Saturday, 6 September 2014

Review: Doctor Who 8.3: Robot of Sherwood

No disrespect to Tom Riley's performance. But I think I
actually preferred that terrible BBC version.
I had originally decided that in script form, this was my favourite of those five episodes leaked - the script had some really nice ideas to do with robots and stuff, which I usually think are amazing. There was something a little too silly about Robot, however, and I think it ultimately ended up feeling more like an average episode of Merlin. (And, as much as I loved that show, that's not a compliment for Doctor Who.) It wasn't that the episode didn't have any good ideas up its sleeves, but that they were left to be rushed out at the climax and the rest of the episode filled with incessant, annoying bickering between our inconsistent Doctor and Tom Riley's Robin Hood.
     Following on from the tradition of the RTD years, this week is a celebrity historical, delivered by Mark Gatiss in the way that only he seems to do. (Seriously, it took me till this year to realise he's only ever written Historicals). Instead of following someone who actually existed, this episode calls back to stories like Battlefield, giving physical reality to an element of British folklore. Unlike that story, however, which added a well-developed new take on that folklore, Robot played into all of the Robin Hood cliches and gave it only one, underdeveloped and confusingly explained sci-fi element.
     In terms of The Doctor's characterisation, this episode was bizarre, both on its own and in comparison to the previous two episodes. However badly developed Moffat's idea of the new, darker Doctor, this episode played his grumpiness for laughs in a way which did not sit well, coming off as overly forced and turning The Doctor into something of a farcical figure. Capaldi is a great actor, but in this episode he was given no chance to carry the authority and presence that the character needs to bring to the screen, instead bickering in a way more typical of his predecessor's more irritating moments. Adding to that was the episode's insistence that The Doctor was a noble hero - even when this season has been keen to establish (albeit somewhat shoddily) that The Doctor is a straight-up ass in this incarnation.
Who are the Robots? What is their culture? Why are they
on Earth? Who created them? WHAT IS GOING ON?
     It seems to be a pattern with this and last week - a lot of faffing about takes the place of effective worldbuilding and character development. We got a few pivotal scenes to work with Robin and the Sheriff, but both of them had such cardboard characters that the episode itself was pointing out how unoriginal their motivations were. The result was a story we weren't invested in and didn't care about, soaked in an atmosphere which, while fairly well constructed, added nothing to the viewing experience. It was cliched, rubbish gibberish, and it wasn't even interesting about it. And for the story I was looking forward to, that's a crying shame.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: The Doctor is afraid of the dark... or is he? Plus some creepy "lets see a companion as a child" shit from the Moffat himself. It's Listen.

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