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Recap / Doctor Who S34 E3 "Robot of Sherwood"

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Two thieves and a maiden. One stole a TARDIS, the other stole gold, the last... stole much attention with that stunning red gown.
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The Doctor: Old-fashioned heroes only exist in old-fashioned storybooks, Clara.
Clara: What about you?
The Doctor: Me?
Clara: Yeah. You. You stop bad things happening every minute of every day. That sounds pretty heroic to me.
The Doctor: [modestly] Just passing the time.
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The one where the Doctor engages in a Cock Fight with Robin Hood.

And Clara meets her idol. Then the Doctor keeps trying to one-up him, and she has to deal with the dick measuring contest. The one that Rory was spared.

More dubiously known as the one that had a scene taken out at the eleventh hour because it hit too close to home.

Written by Mark Gatiss.

When given the choice to go anywhere in time and space, Clara eagerly requests that they go to meet Robin Hood. Exasperated, the Doctor complies with her request and pilots the TARDIS to Sherwood Forest, 1190(ish)AD, all the while insisting that Robin Hood was nothing more than a made-up legend who never existed outside of over-dramatised storybooks. This makes it a bit surprising for him when, immediately upon stepping out of the TARDIS, the Doctor is confronted by a charming rogue in Lincoln green armed with a bow-and-arrow who identifies himself as none other than... Robin Hood.

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While Clara is thrilled to bits at meeting her childhood hero and his merry band of heroic thieves, the Doctor immediately smells a rat and begins to investigate just who, or what, this so-called Robin Hood actually is. His investigations take him to a nearby castle where the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham, assisted by an army of sinister knights, is kidnapping the local peasantry and forcing them into slavery while stealing what little gold they have, yet leaving any other valuables alone. The Doctor, Clara and Robin find themselves captured, imprisoned, and forced to defeat the Sheriff's evil scheme and bring justice back to Nottingham — something which would be a lot easier if the Doctor and Robin could stop bickering for longer than two minutes...


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Tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: Robin enters the arrow tournament under the name "Tom the Tinker," as he does in the original legends. As an added bonus, though, his actor is named Tom Riley, who plays one of the world's most famous tinkers of all time.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Although the two have been at each others' throats for the entire episode, Robin genuinely enjoys the Doctor's quip about the blacksmith.
  • Annoying Laugh: Robin Hood's boisterous laughter really gets on the Doctor's nerves.
    Robin Hood: Robin Hood laughs in the face of all! Ha-ha-ha!
    The Doctor: And do people ever punch you in the face when you do that?
    Robin Hood: Not as yet, no.
    The Doctor: Lucky I'm here, then, isn't it?
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Right up to the climax, the Doctor is absolutely sure Robin Hood can't be real, mostly because he's so stereotypically Robin Hood that the Doctor is convinced no real person could behave in such a fashion.
  • Arc Words: These robots are also looking for the Promised Land.
  • Arrow Cam: As the golden arrow is fired towards the spaceship.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    Robin: And now what?
    The Doctor: First a blacksmith's forge.
    Robin: So as to remove our chains?
    The Doctor: No, so I can knock up an ornamental plant stand.
  • Ass Kicks You: The Doctor does this move on Robin to win their fight on the bridge, and Robin then copies the move to knock the Sheriff to his death.
  • Attack Reflector: Golden dinner plates are able to reflect the robots' beams back at them.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: In Robin Hood's speech towards the end of the episode.
    Robin Hood: History is a burden. Stories can make us fly.
    The Doctor: I'm still having a little trouble believing yours, I'm afraid.
    Robin Hood: Is it so hard to credit? That a man born into wealth and privilege should find the plight of the oppressed and weak too much to bear... until one night, he is moved to steal a TARDIS? Fly among the stars, fighting the good fight?
  • Beard of Evil: The Sheriff. This plus his black outfit make him resemble the Delgado and Ainley versions of the Master.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The Doctor shows that, once again, he's not someone to be messed with. And, yes, as per usual, it comes with an explosion — this time, an archery target!
