Robot of Sherwood was the third episode of the eighth series of Doctor Who produced by BBC Wales. It explored themes based on the idea of legend, and furthered the Twelfth Doctor's development of identity. It's also one of the few episode where the Doctor meets someone similar to himself - a hero that inspires others.
Clara is offered the chance to choose the next destination for herself and the Twelfth Doctor. They go and meet the English folk hero Robin Hood, much to the Doctor's disbelief in the existence of someone who's supposed to be a mere folk tale story. Travelling through Sherwood Forest in 1190, they soon realise that something is amiss, as the cruel Sheriff of Nottingham and his malevolent robot knights set in motion a plot that could rewrite the course of history for the worst.
In the TARDIS, the Doctor writes equations on a blackboard, offering Clara the choice of their next destination. Clara points out that the Doctor will just say that her choice does not exist, but she wants to meet Robin Hood. She goes on to explain that she's always loved the legend of Robin Hood. The Doctor thinks about Robin Hood, before immediately telling Clara that he doesn't exist. He states "old-fashioned heroes belong in old-fashioned books". Clara points out that the Doctor is in a lot of books (fiction and non-fiction), and what he does every day is pretty heroic. The Doctor finishes a dessert he was eating, telling her that he's just passing the time.
With enthusiasm, the Doctor begins listing off other things they could go see, such as Ice Warrior hives, or the Tumescent Arrows of the Half-Light. The Doctor notes "those girls can hold their drink" and fracture 15 different levels of reality at the same time. He pats his jacket, stating that he took a Polaroid of them, wondering where it is. However, Clara adamantly points out that it is her turn, not his. Seeing that he cannot win, the Doctor sets course for Sherwood Forest in 1190, adding that she'll just be disappointed when they explore and never find Robin Hood.
While Clara is changing into 12th century clothing, the Doctor exits the TARDIS, smugly observing that where they have landed there are no damsels in distress, no pretty castles, and "no such thing as Robin Hood" — just as an arrow flies past him and pierce the TARDIS doorway. Looking at it in surprise, the Doctor turns to find the man who shot it across a river, asking if he called for him; the man is Robin Hood! The Doctor looks at him in shock, receiving a smile.
The Doctor removes the arrow, watching as the damage it caused heals. Robin goes on about how amazing it was to watch the TARDIS materialise; he asks if it's done with mirrors, stating it's similar to what he saw at a fair once. The Doctor declares the TARDIS as his property, but Robin points out that all property is up for grabs for him. Clara exits the TARDIS in a fancy dress, surprised to already be meeting Robin Hood; Robin is likewise shocked to see someone else come out of a "box", wondering if there is anyone else. However, the Doctor denies that he's real. Robin retorts by asking who is it then that is trying to steal the "magic box" from him. The Doctor tells him nobody will.
Robin challenges the Doctor to defend his property, drawing his sword as he invites the Doctor to do the same. However, the Doctor shows Robin that he carries no such weapon on him, but does have... a large spoon. Donning a glove to a protect his hand, the Doctor joins Robin on a log over the river; "en garde!" the Doctor yells, starting a duel. Clara is impressed that he can fight so well with just a spoon. The Doctor explains he was taught fencing by the best — Richard the Lionheart, Cyrano de Bergerac and Errol Flynn (who had an enormous ego, which Clara implies is shared with the Doctor). Countering Robin, the Doctor feigns surrender. Robin lunges at the Doctor, who easily gets behind him and knocks Robin into the river.
The Doctor proudly declares "Like I said, my box", while cleaning his spoon. Clara rushes over to join him on the log, looking at the river. She says his name in concern, since Robin hasn't emerged from the river. Seeing this, the Doctor looks at the river with her, only to be pushed in from behind by Robin; Clara and Robin laugh. Obviously, the Doctor is less than amused.
