“I’m not a hero.”
– The Doctor
Am I the only one who thought this felt like Doctor Who fan fiction? Or, at the very least, a bizarre team up that belonged in the Doctor Who comics, but not in the actual series.
That’s not to say that it was a bad episode, per say. It was just a strange one. And in a season where I’m still trying to get used to this new Peter Capaldi version of the Doctor, this episode was even harder to get into than normal.
I normally like the episodes where the Doctor and his companion meet historical figures. Winston Churchill is always a great character in the show. And I really enjoyed the William Shakespeare and Vincent van Gogh episodes in the modern era.
But even though those episodes take a heavy suspension of disbelief, it’s even harder to accept when the character is mythological. To some degree, this episode tried to embrace the disbelief, but it’s insistence on making Robin Hood real and using him as a parallel with the Doctor seemed forced and awkward.
Part of the problem is that there isn’t really new ground to cover with Robin Hood. Sure, the episode threw robot aliens in there to spice things up, but it still hit all of the standard check boxes – the fight on the river, the archery contest, being reunited with Marian. So the Doctor and the sci-fi elements were just window dressing for a fairly standard retelling of a well-worn bit of English folklore.
I think making Robin Hood a robot would have been a better way to go. Especially if he didn’t know he was a robot and, in the end, had to go on knowing that truth, but still trying to live up to the (mythological) man he was modeled after.
But if they did that, they couldn’t have hammered home this question of whether or not the Doctor is a good man, which is something they are clearly set on driving into the ground this season. We are only three episodes in and all three of them have leaned heavily on this examination of the Doctor, which has already been a central question of the Moffat era. I’m hoping they are going somewhere with it – and soon – because it’s heavy-handed and boring at this point.
On top of that, this episode is following one that was a Fantastic Voyage homage, so it’s starting to feel like Moffat and Co. are out of ideas and are grasping at straws.
All of that being said, I did enjoy parts of this episode. I thought the dynamic between the Doctor and Robin Hood was perfect. It was fun to see them bickering with each other while Clara just rolled her eyes. And the Doctor going into his lengthy description of what an utter coward Robin Hood was to the guard in order to distract him really cracked me up.
I’m also intrigued by some of the larger themes that are cropping up. Like the season premiere, this episode once again revolved around robotic villains who were trapped on Earth and looking for the Promised Land. Their efforts to assimilate and their quest to reach somewhere greater is intriguing. And we’ve already seen that the Promised Land does exist and that people are reaching it when they die.
And another thing …
- Is it just me or did Little John look like Bob Ross?
- Also, was I the only one reminded of the Larry Bird vs. Michael Jordan McDonalds commercials while watching the Doctor and Robin Hood try to one-up each other during the archery contest?
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.