All of the early information about “Robot of Sherwood” left me hoping for some relief after the try-hard seriousness of “Into the Dalek.” It had the look of a good ol’ Doctor Who romp, with hopefully lots of fun to be had. Unfortunately, where there could have been amusement there is instead of a constant stream of banality, with humor that is more idiotic than amusing. It occasionally veers towards dramatic, but comes across as half-baked when it does. It’s really unfortunate, because I think “Robot of Sherwood” is a clear step back for a new Doctor who frankly REALLY didn’t need one.
Once again, there are a small handful of moments where Capaldi is an entertaining Doctor, but he mostly comes across as clumsy and awkward. He is still completely devoid of that signature whimsy that makes the Doctor such an interesting character. He comes across as more of a socially inept hermit rather than the alien he is, which may be the writing but also might just be that Capaldi isn’t good at being the Doctor. There’s still time to get better, but we’re already a quarter of the way through the series, so it’s not exactly boding well.
Jenna Coleman once again gets to be the focus, which is nice, but even she can’t save this episode. The plot is mostly boring and the guest stars are all in a perpetual state of chewing all of the scenery. It was foolish of me to expect better from Mark Gatiss, frankly, as he usually writes pretty weak episodes, with a few minor exceptions. This isn’t even as good as the middling “Night Terrors.” Hell, it’s not even as good as “Victory of the Daleks,” which would be the worst Dalek story of New Who if it wasn’t for “Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks”.
If I hadn’t already been a Doctor Who fan before this year, it’s pretty likely that this is the episode that would have had me saying “This show just isn’t for me. Sorry, I tried.” I’ve loved it so much in the past that I will stick with it, but “Robot of Sherwood” is among the worst episodes of new Who. Definitely deserving of consideration alongside “Fear Her” and “The Curse of the Black Spot” as the absolute nadir of the new series. Here’s to hoping things get better REALLY quickly.
Final Grade: D-