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Last night on 'Doctor Who,' Robin Hood and the robots of Sherwood

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In the world of Doctor Who, Robin Hood is a myth, but he's also a real historical figure. Or is he? For this season of Doctor Who, Ross and Kwame Opam will be sounding off on each episode in a series of emails we'll be publishing on the site. This week it's "Robot of Sherwood" (warning: spoilers ahead). See also last week's episode, "Into the Dalek"

The Doctor: "When did you start believing in impossible heroes?"

Clara: "Don't you know?"

Ross

I love Peter Capaldi. He adds a gravitas with everything he does. Even when, say, he's in an episode that makes no sense whatsoever. I do not know how much belief I can suspend for this one, which starts with The Doctor not knowing whether or not Robin Hood is real but knows exactly where to find him. The two fight over Clara (hair extensions, right?) and eventually stop the Sheriff of Nottingham and his robots from... wait... they don't stop them. The whole thing is about robots who want to launch their rocket. But thankfully... dramatic pause to explain... the imprisoned Doctor meets someone who can seemingly unshackle him, whereby the Doctor teaches everyone in the factory that all the plates they apparently have at their disposal are robot killing machines... and then Chekhov's golden arrow is just enough gold that, when inserted into one leg of the rocket (by way of propulsion), the whole thing is powered up enough to fly just far enough into the atmosphere to blow up safely — something every sees and knows from the ground. (Of note: I'm pretty sure their destination was set to The Promised Land so... to be continued on Larger Story Arc.)

And for all that talk about Robin Hood: man or machine, they never actually address it! He gets cut but we never see blood. The Doctor spends the whole time convinced that he's a robot. (Wouldn't the sonic screwdriver tell us? It does everything else!)

But seriously... The League is back, and I could not be more excited. Did you see the premiere this week? It was awesome!

Kwame

Yet another reminder I need to start watching The League. I just finished Party Down, though. That was amazing.

I kept muttering "You silly bastards!" at the Doctor and Robin throughout this episode. From the sword-spoon fight in the opening minutes to the golden arrow shot at the end. Even the Doctor figured out things were getting over-the-top silly before having to blow things up. This episode didn't make a lick of sense, and didn't try very hard to. Robots landed in Sherwood Forest and of course the Sheriff of Nottingham wants to take over the world. Robin Hood even might be a robot himself. For reasons.

But you know what? I enjoyed it. I thought the back and forth between the Doctor and Robin was mostly hilarious, and the whole thing worked for me as a standalone adventure story. Capaldi's presence is incredible throughout, and it's great to see he has no trouble jumping back and forth between sheer gravitas and madcap comedy. But what made the episode was Robin and the Doctor's exchange at the end of the episode. Just like in the last episode, the Doctor is unsure of himself and the idea of himself as a hero. Moffat is really invested in this notion, and he's hammering that home hard. But Robin reminds him that good can be done in his name, even if he can't see himself as a good man.

But what? No heaven for the Sheriff encased in molten gold?

Ross

I still like to think of these episodes as weird parables that have been passed down as oral history from generation to generation. ("And Robin, The Doctor, and Clara worked together, and the golden arrow was the thing that created and what we're seeing is a retelling of these tales-within-a-tale. Or maybe it's all some dream, or a simulation (which would, actually, make the Promised Land work). Speaking of, here's Mark Gatiss (via Hitflix) responding to people's theories about The Promised Land and the Amy / Rory episode "The Girl Who Waited":

I was in New York for the launch of the series and somebody said that they noticed at the end - with Missy in Paradise — that it looks extremely like the location for the episode for "The Girl Who Waited." They'd extrapolated this enormous theory about the fact that it was linked to that episode, which I promptly punctured by saying "Well, yes. It was shot in Cardiff and it's the same location, I'm afraid." You can work out all kinds of elaborate things based on the fact TV programs are made in the same place.

But yes, I like the dynamic between Robin and The Doctor, even if the ultimate takeaway is poignant (albeit delivered heavy-handed). But seriously, The League is just really, really good. You can watch the whole thing on Netflix and get caught up.

Kwame

Before I respond, I'm just gonna say here and now: I hate Nick Kroll. I hate his face. The only other celebrity I irrationally hate is Jon Lovitz. Kroll is just as bad. I'll get into why another time.

OK, got that out of the way. Now. I was really hoping that Robin was a robot actually. The whole idea of him being a construct made out of myth would have been amazing. And we don't know for sure if he wasn't right? Robots creating legends out of our legends. At that point, could we expect to see something like the Daleks creating the Time Lords? The Doctor is a Good Dalek, remember? I'm talking nonsense, of course, but there's something to be said about bad creating good and vice versa and how that's a theme this season. How you kind of need both.

Oh! And remember the Batman / Robin parallel from last week? Still important. How the Doctor's heroism is being broken down and rebuilt this go around is powerful, but you need Clara to keep whatever good he is going.

Ross

The last time robots made myths real, there was a Pandorica. And you're wrong about Nick Kroll. Trust me, just watch it.