What happens when legends meet? I don’t mean two famous people but more what happens when two mythical creatures meet. Sure, we’ve had enough cross-over movies, TV shows and comics that cross-overs have worn out their welcome but there’s still the special moment every now and then.
But what happens when two mythical creatures who aren’t all that mythical get in a battle of egos? That’s the question that is being asked and answered by this weekend’s episode of Doctor Who. The Doctor, a myth throughout space and time, comes face to face with Robin Hood, a myth of Earth. They’re very real and very spectacular.
The first thing to note is that this is a comedy episode of the show. After two episodes of establishing this new Doctor as a bit darker and more serious than his last two predecessors, this episodes comes as an almost shocking change in tone for the series. Some people will welcome it but some will hate this episode.
It’s important that this episode gets worked into the season fairly early though. I know we want a more old-school Doctor established with Capaldi in the role but there are a lot of people who are holdovers from the Tennant and Smith days who don’t want things to change. I’ve seen a disappointing number of complaints about Capaldi being the “worst Doctor ever” from people who clearly didn’t watch before the reboot. They want a laugh. Television is a business. It’s not Bill Hartnell’s Doctor anymore. We all have to deal with it. Comedy is a necessary part of the Doctor Who offering now.
Fortunately, we have a gifted comedic actor at the helm of the TARDIS. Prior to being The Doctor and after being the biggest Doctor Who fan of any of the actors to assume the role, Peter Capaldi might be most well-known for playing Malcolm Tucker on The Thick of It. His comedic chops are spectacular and it was a joy to watch. Just a shame that more Tucker couldn’t be worked into it. Stupid censors and common decency…
Anyway, being the funny man is something you wouldn’t expect from Twelve after the last two episodes but it is something you would expect from The Doctor. It might not be the spastic physical comedy you would expect of Eleven (that dance) but the humour and charisma fit The Doctor, even this Doctor, perfectly.
Even the clichéd comedic and fantasy elements seemed just a little special. In a series where Ten used paper 3D glasses to analyse items of interest, Twelve fighting Robin Hood in a sword duel using a spoon isn’t any more outlandish. Actually, it makes sense when you consider the fact that Eleven was very anti-weaponry. It’s a bit of subtle characterization that ties back to the lore of the character. I also enjoyed The Doctor’s ego measuring contest of archery with Robin Hood that he only won through cheating, a bit of overgrown childishness that ties back nicely to the last 50 years of The Doctor.
There was a plot to this episode but I think it was absolutely inconsequential to the episode. While Clara might have been the one that the boys might have been trying to impress, this episode was all about the ego-driven one-upmanship between Robin Hood and The Doctor whether Clara would have been there or not. The Doctor wants to be in charge and he’s so certain that he’s right about Robin Hood being a myth that he’s trying to play catch-up so he can be the man running the show rather than being shown up by a fictional character. There’s a tension there that plays out hilariously and fantastically for the viewer.
One complaint about the episode before we move on: We never did find out the deal with Robin Hood. Just when he starts to question his own reality after finding himself in the robot ship’s database, he’s off to rescue The Doctor and it’s never brought up again. Is Robin Hood real in the Who-verse or is he actually a creation of the ship’s crash? It was alluded to that Robin Hood was an actual person in Doctor Who canon but it was never really explicitly stated. I wouldn’t have a problem either way. After all, it’s not like suspension of disbelief in Doctor Who would be harder than a man who can regenerate himself twelve time and travels through space in a police box.
Overall, though, I liked this episode. I wasn’t expecting to. I thought I was going to write this off as an unnecessary diversion into a writer’s flight of fancy that added nothing to the overall Doctor Who mythos. Okay, maybe it didn’t have anything to do with the overarching plot of this season and it didn’t tie back to the whole idea of a supposed afterlife but it gave Capaldi a chance to show that he can do comedy to this new audience. If you want Doctor Who to be super serious, skip this episode. If you don’t mind a little bit of fun, this episode will do it for you.
Other random points of note:
- Is it just me or did this episode seem like it was just an excuse to get Jenna Coleman into a period outfit? Not that the Y chromosome in me is complaining.
- Also, Clara’s period appropriate costume reminded me that she shouldn’t go to any weddings as Robb Stark’s plus one. It didn’t go too well for the last girl he went to a wedding with…
- And was it just me or did the continuity people do a terrible job this week. TARDIS door open in one scene, closed after the next camera cut. Clara’s hair got longer and curlier when she changed her clothes. It was a good week to be a goofs writer for IMDB.
Next week, Moffat is back to his old tricks. After making little children scared of statues all around the world, he’s going to make them scared of what’s under their beds. If there’s one thing that Steven Moffat seems to love, it’s horror episodes of Doctor Who. While he hasn’t quite been able to get back to the levels of the original Weeping Angels episode, Blink, taking something common like a bed and using it to scare children is getting back to classic horror. While my hopes weren’t particularly high for this week (though my expectations were exceeded), I have high hopes next week.