Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Aragon vs. Anderson: Robot of Sherwood

Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved. I don't mean liked. I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time. It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode. I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things. I mean give a bona-fide negative review. Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express). Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night.

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required. I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut. What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying. I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 33 of The Nerdist as Whore: Robot of Sherwood. My 'translations' are in red.

Comic adventures are not the most common kinds of stories in Doctor Who, and the ones that have existed in the new series have tended to go for zany rather than funny. It’s a difficult tone to strike, and really the show hasn’t done it super well since the 1960s.

"Deep Breath" had a lot to do, and that fact that it did that, plus added wackiness, cracking dialogue, and tense if not downright terrifying moments just solidified once again why this is my favorite show.

Is it me, or is there something just a bit, well, odd, about saying how Doctor Who hasn't done 'comedy' "super well since the 1960s" and also say that Deep Yawn, a mere two episodes ago, managed to do 'wackiness' so well?  Perhaps 'wacky' is his 'zany', and thus, not in the 'comedy' genre, so I think we can cut him some slack.

Still, most modern Who is funny despite the terror, but this week’s episode, “Robot of Sherwood”, is just funny all on it’s own.

Grammar Police Alert: "It's" is a contraction of 'it is', not the possessive form of 'it', which is written 'its' (without an apostrophe).  Unless of course he meant to say that "'Robot of Sherwood', is just funny all on it is own".

I don’t remember the last time I smiled that much throughout an episode.

My guess would be when you saw Into the Dalek, since you liked that one too (just like you like almost all of Moffat-Era Who: 28 out of 33 positive reviews so far for our 'analytical critic' who is 'quite critical' when necessary).

It was just so delightful with its dialogue and not-quite-over-the-top silliness,

Geez, if Anderson thought Robot of Sherwood was 'not-quite-over-the-top silliness', one can only wonder when he thinks something IS well over-the-top!

but it also tells a good message about not giving up on legends because any hero can be real so long as they inspire heroism in others.

There is a marked difference between believing in mythological heroes enough where they inspire heroism...and believe that they are actual, historical figures that existed in real life.  My heroes as a child were Underdog and Indiana Jones, but even as a child I knew they didn't actually exist.  Robot of Sherwood is making the claim that "Robin Hood" was a real as Richard I or Winston Churchill.  If the Millennials cannot make that distinction, then it is proof positive that Common Core is a disaster.

My gosh, what an ep!

My gosh, what rubbish!

Written by perennial writer Mark Gatiss and directed by newcomer to the series Paul Murphy, “Robot of Sherwood” does what few episodes have done before, which is to blend comedy and adventure in a way that isn’t dumb,

and to let the series for once be about a “fictional” character from the past.

The quotation marks around "fictional" are enough to inspire derision for anyone who claims to be 'analytical' on this topic.

Being the huge classic series fan that he is, surely Gatiss was channeling a bit from the First Doctor story “The Myth Makers”, in which the Doctor and companions go back to Ancient Greece in the middle of the Trojan War and inadvertently cause the events surrounding the Trojan Horse, which the Doctor claims would never work because it’s just an Epic Poem. Of course, this episode forsakes “The Myth Makers”‘ horribly tragic ending

...because we all know The Trojan War was a knee-slapping bit of comedic hijinks...

and just stays with the swashbuckling adventure theme.
Clara wants to go meet Robin Hood, one of her favorite historical figures, but the Doctor tells her he’s just a myth and she’d be disappointed, then trying to get her to want to see the Ice Warrior encampments on Mars (bo-ring).

Now, let me see if I have this straight.  Clara is a teacher, which suggests she has a basic knowledge of various subjects and is educated.  This "teacher" also believes Robin Hood is a real, historic figure, someone who actually existed in real life.  Is it me, or do these two ideas fail to be logical?  Oh, I forget...Doctor Who is never and has never been about 'logic', not even internal.  It's about how it makes you 'feel'. 

Clara insists and the Doctor sets the TARDIS controls to Sherwood Forest, 1190AD-ish. He exits expecting to be 100% correct and is immediately met by Robin Hood (Tom Riley). That can’t happen, right?

