DOCTOR WHO - Robots of Sherwood, and lessons learnt from Battlefield

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Christopher Morley delves into the Doctor's past - visiting stories including the season 26 mythological adventure Battlefield - and considers what might be to come in the upcoming series 8 story currently known as Robots of Sherwood.


The announcement that the Twelfth Doctor is set to take Clara off to Sherwood Forest to meet a certain Robin Hood in the Mark Gatiss-penned Series 8 episode Robots Of Sherwood really got us thinking (& not just about Ms Oswald in that lovely red Maid Marian-ish dress, honest). Though it & its wearer are indeed exquisite. But there's more to it than that.

Hasn't the Doctor already once taken a lady companion into the heart of myth & legend? Of course he has! Only that time he was in his Seventh incarnation, he had Ace in tow & the events of Battlefield would tell us a little more about his alleged part in the rise of King Arthur- he was Merlin! Or at least, its heavily implied he was.

Either way, the sorceress Morgaine wasn't too happy to see him. So, rroll up your sleeves as we take a look back & quite possibly throw in a few Sherwood titbits in the process!


After attending The Greatest Show In The Galaxy, Seven & Ace find themselves thrown into the mother of all historical intrigues when they encounter UNIT ( for the first time in a long time from the Doctor's perspective, & indeed properly the first time from Ace's). A craft from another dimension has crashed in the picturesque countryside of merrie olde England, & it currently lies on the bed of Lake Vortigern.

Lying within it in state, & indeed in a form of suspended animation alongside his prized sword Excalibur, is Arthur himself! And someone's come back to help him- the faithful knight Ancelyn. Inevitably though, there's a rival to be fended off. He arrives in the form of Mordred ( son of Morgaine)- though actually, according to the ' proper' Arthurian legends he was the son of Arthur himself & Morgause, sister of Morgain ( who is in turn the basis for Morgaine). 

Got it? We're not sure we have, either, but let's press on regardless as all the best knights do. Once we get back to Camelot we can have a bit of a song & dance...



Both knights are able to recognise the man in the pullover as Merlin on sight despite never actually having clapped eyes on the Doctor in his current body. Which makes Ace's question here...



...seem a tad redundant. He could indeed be, have been or about to be the famed wizard- really doesn't help a lot.

But could it be that this sort of knowledge just might help Twelve out of any pickles he finds himself in in the company of Hood & his Merry Men? After all, for all we know ' Friar Tuck' might actually turn out to be a very clever alias adopted by one very slippery Monk (think along the lines of The Time Meddler & The Daleks' Master Plan).

If it does indeed come to pass that Mortimus is now going by the name of Tuck & has somehow influenced or even built these particular Robots himself as a cover for his own fiddling with time, potentially curtailed prematurely by the arrival of the newest incarnation of the Doctor, it could be quite a clash between the former Academy classmates.

Could an appeal to Hood's inherent humanity (as the Eleventh Doctor tried to great success with the android Professor Edwin Bracewell in Victory Of The Daleks) be enough to help win brave Robin over to his cause & allow the famous outlaw to redeem himself in some way, however small? Might keep the Sheriff of Nottingham off his tail at least.......

Maybe he won't be afraid to die- his circuits ripped out & his head blown up, & his leg torn off & arms destroyed...



Perhaps Twelve or Clara will show off by watching Monty Python & The Holy Grail in its entirety before descending into the Forest, too? 

If there's a three-headed knight in the mix we can only hope the resulting battle doesn't conclude with the Doctor's death at his hands after a cup of tea without biscuits. Ah yes. Where, pray tell, have we seen an epic battle between the forces of mythology & the modern/' real world?

That's right, boys & girls. It's Battlefield! Having had his retirement rudely interrupted, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart gladly chucks himself back into the fray against the Destroyer, a demon summoned by Morgaine. He proves himself not to have lost the fighting mentality of the natural soldier, too...


Makes the so-called 'final war' referred to by Ancelyn (an anticipated skirmish between the forces of Arthur & Morgaine/Mordred) look like no more than a petty squabble. But Seven won't have to attempt to distract the rightful King from any quests with discussions on whether swallows & coconuts migrate - he's a little bit dead & in no way whatsoever resembles Graham Chapman.

Though it might go some way to explaining how Twelve could have the necessary know-how to distract the Monk by using coconuts to fool his old foe into thinking a mighty army's coming to apprehend him on horseback..the mind boggles.

Turning back to Battlefield, we do indeed see a hand emerge holding Excalibur in triumph, but its not the one you might expect. It's the girl who up to now has been more used to handling Nitro-9! Somewhat disappointingly she never even for a second considers trading the stuff in for the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

No killer rabbits with big pointy teeth either, unless they've all migrated to Sherwood & lie in wait to give Twelve a good nibble. In which case he should probably panic. He might be too busy trying to keep Hood's robot hands off Clara after the man in the green tights decides the Doctor's newest female companion might be better off staying with him as his faithful consort, though!

Could be the ideal opportunity to show off how brilliant he's been programmed to be in combat situations too if the need arises, & something like this could be quite spectacular...


Throw in the possibility of a few well-chosen nods to The Time Warrior, the Third Doctor's own 13th century scrap with the robber baron Irongron & the Sontaran Linx, & yet more layers of intrigue are added! Its entirely possible that Seven & by extension Twelve both drew on their younger self's prior knowledge of this corner of space & time in their own excursions into it.

After all there's a robot knight involved in part of it- & the memory of his defeat of it could spur on the senior of the three mentioned incarnations of the Doctor in his efforts against Robin...



Not to mention his duel with Linx himself, the creator of what is effect a walking suit of armour...


Perhaps we should bring things bang up to date at least for a while with a look at Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman & Da Vinci's Demons main man Tom Riley (in the role of Robot Hood, & rather wonderfully fulfilling a childhood dream by appearing in an episode of Who. Yay for him!) on location in Forest Fawr in Wales, which is doubling for Sherwood itself.

Note the 'Robin Hood & The Golden Arrow' subtitle, also, Could it be some sort of nod to Silver Nemesis? Take a look & judge for yourself...



If we may close by running with the Nemesis theme, a further link could become apparent. What if during the course of her time in Sherwood, Ms Oswald were to gain Lady Peinforte-like magical powers?

It might be more of a stretch to suggest that she could gain the knowledge of who the Doctor really is, as the Lady claims she has - all part of the general hinting of the Cartmel Masterplan that the Oncoming Storm was ' more than just a Time Lord' & indeed part of Gallifrey's initial ruling triumvirate as the mysterious ' Other' alongside Rassilon & Omega. 

But how Clara would use such potentially dangerous power were it to appeal to a hitherto unseen darker side of her nature is quite a question to ponder. After all you don't just use remnants of the pre- Time Lord age power of the Cult of Pythia without some thought ( the Sisterhood of Karn also receiving some of the awesome implied gifts of the much-worshipped Pythia, who kindly sent what remained of her base of followers there as her powers faded).

More background on the whole state of affairs can be found in the Time's Crucible book of the Cat's Cradle series featuring the Seventh Doctor ( also by Andrew Cartmel, containing further elements of his Masterplan) , part one of a trilogy also containing Warlock & War Child.

However you look at it there's a lot to take in should you be inclined to do so! But it just might make Robots Of Sherwood that bit more awesome, not that it'll need much help in the excitement stakes, when it finally does come to our screens. Huzzah!
Warped Factor
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