My goodness Mr. Gatiss loves his references and callbacks doesn’t he? He name drops the Ice Warriors and having met Richard the Lionheart (The Crusade), mentions the miniscope (Carnivale of Monsters) and even has the Doctor pull off a man’s shoe to inspect it (à la Patrick Troughton in Moonbase). There were several Jon Pertwee-esque moments throughout the episode including swordsmanship (albeit with a spoon; a reference to Sylvester McCoy?) and yelling “Hai!” at one point. In fact this felt very much like an old series episode. For all the fanboys out there who have been clamoring for a return to a more “classic” feel, well this is it; a Graham Williams era story with a better budget. And if that last comment sounds like an insult, it’s not. I have quite a fondness for the Williams era (but that’s for another time).
So all the trivia bits aside was the episode any good? Well, yes and no. I mean let’s face it; this was a Mark Gatiss penned celebrity historical. It was never meant to be anything more than a romp. It’s the funny one – the filler episode on the DVD set that most people skip. But for being that it’s actually very entertaining.
Capaldi gets to show off his comedy timing and Jenna Colman gets to be the calm hero again. Tom Riley is perfect as the dashing, thigh-slapping Robin Hood and it was a nice touch that they were able to clone of Anthony Ainley as the Sherriff of Nottingham. They move through all the standard set pieces at nice pace and there are some truly funny moments. If I have any real complaint it’s that the prison arguing scene(s) dragged on a bit too long.
I really am struggling to say anything of significance about this episode. It was a lark, a silly romp that is inoffensive and fun. It occasionally falls flat but when it hits its mark it is genuinely entertaining and funny. It’s a nice bit of televisions and a Doctor Who episode that no one will hate and will often remember as “that one with the spoon, right?”
But this episode was really just a forty minute setup for the last scene with Robin and the Doctor. And once again the idea of Identity comes in. Is Robin Hood a real person or a myth? Is the Doctor a good man or not? Is he a myth? In the end it does not matter who we really are, just so long as we try to be better. Or so the story tells us. The Doctor is a hero because others believe he is, because he tries to be, because that’s what the story requires. And we are all stories in the end.
All the gold and talk of the “Promised Land” really seems to be setting up the Cybermen/Mondas connection. And since we know the finale will involve Cybermen I’m hoping this really pays off.
The line, “first Nottingham, then Derby, then Lincoln, then THE WORLD!” was splendidly over the top – had to rewind a couple of times to watch it over again. Very funny.
One of the Robin Hood images that flash across the spaceship monitor is this:
This is of course Patrick Troughton playing the first televised version of Robin Hood. Well played production department, well played.
Next Week: Scary stuff a-comin’ – Listen.