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Doctor Who – S8E3 – Robot of Sherwood

Previously on Doctor Who, ‘Into the Dalek’

This episode continues this season’s trend of providing an example by which to understand the new Doctor: a dinosaur in London, a good Dalek, and the legendary Robin Hood.

The Doctor offers to let Clara name a place and time to visit, and much to his chagrin, she chooses Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest. He agrees with an eye roll, mostly so he can prove to her that Robin Hood doesn’t exist. Enter said man. This Robin Hood, much like the Errol Flynn version, laughs in the face “of all” HAHA! Attempting to steal the TARDIS, he duels with the Doctor, sword vs serving spoon, on a log over a river, because duh, and both men end up in the drink. Then Clara, overcome with fangirldom, and Robin give each other googoo eyes while the Doctor keeps trying to prove that he and his Merry Men HAHA! aren’t real.

Robin and his Merry Men HAHA! Yes, he says that every time.

Robin and his Merry Men HAHA! Yes, he says that every time.


Robin Hood, pining for his lost love Marian, enters a contest for the best archer in the land to win a golden arrow. Naturally he wins, until the Doctor steps forward as a competitor, splitting the arrow. Robin splits the arrow again, then the Doctor, and so on until the Doctor ends the match by blowing up the target with his sonic screwdriver. The Doctor claims the golden arrow thinking it must be something alien, but it’s just gold; the knights, however, are evil peasant-enslaving robots.


To find out the plan, the Doctor, Clara, and Robin get themselves captured where the two men continue their pissing match over who carries the biggest stick. Turns out, it’s Clara, who gets hauled in for interrogation as the ringleader. Naturally the Sheriff of Nottingham takes a shine to her so she seduces out the story of how the “mechanical men” arrived and made him their “leader.” Meanwhile Robin HAHA! and the Doctor escape and stumble upon the control room. They find that the castle is actually a damaged space ship in disguise. Original destination? The Promised Land, of course. The Doctor realizes that the ship is using its radiation leak to encourage an artificially lush climate and, drawing on historical legends, has essentially recreated the Robin Hood legend as camouflage. Not unlike 10’s faulty reasoning that Elizabeth I isn’t herself, 12 accuses Robin Hood of being a robot, showing him the various depictions on the computer and saying he’s basically too good looking to be a real person, but it’s clear Robin is clueless and in shock.


Trivia: This production still is Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor, playing Robin Hood in 1953

Trivia: This production still is Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor, playing Robin Hood in 1953


Suddenly the robots attack and the evil Sheriff drags Clara inside the ship. Robin grabs Clara and leaps into the water below, saving them both HAHA!, proving himself real and learning his historic destiny from her. Back on the ship, the Doctor puts the true plan together: use the peasantry to mine the countryside for gold to repair the engine matrix. The Sheriff, of course, has world domination in mind, but the Doctor warns them that the ship is simply too damaged and unstable. Even if it achieves liftoff, it will obliterate the countryside, but they’re tired of him talking sense and knock him out. The Doctor then wakes up in the dungeons next to a peasant girl that was enslaved in the show’s opening, so you know she’s Marian, right? Anyway, here is where the writers started snorting Pixie Stix (not really). He incites a peasant riot, teaching them to use the gold they’ve been melting down, because obviously there are just gold platters everywhere in Dark Ages England, to reflect the robot’s lasers and destroy them, and they all suddenly learn refractive physics perfectly. Science!


Frickin laser beams


Just as the Sheriff is closing in on him, Robin HAHA! and Clara show up to save the day. Robin and the Sheriff duel over a bubbling vat of gold because Reasons, and, in a move mirroring the Doctor’s winning swordfight tactic, Robin kicks the despot to his death and they all escape. The ship, which is now down to like two robots lifts off but is struggling, breach imminent. The trio decides that if only they can shoot the golden arrow into the ship, that’ll be enough gold to help it achieve orbit, because even though giant matrixes of gold weren’t enough, a 5 lb. pure gold arrow totally will be and wouldn’t at all just splatter on the side of a space-worthy ship. But HEY because Teamwork is the Best Work, the arrow works and the ship explodes safely in space.


Not even a golden arrow can plug this plot hole.


Bidding their goodbyes, Robin HAHA! seems a bit sad that he’s forgotten as a real man in the future but decides history is a burden, saying “stories can make us fly.” The TARDIS fades… and Marian is revealed behind it. And the peasants rejoiced.

This dialog is pretty much the only reason for this episode:



Production note:

In the original filming of this episode, Robin Hood beheaded the Sheriff of Nottingham, revealing circuitry. This was changed in deference to the recent ISIS murders, and the Sheriff is revealed to be a cyborg during their final duel by saying he’s half man, half machine. Neither entirely makes sense within the plot, but hey. Science.


Ben Miller, who played the Sheriff of Nottingham, looks remarkably like Anthony Ainley, who played The Master in the 1980s. This is a great interview with him about that and his lifelong Doctor Who fandom. 




Questions remaining:

  • How are these robot races all hearing about this Promised Land?
  • What are they running from considering they’re all falling out of the sky left and right?
  • What are the equations the Doctor keeps working on?
  • What’s up with all the red Clara’s wearing this season?


Score | 5/10

About Sarah de Poer (199 Articles)
Eminently sensible by day, by night, she can be found watching questionable scifi, pinning all the things, rewriting lists, pantry snacking, and not sleeping. She was once banned over an argument about Starbuck and Apollo, and she has to go right now because someone is wrong on the Internet.

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