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09 September 2014 @ 05:40 pm
Robot of Sherwood  
I'm struggling to think of another Doctor Who story that is as knowingly silly as Robot of Sherwood. [personal profile] ed_rex compared it to The Pirate Planet which is probably about as close as Who has previously got to this kind of thing.

It was rather good once you bought into the ridiculousness of it all. Not-so-small child enjoyed it immensely, especially Clara putting both the Doctor and Robin Hood in their places (I suspect Clara is a major part of the show's sudden attraction for not-so-small child). In fact it was nice that the story chose to make neither the Doctor nor Robin Hood clearly superior to the other instead allowing them to face off on a more or less equal footing.

The set pieces were well done, particularly the mirrored fights between the Doctor and Robin on the log across the stream and later between Robin and the Sheriff on the beam above the boiling cauldron. A good deal of publicity (possibly more than was warranted) was given to the fact that a beheading scene was cut from the story for reasons of sensitivity and good taste. I assumed that the beheading was basically set dressing that could be lived without however, [personal profile] sir_guinglain linked to the missing footage on Facebook, and it turned out there was a plot point embedded in it and I was impressed that the cutting managed to excise it so easily. However, once I'd seen it, it did explain the Sheriff's words before he landed on the beam for the final fight.

Ben Miller was good as the Sheriff though, knowing how good he can be at put-upon sarcasm, my fannish heart sort of wanted him to have more "I am surrounded by fools" moments. In fact it was clear that all the actors were relishing the opportunity to ham up the swashing and buckling for all it was worth and one of the stories strengths was the conviction with which it delivered the staples of the genre. The fights on beams and logs; swinging down curtains; the villain leching after the heroine; the dive into the castle moat... In fact its quite impressive how many genre conventions were squeezed into 45 minutes while delivering a pretty coherent plot, and playing with the rivalry between the Doctor and Robin.

If I'm nitpicking it seemed a little inelegant to place so much emphasis on gold and then have robots that weren't cybermen. I also wasn't at all clear what was supposed to have happened to Marion since the final reveal was that she had presumably been living quite happily in the local village all the time until shortly before the Doctor arrived. I found Robin's laugh irritating, but then that was kind of the point.

There were a lot of funny lines. The story had the good sense not to belabour the comparisons between Doctor Who and Robin Hood making its point about myths and heroes at the end with a light touch. Doctor Who would be a very different show if it regularly had stories like this, but one of the joys of Doctor Who is that it can stretch to encompass all sorts of things every once in a while and this was definitely my favourite story of this season so far.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/127458.html.
eve11eve11 on September 9th, 2014 05:13 pm (UTC)
re: Marian-- I guess in those days, losing your title and becoming an outlaw would generally nix any chance you had at marrying your sweetheart. Or maybe there was that plus the fact that she had to go into hiding or something?
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 9th, 2014 06:10 pm (UTC)
It's easy to hand wave (just as most of the problems with Into the Dalek can be hand waved) but you sort of feel the writers should have put the effort into coming up with the hand wave. However, as I say, it's a nitpick.
reggietate: daleksreggietate on September 9th, 2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this one. It embraced its daftness wholeheartedly, and the willy-waving between the Doctor and Robin was a hoot ;-)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 9th, 2014 06:11 pm (UTC)
It's enthusiasm for its own silliness was, I think, one of the most charming things about it.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on September 9th, 2014 06:20 pm (UTC)
Agreed that this is the best of the season so far. I had two problems, though. One was dodgy science. I'm open to the suggestion that I missed some crucial dialogue, but I thought the gold was being used as a conductor for what was essentially a glorified electrical circuit. Then suddenly firing an arrow into the hull made the spaceship go faster. What?!

But my main problem was the presence of the science fiction elements at all. Hartnell era fan that I am, I thought this would have worked just as well - no, better - as a straight historical romp in the style of The Romans and The Smugglers, especially given Ben Miller's excellent performance. I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that we'll never get a pure historical on TV again, but this was so tantalisingly close that I got annoyed once the robots were revealed.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 9th, 2014 06:35 pm (UTC)
While dodgy science, the in world logic of the gold did sort of add up (it's certainly as logical as a lot of Who). Gold seemed an odd substance to pick, though, given the cyberman connection but given Moffat's predilection for intricate puzzles it is possible the show will come back to that.

It is a shame about the pure historicals. The Randomizer currently has us viewing The Time Meddlar and I've been trying to figure out how surprising the sudden intrusion of watches and gramophones must have been into an apparently historical story.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on September 9th, 2014 06:57 pm (UTC)
I thought gold was picked as a good conductor, but that may have been a misreading of the story.

I've been trying to figure out how surprising the sudden intrusion of watches and gramophones must have been into an apparently historical story.

Audience research at the time reported some viewers intrigued by them, but others baffled and critical. I think I wrote about it at length here.

Edited at 2014-09-09 06:57 pm (UTC)
wellinghallwellinghall on September 9th, 2014 07:35 pm (UTC)
Gold isn't an especially good conductor, though - certainly worse than silver or copper
king_pellinor: P Knightking_pellinor on September 9th, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC)
Simple logic: if you need gold to get the ship to move, more gold will make it move better. If you don't pry beyond that level, it works :-)
Susan: Riverlil_shepherd on September 9th, 2014 07:32 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid we left about fifteen minutes in. I could not take the mangled quotations and references any more. My mind was determinedly identifying and correcting them. I really hated it and thought it was incredibly lazy.

Mind you, I have still to bond in any way with Capaldi's doctor or Clara, who seems to lack any personality.
wellinghallwellinghall on September 9th, 2014 07:37 pm (UTC)
Whereas I missed the first 15 minutes, but saw the rest.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 10th, 2014 09:43 am (UTC)
I've yet to take to Capaldi, but I think Clara has been much better served this season than last where she seemed very generic.
Susan: AmyandRorylil_shepherd on September 10th, 2014 10:37 am (UTC)
She seems inconsistent this season with last season but then I thought Moffat jumped the shark last season -- and you'll recall I loved most of the Smith run.
wellinghallwellinghall on September 9th, 2014 07:34 pm (UTC)
Can you remind me what the sherrif's words were, that were explained by the cut scene?
parrot_knightparrot_knight on September 9th, 2014 10:51 pm (UTC)
with apologies to the owner of this journal, of whom the question was asked
"SHERIFF: I'm too much for you, outlaw. The first of a new breed. Half man, half engine." (As seen here; the missing scene is here.)

Edited at 2014-09-09 11:05 pm (UTC)
wellinghallwellinghall on September 10th, 2014 04:45 am (UTC)
Thank you
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 10th, 2014 09:44 am (UTC)
Re: with apologies to the owner of this journal, of whom the question was asked
You're always welcome to answer questions about Doctor Who here! Especially since your answers are far more likely to be based on facts rather than hazy recollections!
athene: rory last centuriondeinonychus_1 on September 9th, 2014 08:58 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this one. I'm warming to Capaldi more and more every week, far more than I actually expected to, truth be told.

Ben Miller looked like he was thoroughly enjoying himself hamming it up. At the end of the episode I texted my friend and said something along the lines of, "I can't decide whether that was awesomely ridiculous, or ridiculously awesome!"

I think perhaps it was a little from column A, and a little from column B... :-)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 10th, 2014 09:45 am (UTC)
It was a lovely episode but I can see why people who want Doctor Who to be srs bsns at some level were put off by it.