Sunday, September 7, 2014

Doctor Who: “Robots of Sherwood” recap and review

by Melissa Parkin

Series eight has been a bit bumpy from the get-go, and things weren’t looking particularly good for the Doctor this week. Introducing a new actor as the title lead is always a daunting task, and originality is essential. The franchise explored Victorian London in the previous series with Matt Smith, so the first full episode with Capaldi, “Deep Breath,” hardly broke new ground. Originality did not present itself in the next adventure either. Bringing in the Doctor’s oldest nemeses, the Daleks, so early on into Capaldi’s run came across as a serious lack of self-confidence by the producers.
Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images
Considering showrunner, Steven Moffat, wrote the fan-favorite episode, “Blink,” alongside having a strong cast of actors and a bigger budget expense, high hopes were expected. Unfortunately, it hadn’t delivered. It’s like going to the racetrack to see a horse advertised as the modern-day Secretariat, only to watch the thoroughbred mosey out of the starting gate. The ingredients for greatness are all there; the potential hasn’t been tapped into yet.

Needless to say, I expressed little enthusiasm while watching the TV spot for this week’s episode, “Robots of Sherwood.” Seeing the Doctor coming face to face with a famous historical figure is anything but new. Shakespeare, Van Gough, Charles Dickens, Blackbeard. Been there, done that. Could Robin Hood and his Merry Men really manage to steal the audiences’ hearts into continuing with the series? Well, yes, they can. At last, the Doctor returned true to form. The magic of the TARDIS had yet to cast a spell with the first two episodes, but “Robots of Sherwood” delivered.

The Doctor gave Clara the chance to decide where and when their next adventure will be. When Miss Oswald expressed interest in meeting the legendary thief, Robin Hood, the Doctor immediately considered going back on his offer. As far as the Doctor is concerned, Robin is a myth, an old folktale, and nothing more. So to prove to Clara that such a man never existed, he transported them to 12th century Sherwood Forest. The Doctor spared no time and declared himself correct in the matter. Then, he opened the door to the TARDIS, to find an arrow swiftly striking the side of his beloved blue box. The notorious green-clad robber loosed that arrow.

Though Clara was thrilled and in total fan-girl mode upon meeting Robin, the Doctor, at best, was suspicious of the man. Surely, there is no such real person as Robin of Loxley. The Doctor knows everything doesn’t he? Capaldi’s performance, in “Robots of Sherwood,” finally gave viewers a clear picture of the Time Lord in terms of diversity. His unmannered, introverted behavior really played well in relation to the other cast members. As the voice of reason and skepticism, the Doctor’s alien nature only added to the overall charm.

Capaldi’s approach is very much in the league of the classic Doctors prior to the reboot. That approach complimented the quirky embellishments of the more contemporary style of the episode. With the wildly foppish costumes, the amusing banter, exaggerated laughter, and colorful characters, “Robots of Sherwood” is a high point of series eight that fans of “The Shakespeare Code” will undoubtedly enjoy.

Capaldi’s more dour portrayal mixed with the high spirited Robin Hood (Tom Riley) and the theatrics of Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Miller), made for a lighthearted, campy adventure worth a re-watch. Peter Capaldi’s arrival set a dark ambiance to the show; it was a delight to see the mood lifted to a more whimsical territory in this episode.

Rating: A -
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