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Robin of Sherwood.

Here we are again, another auld SFX blog. This time a review of Robin of Sherwood, from about 2010 I think. I also think after reading this I absolutely need to watch this again and soon. Sometimes shitty weather is a treat isn't it, or at the very least permission to curl up with ya knitting and your spicy tea, mmmm spicy tea and watch something delicious. And this is really delicious. For more than one reason.  It is probably on Netflix of Prime by now I would've thought. Did you love this? Did it haunt you? Sometimes unbidden, does this scrumptious face just pop into your head?

Robin of Sherwood: Nothing’s Forgotten…Nothing’s Ever Forgotten

 When I was a child in the 80’s the unmissable television programme of the time was Robin of Sherwood. My overwhelming memories of the series were: Michael Praed being the most beautiful human being I had ever seen, the blond replacement being a bit rubbish and the episode with the Hounds of Lucifer being the most terrifying thing I had ever seen – which I had nightmares about well into adulthood!

A chat with another geek about the wonderfulness of this series led to an absolute desire to watch it again and see if this amazing childhood series lived up to its memory.

 As soon as the DVD box set arrived it had to be watched! The Clannad theme music wrapped around me like a warm blanket and as I couldn’t really remember any of the storylines it was like watching a familiar thing for the first time – a lovely experience! And did it live up to my vague and hazy childhood memories? No it did not; it blew them out of the water! This series, this world is so fantastic, well acted, whimsy and utterly real at the same time that I’m finding it difficult to watch the last few episodes and leave the world behind again.

Robin of Loxley played by the intensely beautiful Michael Praed is The Hooded Man, as the myths and legends tell, but he is far from perfect. A strong leader and chosen son of Herne the Hunter, he has inner and outer conflicts, he is sometimes nasty and often arrogant, his flaws making his character real and believable. Judi Trott is Lady Marian, ethereal but strong and determined – aside from an ability to be captured rather too readily, she is a good female role model. Ray Winstone is the very, very ANGRY Will Scarlet, probably the most difficult character to play, he is so disturbed by the rape and murder of his wife that sometimes his morals and principles flounder, but for the rest of the Merry Men you feel he would slip into badness. Little John played by Clive Mantle may be my favourite of the gang, he, to me, is the heart of the group, often affectionate and intensely protective. Nasir, the absolute coolest character – he began as a henchman to the evil Baron de Bellame and impressed so much he was written into the series – possibly the reason so few words pop out of his mouth, a fabulous portrayal mostly by facial and body language the actor Mark Ryan is a joy to watch.  Friar Tuck as portrayed by Phil Rose is also adorable, his love for Marian - his little flower, was initially the reason he stayed but the rest of the team become just as important to him. Lastly of the Men is Much, well I say men. Much is, well, he’s a bit thick, he worships Robin and thinks of him as his big brother, he falls easily into traps and scrapes.

And so we have the main band of heroes for the first two series, running rings around the Sheriff of Nottingham – played by Nickolas Grace, he hams it up somewhat, but I think with this character he gets away with it with sarcastic aplomb -alongside the hapless  Guy of Gisbourne played by Martin Clunes clone Robert Addie. The pagan themes and witchcraft which abound is so redolent with atmosphere and tension that it ups both the comedy and the drama which makes an hour long episode fly by. I have a particular love of the fight scenes, back in the days before wires and CGI the swords look heavy they make a very satisfying clanging noise and the choreography is such that it looks incredibly realistic. It also makes me wonder how much rehearsal went into each fight scene. There is nothing better than the moment in each episode when Nasir goes for the double swords strapped to his back, yay, fight!

Whilst there is no particular arc to the first two series there is character development and repercussions from events which occur in each episode so you couldn’t say they were stand alone but it isn’t monster of the week. And watching again the double episode which terrified me so badly as a child; The Swords of Wayland, terrified me equally as an adult. Men with animal skulls covering their faces, blood red cloaks billowing over sweating, stamping horses, swords aloft and the haunting music swelling all around them, I defy you not to have a little wibble! 

(Michael indulging in the Joey from friends method of smell the fart acting)

Michael Praed decided to leave the show after the second series, and the writers took the incredibly brave decision to kill Robin instead of replace him.  The final episode in which Robin is surrounded and understands his defeat, when he sends his love and his brother away knowing he will  be torn to pieces by the Sheriffs men is utterly heartbreaking. I cried like a massive girl. Robin’s sacrifice is so perfect and true to his character. The “new” Robin is set up here, dressed in Robin Hood’s clothes he rescues the Merry Men from the Sheriff and joins the back of the funeral ceremony before disappearing again.

Maybe if they'd put him on a horse with his top all open...just saying.

Series three begins with the former family like group disbanded. Herne the Hunter, god of the forest chooses a new son in Robert of Huntingdon played by Jason Connery. I have a memory of not liking this incarnation of Robin at all, hating Connery for not being Praed. But watching this again as an adult my judgement was impaired. I like Connery’s portrayal. The series opens with Robert fighting against his destiny to begin with before finally giving in for his love of Marian. He has to win the trust of the Merry Men to get them back and this is done tactfully and not easily. Robert has to reform this broken family and it doesn’t happen immediately. This, again, gives realness to the programme. Nothing is hurried; Robert becomes Robin as the name has become a title which he inherits. Connery’s version of the Hooded Man is less assuredly acted and a little wooden but he does portray just as strong a leader but there is an edge missing to the character - he’s a much nicer chap, but Connery  does do a better job than I remembered! There is an outstandingly manic and crazed guest appearance this series from a very young Richard O’Brien which is utterly worth a repeated watching!  I haven’t been able to finish this series yet, I have a few episodes to go, but I’ve been putting it off don’t want to leave these people and this world behind.

 The writers on this programme – Richard Carpenter and now children’s author Anthony Horowitz are to be much admired. Robin of Sherwood aired at teatime, the boundaries that these writers pushed, and the audacity of the storylines to be shown at this time of day is astounding, I doubt they could get away with it now. This is a crying shame. Will the BBC’s recent Robin Hood adaptation have such a lingering effect on the youth of today? I somehow doubt it.

I humbly suggest that you find yourself a copy of this boxset ( I think it has just came out on Blueray) make yourself a cup of tea and get comfortable because I guarantee you won’t be moving off your sofa for a while.


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