I always love when Doctor Who goes literary or historical. It breaks up the alien trend of the show (even though aliens are still involved, the focus is not necessarily on them), and it takes advantage of the fact that the TARDIS can travel through both time and space. Plus, seeing the Doctor interact with famous historical figures is just fun, as it tends to be two geniuses at play.
“Robot of Sherwood,” does not deliver the same quality I have come to expect from historical episodes. Viewers are given a quick intro to Robin Hood’s band and do get to watch the famous archery competition. The show also amusingly recreates Robin’s fight with Little John on a bridge as a fight between Robin and the Doctor. However, the show lacked some of Robin’s spirit. Basically, Robin spends much of the episode laughing maniacally just to tick the Doctor off, and squabbling with him as though both of them are six. I could have believed (and enjoyed) some animosity between the two characters since they both possess some level of arrogance, but the immature fighting seems out of character and out of place.
This episode does further damage to the Doctor’s character by premising everything on the fact that the Doctor does not believe in heroes, and since heroes do not exist, Robin cannot be real. This leads to some truly interesting discussions about the nature of heroism and some very touching moments when Clara attempts to explain the reason she believes in heroes: because she met the Doctor. However, the Doctor’s skepticism does not make sense. He has met heroes, too. (Adelaide Brooke from “The Waters of Mars” perhaps?) Also, if anyone is going to believe in heroes and “impossible things” it has to be the Doctor. He has seen too much of the universe to rule anything out.
And, cute as it is, it also makes no sense that now Clara is blithely proclaiming the Doctor her hero. Two episodes ago, she had no idea who the Doctor was. One episode ago, she could not say whether he was a good man. Now, suddenly, he is her unequivocal hero. It seems clear that the writers have gone back to eschewing any type of logical character development in order to get good sound bites. Whatever the plot, and the theme, of the episode calls for is how the characters will behave.
“Robot of Sherwood” is enjoyable as a standalone episode. It has a few great Robin Hood allusions, some pretty scary aliens, and a whole scene where Clara gets to be clever and badass. As part of the series arc, however, the episode fails heavily on character development.