Remembering TV Shows of the 80’s: Robin of Sherwood

“He’s Coming… the Hooded Man… is Coming…”

As Ailric of Loxley lies dying on the ground, his body pierced with a dozen crossbow bolts, he utters this line to Robert de Rainault, the Sheriff of Nottingham, warning him that the chosen son of Herne the Hunter will soon rise to protect the common man. So begins Robin of Sherwood.

I simply cannot tell you how much I loved this series, produced by the BBC and made available to me on PBS in the mid-80’s. The show doesn’t seem to be as well-known as I think it deserves to be, but in most instances, those people I know who are familiar with it have loved it (almost) as much as me.

I have written a number of times on this site about my love for superheroes, but aside from the spandex crew, I also have a deep and abiding love for heroes like Robin Hood, Zorro and the Lone Ranger. These are characters that I grew up with and in the case of Robin Hood, I was even more drawn to him due to the thought that he had, perhaps, been a real person.

Was Robin real? Was he an actual person? Is the Robin Hood that we know today just an amalgam of different, real people, or is he entirely fictitious? It’s hard to say with certainty, but I will say that he was real enough to be awesome to me and fill my head with dreams, so I happily consumed every bit of entertainment featuring him, whether comic books, novels, movies, or even the cartoon Rocket Robin Hood!

Of all the various incarnations of Robin, however, the one that stands out most for me, and even still manages to stir deep emotional responses, is Robin of Sherwood, and while I suspect that the average North American is not very familiar with this series, they are undoubtedly familiar with the effect it had on future stories featuring him.

“I am Not a Serf. I am a Free Man.”

This Robin, played wonderfully by Michael Praed, is a common man, born in the village of Loxley, which was burned to the ground by de Rainault years earlier in an attempt to put down a Saxon rebellion and uncover the Silver Arrow of Herne the Hunter, a symbol of pre-Christian England.

Following the death of his father, Robin is raised by his uncle, the local miller. His cousin, Much, looks to Robin like an older brother and it is Much’s decision to kill one of the king’s deer that leads to Robin’s first encounter with the villainous Sir Guy of Gisborne, right hand man of the Sheriff.

Upon being thrown in prison, Robin and Much encounter Will Scathlock, who has renamed himself Scarlet after killing the mercenaries who raped and murdered his wife, and two other outlaws,Tom and Dickon.

Escaping from the dungeon, Robin is separated from the others. Fleeing from Gisborne and his men, Robin runs straight into the chambers of a young maid named Marion…

“You’re Like a May Morning…”

The cast of this series was kept small. Some characters from the legends, such as Alan-a-Dale are absent. The show couldn’t afford to have a large army supporting the Sheriff, so Robin and his men had to be limited in number in order to keep them suitably outmatched, though Alan did appear later in the series. The main cast consisted of Robin, Marion, Much, Will, Little John, Friar Tuck, and a Saracen named Nasir, who had formerly been an assassin.


Nasir in particular, was an interesting character. Not part of the original tales, he was intended to be in a single story before being killed off, but was made a regular part of the show. His presence was strong enough that years later when Kevin Costner starred in Prince of Thieves, a Saracen character (played by Morgan Freeman) was included by the producers who mistakenly believed that he was part of the actual Robin Hood tales.

Robin’s enemies, as usual, included the previously-mentioned Sheriff of Nottingham, his brother the Abbott Hugo, and Sir Guy of Gisborne. While many people look back fondly on Alan Rickman’s portrayal of the Sheriff in Prince of Thieves (and I liked him as well. I mean, come on. How can you not like Alan Rickman?), the performance of Nickolas Grace in this series is what I will always remember when I think of the character. In fact, all of the actors in this series remain the definitive versions in my mind, whether Clive Mantle as Little John, or the gorgeous Judi Trott as Marion.

And seriously, no one will ever be a better Will Scarlett that Ray Winstone.

“We Can All of Us Be Gods. All of us!”

Robin of Sherwood, while having a gritty, realistic look and feel to it, also included a number of mystical elements. Robin himself was more than simply an outlaw fighting against the Sheriff; he was the prophesied Hooded Man, the spiritual son of Herne the Hunter. Robin carried with him “the powers of light and darkness,” as well as Albion, one of the seven swords of the mythical master smith, Wayland.

Robin’s father Ailric had been the guardian of the Silver Arrow of Herne, a mystical artifact that was critical to Robin’s survival when he faced the demon-worshiping Baron de Belleme.

