The truth is more important than the facts.
- Frank Lloyd Wright
Me: So, that’s week three of Doctor Who, Season 8. Before I say anything about it, was that as good as the last two?
Him: Well, what did you think of it?
Me: I’ll tell you in a minute. What I want to say goes back to something I’ve been saying… I want to get your take on it first. I’ve got some - Well, not negative things. There’re some observations that I want to make before I start saying I thought it was brilliant.
Him: Do you think it was better than Robin of Sherwood?
Me: No. Different. And I think it’s a little bit of a cheek to nick the title of a superb series for something that’s closer to Robin Hood: Men in Tights.1 Or… a scene in Time Bandits. Or that Black Adder special we don’t mention. With a Mark Gatiss script, everything comes from something else.
Him: Isn’t that the same with you?
Me: How’d you mean?
Him: Everything comes from somewhere else.
Me: What does that mean?
Him: You know exactly what I mean by that, Mr Thievey.2
Me: ‘Mr Thievey’? Ha! What’s that supposed to mean?
Him: You know what that means.
Me: I don’t have a clue what that means.3 Did you enjoy it?
Him: Why don’t you tell me what you thought?
Me: Was it nice seeing Patrick Troughton?
Him: That was… That was… That didn’t make sense.
Me: It was pretty strange.
Me: Yeah. You know what I said before about the World of Fiction?
Me: Well, there was a reference to The Mind Robber in Robot of Sherwood. As well as Carnival of Monsters, which I guess is the one they had to look up the refer-
Him: “As you can see, it had the same number of footsteps as Carnival of Monsters.”
Me: No, no, no. And there was a reference to The Crusade.
Him: “This one had a king in it. The Crusade had a king in it.”
Me: The Doctor talks about The Crusade and when he’s talking about Cyrano de Bergerac, that’s a reference to The Mind Robber rather than Louise Jameson’s later career. Sticking with just Doctor Who - so, skipping all the different interpretations of Robin Hood, The Princess Bride and other stuff that Mark Gatiss references - there’s a lot of The Time Warrior in the structure, a fair bit of The Androids of Tara… The scene where the Doctor, Robin Hood and Clara are locked up was really good in The Day of the Doctor and works fine here. Apart from Murray Gold unfortunately resorting to his old tricks for about four moments, I thought the rest of it was more than okay. I was quite surprised, seeing as there’d been so much fuss, to see-
Me: Actually, I’ll cut that bit out.
Him: Yeah, I think you should.
Me: Alright. What did you think of the Sheriff?
Him: I’m going to answer this in the form of a question. What did you think of the Sheriff?
Me: I thought Ben Miller was really good. He was subtle and I think that helped. There’s been a lot less roaring and that’s something I’d been hoping for. The script possibly… I don’t know. It’s pastiche. But that’s playing up to Mark Gatiss’ strengths here because it is a comedy. Also, I think the casting so far has been spot-on. Tom Riley, the guy playing Robin Hood, is brilliant. That part could’ve been a disaster. But he plays it straight. Well, straight-ish.
Him: So, I take it that you vastly prefer this to Vincent and the Doctor?
Him: I thought you would.
Me: Although it’s a very different type of story. Vincent and the Doctor…
...we’ll come back to another day. Look, one of my theories is coming up in these episodes. It made me wonder if maybe someone’s been reading the blog other than our regulars.5 We’ll come back to that as well.
Him: Tell me your theory.
Me: I’ll hint at it. It all goes back to The Chase... I think there’s a case… I think that it could be argued that the Doctor has now become such a part of the tapestry - such a part of the fabric of our culture - that he’s now immortal. I’ve written loads about this. Basically, the Doctor’s as real as Robin Hood is. Or was. And, in so many ways, that makes him as real as… well… as real as any god. Y'see, there’s something very like a religion congealing around Doctor Who.6
Him: Whatever there is, you’re a part of it. Whether you like it or not.
Me: I’d like to think I’m a Doctor Who agnostic.
Him: You’re not.
Me: I’m talking about this from a anthropological point of view. Well, more as a way of looking at human behaviour, thinking and culture than - I don’t know - magick or something. You could say that the Doctor is a fictional character played by different actors, but maybe these actors are just taking turns to channel… Look. We know that for a while, the Doctor looked out from behind Patrick Troughton’s eyes, and also, for a while, Robin Hood looked out through Patrick Troughton’s eyes.
Him: So that’s what truly links them together. It’s not the number of times they breathed, it’s not the fact that they’re both as real as each other, it’s the fact they both were once Patrick Troughton.
Me: Possibly. The thing about The Chase that’s really cool is that in it, without any fuss, the Doctor’s convinced for a moment that the TARDIS has landed within human imagination.
Me: And so he thinks that’s possible. And, if it’s possible for the TARDIS to land within human imagination, or to land in the World of Fiction or dreams or something then that means it could land-
Him: In the world of Doctor Who.
Him: Well, what do you think The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors and The Two Doctors and 'The Twelveteen Doctors' are?
Me: No, not quite. Doctor Who regularly mashes itself into other genres and styles, whether that be Sax Rohmer and Sherlock Holmes like in Talons of Weng-Chiang, or whether it’s being rammed into – well – Robin Hood: Men in Tights with bits of… I don’t know. There’re moments of Jabberwocky in tonight’s episode. It’s quite Gilliamesque in places, mostly in the way the guard’s face is filmed. With the multi-Doctor stories, you’ve got Doctor Who mashing itself into the different ages of Doctor Who. It becomes a different programme every time Auntie changes the actor the Doctor’s wearing. Multi-Doctor stories are proper time-travel. As a result, the show’s able to observe and comment upon itself, from within itself. It’s very interesting. Having Robin Hood address the Doctor gives you two folk heroes, two legends, two myths, talking to each other. And that’s really good.
