Robot of Sherwood
Robot of Sherwood was the third episode of the eighth series of Doctor Who produced by BBC Wales. It explored the legend of Robin Hood.
The Doctor offers Clara the choice of their next destination. Clara points out that the Doctor will say her choice does not exist, but she wants to meet Robin Hood. As she thought, he does not think that Robin Hood is real. Clara listens as the Doctor lists off other destinations they could visit; however, she adamantly points out that it is her turn, not his. Seeing he cannot win, the Doctor sets course for Sherwood Forest, “1190-ish”.
While Clara is changing in 12th century clothing, the Doctor exits the TARDIS, smugly observing that where they have landed there are no damsels in distress, no pretty castles, and “no such thing as Robin Hood” – just as an arrow pierces the TARDIS door. The Doctor turns to find the man who shot it across a river, asking if he called for him. The Doctor looks at him in shock, receiving a smile.
The Doctor removes the arrow, watching at the damage it caused heal. Robin goes on about how amazing it was to watch the TARDIS materialize; he asks if it’s done with mirrors, stating it’s similar to what he saw a fair once. The Doctor declares the TARDIS as his property, but Robin points out that all property is up for grabs for him. Clara exits the TARDIS in a fancy dress, surprised to already be meeting Robin Hood. However, the Doctor denies that he’s real. Robin then asks who is the one trying to steal the “magic box” from him.
Robin challenges the Doctor to defend his property, drawing his sword as he invites the Doctor to do the same. The Doctor shows Robin he carries no such weapon on him, but does have… a large spoon. They duel on a log over a river; the Doctor explains he was taught fencing by the best – Richard the Lionheart, Cyrano de Bergerac and Errol Flynn (who had an enormous ego, which Clara states is like the Doctor). Countering Robin, the Doctor feigns surrender, only to knock him into the river.
The Doctor proudly declares the TARDIS his, while cleaning his spoon. However, Clara rushes over and says his name in concern, since Robin hasn’t emerged from the river. Seeing this, the Doctor looks at the river with her, only to be pushed in from behind by Robin; Clara and Robin laugh. Obviously, the Doctor is less than amused
Robin takes the Doctor and Clara to his campsite, where he introduces his group: Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck, Alan-a-Dale,Walter, and Little John. Robin makes jokes about Tuck and John, which everyone takes in stride. An excited Clara calls the group the Merry Men, which Robin decides to use as their name. The Doctor takes a hair strand, confirming it’s real, and takes a sample of Alan’s blood; unfortunately, he’s riddled with diseases that will kill him in half a year. Before he can perform further test, the Doctor is pulled away by Clara.
The Doctor explains they could be in a theme park from the future, or a Miniscope. Clara isn’t willing to believe his theories, asking when he stopped believing in everything. However, the Doctor then asks when she started believing in “impossible heroes”; Clara smiles at him and asks “don’t you know?” At a loss for words, the Doctor resumes his testing. Robin talks with Clara, noting that her friend doesn’t seem of this world; Clara responds that on a good day, the Doctor is.
Meanwhile, in a nearby village, helmeted knights are taking away villagers. In one house, Master Quayle is pleading the Sheriff of Nottingham to take him and spare his young female ward. When the Sheriff refuses, Quayle then spits in his face. The Sheriff says he will live to regret that, immediately correcting himself to say, “Actually, no. You won’t.” He then abruptly plunges a sword into Quayle’s abdomen, killing him straight away. The knights take the girl away screaming.
At Robin’s camp, he continues talking to Clara, noting that dark days lay ahead. Robin goes on to explain that since the King is away, his greedy brother Prince John has done nothing but cause misery. When Robin spoke out against the Prince’s tyranny, he was stripped of his tile Earl of Loxley and forced into his current life. Because he promised Marian, Robin has aspired to be a man worthy of her by fighting against the injustice. The Doctor then questions what the season is, learning it’s Autumn; this leaves him suspicious of the weather- “have you been to Nottingham?” Clara guesses that it could be a climate change, but the Doctor points out that it’s 1190.
Robin announces the Sheriff is holding a contest to find the most skilled archer in Sherwood; the prize is to be a golden arrow. Clara immediately warns Robin not to enter, since it’s a trap laid by the Sheriff to capture him; the Doctor doesn’t stop her, since he doesn’t believe what’s happening is real. However, Robin knows it is a trap (since everyone knows he’s the best archer in Nottingham), which he will gladly enter. The Merry Men laugh, annoying the Doctor, who hates bantering.
