Once a week, we have an unapologetic Doctor Who geek-out here to discuss the latest episode. I’ve just finished watching the third episode of the 8th season of the rebooted Doctor Who called Robots of Sherwood. Fair warning now: this is not a summary, just an off-the-top response, and it does contain spoilers. Of course it does – we have to talk about this stuff! So let’s begin, Whovians…

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I enjoyed this episode more than last week’s Into the Dalek but I think I was ready for a good, fun, family-friendly romp. This was more classic Who, perhaps. It was absolutely nuts, a bit tongue-in-cheek, and I loved it for those very things.

Of course, now that I’m sitting down to write about it, I’m experiencing the exact opposite of last week. Because I didn’t actually like last week’s episode Into the Dalek, but when I sat down to write, I found so much material to unpack, so many theories to explore, so much character development, and connections to the past that to discuss that my actual “liking” of the episode seemed inconsequential. Whereas this week, I thoroughly enjoyed the episode but now that I’m writing it out, I can see that it wasn’t that handy for exploring character development or theories or the overall series arc. It’s a good one to just watch and enjoy without having to connect a lot of dots for folks then. And that’s okay – a bit of fun is always welcome.

I thought this episode was just plain wonderful. The dynamic between Robin and the Doctor was lightening-fast and hilarious: “you appear to be a desiccated man-crone” coupled the Doctor’s frustration with the bantering and laughter. Their scenes in the prison were a delight.

I am really loving this new Doctor, I admit it. He seems so dour, suspicious, and reluctant – which ended up being comedic.

The spoon vs. sword fight was absolutely brilliant – so Nine had the banana, Ten had the 3-D glasses, Eleven had the Jammy Dodgers, now we can add a good thick tablespoon to our repertoire of weaponry.

This episode was so thoroughly in on the joke. It took all the classic Robin Hood elements – like the sword fight over a river, the archery contest, the peasant revolt, and so on but they gave them a bit of a manic Who-twist that they simply worked. When the Doctor wins the contest with a homing device on the arrow to get captured, then blows up the target with the impatient remark that “this is getting silly” I laughed out loud. Of course, there was no major character development or revelations about him during this episode but meh. You can’t have everything in 45 minutes, eh?

Clara improves with every episode of this series. Her bravery, her spunk, her empathy and ability to connect with people is beautiful to behold. And speaking of beauty, who knew that the Doctor kept a lovely supply of hair extensions down in the wardrobe of the TARDIS, eh? 

I loved the reveal with Maid Marian in this episode, too. Perhaps I’m Mrs. Thick Thick Thickity Thick Face from Thicktown Thickania (and so’s your dad) but I honestly never made the connection. So it was a pleasant surprise to me at the end to discover that the compassionate, resourceful, and brave peasant woman we had followed throughout the show turned out to be the love of Robin’s life. I’m not ashamed to admit it: I do love a happy ending.

I didn’t find The Threat of the show at all threatening, of course. Who could? The Robots were useless and not at all scary. I was a bit underwhelmed with the Sheriff, too – he was promising at the dinner table with Clara but his death scene left a lot of unanswered questions for me. But I dug around a bit and discovered that there was a scene cut of the episode – one of the Sheriff being beheaded (it was cut because the joke of it isn’t appropriate at this time with the terrible news out of Iraq). But apparently that left a bit of a plot hole – the Sheriff was, in fact, half-robot, half-man. Either way, who cared about that guy? We all knew how it ended.

The only connection to the arc of the series is the fact that these robots from the 29th century also have a damaged ship trying to find the Promised Land.

However, at the end of this episode/inevitable dying of someone, nobody met Missy. So we can surmise that nobody went to Heaven. Which lends credence to the idea that it’s only “good” people – or the ones who sacrifice themselves for the Doctor – who end up in Heaven.

All of which means I was dead wrong in the first episode and the Doctor did NOT push Half-Face Man out of the creepy-skin-balloon-thing (which I learned in our discussion was called “a skilloon” – which is even more shudder-inducing). I’d love to be wrong about that one.

Clara’s goodbye to Robin Hood: “Try to be safe, but always be amazing” was just beautiful. And then the Doctor’s farewell to Robin, their discussion of what is real and how maybe it’s better to just be a story instead of bearing the weight of history reminded me of my favourite moments with the Eleventh Doctor. I am an absolute sucker for the Doctor’s monologues and this felt like that kind of reflective pathos but as a dialogue with another mythic story.

