What makes a hero? Is it their actions, their personality…or merely the legend they leave behind?
Clara wants to meet one of her favorite literary legends–Robin Hood–despite the Doctor’s insistence that he isn’t real.
“When did you start believing in impossible heroes?” he asks her, seemingly unaware that, in her mind, he is one himself.
For the majority of the episode, the Doctor is one hundred percent certain that Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men are a lie. He tests their blood (one of Robin’s cohorts is destined to die in six months), examines their hair, and even accuses Robin himself of being a robot.
He also challenges the living legend at every turn. When Robin tries to relieve him of the TARDIS via sword fight, the Doctor takes him on (and wins!) with a spoon. During the infamous contest to win the golden arrow, the Doctor cheats with a homing device-equipped arrow, and splits Robin’s arrow himself.
Of course, that’s when the real robots show up, disguised as knights and working for the Sheriff of Nottingham. They take Robin, Clara, and the Doctor to the dungeon, where the Doctor and Robin continue to bicker. Naively, Robin boasts that he could outlast the Doctor, who scoffs and cites his genetic advantage.
Soon, Clara is whisked away for an interrogation/meal with the Sheriff. She turns the interrogation on its head, however, and finds out that the robots have promised to help the Sheriff achieve greatness–and, like any movie villain, what he wants most is to rule the world. He also wants to take Clara as his consort.
The Doctor and Robin finally escape from the dungeon, and find themselves in the heart of a space ship. It is badly damaged, and the sheriff is stealing gold to help make it fly. Even more concerning: the ship’s destination is the Promised Land.
When the Sheriff arrives, the Doctor insists that the jig is up: Robin is clearly a robot meant to pacify the peasants. But the robots try to kill him, and, grabbing Clara, he leaps from the window, escaping into the water below.
The Doctor gets knocked out and dropped off with the slave labor, which includes Robin’s lost love, Marion. Together, they devise a peasant revolt, using gold plates to redirect the robots’ laser fire so that it boomerangs back onto the metal creatures, destroying them.
Robin and Clara resurface, and he and the Sheriff have a fight to the death. Our three heroes escape the space ship before it can launch, and the Doctor devises a plan to get the flailing ship into space. With his and Clara’s help, an injured Robin Hood shoots the golden arrow at the ship, providing enough power to launch it past the atmosphere before it blows.
As he prepares to leave, the Doctor tersely insists to Robin that he is not a hero.
“Well, neither am I,” Robin says. “But if we both keep pretending to be, perhaps others will be heroes in our name.”
And, if history is any indication, they will be. If nothing else, the Doctor has always inspired others to take up the fight against evil in the universe.
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