Clara Oswald, you are a girl after my own heart! Given a choice of anywhere in time and space, you pick Robin Hood... even though you know the Doctor will say he's not real. It's worth a try, isn't it?
I've been a Robin Hood fan for as long as I can remember. Seriously. One of my earliest memories is going over to a friend's house to watch their copy of the Disney version. We have photos of tiny me playing Maid Marian in a play we performed for our moms. I collect every version of the legend that I can, novel or film. (Okay. I draw the line at the newest Robin Hood with Russell Crowe which I have refused to watch for reasons I'm not going to drag this post down with.) My absolute favorite incarnations are the Roger Lancelyn Green version, Errol Flynn, the animated fox, and his supporting role in Ivanhoe. I utterly loathe Shrek 1 for it's depiction of Robin Hood as French. (I love Shrek 2, it's nothing against the franchise, just that horrible scene...)
So I came into this episode half excitement, half trepidation. Initial photos of Robin with the weird long hair and historically laughable costume made me cringe... but still, it's Mark Gatiss, and Clara's costume is great and... maybe it would be good.
I couldn't wait to find out, and considered myself extremely patient as my husband and I traveled 8 hours from his parents in Illinois (where we'd had a belated wedding reception) back to our apartment where we could cue up Xfinity and watch the episode. I grew decidedly less patient once we got home and my husband proceeded to make a hot dog instead of sitting down immediately with me. Horrors!!!
(Hopping around like a four-year-old may have occurred. Thankfully Nathan finds me amusing.)
BE YE WARNED - SPOILERS TO COME!
One of the biggest questions going into Robots of Sherwood was of course "How are they going to handle the fact that Robin Hood isn't (as far as we know) a real person?" This being Doctor Who, they could either have a really clever answer or...
... or the Doctor spends the entire time thinking that there must be a really clever answer. One of the funniest sequences of the episode was the scene of the Doctor taking samples from each of the Merry Men. Thankfully Clara stops him before he can insist on someone peeing into a cup! (This is a family show, after all!)
"You can't be real!" he insists over and over again. A legend cannot also be a real person. But, as Robin and Clara point out, the Doctor himself is a legend who is also real. Why cannot Robin also fall into those lines?
(And let's face it. If no one remembered the robot guards in Nottingham, they must also have lost all written record of the real Robin of Loxely.)
Robin himself starts out as quite cheesy, but as the episode progresses, the layers are stripped away. We see beneath his joking facade and witty banter to the serious, thoughtful man underneath, hiding his sadness with a jest. And that is, of course, who Robin ought to be.
He's quite immature at times, of course, as any human ought to be. I can handle him competing with the Doctor in a most juvenile fashion. What I cannot handle is the Doctor sinking to that level as well. Seriously. I don't understand why they would write him that way. The Doctor isn't petty. So what is up with Twelve? Why does he act so whiny and immature in this episode? The Doctor hates being wrong, of course, but this... this is new.
Of course, he is a new Doctor. But I don't think fans are going to enjoy this side of him, so I hope he manages to grow up quick. With Clara to keep him in line, we can hope!
And Clara is a companion worthy of any incarnation of the Doctor, with her quick wits managing a tough interrogation scene easily. It doesn't hurt that Jenna Louise's natural beauty was made to flirt in orange velvet and long curls.
All in all, I'd give this episode a "Good" rating. It doesn't rise to the heights of excellent Doctor Who, but it remains better than average. And it was quite satisfactory in Robin Hood terms, according to this fan!
(Am I the only one who finds herself hoping that Robin will be one of those characters who returns for a big finale episode eventually?)