I know, I know – maybe it’s sappy but like I said: happy endings, I dig them.

“May those stories never end,” Robin says. So say we all. (Kiss-kiss, BSG fans. I know you’re here, too.)

P.S. Anyone else notice Timothy Dalton (who played Time Lord Rassillon in the 10th Doctor era) and Second Doctor Patrick Troughton dressed up as Robin Hood in the pictures that the Doctor showed Robin of “the legend”? Love those little sly jokes.

Next week’s episode “Listen” looks bloody terrifying. And was that an older version of Danny Pink I spied in the old orange suit in the sneak peek? I HOPE SO.

Now let’s get to the good part – your responses! I’ve gotten us started, but let’s talk it out. Did you like the episode? Any insights or theories I’ve shamefully neglected?

Read More:

Episode 1: Deep Breath 

Episode 2: Into the Dalek

Episode 3: Robots of Sherwood

Episode 4: Listen

Episode 5: Time Heist

Episode 6: The Caretaker

Episode 7: Kill the Moon

 Episode 8: Mummy on the Orient Express

Episode 9: Flatline

Episode 10: In the Forest of the Night

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  • I thought it was cheesy and wonderful and everything I love about this show 🙂 nothing to add really except I adored the happy ending and Clara’s outfit/hair made me want to visit the Renaissance Faire.

    • Me, too! I love a good wardrobe choice. That red was so fetching!

  • Samantha Ward

    I was afraid I’d hate this episode, but I honestly loved it. I found the “saving the day with one golden arrow” a bit hokey, though. Mark Gatiss is an amazing writer and story teller. I always love what he comes up with and he didn’t let me down this time, either. Also, Robin and his fake beard and wig got more attractive as the episode went on. I don’t know what kind of film magic that was but they should employ it more often and on uglier people.

    That said, I am so looking forward to next week. I may have been one of those people who read some of the scripts early. And next week may have been my favorite. I anticipate tears, for me at least.

    • I know – episodes like this either work brilliantly (i.e. Vincent and the Doctor) or are too painful to even speak of (i.e. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship). But I’m glad to hear next week’s is a good one!

      • Terri Trewin

        How could you NOT like Dinosaurs on a Spaceship?? It had everything! Including Dinosaurs, Filch, Brian and… a spaceship!

        • Waikikamukau

          Dinosaurs on a spaceship contains one of the best two-liners in doctor who history. “Is that a kestrel? . . . . I do hope so”

          Right behind tom bakers “better not tell Harry, he’s gone first”

  • Britta

    You and your british television. You’re adorable, Sarah.

  • Terri Trewin

    I’m glad it was ‘light’ because last weeks was rather more serious (while still containing great one liners). I watched an interview with Moffat saying that that’s exactly what he’s doing, this season is more about ‘tone’ dark one week, then lighten it the next. Well executed Sir! I didn’t think I’d like it either, very cheesy, but I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. Even down to the incredibly annoying laugher. I did like Ben Miller as the Sherrif, I’ve always liked Ben so that probably helped. Clara is brilliant, but I’ve always liked her. I find her less contrived than the previous companions. The Sword v Spoon fight was magnificent, I even clapped when he pulled out the spoon, and the one-upmanship between the Doctor and Robin was hilarious, if not a tad predictable (ie. Clara being the ringleader). Out of 10, I’d give it an 7.

  • Shane Deal

    I noticed the continuing burning people motif, I’m a little nervous about where that might go. Overall, I liked the episode, in spite of all that. It was the sort of episode I can see myself re-watching on its own. Other episodes like that are Eleventh Hour, Vincent and The Doctor, The Lodger. (I really like the Lodger episode, not sure why, just find it kind of lighthearted and fun.)

    As for observations of the episode: It reminds me a bit The Lodger. I was a little surprised by the chameleon circuit like aspect of the spaceship. It lands and blends in with it’s environment as a house of sorts intent on using the local population to fly it out again. In The Lodger, The Doctor refers to it as someone’s attempt to build a T.A.R.D.I.S and there was no indication of that sort of thing… Except that it was from the 29th century. Time Travel doesn’t just happen to random spaceships. What is with that?