Meanwhile, in a nearby village, helmeted knights are taking away villagers. In one house, Master Quayle is pleading for the knights not to take his young female ward. She tries calming him, but Quayle yells that he'd tear out the Sheriff of Nottingham's black heart if he was there. As if the mention of his name summoned him, the Sheriff appears; he goes over the treasure that the knights have collected, tossing aside a ruby and leaving only gold. Quayle asks that he be taken instead of the girl, but the Sheriff dismisses the idea as labour is needed at the castle; Quayle then spits in his face. The Sheriff says he will live to regret that, immediately correcting himself to say, "Actually, no. You won't." He then abruptly plunges a sword into Quayle's abdomen, killing him straight away. The knights take the girl away screaming.
Robin takes the Doctor and Clara to his campsite, where he introduces his group: Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck, Alan-a-Dale, Walter, and John Little. As a prank, Robin reveals that contrary to belief, John is actually very small. (Apparently, writers thought it would be funnier to have a tall man called Little John.) An excited Clara calls the group the Merry Men, which Robin decides to use as their name. While they talk, the Doctor performs tests to verify or disprove the reality of the situation. He takes a hair strand, confirming it's real. He examines a sandal from Friar Tuck, and a sample of Alan's blood; it seems real, but riddled with diseases that will kill Alan in half a year.
Before he can perform further tests, the Doctor is pulled away by Clara, annoyed by his actions; she asks him what he's doing. The Doctor explains that he's confirmed the Merry Men are living beings, but they could be in a theme park from the future, or a Miniscope (since the TARDIS could land somewhere else instead). Clara isn't willing to believe his theories, asking when he stopped believing in everything. The Doctor then asks when she started believing in "impossible heroes"; Clara smiles at him and asks "don't you know?" Realising it was when they met, the Doctor is at a loss for words. He decides to resume his testing; he bites an apple and scans it with the sonic screwdriver, walking off.
Robin talks with Clara, noting that her friend doesn't seem of this world; Clara responds that on a good day, the Doctor is. Clara then notes Robin mentioned that dark days lay ahead. Robin goes on to explain that since the King is away, his greedy brother Prince John has done nothing but cause misery. When Robin spoke out against the Prince's tyranny, he was stripped of his title Earl of Loxley and forced into his current life. At the mention of bringing down the Prince and Sheriff, Robin gets the Merry Men laughing again; the Doctor, annoyed, wonders if they do that so much because they're simple-minded. Clara tells Robin she can tell there's been a great loss in his life, which is why he laughs so much — to mask his pain. Robin explains he has been separated from Marian; until they are reunited, Robin has aspired to be a man worthy of her by fighting against injustice.
The Doctor questions what the season is. Learning that it is Autumn, he becomes suspicious of the weather - it's too sunny; as Clara is nonchalant, he asks "have you been to Nottingham?". Clara guesses that it could be a climate change, but the Doctor points out that it's 1190, which makes it impossible. Robin announces the Sheriff is holding a contest to find the most skilled archer in Sherwood; the prize is to be a golden arrow. Clara immediately warns Robin not to enter, since it's a trap laid by the Sheriff to capture him; the Doctor doesn't stop her, since he doesn't believe what's happening is real. However, Robin knows it is a trap (since everyone knows he's the best archer in Nottingham), which he will gladly enter. The Merry Men laugh, annoying the Doctor, who hates their bantering.
Robin proceeds to enter the archery contest, where he — under the guise of Tom the Tinker — exceeds in every activity and, in the final competition, is pitted against the Sheriff, whose own bow skills are "astounding," according to the commentator. The Sheriff asks his guards to carry the target back to the very end of the field, which they do, and he shoots the arrow right in the middle. Robin then shoots an arrow at the same target and splits the Sheriff's arrow, winning the contest. He is presented with the golden arrow, but Robin's arrow is immediately cut by another entry: the Doctor.
The Doctor asks for his prize, and is given the golden arrow; dismissing it as a mere bauble, he discards it, asking for enlightenment instead. However, Robin fires another arrow into the Doctor's, without even looking; the Doctor responds by shooting an arrow off one of the knights, that still manages to hit the target. Robin prepares to fire another arrow, but the Doctor states "this is getting silly" and blows up the target with the sonic screwdriver. Slightly amazed, the Sheriff orders his knights to seize the Doctor, Clara and Robin. Robin then reveals to the crowd who he really is before the knights attack, and Robin begins to fend them off with his fencing skills.
