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Robot of Sherwood was the third episode of series 8 of Doctor Who. It explored themes based on the idea of legends.


Clara is offered the chance to choose the next destination for herself and the Twelfth Doctor. They go and meet the English folk hero Robin Hood, much to the Doctor's disbelief in the existence of someone who's supposed to be a mere folk story character. Travelling through Sherwood Forest in 1190, they soon realise that something is amiss, as the cruel Sheriff of Nottingham and his malevolent robot knights set in motion a plot that could rewrite the course of history for the worst.


In the TARDIS, the Doctor writes equations on a blackboard, offering Clara the choice of their next destination. Clara points out that the Doctor will just say that her choice does not exist, but she wants to meet Robin Hood. She goes on to explain that she's always loved the legend of Robin Hood. The Doctor thinks about Robin Hood, before immediately telling Clara that he doesn't exist. He states; "old-fashioned heroes belong in old-fashioned books". Clara points out that the Doctor is in a lot of books, fiction and non-fiction and what he does every day is pretty heroic. The Doctor, finishing a dessert he had been eating, tells her that he's just passing the time.

With enthusiasm, the Doctor begins listing off other things they could go see, such as Ice Warrior hives, or the Tumescent Arrows of the Half-Light. The Doctor notes "those girls can hold their drink" and fracture 15 different levels of reality at the same time. He pats his jacket, stating that he took a Polaroid of them, wondering where it is. However, Clara adamantly points out that it is her turn, not his. Seeing that he cannot win, the Doctor sets course for Sherwood Forest in 1190, adding that she'll just be disappointed when they explore and never find Robin Hood.

While Clara is changing into 12th century clothing, the Doctor exits the TARDIS, smugly observing that where they have landed there are no damsels in distress, no pretty castles, and "no such thing as Robin Hood" — just as an arrow flies past him and pierces the TARDIS doorway. Looking at it in surprise, the Doctor turns to find the man who shot it across a river, asking if he called for him; the man is Robin Hood! The Doctor looks at him in shock, receiving a smile.

The Doctor removes the arrow, watching as the damage it caused heals. Robin goes on about how amazing it was to watch the TARDIS materialise; he asks if it's done with mirrors, stating it's similar to what he saw at a fair once. The Doctor declares the TARDIS as his property, but Robin points out that all property is up for grabs for him. Clara exits the TARDIS in a fancy dress, surprised to already be meeting Robin Hood; Robin is likewise shocked to see someone else come out of a "box", wondering if there is anyone else in it. The Doctor continues to deny that Robin Hood is real, to which Robin retorts by asking who is it then that is trying to steal the "magic box" from him. The Doctor tells him nobody will.

Robin challenges the Doctor to defend his property, drawing his sword as he invites the Doctor to do the same. However, the Doctor shows Robin that he carries no such weapon on him, but does have... a large spoon. Donning a glove to a protect his hand, the Doctor joins Robin on a log over the river; "en garde!" the Doctor yells, starting a duel. Clara is impressed that he can fight so well with just a spoon. The Doctor explains he was taught fencing by the best — Richard the Lionheart, Cyrano de Bergerac and Errol Flynn. Countering Robin, the Doctor feigns surrender. Robin lunges at the Doctor, who easily gets behind him and knocks Robin into the river.

The Doctor proudly declares "Like I said, my box", while cleaning his spoon. Clara rushes over to join him on the log, looking at the river. She says his name in concern since Robin hasn't emerged from the river. Seeing this, the Doctor looks at the river with her, only to be pushed in from behind by Robin; Clara and Robin laugh. Obviously, the Doctor is less than amused.

Meanwhile, in a nearby village, helmeted knights are taking away villagers. In one house, Master Quayle is pleading for the knights not to take his young female ward. She tries calming him, but Quayle yells that he'd tear out the Sheriff of Nottingham's black heart if he was there. As if the mention of his name summoned him, the Sheriff appears; he goes over the treasure that the knights have collected, tossing aside a ruby and leaving only gold. Quayle asks that he be taken instead of the girl, but the Sheriff dismisses the idea as labour is needed at the castle; Quayle then spits in his face. The Sheriff says he will live to regret that, immediately correcting himself to say, "Actually, no. You won't." He then abruptly plunges a sword into Quayle's abdomen, killing him straight away. The knights take the girl away screaming.

Merry Men

Robin decides to use "Merry Men" as his group's name.