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Clara when she gets annoyed by the Doctor and Robin Hood calling the guards in the cell.
  • Black Knight: The Sheriff's robot knights certainly looks this way.
  • Blade Brake: Robin makes his Big Damn Heroes arrival at the Sheriff's castle by sticking his knife into a tapestry and sliding down to the ground.
  • Bloodless Carnage:
    • After running a peasant through, the sheriff wipes off his blade, even though it's clean to begin with.
    • A robot soldier gets his arm cut off and (in the unedited version) the Sheriff gets his head cut off, but needless to say, there is no blood to be seen.
    • The disintegration of the peasant takes place completely off screen.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: The Sheriff of Nottingham, when he places the Doctor in irons for a second time, after he'd already proven perfectly capable of escaping and causing trouble once.
  • Breather Episode: After the two previous episodes, this one's a bit on the funnier side of things.
  • Bring the Anchor Along: The Doctor and Robin are shackled together in the dungeon of Nottingham Castle with chains that run through a bolt in the floor. When the Doctor and Robin escape, they are still chained to each other and carrying the large stone the chains are attached to between them.
  • ...But He Sounds Handsome: When telling Clara the story of a certain hypothetical Sheriff's encounter with robots from beyond the stars, the Sheriff of Nottingham makes sure to point out how handsome, brave and clever this hypothetical Sheriff was.
  • Call-Back: The Doctor recalls that the Half-Face Man was also looking for the Promised Land.
  • The Cameo: A photograph of Second Doctor actor Patrick Troughton playing Robin Hood (actually, he was the very first TV Robin Hood) is shown on screen.
  • Catchphrase: Clara's "Seriously?" response makes its debut. It becomes her catchphrase for the rest of the season.
  • Celebrity Paradox: The ship's databanks include a picture of Robin Hood as portrayed by Second Doctor Patrick Troughton.
  • Chained Heat: The Doctor and Robin are shackled together when they escape from the Sheriff's dungeon; having somehow managed to put their differences aside long enough to work out how to escape. They continue bickering as they search for the smithy in order to get rid of their chains.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Doctor uses the golden arrow to give the ship enough power to reach orbit.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The move the Doctor uses to push Robin into the river is later used by Robin to push the Sheriff into the vat of gold. Notably, the Doctor recognises it as Robin's about to use it, and raises his eyebrows, smiling slightly.
  • Cock Fight: The Doctor doesn't take too kindly to Robin Hood stealing Clara's affections. They continue to bicker all the way into Nottingham's dungeon. The pissing contest reaches its apogee when Robin observes that, as an old person, the Doctor is liable to starve sooner.
    The Doctor: Really? Well, you know what? I think you'll find I have a certain genetic advantage— [Clara yanks on his manacles]
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Covert Pervert: Clara appears to be aware of the reputation Errol Flynn had of being one of the most, ahem, well-endowed actors in Hollywood.
  • Cranial Processing Unit: In the leaked workprint, the Sheriff gets his head knocked off, but as a robot he can just put it right back. This was edited out of the finished episode out of respect for James Foley and Steven Sotloff, two journalists murdered by beheading.
  • Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: The Doctor rubs his wrists after he and Robin get out of their shackles.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: After Robin knocks the Sheriff into the vat of gold, there's a lingering shot of his gold-encrusted hands on the edge of the vat.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Of the classic swashbuckling Errol Flynn-style approach to Robin Hood. Throughout the episode, the Doctor is convinced that Robin is going to turn out to be a con or a robot or something, since Robin Hood's just a myth and even if he did exist, there's no way he'd ever act like the charming and boisterous constantly-laughing rogue in front of him. Then, it turns out that Robin's the real deal after all. And why not? When it comes down to it, that version of the character's just as real as the Doctor is.
  • Defiant Captive: Clara takes the opportunity of the Sheriff's dinner invitation to pump him for information and then reject his romantic advances.
