Robin of Sherwood

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It's fantastic! Here's why...

Robin of Sherwood

Robin of Sherwood first hit British screens in April 1984.  It began with a feature length episode Robin Hood and the Sorcerer which introduced the then largely unknown cast and began a series about Robin Hood different from any other. 


The creator Richard Carpenter was not new to writing historical fiction having previously written and created Catweazle, Dick Turpin and The Smuggler among others.  For Robin of Sherwood he researched the period thoroughly, choosing to eventually incorporate many details of the original ballads together with elements taken from Arthurian romance. Herne the Hunter, a medieval legend that had evolved parallel to that of Robin Hood, was added as a ‘Merlin’ type figure, and Robin was given his own Excalibur in Albion, one of the ‘Seven Swords of Wayland’. The series would prove to be markedly different from the Robin Hood series that preceded it. Here Robin and His Merry Men were not portrayed as loveable rogues ending each episode in a bout of laughter. The Robin for the eighties was an idealistic freedom fighter, and his men were not so much “merrie” as realistic about their predicament.

 The series was set in a more unromantic medieval England than had previously graced a Robin Hood television series. This medieval landscape was further created in the audience’s minds with the excellent soundtrack provided by Clannad. Clannad were previously best known for the Theme from Harry’s Game which they also wrote. Their Robin of Sherwood soundtrack album “Legend” sold well on its release and has continued to sell ever since.  The originality of Robin of Sherwood was sealed by the addition of magic into the storylines. Robin is now guided by his spiritual father Herne the Hunter, and the villains in the series are as likely to use their magic in their quest for power as any other medium.  

The main cast consisted of Robin (Michael Praed). Marion (Judi Trott), Little John ( Clive Mantle), Will Scarlet (Ray Winstone), Tuck (Phil Rose), Much (Peter Llewellyn Williams), Nasir (Mark Ryan), Robert De Rainault (Nickolas Grace) and Guy of Gisburne (Robert Addie) . There was a strong supporting cast from the likes of Jeremy Bulloch (Edward of Wickham), Philip Jackson (Hugo De Rainault) and Philip Davis (King John)  

Many of the actors have now gone on to bigger and better things; most notably Ray Winstone (Will Scarlet) and Clive Mantle (Little John). Ray having successfully moved into films with “Nil By Mouth” and Clive breaking through into mainstream television and nation-wide recognition with his performance as Dr Mike Barrett in Casualty.

Robin of Sherwood ran for two series with Michael Praed as its Robin. It attracted critical and public acclaim and also the wrath of the National Viewers and Listeners Association .  Mary Whitehouse, the NV&LA’s leading public figure, complained particularly about the devil worship portrayed in the episode 'The Seven Swords of Wayland' especially as it was shown over the Easter weekend.

Before its third season Robin of Sherwood faced a potentially catastrophic event; its Robin Hood (Michael Praed) decided to leave. They had no choice but to look around for a new Robin. Jason Connery (son of Sean) was eventually chosen from a short list that included Neil Morrisey and Paul McGann, among others..

 The magical element in Robin of Sherwood really came into its own as the series shifted to incorporate its new leading man. Robin of Loxley (Praed) sacrificed his life to save Marion and Much at the end of the second series; meanwhile Herne the Hunter, his mentor and forest god, had to look for a new “hooded man” to be his son and do his bidding. At the beginning of the third series, the new Robin is revealed as Robert of Huntingdon (Connery). The series seamlessly knitted together the two main Robin Hood legends ; that of Robin of Loxley, the peasant’s son and Robert of Huntingdon, the dispossessed heir to an earldom.  The enforced changeover of leading men was excellently written and executed; only being equalled by the re-generation scenes in Doctor Who. 

The third season was longer than the previous two. It had a total of thirteen episodes compared to Season One’s five episodes and Season two’s 6 episodes. The main reason for this was to help overseas sales since a standard thirteen-week season was becoming preferred.  The increased schedule meant that Richard Carpenter would no longer be the sole writer on the project and other writers were brought in. Most notable among these was Anthony Horowitz who has more recently gone on to write Time Traveller and Foyle's War

The third season ended with the two-parter 'The Time of the Wolf'. At the end of the final episode Marion decides to give up her life in Sherwood and retreat to Kirklees Priory. At the time of filming a fourth season was still on the cards, and the ending was written to allow Judi Trott more time to pursue other projects. It was intended that she would appear in a few episodes of the fourth season, and eventually be reunited with her second Robin Hood. Unfortunately financial difficulties at Goldcrest caused primarily by the failure of their film 'Absolute Beginners' meant that the fourth series was never made and Robin of Sherwood ended on an unhappy note.

There have been several attempts to resurrect Robin of Sherwood. A film was proposed in the early 90’s but the arrival of the two Hollywood blockbuster Robins put paid to that. Michael Praed and Nicholas Grace also made an attempt to resurrect the series but lack of financing again meant that the plans never came to fruition.  

Robin of Sherwood has made a long lasting impact on the legend of Robin Hood. Virtually every television series or film made about Robin Hood since the mid-80’s owes much to Robin of Sherwood.  The look of Robin of Sherwood is firstly often copied; with its dirt and gritty realism it had a much bleaker picture of medieval life than had previously been shown in any earlier Robin Hood series. Secondly Robin of Sherwood introduced magic into the legend; this is now being widely used in the current U.S Series The New Adventures of Robin Hood and the Canadian children’s series Back to Sherwood.  Finally Richard Carpenter was the first writer to introduce a Saracen (Nasir) to the Merry Men.  It is easy to see Robin of Sherwood’s influence in the addition of a Saracen character when the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or The New Adventures of Robin Hood are viewed.

It may be twenty years old, but if you want action, romance and magic, you’d need to go a long way to beat Robin of Sherwood.

Karon Hollis

Page Last Updated Sunday, February 13, 2005 at 12:28:56