September 6th, 2014

Musician Who

Robbing the Talented and Giving to the Lacklustre

Well, that was stupid, but what can you expect from Mark Gatiss? I'm talking about to-day's Doctor Who episode, "Robot of Sherwood", which bears some resemblance to the Fourth Doctor story The Androids of Tara, which you're better off watching because the Doctor doesn't act like a tantruming five year old in it.

So much for the idea of Peter Capaldi being the most adult Doctor--it's not his fault, course, but when he has a script that forces him to have a pointless argument with an ally, going so far as to inhibit their escape and put the Doctor's companion in danger for the sake of bickering, all the inherent gravitas in the universe isn't going to save Capaldi.

I didn't hate everything. It was nice that Clara, who looked fantastic in costume, had plenty of chances to shine. I liked the duel between the Doctor and Robin where the Doctor uses a spoon instead of a sword. I like that Gatiss evidently feels Robin Hood shouldn't be as dull as Russell Crowe's or Kevin Costner's portrayal. But actor Tom Riley, who plays Robin here, doesn't come close to breathing the kind of extraordinary life into the character the episode unfortunately demanded.

I hate when shows do this. They spend so much time carefully casting and working with their star, and Peter Capaldi is truly great as the Doctor, then they cast some average guy as a legendary figure who's supposed to be able to stand toe to toe with the star. The script forces it like a puzzle piece in the wrong spot and it all feels so false. Even old Who had this kind of silliness now and then but this was what was so great about Tom Baker who always seemed like he was steps ahead of even the lines he'd memorised. Of course, there's no room for improvisation on the new show, which is a shame given how much Capaldi is said to have improvised for his role on The Thick of It.

But okay, it was the one Mark Gatiss episode of the season and we got through it. Now on to glory, let's hope.