  • Disney Villain Death: The vat of molten gold is just begging for a baddie to plunge backwards into it, and the Sheriff obliges.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Robin momentarily drops his stoic demeanour when he sees Lady in Red Clara exit the TARDIS in her period garb.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The robots' laser beams focus into a fine outline of a cross. They also happen to be searching for the Promised Land. What was it King Richard was off doing again?
  • Dress-Up Episode: For Clara, who ditches the modern-day clothes for a beautiful red period outfit. Averted for the Doctor, who sticks to his usual outfit.
  • Expy: The dynamic between Robin and the Doctor is clearly modeled after Flashheart and Blackadder, especially as seen in "Back and Forth", where Flashheart is Robin Hood.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: Robin fires an arrow into the air at the end of the episode as a toast to the Doctor for bringing Marian back to him.
  • Flynning: With a spoon. While discussing Errol Flynn, even.
  • Fork Fencing: The Doctor responds to a challenge from Robin with the following Badass Boast:
    The Doctor: I have no sword. I don't need a sword. Because I am the Doctor. And this... is my spoon!
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • While swordfighting with Robin, the Doctor mentions having trained with Errol Flynn, who had a big... ego. Keeping what he meant to say in mind, it certainly brings to thought just what kind of "fencing" the Doctor got up to with Flynn. (Truth in Television: Flynn's endowment is a well-known Hollywood legend... one Clara appears to be aware of, too.
    • The Doctor tries to get a urine sample from Robin at one point. Clara wards him off before he can finish the thought.
    • When the Doctor dons his fencing glove, he finishes his flourish by giving Robin the finger. It somehow got past the radar. (It should be noted that Capaldi is very expressive with his fingers and often gestures with the middle finger — as many men do in the UK — and was not likely actually giving anyone the finger. Keep in mind that in the UK the "reverse V" is the more common gesture that carries the meaning conveyed by the middle finger elsewhere.)
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Clara dons a gorgeous deep red Middle Ages gown.
  • Got Me Doing It: The Doctor is horrified when he starts bantering just like Robin.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The Doctor spends a good chunk of the episode trying to impress Clara in front of Robin Hood.
  • Grumpy Bear: The Doctor spends most of the episode finding any reason he can to try and disprove Robin Hood's very existence, basically being a loud grumpy killjoy about the whole thing.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Sheriff's lackey doesn't initially fall for the sick prisoner ploy, but he does when he's told that Robin also has information that would fetch a large bounty.
  • Hidden Depths: Robin is, as it turns out, much more complex than the simple loudly laughing dashing hero archetype that he comes off as.
  • High-Dive Escape: Robin escapes from the robot knights by grabbing Clara and leaping out of a window into the moat of Nottingham Castle.
  • The Hyena: Robin laughs uproariously all the time, regardless of the situation, greatly annoying the dour Doctor. Mind you, it is demonstrated that at least part of the time, he does it precisely because he knows that the Doctor finds it annoying. The end of the episode implies that the rest of the time, he puts it on as part of the dashing hero act he tries to live up to.
  • Hypocritical Humour:
    • The Doctor accuses Errol Flynn of having quite the... ego.
      Clara: Takes one to know one.
    • The Doctor also gets quite shirty when Robin Hood tries to steal the TARDIS, and claims it as his property. Lest we forget, the Doctor originally stole the TARDIS himself.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Played straight with Robin Hood, who is just that good. Subverted by the Sheriff and the Doctor. The Sheriff is partially a robot, which would explain his aim. The Doctor was just outright cheating, having modified his arrows to be self-guided and always hit the target.
  • Improbable Weapon User: "I don't need a sword, for I am the Doctor, and this is my spoon!"
  • Internal Homage:
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: The Sheriff wants to make Clara his Hot Consort.
  • Irony: Right up to the last few minutes, the Doctor is absolutely positive Robin can't be the real deal. This after meeting Morgaine, Mordred and King Arthur, and becoming Merlin himself.
  • Ironic Nickname: Subverted; they call the big guy Little John to have fun with people, and here he's actually a dwarf.
