Clara has a secret. It isn’t anything destructive and, like others, she hasn’t been imprisoned for killing anyone. Clara desperately wants to meet Robin Hood. The Doctor rolls his eyes, as only Peter Capaldi can, and insists that Robin Hood was not a real person but that they can check out the time period to prove his point. The Doctor is surprised to be greeted with an arrow to the TARDIS and a sudden duel. True to Doctor Who, Capaldi faces Robin Hood with not a sword, but a large spoon. Clara joins them dressed in what she considers to be the periods finest (historians, put your pitchforks down and just go with it). The Doctor is immediately annoyed by the amount of laughter and mirth that seem to be present all around him. After a brief period of wandering annoyed through the encampment of the Merry Men and discovering that they are not theme park robots, the Doctor insists on going to a local tournament. Though Robin is the best archer in the land, the Doctor brings his A-game, and both they and Clara are thrown into prison by a series of robots in knight garb. True to every Robin Hood story, The
Sheriff of Nottingham is smarmy. He sees Clara from the prison and attempts to convince her to be his wife. The Doctor, however, discovers that the castle may not be a castle after all.
Watching a BBC production is sort of like flipping through a British yearbook; one finds themselves going “I think that’s the guy from” and “he sure looks like” one character after another. For the first ten minutes of the broadcast I was struggling to figure out the actor who was playing Robin. The actor who plays Robin Hood, Tom Riley, looks eerily like Emun Elliot (The Paradise) when coated in a beard. There are also call backs to the greats in this episode as well. Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor, is pictured as Robin Hood during a series of brief flashes. Tom Riley does an excellent job mimicking Eroll Flynn’s famous moves from classic Hollywood portrayals.
Clara was an excited Robin Hood Fangirl in this episode, so it was hard to give her any flack. The character seems rapidly more annoyed with the Doctor as the season goes on, but in a loving “this guy is just like my dad” kind of way. She also questions the constant use of the Sonic Screwdriver, which recently has been popping up over and over as a complaint on fanboards. Many wonder if we will see Capaldi ditch the screwdriver, much like Peter Davison did as the 5th Doctor. The attempts to partner off Clara with every man met on their travels is a bit frustrating and reminiscent of the days of Rose. Capaldi continues to thrive on the role, being grumpy and Scottish while still holding his own as a Timelord.
I was delighted to see Mark Gatiss’ name on the credits for writing this episode. While there are brief flashes of his brilliant dialogue and character development, the episode seems to keep the series in place rather than pushing forward with an overarching plot line. It feels as if Gatiss had his hands tied for this episode, and could only give bits and pieces. His portrayal of Clara is charming, something that the character sorely needs. The only true error of this episode is that it feels boring and stagnant. My friend’s 11 year-old fell asleep during the episode, and she is about as hardcore a Doctor Who fan as I have ever met. Still, something about the episode begs a second watch. It may be the small details or the brief flash of the “Paradise” plans that bring me back to the remote, but I feel I missed something important.