When writing reviews I like to go on my initial thoughts and work from there. Lately there has been a lot of criticism about the direction the show is going and I’ll admit that there are issues that fans (including me) have a right to complain about. What this can’t get in the way of though is the basic question, did you actually enjoy this week’s episode? That is the question I have to answer for Robot of Sherwood.
When Clara (Jenna Coleman) is given the choice of where to travel to she decides she wants to visit Sherwood Forest in the time of Robin Hood. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) scoffs at the very idea that she thinks Robin (Tom Riley) even exists, so to prove her wrong he agrees to take her to prove a point. As they arrive in the forest they are welcomed by a man looking very much like the legendary character the Doctor said doesn’t exist with his group of Merry Men and the despicable Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Miller) sitting in his castle waiting to do battle.
If there is one criticism of Doctor Who right now that is true it is the fact it is at times too full of its own self-importance and is just a little serious. This episode based on the legend of Robin Hood and written by Mark Gatiss is a nice homage to the fun of Robin, from Errol Flynn to even Men in Tights. With an air of not taking itself too seriously there is almost a feel of The Princess Bride to the atmosphere as Capaldi’s grumpy Doctor tries to prove that Robin can’t be real and to be fair to him there is an outlandish feel to the characters, though there is a reason behind that. It’s also nice that the story of Robin in ways is tied into the Doctor’s current situation where he appears to be questioning just who he is.
When it comes to the Robin Hood characters both Tom Riley as Robin and Ben Miller as the Sheriff play their parts larger than life and seem to be having a lot of fun with their roles. For me Miller’s character was the best of the episode as the actor really seemed to relish the chance to play a classically stereotypical bad guy, managing to keep the balance between a comic character and being too cheesy much have been hard though, I’m glad he managed it. The scenes which they share with Capaldi really show that he is finding his place as The Doctor and creating his own version of him. There is still some work to be done, but he is definitely getting there and the way he has a feel of some of the older doctors in his role really helps him become the iconic character…and the spoon, just enjoy it.
With an episode that finally gets down to the business of being fun, and with Clara thankfully being less annoying this time Robot of Sherwood plays to the strengths of Doctor Who, which is something the show really needs. As fans we may not always agree with what Doctor Who is now, but if it manages to do one thing it is to create good Saturday night television and I for one enjoyed it. Could it be better? Of course, but I’d rather enjoy what I got than spend my time complaining (too much).