  • It's Personal: When Robin shows up for the final confrontation, the Sheriff's robots move to confront him... but are stopped by the Sheriff himself:
    Sheriff: No. This one's all mine.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The Sheriff caustically points out that the Doctor's theory that Robin Hood is just an android designed to give hope to the people the Sheriff is oppressing is not only wrong, but utterly ridiculous; what kind of idiot would design an enemy to fight them, thwart their plans and generally make their lives more difficult than they had to be? Stunned, the Doctor is left floundering for a response.
  • The Knights Who Say "Squee!":
    • Clara is fangirling on Robin Hood, and from what Robin says she's very enthusiastic about relating the Doctor's adventures, too.
    • At one point, Clara outright tells the Doctor he's amazing during his spoonfight with Robin.
  • Large Ham: Robin Hood. Ha-HA!
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • "And remember, Doctor: I'm as real as you are."
    • The whole of the final conversation between Robin Hood and the Doctor is a commentary on how they have both acted as icons, heroic figures and inspirations for generations of people despite the fact that neither of them exist outside of stories.
    • When the Doctor looks up images of Robin Hood on a computer, one image is a photograph of Patrick Troughton, the actor who played the Second Doctor, from a TV production of Robin Hood (Troughton is actually credited as the first actor to play the role on television).
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: After managing to knock out their guard, Robin and the Doctor fighting over the keys causes the keys to fall into a grate. The Doctor says there's one bright side: Clara didn't see that.
  • The Man Makes the Weapon: The Doctor begins the adventure by duelling Robin for the TARDIS using a spoon.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The Sheriff's robot knights.
  • Mirrors Reflect Everything: The Doctor and the peasant slaves use gold plates to reflect the lasers of the robot knights back upon the knights.
  • National Stereotypes: Robin assumes the Doctor's pale complexion is down to him being Scottish — "they're strangers to vegetables."
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Everyone just points their bows at the target and releases. At least the Doctor is cheating; Robin and the Sheriff have no excuse. This even works when firing at a ship at least a mile away, with an arrow made of gold. Rule of Cool applies.
  • No, Mister Bond, I Expect You to Dine: When the Sheriff believes that Clara is the leader of the rebels, he invites her to dinner. Over dinner, she persuades him to spill all the details of his Evil Plan.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Subverted with Little John. Little John is actually quite short, but they call the big guy Little John to have some fun with any new people they meet.
  • Not So Different: Having been told the Doctor's story by Clara, Robin Hood claims they are actually quite similar; former aristocrats who now fight for the poor and oppressed.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: During the sword-spoon fight (anything seen from a distance is a double). However, that is Capaldi getting out of the water after being dumped, even though the "wet cat" scenario kicks in and he looks somewhat different when doused.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Robin's disguise at the archery contest is just a hat. The Sheriff recognises him, so this could be a mockery of the usual depictions of the contest.
  • Pass the Popcorn: When Robin challenges the Doctor to a swordfight, Clara rushes to a position where she can observe the fun.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Shooting a gold arrow into the ship's engine gives it enough power to reach orbit before exploding. Note that this was done from outside the ship.
  • Pet the Dog: As the Doctor leaves, he drops Marian off so she can reunite with Robin.
  • Playing Sick: Robin suggests that the Doctor should do this to lure the guard into their cell. The Doctor makes Robin do it.
  • Popular History: Robin et al are presented as people are used to seeing them, rather than how they might have been in the actual period. Which is exactly why the Doctor doesn't believe they are real.
  • Public-Domain Character: Robin Hood, the Merry Men, etc.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: As mentioned elsewhere, the murders of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, beheaded by ISIS extremists, meant a last minute edit was made to take the beheading of the Sheriff out of the episode.
  • Resistance as Planned: Upon finding the ship, the Doctor assumes Robin to another robot, designed as a form of false hope which will keep the slaves working longer. When he confronts the Sheriff about this, the Sheriff finds this ridiculous. What kind of fool would create an enemy to make their plans more difficult?
