Behind the scenes with Ben Miller on the set of Doctor Who "Robot of Sherwood"


Last night’s “Robot of Sherwood” episode of Doctor Who was brilliant. One of the best in recent memory. Writer Mark Gatiss told Entertainment Weekly that he was determined not to do a “drab Robin Hood”. “I find it so depressing when people try to make it realistic. Robin Hood is a great fairytale and that’s what we tried to do with this.” Having watched now a second time, I think he succeeded.

It’s 11 March 2014 and Ben Miller (Worst Week of My Life, Primeval, Death in Paradise) finds himself on the receiving end of a very cryptic phone call from his agent while warming up on stage at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. “Can you ride a horse?“, Miller’s agent was asking? When the agents answer to Miller’s mildly flip retort of “Who wants to know?” was “Doctor Who“, Miller proceeded to act like he was born on a horse. It seems that Miller’s childhood fascination with The Doctor rivals only that of the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Returning to his dressing room, the awaiting email expressed an interest in Miller playing the Sheriff of Nottingham with an attachment that read, “Robot of Sherwood by Mark Gatiss.”
 
Ben Miller as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Doctor Who

From that fateful day, Miller’s diary from his first reading of the script to the final day of shooting on 1 May reads like every kids dream. For the full diary, courtesy of Ben Miller and Radio Times, click here. A few brief highlights…

  • 11 March – Tom Baker was my first idol, and the show gave me a fascination with time travel that inspired me to study physics. I lock my dressing-room door and sit down to read…
  • 14 March – Landing a part is like trying to join MI5, only with tighter security.
  • 16 March – During an in-depth discussion about my character what I really want to ask is, “Will the Master be coming back?
  • 7 April – Shout it from the rooftops: tomorrow I have my first day’s filming on Doctor Who
  • 8 April – I bump into Peter Capaldi, who is filming a different episode. “I’m like a kid in a sweet shop,” says Peter, grinning. “I was meant to have a day off yesterday, but I saw they were shooting a fight with the Daleks, so I came in anyway. Couldn’t miss that, could I?”
  • 9 April – Swordfight rehearsal. A little humbling. Tom Riley from Da Vinci’s Demons is playing Robin Hood. He is a master of the blade. When I wield my sword I look more like a painter and decorator trying to get some wallpaper up in a hurry.
  • 1 May – My last-scene-but-one is my swordfight with Tom Riley. What I hadn’t quite counted on was the fact that we rehearsed with wooden swords, but the ones we are shooting with today are very, very metal. After some particularly inept clanging on my part I end up making a new joint in Tom Riley’s thumb. He is far too polite to say anything, but when we say our goodbyes I can’t help noticing he shakes my hand with his elbow.

Before I watch for the third time, take a look at this Doctor Who Extra on the making of “Robot of Sherwood” and let us know what you think!