    It was fun having castles and such, I like those kinds of things. Actually, come to think of it, all the new season’s episodes have something that strongly remind me of a previous episode. I liked the ending, The Doctor can seem a bit cold-hearted and emotionless, but he really does care. For example when Clara and Robin fell into the water, he was very worried. The ending, he really cares about people, even those whom he just met. He seems more inclined to show that he cares than to say so. It was a lovely ending.

    Next weeks episode looks creepy! (And I just realized I totally wrote this with a Scottish accent for my internal voice.)

  • Amanda

    I just want the Doctor to start looking for Gallifrey already! The Time Lords aren’t dead! Priorities Moffat!!!

  • Melanie Dale

    I loved this episode! I’m a big fan of the period pieces and this one did not let me down. So adorable to see the cranky Doctor play matchmaker in the end and give Robin Hood his Maid Marian. The Clara hair was a fun surprise, and I also wondered about the TARDIS’s supply of perfectly matched hair falls in its wardrobe. Definitely my favorite part of the show was the banter and rivalry between the Doctor and Robin Hood. I so enjoyed seeing our churlish new Doctor act ridiculous. Robin Hood rankled him so much that I had to laugh. I was hoping for another Danny Pink sighting, but even without that, I continue to love the development of Clara’s character. Her strength and zestiness is spunky and delightful, and she’s really growing into her role. So say we all. *receiving said BSG shout-out and tipping my hat to you, good woman*

  • Tracey

    I loved how Gatiss tied it back to the “Story”line that has been weaving for a while. “We’re all stories in the end, make it a good one…”, He’s reviewing his story to figure out who he is – it’s his initial identity crisis with his regenerations. Maybe he saw 11 in the laughter and free spiritedness of Robin Hood and was a bit jealous and aged beyond that. Clara with the amazing quote is showing us how the Doctor has rubbed off on her and how she is starting to be her own person and I hope it will show the Doctor how he really was/is. It is showing her independence and usually when that happens it means that character’s growth is about done.

  • Yeah, the hair extensions, right? Will a new regeneration ever try them on?

  • I really want to like 12, but I just don’t yet. Dunno why, but it’s annoying me.

    I went back and finished Journey’s End, which I had started the other night, and now I have tears all over my face.

    Twelve hasn’t clicked with me like Nine, Ten, and Eleven all did.

    This is the first time I’ve watched in real time, though. I just started watching about two and a half years ago, and I finished season 7 a few days before 8 started. So I can’t binge watch. I have to wait for the mystery about The Promised Land and who this Doctor is to unravel.

  • It does look like Danny in next week’s episode. And like someone suggested last week, I think he is Journey’s brother. And I think the Doctor eventually doesn’t save him; and I think Clara will never forgive him for that.

  • And now I’m going to watch Silence in the Library, because I haven’t re-watched it since I finished River’s story, and I feel like continuing the good cry I’m having, okay?

  • Iryssa

    I LOVED how they seem to have enjoyed every minute of doing a Robin Hood episode. There were references to other Robin Hood movies, there was cheeky banter, a cheesy-fun solution to the problem…it felt very much like the perfectly fun marriage of old-Who and new-Who. I have DEFINITELY been needing an episode like this!

  • Nicole Chase

    OH! I was wondering where they’d found Marian. Totally missed that, oops. But I did notice – and comment on – the hair extensions. Obviously my observational skills are in the wrong place.

    This was a thoroughly fun episode, though it looks like we’re in for a scary one next week…

  • Cara

    Yep this episode was a fun one. I always look forward to the period episodes (although some of them are hit or miss). I loved the cranky, suspicious Doctor and his need to still one-up Robin Hood (which was very 11th Doctor to me). Their dialogue was hilarious. All the classic Robin Hood elements, as you said, were so fun, from swordfights and the archery contest to the sets and costumes (Jenna Coleman looked completely fabulous…wow!). I enjoyed finding out that the Doctor was in fact cheating in the archery contest– I mean, I have no problem believing that he has all kinds of hidden talents picked up over the years, but we had just seen a demonstration of his swordfighting prowess and so it was funnier that he wasn’t actually good at archery. No major developments, but I loved the ending that tied the myth of Robin to the myth of the Doctor and the “stories” theme, which is one of my favorite themes in this show.

