DOCTOR WHO: Robot of Sherwood - A Blast From The Past? - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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DOCTOR WHO: Robot of Sherwood - A Blast From The Past?

Christopher Morley delves into the Doctor's history and looks at some potential hidden surprises that may be waiting in this Saturday's new episode of Doctor Who, Robot of Sherwood.

If you've had the chance to take a glance at any of the promotional pictures for Robot Of Sherwood, you might well have needed to do a double take after taking in the sight of Ben Miller as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Looks rather familiar, doesn't he? While its unlikely he'll have to grapple with the question of just where he's seen his face before- as the Twelfth Doctor seems to be doing in his début series- there's no escaping the fact that Nottingham's baddest man ( at least in the Robin Hood legend) would appear to have been taking tips from Anthony Ainley's Master...........

And it goes beyond the beard, most likely! It could be read as an attempt to make implicit the connection between two very differing myths. Hood's story would be nothing without the Sheriff in opposition, the sort of thinking which might have influenced the introduction of the Master into Doctor Who in time for Season 8 of the 'classic' series. Indeed, there could be a case for saying that the Sheriff's appearance is an homage to that very fact. It's been said that Miller's performance does have a certain Masterly hue to it...perhaps Ben ( who it should be noted is a long-time fan of the programme, as is Tom Riley, the man playing Hood) has been studying The King's Demons!

If you've already had the pleasure of witnessing the Fifth Doctor's temporal excursion into the court of ' Bad' King John, you'll probably know where this is going. The Master, in an attempt to do away with the Magna Carta & in doing so foul up democracy itself, has been using Kamelion ( a handy robot tool he picked up on Xeriphas) to impersonate the King, positioning himself as Sir Giles Estram, a rather dashing knight in the employ of the monarch. Anagram enthusiasts will most likely have already noted who he really is within minutes of his entry into proceedings!

Upon which basis it really isn't all that radical to suggest that the Doctor might well at least initially suspect that his foe & intellectual equal's raided the period dressing-up box once again. Which sets the scene for possible references to days long gone in which the Doctor was also played by a man named Peter, a time Steven Moffat loves, plus if the lead writer has a cunning plan to catch us all unawares & Miller is to be introduced as the newest Master, what a way to do it! 

After all he could easily simply peel off a fake beard ( maybe even going to the trouble of a full face mask?) & leg it to his TARDIS to change before gloating to the Doctor how brilliantly he's managed to pull the wool over his eyes.  And lest we forget the Ainley Master's appetite for disguises/aliases! There's Tremas ( The Keeper Of Traken)...

...& Kalid ( Time-Flight)...

And that's just for starters.

New-Whovians are further advised to take a look at...

Note also the knights protecting the Sheriff's castle- could it be that their leader is the robot of the episode's title?

Not to mention another handy call to the past, perhaps deliberate. Remember The Time Warrior? The Third Doctor once did battle with something remarkably similar...

If you've done your homework you'll know that both Peter Capaldi & Mark Gatiss ( the writer of Sherwood) have a fondness for the Jon Pertwee years. Note also Hal, the archer & Hood-like figure who gives the Doctor a hand.

We might next ponder the Doctor's role in either establishing or embellishing the legend of the famous archer. Gatiss has said that all the key elements of the tale will be crammed into 45 minutes- Clara looking a likely candidate for the Maid Marian role going by the various pictures of Jenna Coleman in a certain lovely red period dress.

Most versions of his story present Hood as becoming an outlaw during the reign of King John.....( as formerly played by Kamelion) which might explain rather a lot, too! And of course he'll have his Merry Men, a not inconsequential detail. Reports that we just might get a story which feels like classic Who might not, then, have been exaggerated. Here's hoping!

At least, we might get one in a similar spirit to two of the Doctor's best past incursions into pseudo-history- which sounds like a winner to us! There's also a slightly Mind Robber-ish consideration/element, the more you think about it. Is Hood indeed real, or just as much a work of fiction as the Doctor & his adventures? Both travel with companions, too.....though we doubt historians spend as much time arguing over whether the Doctor is real as they have in presenting the case for or against Robin of Sherwood being flesh & blood. 

General consensus has it that if he were alive & kicking he'd have been slinging his bow & arrows through the 13th century, though the naysayers claim that he's simply a composite of several definitely real outlaws of the period.

And as an alternative, its also been posited that ' Robin Hood' became a sort of one size fits all alias for thieves in general. What we do know is that Robert was a common boys' Christian name in Medieval England- Robin obviously the shortened form. Hood was also a relatively well-known surname ( referring as it does to either someone who made hoods, a ' hooder' or alternatively someone who commonly wore one over their head). On which grounds there was not one true Hood, but several! Even more intriguingly, some of the recorded Robin or Robert Hoods of the time are actually known to have got on the wrong side of the law...........

We don't even really know for sure that he was based in Sherwood Forest! Similar types have been recorded as hailing from Wakefield, York & various other locations around Yorkshire. His grave is believed to be at Kirklees ( to the west of the county), where the inscription reads-
'Hear underneath dis laitl stean
Laz robert earl of Huntingtun
Ne’er arcir ver as hie sa geud
An pipl kauld im robin heud
Sick [such] utlawz as he an iz men
Vil england nivr si agen
Obiit 24 kal: Dekembris, 1247'.
Which reveals that before lying under his headstone he was supposedly Robert, Earl of Huntingdon, nobody will ever be as good an archer, people knew him as ' Robin Hood', he was an outlaw, never to be seen again & died in December of 1247 ( for the benefit of those who have little to no grasp of old English). Just when you might've thought we were on the verge of a breakthrough it emerges that the notion he's actually properly buried there is mere folklore, dismissed by those claiming to know better. Quite the mystery, eh?

Whether fact or fiction though, Robot Of Sherwood promises to be an interesting proposition!

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