Isn't it extraordinary that The Doctor managed to set the coordinates to where they would so easily stumble across a fictitious character just wandering about.  What Ever Are the Odds?  Is "1190 AD-ish" now the standard for accurate time-travel?

He’s just as brash and prone to fits of derisive laughter as his myth and Hollywood movies would lead you to believe.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Robin Hood with Russell Crowe didn't have a laughing, preening lead, Kyle.  Come to think of it, Errol Flynn's version in The Adventures of Robin Hood didn't have HIM laughing all the time either.  There were times in that film where Robin was quite serious and somber (let alone romantic with Maid Marion).  Maybe the Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. version can have this 'brash and prone to fits of derisive laughter' style, but this interpretation, EVEN if I grant you was a 'real' person, is more based on a stereotype of Robin Hood than myth or even Hollywood movies.

The Doctor asks if laughing ever got him punched in the face (hilarious) and the Prince of Thieves says he’s going to still the bony man’s blue box,

He's going to 'still' the bony man's blue box?  Why?  Is it moving?  Why would The Prince of Thieves want to 'still' anything?  Now THAT makes ME laugh!

despite Clara and her period-appropriate attire and her undeniable glee that they’d found Robin Hood so quickly.

A detail we need not bother questioning.

Robin draws his sword and the Twelfth Doctor

...in 14th Form...

shows what he’s made of by drawing his own weapon… a spoon.

The Twelfth Doctor in 14th Form is going to fight off a fictional character...with a spoon.  Remind me again, Kyle, this Doctor is supposed to be a 'darker' Doctor, right?
After the duel ends, Robin takes both of our heroes to meet the rest of the Merry Men (what an apt name for them) and the Doctor still thinks something is wrong and that these people aren’t real. They can’t be!


He thinks they might all be in a Miniscope (reference to Third Doctor story “Carnival of Monsters”).

A story most NuWhovians have never seen, probably never heard of, and have no interest in.

Clara asks when he stopped believing in legends, and he asks when she started believing in mythical heroes.

I usually put that around 8 to 12.  Next thing you'll know, Doctor Who will say Santa Claus is real...

“Don’t you know?” is her very heavy reply.

She then talks to Robin and he tells her everything she already knows about his own mythos and that it was Maid Marian who convinced him to stand up to Prince John’s tyranny.

If memory serves right, in the movie The Adventures of Robin Hood (which Robot of Sherwood is shamelessly drawing from), Maid Marion was firmly on the Norman side and against Robin of Locksley, until she saw both how cruel some Normans were against the Saxons and that the divisions between Saxon and Norman was wrong.  They were all English now.  However, we'll go with Clara's version.

She also knows she’s sad because, the Doctor’s right, he laughs too much.

This sentence is a little confusing.  "She also knows she's sad," makes it unclear whether 'she' refers to Clara or Maid Marion.  For the longest time, I read it as "She also knows he's sad," since Anderson refers to Robin Hood as the "he" in "he laughs too much".  I figure it's a typo, which is not a terrible thing.  We all make mistakes when expressing ourselves.  I know I have (and will in the future).  However, this is the second or third curious error so far in this brimming press release that passes itself off as an objective review. 
If this is Robin Hood, there must also be a Sheriff of Nottingham, in this case played by guest star Ben Miller. He’s pretty darn evil all right. He has set up the famous archery match as a trap to catch Robin Hood. Naturally, Robin does amazingly well and is about to be awarded the golden arrow when another arrow splits his own. It was fired by the Doctor who doesn’t want the arrow, he wants something else. What follows is an increasingly ridiculous show of skill between the Doctor and Robin until finally, Robin reveals he is indeed who he says and the Sheriff’s knights attack. One gets its arm cut off and then the Doctor knows he’s right. He allows himself, Clara, and Robin to be captured because capturing is the best way to find out what someone’s evil plan is.
What follows is one of the funniest and best scenes in the episode, which is already pretty amazing with Capaldi-awesomeness.

