At the end of “Deep Breath” The Doctor tells Clara that he’s made many mistakes and that it’s time for him to “do something about it.”
I’m just wondering when he’s figuring on doing that.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I understand that in “Deep Breath” he had to get something of his bearings back from his recent Regeneration and forgetting how to pilot the TARDIS. And while I do wonder what he was up to before encountering the Dalek “Rusty” in “Into the Dalek,” to me the episode made sense as it gave him, and the rest of us, some potential further insight into the arch-nemeses of The Doctor.
But then we have “Robot of Sherwood.”
In my last two reviews I mentioned how Doctor Who seemed to be distancing itself from the fairy-tale atmosphere of the latter stages of the Eleventh Doctor’s run and going right back into horror, folklore, and dark science-fiction. Even so, there are aspects of this episode that are really fascinating to look at when you compare Robin Hood to The Doctor. For a Time Lord who has some mistakes to do something about, he sure has time to go on some “side-quests”, or rather “requests”, from his Companion Clara Oswin Oswald. I also find it as hilarious as Clara does that The Doctor believed Robin Hood to be merely a legend: especially when you consider that this sentiment is coming from the Oncoming Storm himself.
There was something really lampoonish and almost satirical about how Robin Hood and, as Clara calls them, his band of “Merry Men.” Here are these swashbuckling and larger than life outlaw heroes that, as the old story goes, “rob from the rich and give to the poor.” But the way that they’re portrayed in the episode — as flat and almost two-dimensional caricatures — makes them out to be people that are “too good to be true” all the way to the point where you can almost believe, like The Doctor, that this is going to go to the “actually a robot” trope: something that does tend to happen a lot in science-fiction and, really, Doctor Who itself.
Still, it is interesting to contrast Robin Hood with The Doctor as he is now. Whereas previously The Doctor himself is a swashbuckling larger than life character himself — especially in latter years as the Tenth Doctor — the Twelfth Doctor seems to be far more cynical. He likes to poke and prod at phenomenon that he has never seen before, and is far less trusting of the process. In fact, it seems as though his discomfort with soldiers is even more amplified when it comes to those that seem to be heroes. Of course, it’s pretty clear that the main reason The Doctor is particularly uncomfortable with heroes (who may or may not exist) is because of his own experiences. Even at his most heroic, The Doctor has never been comfortable in the role of hero and never seems to want to acknowledge this.
But unlike a few of his other incarnations, he doesn’t just shrug off the presence of heroism or acknowledge it in any one other than himself. As the Twelfth Doctor, and when he isn’t sulking like a spoiled child, we see him literally analyzing and becoming critical of the hero: not just in what may or may not be Robin Hood, but the archetype of heroism itself. It is a somewhat heavy-handed reminder to the audience that The Doctor may not be that striking heroic figure that we have been blessed with these past couple of seasons. At the same time however, that question is still in doubt: especially when Robin Hood, having talked with Clara at length, makes The Doctor realize that Clara thinks of him as her hero.
Really, this whole episode just brings a lot more uncertainty as to where this Doctor is going. I mean, in addition to “doing something about his mistakes,” he also has to find Gallifrey at some point: his home world that still lives if “The Day of The Doctor” and “The Time of The Doctor” are of any indication.
There are some other fascinating elements in this episode. For instance, we have more robots — this time in medieval aesthetics — seeking their “Promised Land” when not helping the Sheriff of Nottingham. It makes me wonder if the “Heaven” of Missy is the same place as this “Promised Land” and just why the robots have been introduced twice in three episodes. It’s also good to see Clara developing more as a character in her own right and calling people on their nonsense as opposed to someone who is “born to save The Doctor.” But when all this is said and done, I will add this. Even though the element of Robin Hood and his Merry Men was a red herring, I like how The Doctor still has elements of ridiculousness, albeit with something of a nasty streak.
He should really make it part of his new catch-phrase.
Or perhaps the Twelfth Doctor should moonlight as a Ginosaji.
Or maybe he was just trying to demonstrate to Robin Hood that a spoon full of sugar really does help the medicine go down.
It’s all right. I’m done. For now.