When Robin slices off one of the knights' arms, it's revealed to be a robot. The Doctor rushes off to examine the arm, happy to finally see something that "makes sense" the knights' helmets split upon to reveal mechanical, emotionless faces. The Sheriff orders the knights to scare off the patrons, while the Merry Men flee with the arrow. The Doctor quickly disarms Robin, who believes it to be an act of betrayal. As they are no longer a threat, they and Clara are taken captive; he explains "best way to learn your enemy's plan - get yourself captured."
They are placed in the dungeon, chained to a post, staring at a skeleton. Robin is less than pleased with this turn of events, claiming that he could have won if the Doctor hadn't interfered; however, the Doctor tells Robin that if he hadn't the robots would have reduced him to "a pile of laughing ashes". They then exchange snarky remarks about who will last longest with Robin's focused on the Doctor's apparent age, and the Doctor boasting to have genetic superiority.
Deep in the castle, one of the peasants falls down from exhaustion. The young female ward taken earlier goes over and helps him stand. A Knight comes over and declares that the peasant's work capacity has been broken down, and he is no longer useful. They then proceed to disintegrate him, much to the girl's horror.
The Doctor and Robin Hood call for the guard, asking the other be executed; the Doctor wants to see if Robin's head will keep laughing after decapitation. Clara snaps at them, saying there isn't a guard. Clara asks them to explain their plans in turn; Robin wishes to bide his time, while the Doctor doesn't have one since the Sheriff took the sonic screwdriver. An annoyed Clara points out the sonic is always taken whenever they're imprisoned. A guard comes in, revealing he has been assigned to listen at the door to find out who the true ringleader is, so the Sheriff can conduct an interrogation. Robin and the Doctor both proudly state the Sheriff will never get information out of them, but the guard unchains Clara instead. Clara looks at them, asking "seriously?"
Clara is taken to the Sheriff's dining hall, where a feast is laid out. She declines to eat, citing she had a bag of crisps earlier. The Sheriff takes note of Clara's strange words, and holds up the sonic screwdriver, calling it a strange gallimanfy taken from the Doctor's "tunic". Clara is able to goad the Sheriff into revealing his past — that he witnessed a spaceship crash and has been trying to repair it by collecting all the gold in the nearby land to repair the ship's circuits. He then plans to use it to travel to London and take over the kingdom; the Sheriff is implied to have killed Prince John, as he has complete authority over the kingdom. He tells her that every King needs a consort, and leans in to kiss her. She wiggles out, threatening, "You do that again, and you'll regret that."
In the dungeon, Robin asks the Doctor to pretend to be in terrible pain to attract the guard; however, the Doctor insists Robin do it as it's his plan. Robin moans loudly. When the guard demands answers, the Doctor insists Robin is having a nervous breakdown from fear; the Doctor even says Robin has soiled himself, angering him. He then tricks the guard into the cell by saying Robin carries a vital message for the King, who has promised an enormous reward for it. The guard leans in to hear Robin, who insults and headbutts him; the keys fall off the guard when he lands. Robin asks "soiled myself?"; thinking Robin is admitting to the action, the Doctor says it's really getting into character. The Doctor and Robin both try to reach the keys with their feet, knocking them into a grate. Robin is annoyed, but the Doctor points out that the bright side: Clara will never hear of that little mistake...
They decide to uproot the posts and, at a blacksmith's forge, break their chains before locating the spacecraft inside the castle. The Doctor checks the computer, learning it's a 29th century ship set to reach "the Promised Land". The Doctor shows Robin photos from books, stories and television shows that follow his adventures, believing him to be a robot used as a hero to boost public morale. Robin is left angered at collusion with the Sheriff, who then arrives with Clara. The Doctor attempts to pass off his new idea as truth as the knights fire at Robin; however, Clara shields him. Robin takes Clara and jumps into the moat through a hole blasted by the knights.