Me: Ha! Yeah. Not to get too 'meta' about it and have everybody-
Me: -vomit into their cornflakes, it’s-
Him: Nobody eats cornflakes.
Me: There’s something very special about Doctor Who. Did you like the robots?
Him: Hmmm. I’m going to answer that with a question…
Him: Did you like the robots?
Me: Ha! What did you think of the archery contest?
Him: What did you think of the archery contest? What did it remind you of? Where did you think it was thieved from?
Me: It’s ‘thieved’ from the Robin Hood legend, slightly embellished to fit into Doctor Who and turned into something approaching a comedy sketch. Played much straighter than it could’ve been.
Him: C’mon. Surely it must’ve been thieved from something obscure that nobody else has ever heard or thought of before?
Me: Ha! Why?
(Pause. The Him’s been waiting for this opportunity.)
Him: Because you’re a GENIUS! You’re a GENIUS who figures out all these links!
Me: Ha! “And on that bombshell!”
Him: "The same amount of steps! The same amount of breaths!"
Me: That’s the end of our ‘review’…
Him: "The same amount of BLINKING! From EXTRAS! In Episode TWO! TWENTY SECONDS IN!"
(I’m in fits at this point. You really had to be there. Actually, that’s a point. Where were you? Car break down? Badger in the pipes? Hope everything’s okay.)
Me: Well, Lady and Gentleman. That’s the end of our ‘review’ of Robot of Sherwood. Are you looking forward to next week?
Him: Why’s it just Robot of Sherwood?
Me: Because it wasn’t Robins of Sherwood.
Him: But there were lots of robots.
Me: You’re supposed to think that Robin’s… Alright. Was the Sheriff a robot?
(The Him gives a verbal shrug.)
Me: You don’t know? Well-
Him: You’ll have to cut all that out. And the bit where I’m saying that you’ll have to cut all that.
Me: Yeah, I’ll fix that. Anyway, Robot of Sherwood’s the sort of thing that Mark Gatiss is really good at doing. He can write comedy sketches. Something that you’ll notice though with League of Gentlemen is that the sketches’ll end with a punchline, which was a bit of a step backwards – although I still love the series.
Him: You end everything with a punchline.
Me: It’s a good way of doing it. It signposts that we’ve come to an end. But, if you look at Python – and there was a lot of Python in what we watched tonight… Look, I’m just observing that’s the way that Mark Gatiss writes and sometimes it really, really works. The Crimson ‘orror was great – in my opinion, obviously, a lot of people disagree. I really enjoyed it.
Him: Wasn’t that the problem with Deep Breath and Into the Dalek? You loved them but everyone else in the world seems to hate them.
Me: They seem to've divided opinion amongst people, which I’m a bit surprised by. Genuinely. I’m really enjoying this series. What did you think of the next time trailer?
Him: I don’t remember it. It was so long ago now. We’ve been recording this for ages.
Me: I thought you were going to say something about the feet?
Him: No, no. I’ll make that joke next time.
Me: Do you know what the episode’s called?
Me: That’s a shame. I’ve come up with a title that covers tonight’s and next week’s and I’m quite pleased with it. Well, I haven’t come up with it as such. It’s a pastiche that I’ve thieved from somewhere else.7
Him: Thievery! Thievery!
Me: It’s an homage.
Me: I think it’s “Talent imitates but genius steals.”
Me: ‘Purloinery’!? What do you think the Promised Land is?
Me: Did you like the spoon?
Him: No. I had a lot of problems with the spoon.
Me: Did you?
Him: As I said when we were watching it, the spoon would’ve broken unless it’s made of… dwarf star alloy.
Me: Which would make it a bit heavy to lift. I loved the Doctor’s glove. And what’s this getting Peter Capaldi drenched agenda? What’s that about? First week he jumps in the Thames, then he’s plunged into Dalek protein sac and this week he gets dunked by Robin Hood.
Him: Please don’t end it there. That’s way too odd a place to end it.
Me: Well, where shall we end it? Shall we end it here?
Him: Is that rhetorical question?
Me: Oh! "Did you assume the question was rhetorical, Gisburne?" You’re not going to get that. You haven’t watched Robin of Sherwood, have you?
Me: “I assumed the question was rhetorical, my lord.” “Never assume anything, Gisburne. Except the occasional air of intelligence.”
Him: No. I’ve not seen Robin of Sherwood.
Me: That’s a shame. Nickolas Grace is fantastic as the Sheriff. He played Einstein in a non-canonical piece of Doctor Who VAM.8
Him: ‘Ood of the Doctor’.
Me: Something like that. ‘Cyberman of the Daleks’.
Him: ‘Einstein of the Doctor’.
Me: I was going to try and mention Rammstein there.
Him: You could try it.
Me: I’ll give it a shot.
Him: Yeah, give it a shot.
Me: Now we’ve got to make barnyard noises. Tell you what, let’s just make Rammstein noises.
Him: You start.
1. As an aside, I remember watching Robin Hood (the one with Patrick Bergin and Uma Thurman) in a cinema in Bristle and really enjoying it. I wasn’t impressed when it was ground into the dirt by the Bryan Adams bellowing (and vastly inferior) Hollywood juggernaut that came out later the same year.
2. Nope, still haven’t got a clue.
3. Seriously. Not a Scooby.4
4. As I understand the youth say.
5. Hello to both of you! How’s it going?
6. Named after a mispronunciation of ‘Who Fan’. You know what I'm talking about.
7. Yup, that’s a callback. You’d think this was planned or something.
8. After all that nonsense earlier I’ll have to start referring to the non-canonical bits as ‘apocrypha’.