The word was uttered by Ben Miller rather excellently playing the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham (who I found constantly reminded me of Anthony Ainley’s version of The Master) . I had to look it up:
A hotchpotch, jumble or confused medley.
Well that’s certainly a very apt description for Robots of Sherwood. You could also just sum it up by calling it a Mark Gatiss Doctor Who script.
Gatiss has a long but very mixed history with the show. He generally has clever ideas, but too often in his episodes he lets his instincts for comedy dominate. And while Doctor Who should have humor, it’s not a comedy.
And so while sometimes we get Cold War other times we get The Crimson Horror or Robots of Sherwood.
There are some really clever ideas going on in this episode. The notion of the Doctor finding himself face to face with a fictional hero as culturally significant as himself is interestingly meta. And the friction between these two egotistical characters proves to be very entertaining. It was also quite clever to have the Doctor so suspicious of Robin Hood and yet in the end have him be one of the few genuine things in the story.
Jenna Coleman gets a good amount to work with too as Clara is alternately captivated and frustrated by both Robin and the Doctor and then finds herself separated and needing to handle things on her own.
The titular robots aren’t much more than automatons without any clear motive for their actions, but I do like their design.
So there are a bunch of good acting performances and some clever ideas in this story. But it’s surrounded by… cheap and easy jokes.
The multiple arrow splitting. The sword fight with a spoon. And worst of all the golden arrow hitting a spaceship and miraculously giving it the power to achieve orbit.
That stuff is silly and lazy. Humor in a drama has to be grounded in the reality of the story or the laugh you just got actually undermines the story you are telling. Thats the case here unfortunately
It’s not that the individual moments aren’t rather funny. Watching a man duel with a spoon is inherently ridiculous and thus amusing. But it’s not credible even in the swashbuckling world that this story is set in. And when that same silliness is directly contrasted with the Sheriff brutally killing someone there’s a massive inconsistency in the tone of the episode.
So yeah… good in parts, clever ideas. Wildly inconsistent and ultimately flawed.