Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Preview Review: Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 3: Robot of Sherwood [Spoiler-Free]

(While this review does not contain major spoilers or specifics, some minor things may be given away. It also draws your attention to big hints in the episode. Read at your own discretion.)

Please note: I saw the episode without the scene edit. The final product will be different and I don't know precisely by how much.

Clara (Jenna Coleman) and Robin Hood (Tom Riley)
After the two introductory episodes, Deep Breath and Into the Dalek, we have now returned to the standard filler episode, which is a very fitting description of the episode. This episode could easily have been missed out without anyone noticing.

Mark Gatiss's Doctor Who episodes have always divided fan opinion, especially here at Team Combom, and Robot of Sherwood will be no different. After the first two dark episodes,a light-hearted fairly standalone episode was much needed. It is very much aimed at being comedic, which it pulls off the majority of the time, until it gets repetitive. Gatiss still hasn't seemed to have mastered the idea of subtly, with an penis size joke serving as this episode's "Hammer to the Face". Similarly, I could not have possibly imagined a more generic and clich├ęd villain's plan.

It doesn't work on wood.
The episode starts out with The Doctor asking Clara to pick the destination, which is quite refreshing and something seldom seen, although when Clara starts, for want of a better word, fangasming over Robin Hood, it is very quickly revealed why this barely happens.

The episode does not fit the current Doctor very well. It severely lacks the dark tone in the show, and it feels far too much like a Matt Smith story which has been recycled, with only the tone of the Doctor changing to fit Capaldi.

Gatiss also shows his love of Pertwee in this episode (as if portraying him in An Adventure wasn't enough!), between the action sequences and the references. Capaldi even goes "Hai!"

The Sheriff (Ben Miller)
If the writer wished for the events of the episode to remain suspenseful, the title is incredibly poor. It manages to give away both twists, way before the episode gets to it.

Throughout much of the episode, The Doctor scoffs about Robin Hood, and his Merry Men, even existing, which I don't feel fits into the show's theme at all. This is a show that often goes to great lengths to show to the viewer that legends and myths are either real, or based on fact, yet The Doctor continuously kept his viewpoint. This makes me feel very disconnected to him, far beyond his views in Into the Dalek.

The director in this episode has made some excellent shots in this episode, for example his expanded usage of the TARDIS's full 360° set and the spoon fight. Although, the quite glaring continuity error after landing, where Clara clearly closes the door, is a little weird.

The costume department have got to be given massive props for this episode. Clara's and Robin's costume are simply exquisite, while Capaldi's really seems to shine.

While normally I do not have an issue with the editing of an episode, the title of the episode is displayed for far too short, a mere 12 frames (that's less than half a second!), 8x shorter than it should have been. Good luck to any average viewer who doesn't already know the episodes' title!

Capaldi, Coleman and the special guest star Tom Riley prove to be incredibly entertaining, with Riley being incredible. Of note is how Capaldi and the director manages to immensely change the meaning of an incredibly disturbing line to one that I can feel something coming from The Doctor, but still dark. Anthony Ainley Ben Miller portrays a fantastic villain and it's very strange to see a comedian be the most serious and dark character in the episode.

It may be slightly weird to go from a few very deep episodes to a light-hearted one, however be assured that The Doctor remains fairly dark, and in some cases very dark (for example the not-so-subtle gloved middle finger), but his darkness doesn't prevent the episode from being fun. The pacing of the episode feels like a yo-yo with it being all over the place, however this isn't too bad in the final result.

Overall, this episode is very entertaining and very rewatchable, as long as no thought is put into analysing it. It is a good fun romp, but nothing more. I would rate this episode 7/10.


Ingold Inglorion said...

Ok...part way through the Doctor and Robin ranting at each other in the dungeon in was struck by a thought...and then the wife yells at me to pause. She then says, "they sound exactly like those two guys from Bottom!". Which is exactly what I was thinking too. Were we the only ones? Didn't the Doctor and Robin Hood act exactly like Richard Richard and Eddie Hitler?


Anthony Ainley! This is the second place I've been today that made me think I was not Mad!
It felt as if Ben Miller was channeling hi siner Master for the part.