I gotta say -- when I first heard that "Doctor Who" was doing a Robin Hood episode, I audibly groaned. I'd been longing for the single-hour-of-great-storytelling days of the Russell T. Davies era, and as much as I loved Peter Capaldi in "Into the Dalek," a freaking fairytale episode could not be the return to old-fashioned "Who" form I was hoping for.
I was wrong. Very wrong. "Robots of Sherwood" was one of the most fun hours of "Who" we've had in years, and a lot of it was due to the simple yet effective story, the powerful performances by Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and guest star Tom Riley, and -- sorry, Doctor -- the banter. Oh, the banter!
Let's dig in to the biggest moments, you bony rascals.
The TARDIS Meets The Arrow
No, not THAT Arrow.
So, obviously, the reason why the Doctor and Clara touched down in Nottingham to begin with was because Clara romanticized the Robin Hood fable growing up. Our newly crotchety Doctor reminded her repeatedly that the man wasn't real, but after last week's Dalek intestines misadventure, the plucky companion insisted...
... Which was great, because the TARDIS quickly touched down in Sherwood Forrest, only to immediately get shot by one of Robin's arrows. (WTF? Don't hurt my girl like that.) Luckily she healed, but the Doctor's ego did not. He was noticeably annoyed that Clara worshiped someone who he considered to be a phony, so he repeatedly condescended to the man, to the point where Robin said: "Do people ever punch you in the face when you do that?"
The banter (Doctor: "I'm against bantering!") between the two men was glorious, especially as they sword-fighted (sword-fought?) and commented on Errol Flynn's enormous... ego.
But of course, it couldn't be ALL fun and games...
The Doctor Blows S--t Up
The Doctor quickly noticed that things were a little bit too perfect in this fairy tale land. Like, 75 degrees and sunny in England in November, perfect. Something was off. And when Robin got invited to participate in an archery contest held by the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, that something was quickly revealed...
Yep, after a glorious sequence during which the Doctor split Robin's arrow in two (by cheating, natch), then blew up the target in general, it was revealed that the Sheriff's new army was entirely populated by robots. Hence the title.
A New Companion Is Revealed
Another misleading subhed! Robin, Clara, and the Doctor were captured at the tournament (Doctor: "Quickest way to find out anybody's plans -- get captured") and quickly taken to a torture dungeon populated by peasants and evil robots that shot laser beams out of their eyes.
The Doctor and Robin once again bickered and boasted during their entire imprisonment -- the Doctor was slowly being driven insane by Robin's lively demeanor and boisterous sense of humor -- making Clara the official voice of reason. And since the Sheriff's henchman was listening to their conversation the entire time, Clara was taken away as the official group ringleader, making the Doctor her companion this time around, when you really think about it.
Paradise Gets Lost (Again)
In case you missed it, The Promised Land is totally our new Bad Wolf/Torchwood/Impossible Girl/Silence Will Fall/you get my drift. The heavier stuff was definitely left out this episode, but when the Doctor and Robin managed to escape the dungeon and discovered that the Sheriff of Nottingham's castle was actually the robots' space ship -- and when that space ship was revealed to be headed toward "The Promised Land" -- I definitely got the chills. We didn't see any of Missy, but next few weeks should make up for that, methinks.
Also, the Sheriff interrogated/tried to kiss Clara, but she got the best of him by pretending to be all-knowing, so he ended up being the one to confess everything he knew, instead. (This episode was very heavy on the whole "men are hapless goofballs" trope, BTW.)
As it turns out, the Sheriff's plan was far more simple than they thought -- the robots crashed, the Sheriff said he'd get all of the gold in the land to help them fuel their ship (good thing these guys don't need flesh or brains like the other space-robots we've met in recent years), and he hoped to take over the world with his new pals once they had all the gold he promised them. (Which, of course, was never going to happen. The robots just wanted to get back to the Promised Land.)
Three True Heroes Save The Day
For a while, it almost seemed like my (and Clara's) dreams would be crushed by Robin Hood being an actual cyborg, but much to my delight, the Doctor was wrong this time around.
The Doctor realized that robots were aware of Robin's legend based on materials they had in their ship, and this caused him to speculate that the baddies had created a fake Robin to give the peasants some hope as the Sheriff took all of their gold (and lives). However, when the three heroes reunited at the end (Robin stole Clara for a while, it was weird) and the Sheriff asked, incredulous, "why would we create an enemy to fight us?" it became clear that the Doctor's disbelief had been cynical and misguided -- after all, wasn't he a hero himself?
At the end of the day, Robin killed the Sheriff, and the Doctor, Clara, and Robin (who injured his hand in the fight) all worked together as a team (awwww) to shoot a golden arrow into the robots' ship, giving them enough fuel to head back into space... and immediately blow up. Oops. Not every story can have a happy ending.
So Clara and the Doctor headed on back to the TARDIS, with Clara grinning from ear-to-ear at the swashbuckling adventure they'd just had. There was a very sweet, meditative moment where Robin considered the gravity of his own life being forgotten by history and turned into a fairy tale, but then he delivered this whammy of a line:
"History is a burden. Stories can make us fly."
Kind of like "Doctor Who" itself, no?
What did you think of the episode, fellow Whovians? Any theories on what this Promised Land actually is?