The Doctor meets Robin Hood. Scooby Doo has teamed up the Addams Family, Batman & Robin, the Harlem Globetrotters and Sonny & Cher. Abbott and Costello have met the Wolfman, the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, the Mummy and Frankenstien(‘s Monster). Godzilla has fought with King Kong and Bambi.
While the Doctor has seldom done any official crossovers, having a time machine means he often encounters famous historical or mythical figures. Robin Hood is someone who could count as both. Robin Hood as we know him is a legend and the stories about him are fictionalised, but it is likely he was based on a real person.
The Doctor asks Clara where she wants to go, and she wants to go and see Robin Hood, just to see if he was real. The Doctor seems sure he isn’t, and in any case implies it isn’t always a good idea to meet your heroes, as the reality will be no match for the legend.
As it happens, there IS a Robin Hood when the Doctor and Clara visit Sherwood Forest in medieval times. He and the Doctor don’t get on at first, spending most of the episode trying to outdo each other. We get to see versions of the Robin Hood stories, such as the duel over a log in a river, and more significantly the archery contest which Robin wins by splitting the Sheriff of Nottingham’s arrow in an archery target. Here, the Doctor then splits Robin’s arrow in two in the same way. Then Robin splits the Doctor’s arrow. Then they battle on like that for a while until the Doctor gets bored and explodes the target. The Sheriff later has the Doctor, Robin and Clara locked in a dungeon. The Doctor and Robin spend all their time quarreling, and Clara tells them they need to stop that and try to figure out how to escape. I loved how she was snarky about the egos of the two, sarcastically referring to them as “Prince of Thieves” and “Last of the Timelords”. Witnessing all this, the guard assumes Clara is the leader of the group, and takes her to the Sheriff, where despite him supposed to be interrogating her, she gets him to tell her his plan, by acting like she knows it already.
The Sheriff has robot knights working for him. I like the idea of robot medieval knights, because knights in suits of armor do look like robots. These ones are aliens whose spaceship has crashed, and the reason they are collecting so much gold is because they wish to melt the gold down to use to power up their engines. They enslave peasants to load all the heavy buckets of gold, and kill off those who are too sick to do it any more.
They are prepared to accept the Sheriff as their leader if he’ll help them achieve their goal, and the Sheriff hopes to take the throne of England for himself using the spaceship and the robot knights. The Doctor points out that their plans won’t work, as there is simply not enough gold, and all that will happen is the spaceship will blow up. The villains don’t listen to this of course.
There is a sword fight between Robin and the Sheriff, with the Sheriff meeting his demise falling into a vat of boiling melted gold. The robots take off in their spaceship, but the Doctor knows they won’t have enough power to even get into orbit, and their spaceship is basically a ticking time bomb. He, Robin and Clara all help fire the golden arrow, the prize from the archery contest, into the spaceship, which gives it enough power to get into outer space, where it explodes.
You have to wonder what someone who is unfamiliar with the Robin Hood legend would make of this episode, as it assumes that the audience know the stories well. But then it is a pretty safe bet that they will. Certainly here in Britain most people will have heard of Robin Hood and will have seen countless incarnations of it. Interestingly, the idea that reality is no match for the legend comes back at the end, when Robin is happy that he is remembered as a legend and through stories rather than as a historical fact.
The Merry Men are here. Will Scarlett, Alan-A-Dale, Friar Tuck and Little John. Maid Marion is mentioned, but does not appear… or so we are led to believe for most of the episode. I was expecting her to turn up at the end, but I was surprised that she turned out to be the plucky peasant girl we saw throughout the episode.
I really enjoyed this episode. Tom Hiley seems to be having a good time as Robin Hood, and Ben Miller hammed it up brilliantly as the Sheriff of Nottingham. As a whole, Robot of Sherwood was a lot of fun, and the costumes and sets looked very bright and colourful. It was a welcome change after series eight has had a grim tone to it so far.