The Sheriff pities the loss of Clara, while the Doctor watches Robin emerge from the moat with her in his arms. The Doctor tells the Sheriff that he knows what's going on. The Sheriff states while the plan belongs to the Robot Knights, he wishes to rule omnipotent from the skyship. However, when the Doctor attempts to warn him that there isn't enough gold yet to ensure safe travel - "you are stoking up a giant bomb". However, the Sheriff shushes the Doctor and points behind him; the moment the Doctor turns a Knight knocks him out..
Back at the campsite, Clara comes to. Robin greets her, but his usual joyful demeanour has changed to that of a serious one. He demands to know who the Doctor is, what he knows about Robin Hood's life and what his plans are; at this point Robin likely believes the Doctor is either a spy or some sort of magical being. Clara is confused that she's being interrogated.
The Doctor wakes up in the dungeon, finding himself chained across from the young woman the Sheriff captured earlier. Hearing the engines are charging, the Doctor calls the Sheriff stupid and explains the plan to the girl, who grasps the basics. A knight declares that the Doctor is fit for labour, prompting him to reveal he escaped the chains. He and the peasants take shiny plates, reflecting the beam fired by the knights back at them, causing them to destroy themselves. The Sheriff sees this on a holographic projection in his dining hall, wondering how he can get rid of the Doctor.
The Doctor sends all the peasants away, earning a peck on the check as thanks from the young woman. The Sheriff arrives, prompting the Doctor explain that he'll damage history and that there isn't enough gold to ensure a safe takeoff; however, the Sheriff thinks the Doctor is lying. The Doctor asks for Clara back, so that he'll be willing to help fix the mistake. However, the Sheriff points out that he doesn't have Clara; though the Doctor insists that Robin is another of the robots. The Sheriff asks what the point would be to create an enemy to fight. The Doctor realises that he's been wrong, but can't help saying "[Robin Hood]'s a legend!"
Just then Robin Hood and Clara arrive, seeming to be on friendlier terms again; Robin finds the Doctor's words quite flattering. The Sheriff proposes a final reckoning between him and Robin. He accepts, and after a short sword fight, Robin's arm is cut by the Sheriff; seeing he cannot win normally, Robin uses the same "surrendering" technique that the Doctor taught him and tricks the Sheriff into coming at him. He clips him on the back of the ankle and sends him tumbling into a vat of molten gold, where he freezes eternally.
The ship is about to take off, and the Doctor, Clara and Robin escape and watch (with Robin's Merry Men) the spaceship rise from the castle. Two Knights are at the controls, and the Doctor says that in a few seconds it will explode and devastate half the country. The Doctor realises that if they shoot the golden arrow from the archery contest into the ship, the gold content will give the ship the boost it needs to reach orbit and detonate harmlessly. However, Robin is unable to fire the arrow as his arm is injured, the Doctor cheated at the contest using technology and cannot really fire a bow and Clara has too little experience — so Robin suggests they work together to fire it. With Clara and the Doctor aiming the bow for him, Robin fires the arrow into the ship's engines. The plan works: the ship reaches orbit and explodes harmlessly.
Clara bids Robin farewell, asking him to stay safe if he can; she boards the TARDIS. Robin asks the Doctor if it's true he'll be forgotten as a real man, becoming nothing more than a legend. The Doctor confirms this, with Robin happy with the results, stating that while history is a burden, stories can help people soar. When the Doctor admits that he's still having trouble believing in Robin's, the Prince of Thieves asks "what's so difficult to believe that a man born into wealth and privilege would find the oppressing of the innocent too much to bear..." The Doctor tries interrupting, but is stunned by Robin's next words "until one night he's possessed to steal a TARDIS and fly amongst the stars, fighting the good fight."
Robin explains Clara told him all about the Doctor's travels, something the Doctor says she shouldn't have; Robin explains that Clara couldn't help herself, as the Doctor is her hero. Both the Doctor and Robin admit that they're not heroes, but if they continue pretending to be, others may be heroes in their name. The Earl of Loxley and Time Lord of Gallifrey bid farewell to each other. Before the Doctor enters, Robin tells him they are equally just as real. Inside the TARDIS, Clara goads the Doctor to admit he likes Robin. The Doctor says he's leaving Robin a gift...