Robin takes the Doctor and Clara to his campsite, where he introduces his group: Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck, Alan-a-Dale, Walter, and John Little. As a prank, Robin reveals that contrary to belief, John is actually very small. An excited Clara calls the group the Merry Men, which Robin decides to use as their name. While they talk, the Doctor performs tests to verify or disprove the reality of the situation. He takes a hair strand, confirming it's real. He examines a sandal from Friar Tuck, and a sample of Alan's blood; it seems real, but riddled with diseases that will kill Alan in half a year.

Before he can perform further tests, the Doctor is pulled away by Clara, annoyed by his actions and rudeness; she asks him what he's doing. The Doctor explains that he's confirmed the Merry Men are living beings, but they could be in a theme park from the future, or a Miniscope. Clara isn't willing to believe his theories, asking when he stopped believing in everything. The Doctor then asks when she started believing in "impossible heroes"; Clara smiles at him and asks "don't you know?" Realising it was when they met, the Doctor is at a loss for words. He decides to resume his testing; he bites an apple and scans it with the sonic screwdriver, walking off.

Robin talks with Clara, noting that her friend doesn't seem of this world; Clara responds that on a good day, the Doctor is. Clara then notes Robin mentioned that dark days lay ahead. Robin goes on to explain that since the King is away, his greedy brother Prince John has done nothing but cause misery. When Robin spoke out against the Prince's tyranny, he was stripped of his title, Earl of Loxley and forced into his current life. At the mention of bringing down the Prince and Sheriff, Robin gets the Merry Men laughing again; the Doctor, annoyed, wonders if they do that so much because they're simple-minded. Clara tells Robin she can tell there's been a great loss in his life, which is why he laughs so much — to mask his pain. Robin explains he has been separated from Marian; until they are reunited, Robin has aspired to be a man worthy of her by fighting against injustice.

The Doctor questions what the season is. Learning that it is Autumn, he becomes suspicious of the weather - it's too sunny; as Clara is nonchalant, he asks "have you been to Nottingham?". Clara guesses that it could be climate change, but the Doctor points out that it's 1190, which makes it impossible. Robin announces the Sheriff is holding a contest to find the most skilled archer in Sherwood; the prize is to be a golden arrow. Clara immediately warns Robin not to enter, since it's a trap laid by the Sheriff to capture him; the Doctor doesn't stop her, since he doesn't believe what's happening is real. However, Robin knows it is a trap since everyone knows he's the best archer in Nottingham, which he will gladly enter. The Merry Men laugh, annoying the Doctor, who hates their bantering.

Clara and Robin

Clara and "Tom the Tinker" at the archery contest.

Robin proceeds to enter the archery contest, where he — under the guise of Tom the Tinker — exceeds in every activity and, in the final competition, is pitted against the Sheriff, whose own bow skills are "astounding," according to the commentator. The Sheriff asks his guards to carry the target back to the very end of the field, which they do, and he shoots the arrow right in the middle. Robin then shoots an arrow at the same target and splits the Sheriff's arrow, winning the contest. He is presented with the golden arrow, but Robin's arrow is immediately cut by another entry: the Doctor.

The Doctor asks for his prize, and is given the golden arrow; dismissing it as a mere bauble, he discards it, asking for enlightenment instead. However, Robin fires another arrow into the Doctor's, without even looking; the Doctor responds by shooting an arrow off one of the knights, that still manages to hit the target. Robin prepares to fire another arrow, but the Doctor states "this is getting silly" and blows up the target with the sonic screwdriver. Slightly amazed, the Sheriff orders his knights to seize the Doctor, Clara and Robin. Robin then reveals to the crowd who he really is before the knights attack, and Robin begins to fend them off with his fencing skills.

When Robin slices off one of the knights' arms, it's revealed to be a robot. The Doctor rushes off to examine the arm, happy to finally see something that "makes sense". The knights' helmets split open to reveal mechanical, emotionless faces. The Sheriff orders the knights to scare off the patrons, while the Merry Men flee with the arrow. The Doctor quickly disarms Robin, who believes it to be an act of betrayal. As they are no longer a threat, they and Clara are taken captive; he explains that the best way to learn your enemy's plan is to get yourself captured.

They are placed in the dungeon, chained to a post, staring at a skeleton. Robin is less than pleased with this turn of events, claiming that he could have won if the Doctor hadn't interfered; however, the Doctor tells Robin that if he hadn't the robots would have reduced him to "a pile of laughing ashes". They then exchange snarky remarks about who will survive the longest, with Robin focusing on the Doctor's apparent age, and the Doctor boasting to have genetic superiority.

Deep in the castle, one of the peasants falls down from exhaustion. The young female ward taken earlier goes over and helps him stand. A knight comes over and declares that the peasant's work capacity has been broken down, and he is no longer useful. They then proceed to disintegrate him, much to the girl's horror.

