(Huh. Looks like I wrote this and forgot to post it. Oops.)
A dazzling but very meta episode, “Robot of Sherwood” turns the usual Doctor Who historical inside-out and meditates on what it means to be a hero.
The Doctor asks Clara where she wants to go, and Clara decides she wants to meet Robin Hood. Although the Doctor is adamant that Robin is a fictional character, he sets the TARDIS for Nottingham in 1190, whereupon they meet… Robin Hood and his band of outlaws. Eventually the group meets the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, whose henchmen turn out to be… well, the title says it, doesn’t it? Robin, Clara, and the Doctor are taken to a dungeon, whereupon the two men engage in a hilarious game of one-upmanship until Clara shushes them both. Naturally, there are escapes, evil plans, aliens, and derring-do, along with a casual insertion of this season’s story arc, the Promised Land.
The Doctor “deduces” that Robin must also be a robot, part of the Sheriff’s scheme to use the peasant population as slave labor in order to give the captives hope. The Sheriff points out how silly that idea is, so Robin must be real. Or is he? The episode never resolves that with any certainty. But Robin seems content when the Doctor tells him that only the legend, and not the man, is known to the future, and Robin points out how similar he and the Doctor are, both men trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances. This is part of an ongoing theme to the season - this incarnation of the Doctor doubts himself and questions whether he really is a force for good. As Clara did in the previous episode, here Robin says it’s the intent and attempt that makes the hero, not necessarily the outcome.
The episode is very light-hearted, from the bantering between Robin and the Doctor (and their constant efforts to belittle the other) to the archery match between Robin and the Sheriff (and, ultimately, the Doctor) - at one point the Doctor’s arrow caroms off a chest plate and onto the target. Clara has less to do in this episode than in the first two, serving mainly as the damsel in distress for Robin and as potential consort material for the Sheriff. And the resolution of the main plot seemed a little…thin even for the usual Doctor Who hand-waving. Nonetheless, it was a fun episode, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of fun, especially for Time Lords who have, in the past, occasionally taken themselves a bit too seriously.