  • ianjmatt

    Thoroughly enjoyed it – it reminded me of some of the Patrick Troughton (who played Robin Hood at some point and who’s grandson was in the BBC Robin Hood a few years ago) and Colin Baker episodes. The plot hole over the lack of gold in the spaceship but a huge vat of molten gold just hanging around bothered me – but I discovered this was because they had to recut the ending as the sheriff got beheaded (and turned out to be a robot) because of recent events.

  • Thoroughly enjoyed this episode – it made me laugh outright several times! I agree, Sarah, that this didn’t seem to be as significant in terms of “heaven” or whatever with Missy. I did notice two items that may or may not be something:
    One of Robin’s Merry Men had a last name of Scarlet, which might be something considering Journey Blue and Danny Pink have colors for last names. Am I grasping at straw here since it seems Mr. Scarlet stayed in Sherwood Forest?
    When the gold was poured into the mold as the robots built the ship, the rectangle form they used reminded me of the marble pieces created in “Fires of Pompeii,” which is only significant {in my mind} because that was Capaldi-as-not-the-Doctor.

    Can’t wait for next week with the apparent Mr/Solider Pink!

  • jaysonwhelpley

    The spoon… from Prince of Theives

    Sheriff of Nottingham: Locksley. I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon.
    […]
    Guy of Gisborne: Why a spoon, cousin? Why not an axe?
    Sheriff of Nottingham: Because it’s DULL, you twit. It’ll hurt more.

  • eswan1600

    Two quick observations:

    1. The Doctor never got his screwdriver back from the Sheriff of Nottingham. I know the TARDIS can produce a new one, but it bugged me. Maybe this was resolved in the deleted scene?

    2. Interesting prison scene with the cross-shaped window so prominent in the background. Conversation was between Robin and the Doctor, each crying out to the guard to kill the other one. About how they laugh in the face of death, etc. Then Clara blurs out, “Do either of you understand that there is no guard out there? … only, with her accent, “guard” sounds like “God.” With the cross prominently glowing and shining on her. Only it turns out later there is in fact a guard, only he’s corruptable. Maybe nothing, but stuck out to me nonetheless.

    • Rea

      I had some of the same thoughts as your 2nd point. And this is why I love Who, because there is always something, maybe they put it in there purposely or maybe it was some grand random thing, but there’s always that treasure of something deep buried in there.

    • I was wondering about that hugely prominent cross-shaped window. Really good point.

  • Bekah Harmon

    I loved all the references to Robinhood. Particularly the high level of laughing. Reminded me of the Erol Flynn Robinhood. I also loved Clara and her dress, though my second thought was about her extra hair too. Once again Clara shined, her wit and cleverness are beautifully written. I however didn’t care much for the dungeon scene, especially once Clara left. For me, it was a bit over the top. It still didn’t ruin the overall episode. I suppose the over the top was intentional as some of the problem solving was also crazy ridiculous, like the golden arrow landing on the ship being sufficient. I however enjoyed the arrow’s success.

    Lastly, the farewell with the discussion on heros echoed the earlier line from Clara about impossible heros brilliantly.

  • Rachel

    I completely love your observation, that this episode was a bit more fun, a bit more classic Who, and back to the feel of a kids’ show. It was definitely a nice breather from all the dark episodes we’ve been getting and will probably be receiving.
    The last 10 minutes, with Clara’s goodbye to Robin Hood and then Robin essentially encouraging the Doctor in their mutual striving to be good men in their stories, was beautiful and I love love loved the episode ending on that note (the happy ending!).
    I’m still getting used to 12. He’s fantastic and I love him, don’t get me wrong. But his unpredictability, distrust of others, and dare I say grumpiness is something to adjust to.
    Next week… eeep! Creepy Doctor Who here we come!

  • Okay… so I’m late to the party… but I’m a bit of a party pooper here, too. I didn’t love this episode. Afterward, my husband said, “I think that was my least favorite Dr. Who episode of all time.” Although I don’t really agreed that it was the worst of ALL TIME (I mean we all know time is wibbly-wobbly, so who knows…), I really didn’t like it. It felt so simple and contrived, and the Grumpy Doctor just didn’t work for me this episode.