As the TARDIS dematerialises, Robin looks at a picture of Maid Marian in his locket. Once the TARDIS finishes vanishing, the young female ward is seen standing there — she is revealed to be Marian. Overjoyed, Robin hugs her and races to where the TARDIS was, shouting praise for the Doctor and shooting an arrow to the sky.
- The Doctor - Peter Capaldi
- Clara - Jenna Coleman
- Robin Hood - Tom Riley
- Quayle - Roger Ashton-Griffiths
- Quayle's Ward - Sabrina Bartlett
- The Sheriff of Nottingham - Ben Miller
- Alan-a-Dale - Ian Hallard
- Friar Tuck - Trevor Cooper
- Little John - Rusty Goffe
- Will Scarlett - Joseph Kennedy
- Walter - Adam Jones
- Herald - David Benson
- Guard - David Langham
- Knight - Tim Baggaley
- Voice of the Knights - Richard Elfyn
|Executive Producers Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin|
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
- The Doctor offers to take Clara to see the Ice Warrior hives on the Planet Mars or the Tumescent Arrows of the Half-Light. He claimed to have taken a Polaroid picture of the latter.
- Clara says, "You can take the girl out of Blackpool”, revealing her origins.
- The Sheriff expresses his desire to gain control over Derby and Lincoln. Clara also suggests Worksop.
- The Doctor has a device able to take a sample and examine a specimen of human blood.
- The Doctor claimed to have practised swordfighting with Richard the Lionheart, Cyrano de Bergerac and Errol Flynn.
- Clara calls Robin Hood the "Prince of Thieves".
Story notes Edit
- A scene in which the Sheriff of Nottingham was beheaded, revealing him to be a robot, was edited out of this episode's broadcast as it was deemed inappropriate in light of recent events in the news — namely, the beheading of two American journalists by the terrorist group ISIS.  The cut can clearly be seen in the finished programme, when the tapestry behind Clara and the Doctor vanishes before Robin cuts the rope and rises to the wooden gantries. However, the admission of the Sheriff that he was "half man, half engine" and the scene showing his hands in the vat of molten gold makes up for the editing gap.
- As an in-joke, Robin tells the Doctor that he's just as real as him. Both Robin Hood and the Doctor are fictional characters, so they ARE just as real as each other.
- One of the images brought up on the computer screen is of Patrick Troughton, the actor who portrayed the Second Doctor, and also the first actor who played Robin Hood on television.
- Actors David Benson and Ian Hallard also appeared together in AUDIO: Invaders from Mars, which was also written by Mark Gatiss. Benson later appeared in AUDIO: Wildthyme at Large, a story which also featured Robin Hood.
- This is the first episode since TV: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS to not have any scenes set on present-day Earth (the TARDIS' location when the Doctor asks Clara where she wants to go next is unspecified).
- The archery tournament and the Golden Arrow is a staple of the Robin Hood legend, including the ballads A Gest of Robyn Hode and Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow.
- The episode title references the ITV series Robin of Sherwood, which competed against Doctor Who's twenty-second season on Saturday nights during its second series in 1985.
- Clara indicates that she is from Blackpool, which is the real life hometown of actress Jenna Coleman.
- As revealed in Doctor Who Extra, Peter Capaldi's 56th birthday was celebrated during the filming of this episode. In particular, he was presented with a Dalek-themed birthday cake.
- There are numerous references to the television story The Time Warrior:
- There is a crashed spaceship.
- It takes place in Medieval times
- There is a castle involved.
- There are robotic knights
- A number of characters claim that the Doctor is some sort of magician or sorcerer
- Once working, the spaceship explodes.
- A king that wants to conquer other kings' lands
- The Doctor tells other people to run out of the castle because it is going to explode.
7.28 million (DWM 479)
Filming locations Edit
- Fforest Fawr, Brecon Beacons National Park
- Caerphilly Castle, Castle St.
Production errors Edit
- Clara closes the TARDIS door when first meeting Robin Hood, but in the wide shot before Robin and the Doctor duel it is open. It is closed again in the next shot when the Doctor puts on his gloves and draws his spoon.
- When the Doctor pulls the lever to initiate the TARDIS to de-materialise his shirt cuffs changes from red, which is what he was wearing throughout the episode, to white.