Guard Robot of Sherwood

"The Sheriff himself commanded that I listen in. To find out which of you is the true ringleader."

Back in their cell, the Doctor and Robin call for the guard, each asking that the other be executed; the Doctor wants to see if Robin's head will keep laughing after decapitation. Clara snaps at them, saying there isn't a guard. Clara asks them to explain their plans in turn; Robin wishes to bide his time, while the Doctor doesn't have a plan since the Sheriff took his sonic screwdriver. An annoyed Clara points out that the sonic is always taken whenever they're imprisoned. A guard comes in, revealing he has been assigned to listen at the door to find out who the true ringleader is, so the Sheriff can conduct an interrogation. Robin and the Doctor both proudly state the Sheriff will never get information out of them, but the guard unchains Clara instead. Clara looks at them, asking; "seriously?"

Clara is taken to the Sheriff's dining hall, where a feast is laid out. She declines to eat, citing she had a bag of crisps earlier. The Sheriff takes note of Clara's strange words, and holds up the sonic screwdriver, calling it a strange gallimaufry taken from the Doctor's "tunic". Clara is able to goad the Sheriff into revealing his past — that he witnessed a spaceship crash and has been trying to repair it by collecting all the gold in the nearby land to repair the ship's circuits. He then plans to use it to travel to London and take over the kingdom. He tells Clara that every King needs a consort, and leans in to kiss her. She wiggles out, threatening, "You do that again, and you'll regret that."

In the dungeon, Robin asks the Doctor to pretend to be in terrible pain to attract the guard; however, the Doctor insists Robin do it as it's his plan. Robin moans loudly. When the guard demands answers, the Doctor insists Robin is having a nervous breakdown from fear; the Doctor even says Robin has soiled himself, angering him. He then tricks the guard into the cell by saying Robin carries a vital message for the King, who has promised an enormous reward for it. The guard leans in to hear Robin, who insults and headbutts him; the keys fall off the guard when he lands. The Doctor and Robin both try to reach the keys with their feet, knocking them into a grate. Robin is annoyed, but the Doctor points out that the bright side is that Clara will never hear of that little mistake.

They decide to uproot the posts and, at a blacksmith's forge, break their chains before locating the spacecraft inside the castle. The Doctor checks the computer, learning it's a 29th century ship set to reach "the Promised Land". The Doctor shows Robin photos from books, stories and television shows that follow his adventures, believing him to be a robot used as a hero to boost public morale. Robin is left angered at the accusation of collusion with the Sheriff, who then arrives with Clara. The Doctor attempts to pass off his new idea as truth as the knights fire at Robin; however, Clara shields him. Robin takes Clara and jumps into the moat through a hole blasted by the knights.

Sheriff of Nottingham

The Sheriff reveals his plan to the Doctor.

The Sheriff pities the loss of Clara, while the Doctor watches Robin emerge from the moat with her in his arms. The Doctor tells the Sheriff that he knows what's going on. The Sheriff states while the plan belongs to the robot knights, he wishes to rule omnipotent from the skyship. However, when the Doctor attempts to warn him that there isn't enough gold yet to ensure safe travel, the Sheriff shushes the Doctor and points behind him. The moment the Doctor turns to look, a knight knocks him out.

Back at the campsite, Clara comes to. Robin greets her, but his usual joyful demeanour has changed to that of a serious one. He demands to know who the Doctor is, what he knows about Robin Hood's life, and what his plans are. Clara is confused that she's being interrogated.

The Doctor wakes up in the dungeon, finding himself chained across from the young woman the Sheriff captured earlier. Hearing that the engines are charging, the Doctor calls the Sheriff stupid and explains the plan to the girl, who grasps the basics. A knight declares that the Doctor is fit for labour, prompting him to reveal he has already escaped his chains. He and the peasants take shiny plates, reflecting the beam fired by the knights back at them, causing them to destroy themselves. The Sheriff sees this on a holographic projection in his dining hall, wondering how he can get rid of the Doctor.

The Doctor sends all the peasants away, earning a peck on the cheek as thanks from the young woman. The Sheriff arrives, prompting the Doctor to explain that he'll damage history and that there isn't enough gold to ensure a safe takeoff; however, the Sheriff thinks the Doctor is lying. The Doctor asks for Clara back so that he'll be willing to help fix the mistake. However, the Sheriff points out that he doesn't have Clara; though the Doctor insists that Robin is another of the robots. The Sheriff asks what the point would be to create an enemy to fight. The Doctor realises that he's been wrong, but can't help saying "[Robin Hood]'s a legend!"

