The Sheriff of Nottingham
Species: The Sheriff of Nottingham
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
Although The Doctor had always assumed that the Sheriff of Nottingham was little more than a minor historical figure, notorious in the myths of Robin Hood but otherwise unimportant, he found himself forced to deal with the Sheriff during his visits to Sherwood Forest in his first and twelfth incarnations.
In The Doctor’s first encounter with the Sheriff, Ian Chesterton and Susan were trapped in the Sheriff’s dungeons with Maid Marion after the TARDIS materialised in the dungeons, the First Doctor and Barbara Wright escaping via a secret passage. Although Robin Hood and his Merry Men proved to be amoral bandits who robbed from the poor and the rich equally, with Ian facing execution for Robin’s crimes due to their uncanny resemblance and The Doctor unconscious after his attempt to prove himself an alchemist caused an explosion that knocked him out, Ian was forced to escape with the Merry Men and Marion after Robin Hood was killed in a raid via the secret passage. Using his resemblance to Robin, Ian was able to lead the Merry Men to rescue the still-captured Susan before her execution, the recovered Doctor posing as a priest to trick the Sheriff into lowering his guard. Having rallied the townsfolk to drive the Sheriff away, Ian subsequently shared the loot among the villagers, his actions and Marion’s unreliable memories inspiring the myth of Robin stealing from the rich to give to the poor.
During The Doctor’s second trip to Sherwood Forest, the Sheriff proved to be a far more significant threat to The Doctorat some point in his past, the Sheriff witnessed a ‘star-ship’ crash in the area, which he was able to take control of and disguise 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 ordered his men to gather all the gold in the area so that it could be melted down and used as a power source, all the while being hounded by Robin Hood and his Merry Men despite their ignorance of his true agenda.
Although the Twelfth Doctor and Clara Oswald arrived in Sherwood Forest when Clara asked to meet Robin Hood as the Sheriff was preparing to complete his plan (“Robot of Sherwood”), The Doctor’s investigation was hampered by his refusal to believe that Robin Hood was genuine, initially assuming that he was some kind of artificial construct. When The Doctor, Clara and Robin were captured by the Sheriff during an archery contest after The Doctor and Robin spent more time competing against each other rather than fighting the robots, the Sheriff chose to question Clara as he had identified her as the ‘leader’ due to Robin and The Doctor arguing instead of trying to escape the cell. Clara was able to trick the Sheriff into revealing his plan until The Doctor and Robin managed to escape, but 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.
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 idea that Robin was real, 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 an earlier duel between the two 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).
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, with the changes to Robin also changing the Sheriff.
“Robot of Sherwood”