- The Doctor suggests to Clara that they are inside a miniscope upon encountering Robin Hood and his Merry Men in Sherwood Forest. (TV: Carnival of Monsters)
- This is not the first time that the Doctor has encountered a spaceship disguised as a castle. (TV: State of Decay)
- The spaceship was headed for the destination of "the Promised Land." The Half-Face Man also claimed that he was trying to reach the Promised Land. (TV: Deep Breath)
- The Doctor uses Venusian aikido to disarm Robin Hood, complete with "Hai!", as his third incarnation commonly did. (TV: Inferno, The Mind of Evil, The Claws of Axos et al.)
- The Doctor is still a superb swordsman, having notably demonstrated the skill in his third, fourth, fifth, and tenth incarnations. (TV: The Sea Devils, The Masque of Mandragora, The Androids of Tara, The King's Demons, The Christmas Invasion, et. al.)
- The Doctor uses technology to win the archery contest and later claims not to be able to use the bow and arrow. Seemingly he has forgotten as he used one once and even claimed during his fifth incarnation to have been taught by "Crazy Horse himself". (AUDIO: Moonflesh)
- The Doctor previously encountered a ship that needed gold to repair the engines; in his fifth incarnation the Djinni used the gold the Black Guardian hoarded from the Caliph and compressed it to make a warp manifold, the fifth segment to the Key to Time. (AUDIO: The Destroyer of Delights)
- Once again the Doctor likens a foolish person's thought processes to pudding. (TV: Deep Breath)
- King Richard the Lionheart and his brother Prince John of England are mentioned. Meanwhile in 1190, King Richard is fighting the Crusades, where he met the First Doctor. (TV: The Crusade) The Fifth Doctor would meet the android Kamelion masquerading as the then King John in 1215. (TV: The King's Demons)
- The Twelfth Doctor and Robin Hood escape the cell by feigning a possession in the same way as Ben and Polly once did. (TV: The Smugglers)
- The Tenth Doctor had an arrow hit his TARDIS in London in 1599 (TV: The Shakespeare Code) and an arrow fired by Lady Peinforte hit the Seventh Doctor's TARDIS in Windsor in 1988 (TV: Silver Nemesis). However, unlike other times when an arrow tip left a lingering hole in the TARDIS shell where it punctured (TV: Evolution of the Daleks), the TARDIS shell immediately repaired itself upon removal of the arrow.
- In London of 2050, K9 Mark 2 would encounter a virtual reality simulation of Robin Hood in a recreation of Sherwood Forest inside a museum. The view held at this point is that there was indeed a real Robin Hood, a sentiment affirmed by K9 who claims to have met him in his original incarnation. (TV: The Last Oak Tree)
- The Twelfth Doctor is still writing obscure calculations with chalk, (TV: Deep Breath) on the TARDIS blackboard. (TV: Into the Dalek)
- Clara tells Robin about the Doctor's origins - that he stole a TARDIS, as witnessed by one of her fragments (TV: The Name of the Doctor), and that he was "born into wealth and privilege".
- Having previously been identified as being from Lancashire, (TV: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS) Clara implies to the Sheriff that she is from the town of Blackpool, a town she previously mentioned. (TV: The Rings of Akhaten)
- The Second Doctor summoned a fictional construct of Cyrano de Bergerac in his mental battle with the Master of the Land. (TV: The Mind Robber)
Home video releases Edit
DVD releases Edit
- The episode was released as part of the Complete Eighth Series boxset on 19 November 2014 in Australia, and 24 November 2014 in the UK.
Blu-ray releases Edit
- Like on DVD, this episode was released as part of the Complete Eighth Series boxset on 19 November 2014 in Australia, and 24 November 2014 in the UK.
Digital releases Edit
- The episode was released on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video in HD or SD, also available as part of the Series 8 digital boxset. The digital boxset contains various features: trailer, interviews, The Ultimate Companion, The Ultimate Time Lord, Inside the World Tour and Doctor Who Extra episodes for each episode.
- In the US, the series was released through digital streaming services Hulu and Netflix with a subscription.