Blogger Stacey Whittle looks back at one of her all-time favourites. Nothing's forgotten… nothing's ever forgotten
When I was a child in the '80s 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 – I had nightmares about it well into adulthood!
A chat with another geek about the wonderfulness of this series (and the admission of my beloved that he hadn't seen it!) led to a desire to watch it again. Can this amazing childhood series lived up to its memory?
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 is so fantastic, well acted, whimsical and utterly real at the same time that I'm finding it difficult to watch the last few episodes, knowing I have to prepare to leave his world behind again.
Robin of Loxley, portrayed 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 as well as outer conflicts. He is sometimes nasty and often arrogant, his flaws making his character 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 is the heart of the group, often affectionate and intensely protective. Nasir is 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. That's possibly the reason so few words pop out of his mouth, but Mark Ryan is a joy to watch delivering a fabulous portrayal mostly by facial and body language. Friar Tuck as portrayed by Phil Rose is also adorable; his love for Marian - his little flower – was initially the reason he stayed, but soon the rest of the team become just as important to him. Lastly there's Much… Much is, well, he's a bit thick. He worships Robin and thinks of him as his big brother. And 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, who hams it up somewhat, although 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 are so redolent with atmosphere and tension that it ups both the comedy and the drama. An hour-long episode flies 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's nothing better than the moment in each episode when Nasir goes for the double swords strapped to his back. Yay, fight!
Watching again the double episode that terrified me so badly as a child, "The Swords of Wayland", I was terrified again equally as an adult. Men with animal skulls covering their faces? Blood red cloaks billowing over sweating, stamping horses? Swords aloft and haunting music swelling all around? I defy you not to have a little wibble!
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 Sheriff's 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.
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 I found that 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 because 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. There is, though, a missing edge - he's a much nicer chap!
There is an outstandingly manic and crazed guest appearance this series from a very young Richard O'Brien that's utterly worth a repeated watching!
The writers on this programme – Richard Carpenter and children's author Anthony Horowitz – are to be much admired. Robin Of Sherwood aired at teatime; the boundaries these writers pushed, and the audacity of the storylines to be shown at this time of day is astounding. I doubt they'd get away with it now. 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 box set, make yourself a cup of tea and get comfortable - because I guarantee you won't be moving off your sofa for a while.
This is a personal blog by Stacey Whittle. We at SFX fondly remember Robin Of Sherwood too. Is it something you watched in your youth? Or do you have a favourite alternative take on Nottinghamshire's be-hooded bloke? Let us know in the comment thread below...