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: The Doctor is convinced this whole Robin Hood thing must be a sham, because Robin Hood is supposed to be a myth and this man who is supposedly him is playing the role to the hilt. He is in fact right about the entire thing being a sham, but Robin Hood is nevertheless very real.
  • Robotic Reveal:
    • The "knights" are revealed as robots when one has its arm chopped off.
    • In the leaked workprint, a sudden decapitation reveals that the Sheriff is actually a cyborg, rebuilt when the ship crashed on him. This was edited out of the finished episode out of respect for James Foley and Steven Sotloff, two journalists executed by ISIS in that way. It's not a perfect cut, however, as some of the Sherrif's bragging about being a superior being is left in.
  • Sad Clown: Clara correctly deduces that Robin Hood might be hiding his sadness with his jokes.
  • Schizo Tech: The Sheriff's "knights" are robots equipped with blasters, and he has a holographic display built into a wooden table. A subtler example is the Sheriff's 'castle': it's modeled on Bodiam, which was built in 1385 and so is nearly 200 years ahead of its time.
  • Self-Healing Phlebotinum: After the Doctor pulls an arrow out of the TARDIS, the hole fills itself in.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Lots to previous Robin Hood adaptations:
      • The title is one to Robin of Sherwood.
      • The Doctor refers to the people he's had swordfights with, including Errol Flynn.
      • The Arrow Cam is likely one to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Clara even refers to Robin as the "Prince of Thieves" at one point. The Robin of Sherwood theme also contains a riff from the film's theme.
      • The sequence where Robin stabs his sword through a wall hanging and rides it down to floor level is a long-established Hollywood swashbuckling move, first done by Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in Robin Hood (1922).
      • The Doctor duels Robin with a spoon.
      • During the montage of images of the Robin Hood legend, a still of the Second Doctor himself, Patrick Troughton, shows up from the 1950s Robin Hood show he starred in.
      • Robin Hood Playing Sick while in prison.
    • The spoon incident may also be a reference to Porthos winning a fight with a fork in the first episode of The Musketeers.
    • The Merry Men taking Alan-a-Dale's lute away from him after the umpteenth improvised song is reminiscent of how the Gauls treat Cacofonix in the Asterix stories.
    • Cutting the arm of a Black Knight clean off. It's just a flesh wound.
  • Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: Clara calls out the Doctor for not believing in Robin's goodness (and implicitly his own). The Doctor's theory that Robin Hood is a robot meant to give the people false hope does in fact turn out to be wildly off-track, and the Sheriff can't really comprehend it.
    • This could be referring to the previous episode, in which the Doctor mind-melds with a Dalek in order to teach it compassion, only for the Dalek to only pick up on the Doctor's hatred of the Daleks. This is a big wake-up call for the Doctor.
  • Spiteful Spit: Quayle spits in the Sheriff's face when the Sheriff and his knights are looting the village for gold. The Sheriff stabs him in the stomach.
  • Splitting the Arrow: During the archery contest as the Doctor, the Sheriff, and Robin keep splitting each others' arrows. Then, because that's not impressive enough, trick shots that split the arrow. Then the Doctor gets tired of it and blows up the whole target with his sonic screwdriver.
  • Spoiler Title: Averted with a Bait-and-Switch as Robin is not a robot, but the Doctor is convinced that he is.
  • Squee!: Clara's reaction to meeting Robin Hood is fangirlish glee.
  • Stable Time Loop: Clara refers to Robin's gang as "the Merry Men", assuming that's what they call themselves. Turns out they're unfamiliar with the name, but they like it so much they decide to adopt it.
  • Stepford Smiler: Clara notes that Robin and his men's frequent laughter is this, to help cope with their horrible situation. The Doctor, however, just considers it more evidence that Robin is a fake. At the end, Robin himself suggests to the Doctor that it's part of his act as a hero — although not considering himself to be one, the more he lives up to the role, including boisterous and defiant laughter in the face of peril, the more he will inspire others to be heroes themselves.
  • Stock Scream: A Wilhelm scream is heard during the battle after the archery contest.
