Saturday, May 13, 2006

Robin Hood, the ultimate proof of Doctor Who's success

The recent revival of Doctor Who has been nothing short of a phenomenal success, not least because of the way it has proved there is still such a thing as the family audience. And the ultimate sign of that has been the commissioning of another major series aimed at that audience. Robin Hood began shooting last month and is just the latest telling of the classic stories.

Starring Jonas Armstrong as Robin Hood, it will also feature all the classic characters - the Sheriff of Nottingham, Marian, Guy of Gisbourne, Little John, Much, Will Scarlet, Allan-a-Dale and a character called "Roy". No sign of Friar Tuck though, but maybe that will change when the finished show appears. Nor is there a Saracen, one of the more recent additions to the legend.

For those surprised at this, you've probably never seen either Robin of Sherwood (known in the US as Robin Hood - now that really makes it easy to separate from all the other versions doesn't it?!) or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. You can find out more about the various screen adaptations at the blog Robin Hood, whose most recent post takes a look at Robin of Sherwood.

Recently I acquired the DVDs of the series and I have to say it's one of the best I've ever seen in the genre. There are many fantastic moments in it, but probably the most spectacular of all is the climax of the second series.

Spoiler warning

Robin, Marion and Much are being pursued by all the Sheriff's men. They have reached a mountain top but cannot keep on running, so turn to stand.

Robin and Marian's longbows can easily hit the advancing forces...

...causing the Sheriff to withdraw his soldiers so they are out of range.

Robin and Marion keep on picking off those who are sent forward, but Robin realises it is only time before they are encircled and run out of arrows. So he tells Much...

...and Marion to go while he stays to cover his retreat. Meanwhile the Sheriff has sent men along the valley to attack from behind.

Seeing the others leave, the men cautiously advance but pause when they see Robin still standing there.

Robin fires further arrows, killing each time, including the soldier the Sheriff has hidden behind.

Robin takes his last arrow to his bow and slowly raises it...

...and fires it off high.

Robin exchanges long distance glances with the Sheriff, knowing the time has come...

...then turns to face the crossbow troops who have reached him. With no arrows left, Robin breaks his longbow and faces the Sheriff below.

He stands motionless as the Sheriff orders them to fire.

All the soldiers release their arrows.

The look on the Sheriff's face says it all.

This is perhaps the only time to date that I'm aware of any version showing Robin dying in action. Most legends refer to his dying in old age, firing one last arrow to determine where he would be buried. But Robin of Sherwood was always prepared to take bold twists and yet still remain faithful to the original stories. It even found a way for the series to continue when the original Robin actor, Michael Praed left the series to appear on Broadway as the following brief sequence shows...

Elsewhere a stranger in a hood is summoned to a river by Herne the Hunter, the embodied spirit of the woods who has watched over Robin.

Herne tells the stranger that he is to be "my son" and gives him a longbow.

The outlaws regroup in the forest to have Marion confirm the tragic news. They later perform prepare a ceremony in Robin's memory.

Each fires a flaming arrow into the water, starting with Nasir and then Tuck. As each does so, they remember their times with Robin in a series of flashbacks.

Next Will Scarlet fires his arrow, and after him so does Little John.

Much fires his arrow and then Marion fires hers.

Silently the hooded figure emerges behind them and fires a seventh arrow into the water.

The outlaws turn to ponder just who this stranger is...

The full series is now available on DVD.

1 comment:

Paul Burgin said...

I remember the old series, but wasn't comfortable with the pagan aspects, althouhg it had more realism than the old Errol Flynn film.


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