Just then Robin Hood and Clara arrive, seeming to be on friendlier terms again; Robin finds the Doctor's words quite flattering. The Sheriff proposes a final reckoning between him and Robin. He accepts, and after a short sword fight, Robin's arm is cut by the Sheriff; seeing he cannot win normally, Robin uses the same "surrendering" technique that the Doctor taught him and tricks the Sheriff into coming at him. He clips him on the back of the ankle and sends him tumbling into a vat of molten gold, killing him.

The ship is about to take off, and the Doctor, Clara and Robin escape and watch with Robin's Merry Men as the spaceship rises from the castle. The Doctor says that in a few seconds it will explode and devastate half the country. He then realises that if they shoot the golden arrow from the archery contest into the ship, the gold content will give the ship the boost it needs to reach orbit and detonate harmlessly. However, Robin is unable to fire the arrow as his arm is injured, the Doctor cheated at the contest using technology and cannot really fire a bow, and Clara has too little experience — so Robin suggests they work together to fire it. With Clara and the Doctor aiming the bow for him, Robin fires the arrow into the ship's engines. The plan works: the ship reaches orbit and explodes harmlessly.

Returning to the TARDIS, Clara bids Robin farewell, asking him to stay safe if he can. Robin asks the Doctor if it's true he'll be forgotten as a real man, becoming nothing more than a legend. The Doctor confirms this, with Robin happy with the results, stating that while history is a burden, stories can help people soar. When the Doctor admits that he's still having trouble believing in Robin's story, Robin asks why it's so difficult to believe that "a man born into wealth and privilege should find the plight of the oppressed and weak too much to bear..." The Doctor tries interrupting, but is stunned by Robin's next words: "until one night he's moved to steal a TARDIS and fly amongst the stars, fighting the good fight."

Robin explains that Clara told him all about the Doctor's travels, something the Doctor says she shouldn't have; Robin explains that Clara couldn't help herself, as the Doctor is her hero. Both the Doctor and Robin admit that they're not heroes, but if they continue pretending to be, others may be heroes in their name. They then bid each other farewell, but before the Doctor enters the TARDIS, Robin tells him they are equally just as real. Inside the TARDIS, Clara goads the Doctor to admit that he likes Robin. The Doctor says he's leaving Robin a gift...

Marion in Robot of Sherwood

Marian is reunited with Robin.

As the TARDIS dematerialises, Robin looks at a picture of Maid Marian in his locket. Once the TARDIS finishes vanishing, the young female ward is seen standing there — she is revealed to be Marian. Overjoyed, Robin hugs her and races to where the TARDIS was, shouting praise for the Doctor and shooting an arrow to the sky.



General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.



Story notes[]

Troughton hood

An image of Robin Hood, as portrayed by Patrick Troughton.