    I wanted Grumpy Doctor to work as comedic, but I just felt like he was a downer and although the banter was fast, it wasn’t delivered with much of a flair, I felt. I mean—the Doctor has been primarily curious about things that don’t fit, up until this point, not skeptical. I may need to watch all of the original series to really get the resonances, but Ten and Eleven (and to some extent, Nine) wouldn’t just completely DOUBT the reality of Robin Hood—they’d be interested, curious, exploratory. All of Twelve’s exploration was invasive and angry, it felt to me, rather than energetic and interested. It was like all he wanted to do was prove it all false; whereas, I’ve felt that previous Doctors were actually more into finding out something more mystical and magical was going on.

    I think that’s why I didn’t love this episode. The Doctor was primarily a downer the whole time. Even from the beginning, he didn’t want to go where Clara wanted to go. He didn’t listen. He mostly seemed to not care. (Also, if the radiation was serious enough to affect the climate, wouldn’t the Sonic Screwdriver have picked that up right at the beginning??)

    I agreed that Clara was lovely in this episode. And I didn’t see the Maid Marion twist at the end either, so either we’re both thick or the foreshadowing just wasn’t there.

    The robots were underwhelming, and it would have been WAY better (although I understand the politics of not beheading someone—except that there were several other beheadings in the episode) to understand that the Sheriff was part robot, too.

    The only interesting bit for me was finding out they were heading to the Promised Land, too. But what’s with all the crash-landing, stranded spaceships? Why Earth?

    All in all, I was disappointed with this episode. Mildly fun, but not the Dr. Who I’ve come to adore.

    • Admittedly, “Try to be safe, but always be amazing” might be my new signoff line to friends and family, now, though. 🙂

    • eswan1600

      Good point about the radiation not being picked up by the screwdriver. It also didn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between humans and robots. Now it blows things up (the archery target)? But it can’t blow up wooden doors (at least, in the old episodes). I think the way the screwdriver’s being used in the writing this season is wonky.

      • The writing is really uneven, I think. I was surprised this recent episode was Gatiss. And the way the screwdriver is being used is very odd. How can it blow up things when it is supposed to only be able to open/close things?

  • Laura W

    Ummm. I am loving the new Doctor (He is a nice change. I never cared for Matt Smith. David Tennant will always be my Doctor, though.) and I am even ok with the awkward, not-yet-meshing relationship between Clara and the Doctor, but the only remotely good aspects about this episode were Clara’s hair and dress and the dialogue at the end between the Doctor and Robin Hood. Please give us some good stuff. Bring in the Weeping Angels or something!!! 🙂

    • Matthew Pearson

      The dress was not good if you are a historical reenactor for the period.

  • Best part of this post: that you managed to work a Black Adder reference into a Doctor Who recap. Nicely done!

  • I really liked it. I thought it jumped into the fantasy/fairytale genre a bit quickly (Clara suddenly is obsessed with Robin Hood?) but felt myself easily going along with it. Would love to see Robin Hood join for a few adventures on the Tardis. I also really love this doctor in a “isn’t the curmudgeon sweet deep down on the inside” kind of way, though I suppose in hindsight MS definitely had his curmudgeon moments, though they were harder to notice at the time because of the young face. Loved the banter with Robin and the oneupmanship in the dungeon, though didn’t really reconcile Twelve’s cruelty to Robin in trying to prove he was a legend. Wouldn’t the Doctor of yore have tried to lay it on him gently? But still, great ep, fun times, lots of laughs.

  • Laura

    Am I the only one who sees a strong connection between all these ships with a human-like, robitic species searching for The Promised Land and that in the series 3 episode “Utopia”? The ones that the Doctor unknowingly sent off to become half-flesh, half-robot killing machines, the Teclofane??

  • Tawny Burgess

    This episode was a lot of fun! I think it was needed to just brighten this season up a bit (especially with LISTEN coming next!). I like these stand off episodes that don’t have much to do with the overall arc (other than they are looking for Heaven), but just something that shows the Doctor and the Companion having a good time.

    I love it when they go on adventures with literary figures! Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, etc.

    I also loved how the Doctor did not believe that Robin Hood existed. The cynical Doctor was wrong on this go, which I like. He’s fallible. It was also a sweet moment for Clara — someone who is quite hopeful about the world — and she found out her favorite legend is real! It’s like if I were able to discover that the Doctor was real too!