This show had a major influence on me, and was responsible for my taking up archery and sword fighting, probably the most physical activities I engaged in at the time. It also reignited my love of mythology, which also ultimately saw me adopting new beliefs and philosophies as I developed a more Wiccan/ pagan outlook on life.

“Nothing is Forgotten. Nothing is Ever Forgotten.”

While the show sadly lasted for only three series/ seasons– the third of which I was less enamoured due to the addition of a new cast member– I have never forgotten it. I had managed to record most of the episodes on VHS during the last broadcast on PBS, but the quality was extremely poor, almost to the point of being unwatchable. When I could no longer watch it, I was rather upset, until years later I found it online, again on VHS, being sold by someone who no longer wanted his copies. I was able to buy it, although I had to have it transferred to another tape due to region restrictions, so again, it wasn’t a great quality, but I was very happy.

Fortunately it is now available on DVD (which I purchased a few years ago) and Blu-Ray (which I plan on buying…) Like M*A*S*H, the Six Million Dollar Man and Star Trek, I am sharing this series with my son, letting him get to know the heroes that impacted my life growing up. Whether you have never seen Robin of Sherwood, or you have seen it but not in several years, I strongly suggest that you pick it up. Robin and his men are waiting for you.

Please share your thoughts on Robin of Sherwood  (or any other show you loved) with me.

May Herne protect you.

Craig

 

 

 

8 Comments

  1. Harjit

    Hi great site and great post! I completely forgot about Robin of Sherwood until I saw your post. I used to really love this as a child and watched it religiously every week. The acting and story lines each week was great. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your post as it brought back nice memories.

    What was your all time favourite 80’s show?

    • Craig

      It was really an underrated show. I loved it. Michael Praed is still Robin to me. It’s pretty amazing how much it actually influenced later iterations of Robin Hood, while still being relatively unknown. 

      It’s hard to say what my favourite show of the 80’s was…. There were so many fun shows and cartoons… I liked the A-Team, Miami Vice, the Wonder Years, Quantum Leap (which just makes it, starting in ’89) and many others. I was a big TV fan back then. I don’t watch very much now, but I was glued to my TV every night back then.

      Which kind of explains my grades at school…

      Thanks for commenting! What were you watching back then?

  2. Chazz

    Oh not to worry, I’m sure I’ll still enjoy it without Alan Rickman. I wasn’t expecting all out spells and dragons but the mythic backstory is definitely intriguing. I’ll find my way back here and let you know how much I loved it.

    • Please do!
      After having written this post, I decided to watch it again, this time with my elder son. He’s enjoying it so far even though it’s “so old.”

  3. ChazzBrown

    You are right in that I had never even heard of this show. You love of it has inspired me to give it a try.

    I always enjoyed the character although I lean more to him being based on real life as opposed to an actual person.

    I’m very interested in seeing how the mystical elements fit in. And I have never been disappointed by Alan Rickman!

    • Craig

      Hi! Thanks for commenting!

      Just to be clear though, in case I wasn’t in the origninal post, the awesome Alan Rickman isn’t in this version. He is in the movie Prince of Thieves, which does lift an element or two from the BBC Show. I don’t want you to be disappointed due to a misunderstanding!

      That said, this is a great show and I don’t think that anyone who likes the character would be disappointed. They cleverly weave in various tales of Robin (such as the famous Robin vs Little John meeting on a log crossing a river) while creating their own tales.

      The mystical element is rarely obvious– a character is possessed at one point, and there is “magic” on display, but it is almost always rather subtle– no wizards flinging fireballs or summoning dragons!

      If you try it out, please let me know what you think! I love when little-known gems find a new fan.

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. Dear Craig:

    I am so very glad I came across your website! How fun to take a stroll down Memory Lane!

    I remember this version of Robin Hood very well! Even though I’m a girl, there was universal appeal within the themes!

    I went over to Amazon to check it out….I’ve never bought one product on Amazon….considering it and will use your link if I do!

    Barb
    https://easy-moneys.com

    • Hi Barb, thanks for responding.
      Taking a stroll down memory lane can be a dangerous thing sometimes, because certain things that we once loved may not hold up too well… I think RoS is still very good, though I admit that some dialogue may be slightly dated and some of the effects show their age and lack of budget. Still, this remains my favourite Robin by far and it has had a major influence on the various retellings that have come out since.

      I have never seen it on any service like Netflix, so as far as I know, the only way to view it again would be on dvd/ blu-ray. For me personally, they’re worth buying (obviously) and I am quite sure that anyone who loves Robin Hood would enjoy it. It’s also neat seeing some famous actors like John Rhys-Davies (King Richard) in early roles.

      Thanks for coming by and commenting!

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