Now that was a fun episode.
The plot only made sense in a "don't think about it" sort of way, but after things Got Serious last week, it was really fun to have an episode that was all historical figures and running jokes and banter and peril that isn't really perilous at all.
Everything about this episode said "don't take me seriously." The main conflict was the bickering between the Doctor and Robin Hood, the disguise during the archery contest was so obvious that it was literally just a hat, and the Doctor engaged in and won a swordfight with a spoon. It actually reminded me a bit of Merlin -- it's so ridiculous that you're either going to love it, or think it unbearable dumb. I was glad to be in the first group.
It also showed the potential of a grumpy, less friendly and adventurous Doctor. While Capaldi's Doctor had hints of whimsy this week, it was also great to see how the Doctor can be funny and entertaining without being the "timey-wimey" speaking figure of recent years. I feel as though the first episode tried too hard to show how the Doctor was more distant, and the second episode was determined to make him dark. Here we finally got to see the more light-hearted and human side to him, and finally see a Doctor that someone would actually want to adventure with.
If only the episode hadn't made him so stupid. Considering that the Doctor is a supposed genius who has seen all of time and space, the show often struggles to show how any other character could possibly be useful. Often, it goes the road of "emotional intelligence," with the companions providing the voice of reason, or just plotting things so that the Doctor isn't around to help the companions out. But sometimes, as with this week, it seems to decide that the only way to have companions be the hero is to turn the Doctor into a temporary idiot. Clara was definitely the hero of the week, and the only one to keep a level head, but this is weakened slightly by the fact that everybody else was utterly useless. They're too busy bickering to come up with a plan. They're too stubborn to see what's going on. The Doctor refuses to accept that Robin Hood could be real for no apparent reason. And he's shown to be pretty much useless without his sonic screwdriver.
Which is all fine and fun for a light-hearted episode. But then, should the joke be that the guys are idiots and Clara's the one handling everything after all? Does it have to be "the boys are useless, thank god Clara's a badass"? It's fun in a 1990s Girl Power kind of way, but shouldn't we be able to do better than yoyoing between "underdeveloped secondary character" and "Outspoken Strong Female Character" here? Can't we have a female character be awesome without everyone else having to be an idiot to make it happen? Please?
And, side note: "I'm just as real as you are"? Please tell me that's going to be as ominous and plot-relevant as it sounds.