  • This episode had the working title Robots of Sherwood.[1]
  • Prior to the episode's airing, American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were beheaded by ISIS. Brian Minchin flagged the episode as having potentially problematic content. As a result, the climax was severely edited - the Doctor originally used a tapestry in the vault to incapacitate the Sheriff, allowing Robin to behead him. However, the Sheriff was revealed to be a cybernetic lifeform, having been rebuilt by the robots after their spaceship crashed directly on him. The Sheriff's body threatened Clara, prompting Robin to rescue her by restoring the man's head. The pair then proceeded to their duel on the beam. The BBC agreed with Minchin's concerns, and authorised a last-minute re-edit. The loss of the beheading meant that the episode was abbreviated by about one minute. Evidence of the omission remained in the sudden disappearance of the tapestry from the vault wall, and the Sheriff's description of himself as “the first of a new breed - half man, half engine”.
  • One of the images brought up on the computer screen is of Patrick Troughton, the actor who portrayed the Second Doctor, and also the first actor to play Robin Hood on television. Troughton's grandson Sam would later play Much in the BBC's series Robin Hood.
  • David Benson and Ian Hallard also appeared together in AUDIO: Invaders from Mars, which was also written by Mark Gatiss. Benson previously appeared in AUDIO: Wildthyme at Large, a story which also featured Robin Hood.
  • This is the first episode since TV: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS to not have any scenes set on present-day Earth.
  • The archery tournament and the Golden Arrow are a staple of the Robin Hood legend, including the ballads A Gest of Robyn Hode and Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow.
  • The episode title references the ITV series Robin of Sherwood, which competed against Doctor Who's twenty-second season on Saturday nights during its second series in 1985.
  • As revealed in Doctor Who Extra, Peter Capaldi's 56th birthday was celebrated during the filming of this episode. In particular, he was presented with a Dalek-themed birthday cake.
  • There is a dirty joke in this story that goes unnoticed by many people. When the Doctor is fighting Robin Hood and mentions Errol Flynn, after he says "he had the most enormous", he proceeds to look down at his crotch. Afterwards Clara makes a throat clearing sound in a way that says "I really didn't need to know that", after which the Doctor says "ego".
  • Peter Capaldi and Ben Miller had previously co-starred in the stage version of The Ladykillers.
  • In the original outline, the Headless Monks were working with the Sheriff of Nottingham and the Doctor and Clara set out to convince Robin Hood to form a band of outlaws to fight back against them.
  • The idea of the Doctor meeting Robin Hood was first pitched by Ted Lewis for Season 16. Titled Shield of Zarak, it would have seen the Fourth Doctor and Romana I meet Robin Hood, only to discover that the alleged hero was actually a blackhearted villain.
  • During season eight, Steven Moffat wanted to explore the extent of the Doctor's heroism. As such, he decided to juxtapose the Doctor against a classic hero from English folklore. Robin Hood seemed like the obvious choice.
  • In early drafts, a key figure was the antlered Hunter. It was revealed to be the interface for the crashed spaceship; its head had been damaged and so it now wore a stag's skull to hide its disfigurement. The Hunter could control the Merry Men, and at one point they pursued Clara from their campsite so that she could be recaptured by the Sheriff.
  • Much the Miller's Son originally appeared.
  • Quayle was originally female and lacked a ward, but Robin was shown to be in a romantic relationship with a man named Marian.
  • The Sheriff was originally revealed to be a robot; he initially died by beheading, and later by falling into the spaceship's engines, before Mark Gatiss decided that he would meet his fate in the pool of liquid gold.
  • The episode originally ended with King Richard returning.
  • The episode formed Block Three of season eight alongside The Caretaker.
  • Since a plot point was the lush greenery of Sherwood Forest, it was decided that this would be amongst the third pair of stories to go before the cameras. This meant that it would be filmed in the spring of 2014, rather than during the winter months.
  • Mark Gatiss' husband Ian Hallard played Alan-a-Dale. He had previously played Richard Martin in An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • Ironically, Tom Riley received the offer to play Robin Hood as he sat in the audience at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden... where Mark Gatiss was appearing in a production of Coriolanus.
  • For the Doctor's duel with Robin, a special prop spoon was fabricated which would protect Peter Capaldi's hand.
  • The establishing shots of Nottingham Castle were created in post-production, and were based upon Bodiam Castle at Bodiam, East Sussex, the same venue which had appeared in The King's Demons.
  • Mark Gatiss stated that his intent with the episode was "to do the Doctor and Robin Hood in 45 minutes". He went on to state: "The premise is inherently funny, but I didn't think of it as the funnier episode when I was doing it. It's still asking big questions. But it's definitely more frivolous."
  • This is the first episode since Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS to not have any scenes set on present-day Earth (the TARDIS' location when the Doctor asks Clara where she wants to go next is unspecified).
  • Clara states that she's from Blackpool, just like Jenna Coleman.
  • Roger Ashton-Griffiths had previously played Friar Tuck in Princess of Thieves.
  • The Sheriff's question "who will rid me of this turbulent Doctor?" Is a reference to when Henry II, Richard the Lionheart's predecessor, supposedly asked " who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" The question was interpreted as a command to murder Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Joseph Kennedy had previously played Carter in two episodes of Robin Hood.
  • Tom Riley and Sabrina Bartlett had previously played brother and sister in Da Vinci's Demons.


Filming locations[]

  • Fforest Fawr, Brecon Beacons National Park
  • Caerphilly Castle, Castle St., Caerphilly, South Wales
  • Bodiam Castle, Sussex (exterior views across moat only)

Production errors[]

  • Clara closes the TARDIS door when first meeting Robin Hood, but in the wide shot before Robin and the Doctor duel it is open. It is closed again in the next shot when the Doctor puts on his gloves and draws his spoon.
  • When the Doctor pulls the lever to initiate the TARDIS to dematerialise his shirt cuffs change from red, which is what he was wearing throughout the episode, to white.


If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.

Home video releases[]

DVD & Blu-ray releases[]

Complete 8th Series UK Cover

Series Full Box-set Region 2

Digital releases[]

  • The episode was released on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video in HD or SD, also available as part of the Series 8 digital boxset. The digital boxset contains various features: trailer, interviews, The Ultimate Companion, The Ultimate Time Lord, Inside the World Tour and Doctor Who Extra episodes for each episode.
  • In the US, the series was released through digital streaming services Hulu and Netflix with a subscription.
  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer.

External links[]