Robin proceeds to enter the archery contest, where he – under the guise of Tom the Tinker – exceeds in every activity and, in the final competition, is pitted against the Sheriff, whose own bow skills are “astounding,” comments the commentator. The Sheriff asks his guards to carry the target back to the very end of the field, which they do, and he shoots the arrow right in the middle. Robin then shoots an arrow at the same target and splits the Sheriff’s arrow, winning the contest. He is presented with the golden arrow, but Robin’s arrow is immediately cut by another entree: the Doctor.
The Doctor asks for his prize, being given the golden arrow; calling it a mere bauble, he discards it, asking for enlightenment instead. However, Robin fires another arrow into the Doctor’s, without even looking; the Doctor responds by shooting an arrow off one of the knights, that still manages to hit the target. Robin prepares to fire another arrow, but the Doctor points out that “this is getting silly” and blows up the target with the sonic screwdriver. Slightly amazed, the Sheriff orders his knights to seize the Doctor, Clara and Robin. Robin then reveals to the crowd who he really is before the knights attack, and Robin begins to fend them off with his fencing skills.
When Robin slices off one of the knights’ arms, it’s revealed to be a robot. The Doctor rushes off to examine the arm, happy to finally see something that “makes sense” the knights’ helmets split upon to reveal mechanical, emotionless faces. The Sheriff orders the knights to scare off the patrons, while the Merry Men flee with the arrow. The Doctor quickly disarms Robin, allowing them and Clara to be taken captive; he explains to her that this is best way to learn of the villains’ plans.
They are placed in the dungeon, chained to a post, staring at a skeleton. Robin is angry with the Doctor for seemingly betraying him, but the Doctor points out that he has actually saved him from being reduced to a pile of ashes. They then exchange snarky remarks about who will last longest with Robin’s focused on the Doctor’s apparent age, and the Doctor boasting to have genetic superiority.
Deep in the castle, one of the peasants falls down from exhaustion. The young female ward taken earlier goes over and helps him stand. A Knight comes over and declares that the peasant’s work capacity has been broken down, and he is no longer useful. They then proceed to disintegrate him, much to the girl’s horror.
The Doctor and Robin Hood call for the guard, asking the other be executed; the Doctor wants to see if Robin’s head will keep laughing after decapitation. Clara snaps at them, pointing out there ISN’T a guard. Clara asks them to explain their plans in turn; Robin wishes to bide his time, while the Doctor doesn’t have one since the Sheriff took the sonic screwdriver. An annoyed Clara points out the sonic is always taken whenever they’re imprisoned. A guard comes in, revealing he has been assigned to listen at the door to find out who the true ringleader is, so the Sheriff can conduct an interrogation. Robin and the Doctor both proudly state he Sheriff will never get information out of them, but the guard unchains Clara instead. Clara looks at them, asking “really?”
Clara is able to goad the Sheriff into revealing his past – that he witnessed a spaceship crash and has been trying to repair it by collecting all the gold in the nearby land to repair the ship’s circuits. He then plans to use it to travel to London and take over the kingdom. He tells her that every King needs a Queen, and leans in to kiss her. She wiggles out, threatening, “You do that again, and you’ll regret that.”
In the dungeon, Robin asks the Doctor to pretend to be in terrible pain to attract the guard; however, the Doctor insists Robin do it as it’s his plan. Robin moans loudly. When the guard demands answers, the Doctor insists that Robin is having a nervous breakdown from fear; the Doctor even says Robin has soiled himself, angering him. He then tricks the guard into the cell by saying Robin carries a vital message for the King, who has promised an enormous reward for it. The guard leans in to hear Robin, who insults and headbutts him; the keys fall off the guard when he lands. The Doctor and Robin both try to reach the keys, knocking them into a grate. The Doctor points out that the bright side is that Clara will never hear of that little mistake…
They decide to uproot the posts and, at a blacksmith’s forge, break their chains before locating the spacecraft inside the castle. The Doctor checks the computer, learning it’s a 29th century ship set to reach “the Promised Land”. The Doctor shows Robin photos from books, stories and television shows that follow his adventures, believing him to be a robot used as a hero to boost public morale. Robin is left angered at collusion with the Sheriff, who then arrives with Clara. The Doctor attempts to pass off his new idea as truth as the knights fire at Robin; however, Clara shields him. Robin takes Clara and jumps into the moat through a hole blasted by the knights.