  • Take Over the World: The Sheriff, fittingly, plans to use the skyship to kick out Prince John and the royal court, take over the whole of England, and conquer the rest of the world. He's later seen cheerfully marking territories on a map of England that will be his.
  • Today, X. Tomorrow, the World!: Double subverted; the Sheriff boasts that after Nottingham he'll take... Derby. Then Lincoln. Clara suggests Worksop next, but he chooses this moment to jump to "the world!"
  • Tomato in the Mirror: While they're poking around the ship, the Doctor shows Robin the historical accounts of Robin Hood, introducing him to the reality that, centuries from now, he'll be nothing more than a story. Though it gets him down at first, he ultimately believes this for the best. History weighs on an individual, but stories inspire them to greater heights.
  • The Triple: The Doctor says he learned his fencing skills from Richard the Lionheart, Cyrano de Bergerac and Errol Flynn.
  • Trrrilling Rrrs: "In the contest for the golden arrrow after ten rrrounds, the battle is betwixt our lord sheriff and the strrranger known as Tom the Tinker."
  • Troperiffic: Attempts to do for Robin Hood clichés what "The Curse of the Black Spot" did for pirate clichés. There's the fight on the bridge, the Merry Men, arrow splitting at a contest, witty banter, an evil sheriff oppressing the locals, etc.
  • Two Rights Make a Wrong: Robin Hood devises a plan that lures the guard to them, enabling them to grab the keys to their chains. The plan almost works, with Robin opting to keep up the charade despite the Doctor making very unsightly remarks about why Robin was suddenly sick, except the two resume their pissing contest by trying to score a point by getting the keys to their chains. Their efforts result in the keys falling into a conveniently placed sewage drain.
  • Wardrobe Wound: The Doctor is not pleased when Robin cuts a button off his jacket during their duel.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Doctor and Robin Hood agree on taking down the Sheriff, but for completely different reasons (the Doctor wants to investigate the presence of robots in 1190; Robin wants to take down the Sheriff, who robs the peasantry of what gold they have). To make it worse, the two constantly try to one-up each other, which gets them into one hot mess after another.
  • We Will Use Manual Labour in the Future: Technically, they're in the past, not the future, but the robots nevertheless are from an era so advanced that menial labour should be obsolete. Indeed, the robots themselves are presumably stronger than humans, so ought to be capable of hauling loads of gold to the vats with greater efficiency, yet they opt to stand around as guards while working the peasants to death. Then again, they did have a man from the past directing them, so perhaps that bit of sense was chucked out the window for a more outdated idea.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The Robin Hood legend in general, and specifically to the "golden arrow" archery contest incident which first appears in one of the Child Ballads. The fight between the Doctor and Robin on the bridge at the beginning copies what in many Robin Hood adaptations is Robin's first meeting with Little John.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: The Sheriff's response to the Doctor's Resistance as Planned theory about Robin. What kind of fool would create an enemy to make their plans more difficult? The Doctor then realizes just how foolish this theory is.
  • Women Are Wiser: The Doctor, Robin Hood, and Clara are chained up so that the Sheriff can figure out which of the three is in charge. After the Doctor and Robin spend the next few minutes bickering, Clara tells them to "shut up" and suggest plans one at a time. Then the Sheriff's lackey comes in and fetches Clara. Clearly, she's the sensible one and thus must be in charge.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: Played with; the Sheriff demands tribute in the form of gold, but not other forms of currency that would be equally valuable, like gems. The gold is actually needed to repair the ship.
  • Worthy Opponent: When Clara admits to the Sheriff that she was playing him about having experienced an alien encounter like his in order to find out what his plans were, the Sheriff seems more impressed and amused at her cunning than angered. He then decides that this means she'd make a good Hot Consort for him, and later laments that she would have been a great queen.
  • The X of Y: The 125th example in the series.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The robots vapourize a worker who is too tired to continue, and almost namechecks the trope in the process.
    Robot: Analysis shows that peasant creature is spent. Usefulness expired.
  • You Just Told Me: Clara tricks the Sheriff into revealing his plans by claiming to have had a similar experience.

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