When I was a kid, I used to love watching the Robin Hood series with Richard Greene. They seemed to have such freedom camping out in the forest, and they almost never got caught; if they did, they escaped. The whole idea of them helping the poor and keeping a sense of humour through everything was very appealing. And, of course, Richard Greene cut quite the dashing figure. I’ve seen Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn and Kevin Costner in the roles (have yet to see the Russell Crowe version), and even the return of Robin Hood with Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn in Robin and Marian. But Robin of Sherwood seems to stand apart for me.
In the mid-eighties, British ITV aired four seasons of Robin of Sherwood where Herne the Hunter, a man with mystic powers, chooses a man to fight the forces of evil on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised of the villages around Nottingham Castle. Standing against the Sheriff of Nottingham (Nickolas Grace), Richard the Lionheart (John Rhys-Davies), and his “perfidious” brother Prince John (Philip Davis) are Robin of Loxley (Michael Praed), along with Judi Trott as the Lady Marian, Mark Ryan as the dashing Saracen, Nasir, Ray Winstone as Will Scarlet, Clive Mantle as Little John, and Peter Llewellyn Williams as Much. The series had a huge following and pulled no punches in portraying the attitudes of the time, including persecution of the Jews, the role of Templars, and devil worship.
At the end of the first year, Praed was killed and Herne chose Robert of Huntingdon (Jason Connery) to reunite Robin’s far-flung followers as their leader in the final 13 episodes. Marian has been pardoned and living at Leaford Grange with her father when the 3rd season begins and becomes the focus of Lord Owen of Wales who kidnaps her with the intention of marrying her against her wishes. This episode is one of several where witchcraft is employed and these are my least favourite. Others that are quite spooky are The Swords of Wayland (2 parts), Cromm Cruac, and The Time of the Wolf. One of the neat things about The Swords of Wayland is that in Part 2, the Earl Godwin is playing chess with a Lewis chess set — completely in its appropriate time frame. However, I loved the one where Cyril Cusack plays the Lord Agrivaine, holder of the castle at Caerleon and keeper of King Arthur’s round table. This is a very exciting episode that I used to show my students at school when we were studying castles and medieval times but it also tied in with the telling of legends. It shows the structure of a castle, weapons, armour, and defence tactics.
Other of my favourites include the opening episode Robin Hood and the Sorcerer, Part 1, where the sheriff’s men destroy the village of Loxley, Robin and Much become outlaws, and Robin sees Marion for the first time. The Cross of St. Ciricus brings the plight of lepers to the fore and also brings to light interesting facts about Sir Guy of Guisburne’s parentage, and the stories of Adam Bell and The Pretender have a lot of dashing and swashbuckling in addition to some surprising twists at the end.
About once every 6 months or so, I have a marathon where I watch between 4 – 6 episodes a day for a few days until I’ve seen them all again. A bit of an indulgence but a great way to chill out. If you’re a fan of Robin Hood and haven’t seen these, you may be able to watch some online or on NetFlix but they’re not that expensive to buy the whole collection. You can get it at Amazon.