The Sheriff pities the loss of Clara, while the Doctor watches Robin emerge from the moat with her in his arms. The Doctor tells the Sheriff that he knows what’s going on. The Sheriff states while the plan belongs to the Mechanicals, he wishes to rule from the sky ship. However, when the Doctor attempts to warn him that there isn’t enough gold yet to ensure safe travel, the Sheriff ignores him and has a knight knock him out.
Back at the campsite, Clara comes to. Robin greets her, but his usual joyful demeanor has changed to that of a serious one. He demands to know who the Doctor is, and what he knows about Robin Hood’s life. Clara is confused that she’s being interrogated.
The Doctor wakes up in the dungeon, finding himself chained across from the young woman the Sheriff captured earlier. Hearing the engines are charging, the Doctor calls the Sheriff stupid and explains the plan to the girl, who grasps the basics. A knight declares that the Doctor is fit for labor, prompting him to reveal he escaped the chains. He and the peasants take shiny plates, reflecting the beam fired by the knights back at them, causing them to destroy themselves. The Sheriff sees this on a holographic projection in his dining hall, wondering how he can get rid of the Doctor.
The Doctor sends all the peasants away, earning a peck on the check as thanks from the young woman. The Sheriff arrives, prompting the Doctor explain that he’ll damage history and that there isn’t enough gold to ensure a safe takeoff. The Doctor asks for Clara back, so that he’ll be willing to help fix the mistake. However, the Sheriff points out that he doesn’t have Clara; though the Doctor insists that Robin is another of the robots. The Sheriff asks what the point would be to create an enemy to fight. The Doctor realizes that he’s been wrong, but can’t help saying “Robin Hood’s a legend!”
Just then Robin Hood and Clara arrive, seeming to be on friendlier terms again, and the Sheriff proposes a final reckoning between him and Robin. He accepts, and after a short sword fight, Robin uses the same “surrendering” technique that the Doctor taught him and tricks the Sheriff into coming at him. He clips him on the back of the ankle and sends him tumbling into a vat of molten gold, where he freezes eternally.
The ship is about to take off, and the Doctor, Clara and Robin escape and watch (with Robin’s Merry Men) the spaceship rise from the castle. Two Knights are at the controls, and the Doctor says that in a few seconds it will explode and devastate half the country. The Doctor realizes that if they shoot the golden arrow from the archery contest into the ship, the gold content will give the ship the boost it needs to reach orbit and detonate harmlessly. However, Robin is unable to fire the arrow as his arm is injured, the Doctor cheated at the contest using technology and cannot really fire a bow and Clara has too little experience – so Robin suggests they work together to fire it. With Clara and the Doctor aiming the bow for him, Robin fires the arrow into the ship’s engines. The plan works: the ship reaches orbit and explodes harmlessly.
Clara bids Robin farewell, asking him to stay safe if he can; she boards the TARDIS. Robin asks the Doctor if it’s true he’ll be forgotten as a real man, becoming nothing more than a legend. The Doctor confirms this, with Robin happy with the results, stating that while history is a burden, stories can help people soar. When the Doctor admits that he’s still having trouble believing in Robin’s, the Prince of Thieves asks “what’s so difficult to believe that a man born into wealth and privilege would find the oppressing of the innocent too much to bear, until one night he’s possessed to steal a TARDIS and fly among the stars, fighting the good fight.”
Robin explains Clara old him all about the Doctor’s travels, something the Doctor says she shouldn’t have. Both the Doctor and Robin admit that they’re not heroes, but if they continue pretending to be, others may be heroes in their name. The Earl of Loxley and Time Lord of Gallifrey bid farewell to each other. Inside the TARDIS, Clara goads the Doctor to admit he likes Robin. The Doctor says he’s leaving Robin a gift…
As the TARDIS de-materializes, Robin looks at a picture of Maid Marian in his locket. Once the TARDIS vanishes, the young female ward is seen standing there – she is revealed to be Marian. Overjoyed, Robin races to where the TARDIS was, shouting praise for the Doctor and shooting an arrow to the sky.