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Robot of Sherwood and Listen: Doctor Who Recap

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This week something rare happens on Doctor Who, the TARDIS actually takes the Doctor where he intends to go. Clara and the Doctor travel to Nottingham 1190 so that Clara can indulge in her dream of meeting Robin Hood. It’s always fun to watch the Doctor and his companions meet real life historical figures such as Queen Victoria, Shakespeare, and Agatha Christie. However Robin Hood is different being that he’s a fictional legend; the Doctor sets out determined to disprove his existence.

When they arrive in Sherwood forest, the Doctor states that there’s no such thing as Robin Hood and he gets an arrow in the TARDIS door in response. Instantly the Doctor and Robin Hood don’t get along. His skepticism makes him unwilling to accept that the man who claims to be Robin Hood truly is the real deal. The quarreling between the Doctor and Robin Hood, though it is funny, escalates to unnecessary and cliched. The Doctor hits the nail on the head when he says that [their arrow shooting competition] is “getting silly” and not in a good way. It’s especially unneeded and misplaced when the Doctor says that the good part about making an embarrassing mistake while bickering instead of scheming is that “Clara didn’t see that.” It’s nothing new to see this kind of posturing between male characters for whatever reason and it’s something the episode really could have done without.

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Clara talks to the Sheriff of Nottingham using her knowledge of the Robin Hood story to buy herself time, showing once again her cleverness and resourcefulness. I also enjoy her geeking out over meeting Robin Hood, acting as a foil to Twelve’s stiff new resolve (and dislike of laughter and hugs!); I think she would make the Fanbros proud.

When the Doctor and Robin Hood stop arguing long enough to escape, they search the castle and find the reason behind the uncharacteristically sunny weather in Nottingham. They discover evidence that there really is something sinister hiding below the surface of this story come to life. Though there is no sighting of Missy this episode, we do get a vague reminder of “the promised land” at this point. Now convinced that Robin Hood is a part of the rouse as well, the Doctor accuses him and almost leaves him to be killed by the Sheriff’s men.

Twelve continues to distinguish himself from previous incarnations and the most interesting part is seeing how he reacts differently than his past self might have. This more straightforward and less fun loving doctor is cold, fresh and endearing all at the same time. Robin Hood tells the Doctor that he is okay with being remembered as a mere legend because “history is a burden and stories can make us fly.” Twelve is again faced with the uncertainty of his belief in himself and his ability to be “a good man” a “hero” or worth any title at all.

Though not particularly revelatory and despite clichéd character moments, Robot of Sherwood is entertaining in Doctor Who fashion, fun and worth the watch.

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Possibly the best episode of the season so far, Listen reminds us that Steven Moffat excels at everything creepy (see Blink, The Empty Child, and Silence in the Library). Clara and the Doctor try to find out why a certain nightmare is so common and what ensues is suspenseful and absolutely terrifying. It’s immediately captivating when the Doctor begins the episode monologuing about whether anyone is ever truly alone. He’s writing down notes on an old school chalkboard and when he looks away and back again something new is written on the board.

Clara and Danny meanwhile have their first date. This is the start of many weird circumstances that surround them this episode. To put it simply, the date goes terrible. It’s awkward and ends with Clara storming off because of a misunderstanding between them and Danny subsequently head desking (that should totally be a word). The Doctor interrupts a sulking Clara by bringing the TARDIS into her room and encouraging her to come with him and find out the answer to this question that’s clearly plaguing him.

Clara taps her DNA into the TARDIS and transports them to an orphanage on her timeline. That’s where the aforementioned weirdness begins. She meets a little boy who not so coincidentally is named Rupert Pink. He hates his name and he is afraid to go to sleep because of his nightmares. Clara tries to convince him that there is nothing to fear under his bed by going underneath herself and asking him to join her. Once they’re both underneath, there is a clear sinking movement on top of the bed. The moments that follow are intensely suspenseful. Listen plays with the fear of the unknown, of something there that we can’t see and that maybe we are too afraid to see.

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The chain of events that surround Clara and Danny is the most confusing part of the episode. It raises more questions than it does answers. Who is Orson Pink in the timeline? Why are their timelines so intertwined to begin with? And what a bizarre predicament for Clara to be in having knowledge of her own timeline no matter how disconnected. It feels like a recipe for disaster. We see as well that Clara is pretty integral to the Doctor’s timeline having been in his room when he was a child and spoken to him, telling him the same things about being afraid that he later repeats to young Danny. Does this mean that is where the Doctor got it from all along? Which came first? Answer: wibbly wobbly timey wimey. It all makes my head spin.

I believe that recalling the events of The Day of the Doctor, this might be leading us toward something about finding Gallifrey. I could be wrong and I hope so because I don’t necessarily want to know more about the Doctor’s past and childhood. Those types of revelations are not the appeal of the show. However maybe I’m totally off base on that. We’ll find out.

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Overall I enjoyed this episode immensely. It’s classic suspense, it reminds me of creepy episodes past and I think Listen is Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who at its finest.