It’s all about the Doctor and Robin Hood trying to out-hero each other with regard to coming up with the better escape plan. Neither of them have anything, and Clara knows it. The sheer amount of bickering is enough to driver mad;

"The sheer amount of bickering is enough to driver mad".  Is this the fourth error in an increasingly badly-written review?  Was it written with some type of Auto-Correct system that made erroneous choices?  I figure he meant to write "driver her mad", but the growing number of odd sentences is making this more and more hilarious than Robot of Sherwood itself. 

luckily, she is taken to see the Sheriff pretty quickly, and the Doctor and Robin are left to come up with something.
Clara is a genius!

Ah, yes.  I'm old enough to remember when The Doctor was the genius, the Companion less so, but Times Have Changed.

She manages to trick the Sheriff into telling her what happened with lights in the sky and the robots and everything. He wants to use them to overthrow Prince John and become king not only of England, but of the whole world, after Lincoln of course.

Villain wants to TAKE OVER THE WORLD.  Now that's new.

The Doctor and Robin do manage to escape and, after removing their shackles (the Doctor makes a joke and regrets it when Robin laughs), they find the control room. Seems the castle itself is a spaceship and its engines need repairing, in the form of gold.

One thing is certain: no Cybermen were involved in the making of Robot of Sherwood.

They were looking for the Promised Land too. Weird, eh?

A fellow reviewer made an interesting point about this season-long thread: since when do robots have a concept of "The Promised Land" or "Heaven"?  Details, details...

The robots databanks have a history of Robin Hood (including a picture of Patrick Troughton as Robin Hood in Robin of Sherwood from which this episode gets its name) and he thinks this is definitive proof that Robin isn’t real, but when the Sheriff bursts in and the robots begin firing on Robin, the knave takes Clara and jumps out the window into the moat below. The Doctor is then captured.

So let's see if I have this straight (again).  Doctor Who is going to make a story out of the fact that the 14th Form of The Doctor looks like a Roman from a previous Doctor Who episode, but the fact that the Second Doctor looks like Robin Hood (who ostensibly is a fictional figure) is going to be totally ignored?

The Doctor determines the robots plan to blast off soon, but they still don’t have enough gold and the ship will likely explode, destroying half of the country, if they do.

After a bit more hullabaloo, Robin is in a duel with the Sheriff and it’s learned that the Sheriff has been turned into a robot as well, so the only thing left for him to do is the Doctor’s sword fighting trick and knock the blaggard into the molten gold. But the robots still want to take off, so the Doctor, Clara, and Robin work together to fire the golden arrow into the ship to allow it to enter orbit, but then it explodes anyway. The Doctor and Clara leave Robin, and Mr. Hood

Shouldn't it be "Sir Robin of Locksley?"

tells the Doctor they’re both legends and that he doesn’t mind not being remembered as a real man so long as people take up the good fight in his name. Maybe people will do the same for the Doctor.

As I said before, this episode is just a delight. I loved everything about it.
SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!

Even some of the sillier moments like the archery tournament worked for me because the overall tone of the episode made it work. The constant rivalry between the Doctor and Robin, not to mention the Doctor’s constant irritation at the very idea of the Merry Men, made for a lot of laughs.

He’s grumpy and older-looking but decidedly childlike and petulant about things.

Just like Donald Trump, or "Donald Tramp" as my mother keeps calling him in her delightful malapropism.

Both Tom Riley and Ben Miller were brilliant and gave very funny but not mawkish performances as their respective characters. Robin Hood’s incessant laughter was constantly hilarious to me.

Robin Hood's incessant laugh was constantly irritating to me. Anderson is a fool unto himself. 

This has to rank as one of my favorite Mark Gatiss-penned adventures, up there with “The Unquiet Dead” and “The Crimson Horror.” I can’t wait to see what he does for Series 9.

Next week, it’s a very intriguing-looking episode: “Listen” written by Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat and directed by the exceptional Douglas Mackinnon and will see the return of Samuel Anderson as Danny Pink. The Doctor doing a bottle episode? Can’t wait!
These Doctor Who episodes are enough to have anyone start hitting the bottle. Second time he cannot wait for a Doctor Who episode.  If I see this one more time...

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