So the Doctor and Clara go back to the year 1190 (give or take), and run into Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Notingham, and various robots. And…that’s about what you need to know for the plot summary. Oh, there’s some strangeness involving an alien spaceship, and thus the robots, and the Sheriff’s mad plan to rule the world!, but all you really need to know is the Doctor, Clara, and Robin Hood.
By rights a story that lame-sounding, and from a writer like Mark Gatiss, whose TV Who episodes have been very hit-or-miss, should fail on every level. That it is more of a success than a fail is a great, but very welcome, surprise.
First, kudos to Gatiss for incorporating a great deal of the Robin Hood mythos. We have the Sheriff, of course, and mention of King John (as well as mention of King Richard, whom the Doctor once met). There’s also lots of stuff about Maid Marion, and even the archery contest; something that was suspiciously absent from a very popular Robin Hood adaptation, though to be fair, that one did at least find a way to shoehorn in a character played by Morgan Freeman, so there’s that. Also, really, the sword-vs-spoon duel was quite great, even if it doesn’t fit into the mythos.
Second, it was nice to see Clara given something to do. She’s really just sort of been “there” as a companion for me, and nothing terribly great. Watching her actually get the chance to try and do something was nice.
And lastly, the casting really makes this story. Tom Riley makes for an excellent Robin, and a great foil for the Doctor (vice versa, of course), and Ben Miller obviously had a great time hamming it up as the evil Sheriff, and really, what actor wouldn’t? It’s a pretty great role.
Now I will say that the story sort of falls apart in the last ten minutes or so, and the revelation about the true nature of Robin Hood was a bit eye-rolling. But still, it was a good episode all around, and that wasn’t something I had expected from an admittedly odd premise.