Mark Gatiss has an undying love when it comes to historical period dramas, which is why his scripts in Doctor Who tend to be set in the past – his writing tends to be powerful and engaging, with BBC series ‘Sherlock’ showcasing the wonderful talent he beholds, yet when it comes to Doctor Who I always sense a regressed script of writing, perhaps due to his attempt in trying to appeal to both the younger and older audiences, which is less of an issue when it comes to programmes such as ‘Sherlock’.
The third episode of Season 8 is like no-other Mark Gatiss Doctor Who episode, it has an extra layer of humour, a slightly-pathetic use of a threat and signs of an episode being perfect yet being held in one aspect or another. For the most part, I actually enjoyed ‘Robots of Sherwood’, The Doctors disbelief that a character like Robin Hood could actually exist in his ironical fantasy-type world brought upon the most entertainment for the episode, seeing the ongoing feud between Robin Hood and The Doctor was just as hilarious as you could wish it would be! It honestly didn’t even take four minutes into the episode for the Doctor to meet Robin Hood, Capaldi vocalising this very Malcolm Tucker line of “Do people ever punch you in the face when you do that?” only to end up having a ridiculous sword battle!
So yes, the overall tone of this episode was completely obscure compared to this ‘darker’ and serious tone from the overall season. Instead the episode escalates quickly with a quirky joke here and there, with intentional melodramatic acting from many of the supporting cast which truly felt more suitable for a pantomime act opposed to a Doctor Who episode. I’d imagine a seven year-old version of me would be in an ultimate glee with this cross-over of two childhood heroes and the eccentric atmosphere providing a lively episode. However considering that I’m no longer a child, I couldn’t connect to this episode as much as I would have enjoyed to.
My second viewing of the episode perhaps increased my pleasure with this episode, after processing my initial reactions which the Doctor rightfully describes as “this is silly”, the second viewing allowed me to enjoy the episode a whole lot more with the campy storyline actually being a pretty interesting episode. Perhaps this episode wouldn’t have been that big of a shock and odd to watch had it starred in earlier seasons, especially the Matt Smith era considering that his Doctor was associated with a fairy-tale theme. Actually, considering the fast-paced events in this episode, had this been in Season 7 alongside all the other ‘blockbuster’ themed fast-paced episodes, ‘The Robots of Sherwood’ could have in fact became a favourite of mine.
Other key scenes such as the archery scene was fully of goofy material that just felt odd, it was more of a ‘when will this end?’ thought rather than an enjoyable ‘bantering’ scene. As The Doctor clearly points out, the whole episode is just full of “bantering” which is what makes this episode unique. I don’t mind Doctor Who’s take on farce comedy, but in some cases it works more than others. Clara seemed to be a huge component in making these comedic scenes work, whether it being during the sword-fight, the dungeon sequence and others, I found myself enjoying these scenes when Clara was involved.
Speaking of Clara, the writing was fantastic in this episode. With all the humour aside, Mark Gatiss clearly has a talent when it came to developing the medieval vocabulary in scenes, so that when it came to the one-on-one scene with Clara and the Sheriff, Clara adapts the similar language which the Sheriff speaks in order to manipulate the character in revealing what the audience needed to know. What made this scene really work was Jenna-Louise Colemans transformation in voice and tone from “I had a bag of crisps” to speaking softly and a classical feminine tone in order to appeal to the Sheriff. This scene alone felt very Game of Thrones-esque as Clara refrains her own personality in order to manipulate the male character, something which past Doctor Who episodes set in the past haven’t implemented with their female characters.
One thing which I’d also like to point out, is the removed scene due to current affairs and the controversy of beheading, I’m actually glad that it was removed as other than the obvious that it would be inappropriate to air at this time, it also just felt unnecessary, the removed clip is here for those who are interested.
Overall, the episode has a range of different opinions, with some scenes and lines working more than others. We’ll have to wait and see if this episode remains the only odd one out from the series, however we already know that next weeks episode ‘Listen’ returns to the dark progression which has been building up in the last two episodes.
+ The humour mostly works, Capaldi and Tom Riley have a perfect rivalry chemistry which makes their feud work.
+ It’s a pleasant breather episode for especially the younger audiences from what is expected to be a terrifying next episode and maybe even the new ‘Blink’.
– The Golden arrow scene near the end was too over-the-top to be even slightly impressive. This alongside other scenes just felt odd to watch.