Species: Robin Hood
Format: Book and Television Show
Time of Origin: England, 1190-ish
Appearances: “The Thief of Sherwood” and “Robot of Sherwood”
Doctors: First Doctor and Twelfth Doctor
Companions: Susan, Barbara Wright, Ian Chesterton and Clara Oswald
While Robin Hood has come to be regarded as a fictional character, created out of nothing more than misremembered legends, The Doctor has encountered two different versions of Robin Hood throughout his travels who were each completely genuine in their own right. In the legends, Robin Hood is known as a former lord who lost his land and title for his actions against the corrupt Prince John and subsequently retreated to Sherwood Forest with a band of outlaws, earning a noble reputation for his efforts to protect the innocent by robbing from the rich and giving their money to the poor to compensate for the harsh taxes enforced by The Sheriff of Nottingham. His legacy has inspired a range of stories into the present day, ranging from numerous re-tellings of the myth as novels, TV shows and films to inspiring other characters such as DC Comics’ Green Arrow, although The Doctor’s two encounters with him were not what history would have expected.
When The Doctor first visited Sherwood, the TARDIS materialised in the dungeons of the Sheriff of Nottingham, resulting in Ian Chesterton and Susan being trapped in the dungeons with Maid Marion while the First Doctor and Barbara Wright escaped via a secret passage. Unfortunately, The Doctor and Barbara were then captured by Robin Hood and his Merry Men – with Robin the exact double of Ian – who were actually amoral bandits who robbed from the poor and the rich equally. With Ian facing execution for Robin’s crimes and The Doctor unconscious after his attempt to prove himself an alchemist caused an explosion that knocked him out, after Robin Hood was killed in a raid via the secret passage, Ian escaped with the Merry Men and Marion and decided to pose as Robin to lead the Merry Men to rescue the still -captured Susan before her execution. With the recovered Doctor posing as a priest to trick the Sheriff into lowering his guard, Ian rallied the townsfolk against the Sheriff, subsequently sharing the loot among the villagers after the Sheriff fled, with Ian’s actions and Marion’s unreliable memories inspiring the myth of Robin Hood.
During a second trip to Sherwood Forest, in response to his companion Clara’s request to have a chance to meet Robin Hood directly, the Twelfth Doctor encountered another man who claimed to be Robin Hood, Robin and The Doctor engaging in a duel on a small bridge when Robin attempted to ‘claim’ the TARDIS. After The Doctor had defeated Robin, he and Clara were invited to meet with the rest of Robin’s Merry Men, but while The Doctor was occupied with ‘testing’ them to determine what they were, refusing to accept that Robin Hood was real, Clara learned that Robin was heading for the archery contest at the Sheriff’s castle. Although Robin won the contest, The Doctor won the contest with another shot to try and ‘prove’ that Robin wasn’t real, their subsequent competition resulting in the Sheriff capturing The Doctor, Clara and Robin after The Doctor realised that some of his knights were actually robots.
While Clara was questioned by the Sheriff, The Doctor and Robin managed to escape their cell and discovered that the castle they were in was actually a spaceship; the sheriff had witnessed it crash-land some time ago, subsequently taking control of it and disguising as his castle, the ship also providing him with a new army in the form of the ship’s robots, which he equipped with armour to give the impression that they were merely standard knights. Having discovered that the ship was powered by gold, the Sheriff had ordered his men to gather all the gold in the area so that it could be melted down and used as a power source. However, when The Doctor found the ship’s computer core, he became convinced that the Sheriff had created Robin to provide hope for the masses as he oppressed them based on records from the ship’s databanks, resulting in Robin and Clara escaping while The Doctor stayed behind to confront the Sheriff, Clara being forced to reveal The Doctor’s true history to Robin to convince him that they weren’t actually allied with the Sheriff.
Having determined that there wasn’t enough gold in the area to fully repair the ship’s engines and that any attempt to launch the ship would trigger an explosion that could destroy half the country, The Doctor was able to help the Sheriff’s prisoners escape by using gold plates to reflect the robots’ own energy weapons back at them. After the prisoners had fled, The Doctor confronted the Sheriff and his remaining robots directly, confirming during the confrontation that Robin Hood was the genuine article as the idea of the Sheriff creating an enemy for himself made no sense. As The Doctor accepted the Sheriff’s words, Robin appeared, inspired to return for The Doctor after hearing Clara’s stories of The Doctor’s history, engaging his enemy in a duel. Although he was injured and disarmed during the fight, Robin used a manoeuvre that The Doctor had demonstrated during their earlier duel to catch the Sheriff off-guard and hurl him into the vat of molten metal below them. With the Sheriff dead, Robin, The Doctor and Clara fled the castle as the ship within it began to take off, subsequently shooting the golden arrow up to the ship to give the engines the necessary boost to get it into orbit so that it could explode safely out of harm’s way (Although all three had to work together to aim and fire the bow as Robin’s arm had been slightly injured in his duel with the Sheriff).
With the Sheriff defeated, The Doctor and Clara departed, although The Doctor and Robin shared a last conversation where Robin noted that he was content to be considered a story in future, as historical figures could be twisted and misremembered where fictional characters could truly inspire others. Reflecting on the tales Clara had told him about The Doctor’s past, Robin noted that the two of them were not so dissimilar, each having rejected a life of privilege to live among the common people and help them where they could. With that last comment to reflect on, The Doctor departed, revealing as he left that he had discovered Maid Marian among the prisoners he had rescued earlier, allowing her to be reunited with Robin as the two began their lives together.
While these two encounters appear incompatible, it should be noted that, in the time between the First and Twelfth Doctors’ visits to Sherwood, The Doctor has been forced to ‘reset’ the universe at least twice, during the Eighth Doctor’s clash with the Council of Eight when they collapsed reality down to a single timeline (“Time Zero” to “Sometime Never…”) and the near-destruction of the Eleventh Doctor’s TARDIS almost destroying the universe (“The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang”). This creates the possibility that one of the various details that were changed when the universe was restored after The Doctor’s efforts undid the damage caused by his enemies was the appearance and persona of Robin Hood himself, Robin being changed from his original self-centred nature and exact double of Ian to a personality and appearance more compatible with the images created in the legends.