Doctor Who: “Robot of Sherwood Forest”, Forgotten Heroes and the Promised Land


S08xE03 “Robot of Sherwood Forest”

This week, we traveled with Clara and Twelve through time and space to, you guessed it, England. Imagine that? Mark Gatiss penned this episode that reminds Whovians that we are “all stories in the end” and sometimes the story does not tell the whole truth and sometimes, truth shifts over time. The parallels between Robin Hood (whom the Doctor at first does not believe exists and then believes is a robot) and the Doctor (last of the Timelords, the Oncoming Storm) shine in this episode. Even if the plot was a little campy and we didn’t get to see the curious character “Missy”, the overarching plot points subtly woven into this episode are worth discussing.

Spoilers ahead, Sweeties!

A Hero Complex

While Eleven spent his time living and eventually dying/regenerating, as a hero, Twelve doesn’t seemed to be burdened with the same desire. He has shown us that, unlike Eleven, Twelve is willing to sacrifice the individual for the masses, and he doesn’t believe in heroes. For the Doctor, Robin Hood is only a story believed by those who don’t know any better. What the Doctor ignores (although is not ignorant of) is the fact that for Clara, he too is a legend–a heroic myth that, by impossible odds, she is able to take a part in. What it seems the Doctor is coming to terms with is the idea that he has had a large part in the structure of the universe, the wars he has been a part of, and his legendary status. If no one knows him any longer, is the Doctor still the same man?

From the crack in the universe to the Silence and River Song, the Doctor has been instrumental in facilitating his own demise and creating his own enemies. Throughout “Robots of Sherwood Forest”, Twelve is obsessed with the idea that the robot villains have created a (robot) hero in Robin to fight against them. While in this instance it is an illogical idea and easily thwarted, in “Into the Dalek”, the Doctor actually does create his own enemy when he “cures” the sick Dalek. So then, who is the villain and who is the hero in the story of the Doctor? With his name erased from the universal memory and after essentially died a heroes death, Twelve is forced to face his status as universal myth and struggles to balance his need to help others with his desire to tell the entire universe to fuck off. While there aren’t any resolutions as of yet, it feels like Twelve is coming up soon to either a breakdown or a break through, and I, for one, am going to be right there with the popcorn, enjoying the show.

The Chosen and the Promised Land

I’m coming back to the Missy and “Heaven” story line to discuss the robots of Sherwood Forest and their desire to get to the Promised Land. In “Deep Breath”, the clockwork aliens were headed to the Promised Land and then the head robot falls to save London and fins himself in Missy’s “Heaven”. “Into the Dalek” features a few dead soldiers, but only the one who gave her life to save the Doctor and the others landed in the gardens with Missy. Are Heaven and the Promised Land the same place? Why do these robots want to travel there and what does one have to do to enter?

This episode, while I still think Twelve is a grumpy grandpa, intrigued me enough to keep moving through series 8 with faith that there will soon be a turning point for the Doctor and maybe, just maybe, we find out who the hell Missy is.

your friendly neighborhood Wholigan,

The Collectiva Diva