Cult TV

Cult TV Essentials: Robin of Sherwood

Robin of Sherwood (aka Robin Hood in the United States), was a British television series, based on the legend of Robin Hood. Created by Richard Carpenter, it was produced by HTV in association with Goldcrest, and ran from 1984 to 1986 on the ITV network totalling three season/twenty-six episodes. In America it was retitled Robin Hood and shown on the premium cable TV channel Showtime and on PBS. The show starred Michael Praed and Jason Connery as two different incarnations of the title character. Unlike previous adaptations of the Robin Hood legend, Robin of Sherwood combined a gritty, authentic production design with elements of real-life history, 20th century fiction, and pagan myth. The series is also notable for its haunting musical score by Clannad, which won a BAFTA award.

CAST

Robin of Loxley (Michael Praed):
Born the son of Anglo-Saxon nobleman Ailric of Loxley, Robin was raised by his uncle, the local miller, after Ailric was murdered. As an adult, Robin accepts the charge of Herne the Hunter and becomes the prophesied “Hooded Man,” champion of the oppressed. Hiding in Sherwood Forest, he assembles a number of friends and fights for freedom and justice. He is killed at the end of Season Two by Norman crossbowmen, on the orders of the Sheriff of Nottingham – the same manner in which his father died.

Much (Peter Llewellyn Williams)
Son of the miller who raised Robin, he admires Robin as his big brother. He is dubbed “the half-wit” by Guy of Gisburne, but he is more uneducated and naive than mentally handicapped. He matures more after the first Robin’s death.

Will Scarlet (Ray Winstone)
Originally called Will Scathlock. When his wife, Elena, is raped and trampled to death with horses by mercenaries, he changes his name after slaying several of her killers. Hot-headed and filled with hatred of all things Norman, he is contrasted with the more collected Robin, which frequently leads to conflicts. He has a brother who owns an inn in Lichfield.

Little John (Clive Mantle)
Originally John Little from Hathersage, this giant of a man is placed under a spell by the Baron de Belleme. When Robin defeats the Baron and frees John from the spell, John becomes a loyal friend to Robin (and later, to Robert of Huntington)His hulking figure and immense strength is contrasted by his soft heart.

Lady Marion of Leaford (Judi Trott)
Daughter of a Saxon nobleman believed to be killed in battle, Marion lives as a ward of Abbot Hugo, who is keen on gaining her inheritance. She first enters a nunnery, but when Simon de Belleme desires her as his bride (actually intending to sacrifice her), she escapes into Sherwood Forest, where she falls in love with and marries Robin Hood. She is later rescued from another unwanted marriage, by Robert of Huntingdon.

Friar Tuck (Phil Rose)
The Sheriff of Nottingham’s chaplain, he helps Lady Marion escape into Sherwood and joins the Merry Men, forming a fast friendship with Little John.

Nasir (Mark Ryan)
A Saracen assassin, he was captured in Palestine by the Baron de Belleme and brought back to England to work as his henchman. After the Baron is killed by Robin, Nasir – having found respect for Robin during a crucial sword fight – decides to join the Merry Men. Throughout the series, he speaks very little.

Robert of Huntingdon (Jason Connery)
Chosen as Robin’s successor by Herne, Robert frees the Merry Men, but thinks himself inadequate to take up the mantle of the Hooded Man, despite his sympathies towards the downtrodden. He changes his mind after Lady Marion is taken by Lord Owen of Clun, and sets out to rescue her, reassembling the scattered Merry Men in the process. Though slightly insecure about taking over, in light of his predecessor, Robert proves to be an excellent leader. He later discovers that he is the half-brother of Guy of Gisburne. Connery’s father Sean Connery previously played Robin Hood in Robin and Marian and later played King Richard in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Herne the Hunter (John Abineri)
A shamanic figure who often incarnates a forest spirit representing the powers of light and goodness, inspiring and protecting the Hooded Man

Robert de Rainault, Sheriff of Nottingham (Nickolas Grace)
The king’s chief representative in Nottingham and Sherwood, he is mainly interested in increasing his own power and wealth, competing with his younger brother, the Abbot. He considers his serfs mere chattels and hates women. He frequently relies on the brawn of Guy of Gisburne, whom he nonetheless disrespects and ridicules for his failures. His ambition results in strained relations with fellow noblemen (who consider him a “dreadful little man”), and with a succession of kings.

Hugo de Rainault, Abbot of St. Mary’s (Philip Jackson)
The sheriff’s younger brother and highest-ranking church man in Nottingham, his main interest lies in acquiring land, especially that of his temporary ward, Lady Marion, and her father.

Sir Guy of Gisburne (Robert Addie)
Steward over the abbot’s lands and “gamekeeper” of Sherwood, he is the chief military commander in the area. Self-identifying “a warrior and not a courtier”, he is prone to disregard diplomacy and tact in favour of brute force but he is sometimes also able to use cunning. He resents the Sheriff for frequently taunting him and Robin for being the cause of these taunts. After a rocky start he gained the (limited) respect of Prince John. Later, it is revealed that he is the Earl of Huntingdon’s illegitimate son and thus the second Robin’s half-brother.

Baron Simon de Belleme (Anthony Valentine)
A nobleman and also a devil worshipper. As master of the black arts, he controlled both Little John and Nasir, having captured the latter during the Crusades. He desires Lady Marion to sacrifice her to his demons. He is killed by Robin in Season One but his remaining disciples still work towards and actually succeed in his resurrection in Season Two. However he is not heard of or seen in Season Three.

Prince John, later King of England (Phil Davis)

Gulnar (Richard O’Brien)
A pagan sorcerer in the entourage of Lord Owen of Clun, he bewitches Lady Marion. After Owen is killed, he sets out to avenge Owen’s death – and his own disgrace – on Robin and the Merry Men.

PLOT

Michael Praed played Robin of Loxley in the first two seasons. His ‘Merry Men’ consisted of Will Scarlet (Ray Winstone), Little John (Clive Mantle), Friar Tuck (Phil Rose), Much (Peter Llewellyn Williams), the Saracen Nasir (played by Mark Ryan) and Lady Marian (played by Judi Trott). He is also assisted by Herne the Hunter (John Abineri). As in the legend, Robin is opposed by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Nickolas Grace) and Guy of Gisburne (Robert Addie), as well as the Sheriff’s brother Abbot Hugo (Philip Jackson) (representing all the greedy abbots in the legends).

At the end of the second season, Robin of Loxley is killed, and Robert of Huntingdon (played by Jason Connery) replaces him as Robin Hood. During the course of the third season, the new Robin discovers that he is the half-brother of his nemesis Guy of Gisburne (an idea suggested to Carpenter by the fact that both actors had blond hair). This particular story arc was never resolved, as the show’s intended fourth (and final) season was never made. The sudden cancellation also broke off Robin and Marion’s intended marriage and left Marion at Halstead Abbey as a novice.

At the conclusion of Season Three, Goldcrest was forced to pull out of the venture, due to a downturn in the fortunes of their film arm. Goldcrest had been responsible for critical and commercial hits such as Chariots of Fire (1981) and Gandhi (1982) earlier in the 1980s, but had hit a lean period with such films as Revolution (1985) and Absolute Beginners (1986). The series was expensive to produce; HTV could not afford to finance it alone, and so Robin of Sherwood came to an unexpected end.

Categories: Cult TV

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