The Twelfth Doctor flirts with the fourth wall in the Mark Gatiss story Robot of Sherwood. Yes, it’s Robin Hood meets the Doctor – all we need is a drop of Bond and Sherlock and that’s a Top Trumps deck of British heroes worthy of any adventure.
That aside, how was it?
Clara wants to meet Robin Hood – problem, say the Doctor, he doesn’t exist. Cue an almost pantomime larger than life Errol Flynn style telling of a generic Robin Hood story embellished by robots who need gold to power their spacecraft back towards the Promised Land.
Some great banter between the Doctor and Robin and Clara has much more to do than she has of recent weeks. And yes, that red dress features almost from the beginning. The Sheriff has plans of global domination (via Derby) and meets a sticky end in a crucible of molten gold.
Alls well that ends well.
The story telling
Many other commentators have suggested that Mark Gatiss wrote this before the character of the Twelfth Doctor was worked out. The writing is very vanilla in places and even with Robin being real makes no attempt to postulate any detail beyond the most generic. There is some examination of the meaning of being a legend and what does it mean to be real hero. There is also a hint of back story but nothing that one could hang one’s hat on (whatever that means).
Many people have damned this as a poor episode. My reaction midway was disappointment so I decided to enjoy the story as escapist entertainment and not search for any deep meaning. That it does fine.
Doctor Who has travelled to the land of fiction and all kinds of psuedo-realities, which the story does mention. Is this a poor story? Perhaps. Does it entertain? Yes.
The series arc
So, another robot ship heading back in time and looking for the promised land. No Missy this week but definitely a theme running alongside the stories. Experience tells us there will be other clues we are overlooking and the web is awash with theories about the use of Patrick Troughton’s Robin Hood image. Overall this episodes appears to have neither extended or altered the overall theme. Time will tell!