Main cast: Michael Praed (Robin of Loxley), Judi Trott (Lady Marion), Clive Mantle (Little John), Ray Winstone (Will Scarlet), Phil Rose (Friar Tuck), Mark Ryan (Nasir), Peter Llewellyn Williams (Much), Nickolas Grace (Robert de Rainault), Robert Addie (Sir Guy of Gisburne), Anthony Valentine (Baron Simon de Belleme), and John Abineri (Herne the Hunter)
Director: Ian Sharp
I have fond memories of Robin of Sherwood, but I can tell you very few of the exact details about the show. You see, back in the 1980s, private TV stations were only making inroads in this part of the world, and back then, they showed this quaint little thing that I caught by accident late at night. It was the first episode of this show, Robin Hood and the Sorcerer, and I was hooked. Over the years, though, the stupid TV station rescheduled the show any time they want, occasionally cancelled episodes to make way for live telecasts of football shows and such, and eventually, my enthusiasm for the show dimmed.
Hence, I am basically watching this show again with fresh new eyes. Isn’t this fun?
Mind you, this show is considered by many to be the best adaptation of the Robin Hood saga. It doesn’t try to be edgy, modern, or cool – instead, it combines history and fantasy in a distinct medieval flavor that is only enhanced by Clannad’s lovely music. Really, the theme song itself is fabulous, as it starts out all soothing and melancholic before slowly stirring up the soul into a lilting kind of inspiration.
They are all waiting. The blinded, the maimed, the men locked in the stinking dark all wait for you. Children with swollen bellies hiding in ditches wait. The poor, the dispossessed, they all wait. You are their hope. You cannot escape. So must it be. Robin in the Hood!
The good news is that there is no shortage of melodrama in this episode to keep my silly little heart aflutter. If the above proclamation by the mythical Herne the Hunter to Robin of Loxley isn’t worthy of glowing medieval fonts, check out this anguished speech from Will Scarlet.
Cold November night. Soldiers, drunk… mercenaries. They took her from me, and when they’d finished with her, they trampled her to death with their horses. And then they laughed. Laughed! My name was Will Scathlock. It’s Scarlet now.
The biggest downside of Robin Hood and the Sorcerer is that it is an origin episode. Let’s be honest here, the background story of Robin Hood had been done to death many times before, and thus this one can be quite slow and draggy as a result. After all, it seems to be going through the motions rehashing the same old thing. Young Robin’s parents were killed by Norman soldiers, yadda yadda yadda. There is a prophecy, though, of a champion of the downtrodden stepping up, and there is no prize for guessing which fellow will earn the approval of Herne the Hunter to be that champion. Robin of Loxley, now grown up, will start his journey to greatness by attempting to free Lady Marion from the clutches of the Baron de Belleme, and you know he will meet the rest of the gang as he goes along. The hot-headed Will, the kid Much, Friar Tuck, Little John, the token person of color Nasir… and of course, we can’t forget the petulant and cruel Guy of Gisburne and the glorious Sheriff of Nottingham.
Seriously, Nickolas Grace really steals the show here with his darkly handsome looks and sinister attitude, making the Sheriff all sexy and evil without coming off as too camp or over the top. Robert Addie is pretty good too as Guy of Gisburne, although his villainous role does cross the line to camp at times.
Poor Michael Praed – his Robin Hood is practically lost among the colorful cast. Lady Marion is a nice surprise in that while she isn’t a modern day kick-ass heroine, she is also no one-dimensional damsel in distress. She comes off like a resourceful, smart, and plucky lady who tries to make the most out of the restrictions and even cruel limitations placed on her sex during those medieval days. Will Scarlet is appropriately angry and crazy, Friar Tuck is amusing, and Little John has his moments too. Poor Robin’s best moments are his reactions to these characters; hopefully he will get the chance to shine more as the show goes along.
So far, things look promising. The cast all has good chemistry, and the atmosphere of the show is great thanks to the immersive music, set pieces, and all. There is a nice balance of melodrama and camp, without things teetering too far to one side or the other.
While this isn’t an issue where I am concerned, I should point out that this show can seem quite dated. It’s very 1980s, from the script to the make-up department, which may not be to the liking of folks who prefer more contemporary sensibilities. Those expecting something more fast paced, more action-driven may have a harder time getting into this show as well, as the action scenes are on the down to earth, somewhat realistic style. No flashy acrobatics, dazzling anime-style swordplay, or anything else that will deviate too far from the aesthetics the show people are aiming for.
At any rate, I like this episode, but the uneven pacing can take a chunk out of the enjoyment I may be feeling. Now that the obligatory origins episode is out of the way, let’s hope that things pick up in subsequent episodes.