Sherwood finally gives the Twelfth Doctor some levity. And Peter Capaldi the chance to show off his comedy chops without turning the air blue. Mark Gatiss pulls off a hat trick of strong scripts after last year€™s The Crimson Horror and the 50th Anniversary biopic An Adventure In Space And Time with an episode that does what Doctor Who often avoids for fear of failing: an episode deliberately weighted towards comedy. And this time it succeeds on pretty much every level. It also really invokes the feeling of Classic Who with references to old episodes flung about as often as arrows, a visual homage to State Of Decay (1980) at the climax, and broad themes that are very reminiscent of 1974€™s The Time Warrior. This episode€™s humour and light-heartedness really is its strongest point since (as mentioned) it€™s nice breather after Deep Breath and Into The Dalek, and plays down the darker side of the Twelfth Doctor for the first time. He€™s sill detached and has moments of his darker streak like his aggressive interrogation of Robin Hood but it€™s written slightly differently as his arrogance clouds his judgement, and he focuses most of his attention on getting into a p*ssing contest with Robin and trying to prove that he isn€™t real. But comedy aside, real praise has to go to the final scene between the Doctor and Robin that not only puts the comedy aside in favour of a nice bit of philosophising, but beautifully ties Doctor Who and Robin Hood together as cultural legends. It€™s a scene that€™s written with real love for the programme and is conspicuously Mark Gatiss in the best possible way.
On the acting side of things, Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are on fine form (with the former easily getting the funniest moments), Tom Riley is charming and charismatic as Robin Hood, and Ben Miller is clearly having a ball; playing the Sheriff Of Nottingham with a brilliant hamminess worthy of the Anthony Ainley incarnation of the Master. He rivals him in the beard stakes as well. Miller also gets some great comedy moments. Very few actors could pull off the €œFirst Nottingham, then Derby€ gag like him. The episode€™s single flaw is that the darker moments don€™t mesh entirely well with the rest of the episode. Particularly the disintegration of a tired slave and that lingering shot of the Sherriff encased in molten gold. Though that would have come off as a tad less gruesome if the revelation he was a cyborg (Which was part of material cut from the original edit) had remained in full. And that brings us to the much talked about decapitation scene. Credit not only has to go to the BBC for sacrificing both a pricey FX shot and a plot point out of sensitivity to recently murdered journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, but also to the programme€™s editors for pulling off a cut so clean (no pun intended) that it€™s practically impossible for someone who hasn€™t seen the original edit to determine how much material was removed and from where. This is an absolute cracker of an episode. It€™s warm, it€™s funny, it€™s exciting, and Peter Capaldi is really starting to feel like the Doctor. There are still another nine episodes to go (and if internet buzz is anything to go by, the next two are excellent), but we€™re happy to go out on a limb and already earmark this as one of the best of Series 8. Excellent work from all involved, especially Mark Gatiss. He€™d better be putting something together for Series 9. What did you think of Robot Of Sherwood? As golden as the prize arrow? Clunkier than the Robot Knights? Let us know in the comments section below...
Contributor
Contributor

James T. Cornish is a writer and filmmaker from the south of England. He also works as an editor and VFX artist, and has a BA in Media Production from the University Of Winchester.

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