Nostalgia #1: Robin of Sherwood (1984-1986)

robin of sherwood 1

It took us a while, but finally it’s here: our first nostalgia post. Digging deep into our pop-cultural pasts, we dredge up things sometimes forgotten, sometimes still living through many inspirations or even outright consecutive reincarnations – but always bearing a significant weight for our early formative geek years. We’ll be trying to introduce some old stuff, review it, and finally trace their significance in the modern pop-culture – we’ll see how it goes, our Two-shots are usually quite unpredictable ๐Ÿ™‚

We’ve decided to start with a series which had had an enormous impact on our imagination back in the end of eighties, which had become a yardstick for all later Robin Hood retellings, serious or less serious, shaping the popular imagery of the character, introducing new, mystical elements to the old myths, and which – for all its significance and our nostalgia – we cannot bear to watch anymore…

Ola: First things first, however: the famous BBC series, Robin of Sherwood, had been created by Richard Carpenter for the ITV network. Meticulously researched, ambitious in scope, showing for the first time a fairly accurate image of 12th century outlaws (no tights for anyone!), the series won considerable acclaim and fame at the time. Consisting of three seasons, altogether of 26 one-hour long episodes, it ran in the UK in mid-eighties, and in Poland for the first time in the very late eighties/early nineties – which is when we watched it. Oh, those were the times! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Piotrek: A long time ago indeed. I remember running home from school to watch an episode, and being angry at my parents for taking me for a Winter break trip – because I was going to miss some episodes. They were all played on TV, on fixed schedule, with no repeats and no chance to watch it any other way. Young readers won’t get that ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ola: The series is notable for a change of the male lead – Michael Praed, who played Robin in the first two series, resigned from the role after two seasons, and Jason Connery took the role of the second Robin. As the two were nothing alike, [SPOILER ALERT] the first Robin ended being killed by the evil Sheriff. There was also a plan for a fourth series, but the producer, Goldcrest, resigned due to financial problems – and the whole plot remained mysteriously unresolved, somewhat adding to the series’ legend and cult following.

 

 

 

On the left – Michael Praed, on the right – Jason Connery

Piotrek: That’s still a rare solution, and was a revolutionary one – to simply kill off the main character of the show, after two seasons. Ok, it was forced, but we didn’t know then, and it made quite an impression. Crossbow bolts ended Robin of Loxley and for a moment all was lost. Until the next hero was chosen, in Robin of Huntingdon. And he literally is chosen, by another iconic character of this series, Herne the Hunter.

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Ola: Herne originally appeared in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor as a ghost:

Sometime a keeper here in Windsor Forest,

Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,

Walk round about an oak, with great ragg’d horns;

And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle,

And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain

In a most hideous and dreadful manner.

cernunnos

Cernunnos, the Celtic god of hunt

He was often associated with Cernunnos, the antlered god of hunt in the Celtic mythos, or even with all paleolithic figures, such as The Sorcerer, but there were also other theories, linking him to Odin, or even a real, historical figure. The last approach was favored by the series’ creators, and in Robin of Sherwood Herne is fully human, a shamanic figure endowing his consecutive “sons”, heroes of the woods, with special gifts – both material and transcendent.

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The Sorcerer in the Cave of the Trois-Frรจres around 13,000 BC, sketch of Breuil’s drawing

Piotrek: One thing that stayed with me – excellent music, by the a BAFTA winning Irish folk group Clannad. Made famous by their earlier for-TV work, closing music for Harry’s Game, a dark but very good 3-episode series about the Troubles. Series largely forgotten now, seen by me years after Robin of Sherwood, and yet, in my personal opinion, a series that aged so much better than one we review now.

Ola: Yes, Clannad’s music was a phenomenon at the time, and a sign of renewal of the whole folk music genre. It’s notable now for having been the first stepping stone for Enya in her worldwide carreer. I do admit to having Robin of Sherwood soundtrack on a tape ๐Ÿ˜‰ No idea where it is now, but I did have it ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

 

Piotrek: Theme from Harry’s Game is actually my favourite song by Clannad, but Legend, the album where they collected songs made for Robert of Sherwood, is also great, and I even have a CD ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve listened to Clannad a lot these last few days and I have to say I still like their more folkish pieces, but when they go too much into pop, that’s not my kind of music.

A little digression – some time ago I discovered that British TV is not only BBC! And I don’t mean the modern channels, but two TV series I like a lot were created by something called Yorkshire Television… Harry’s Game,ย but alsoย The Sandbaggers, a spy series that run from 1978 to 1980 and covered the adventures of British cold-warriors. Budget was clearly limited, but writing and acting – superb, with complex plots that reminded me of Le Carrรฉ. It inspired Greg Rucka to write a comic books seriesย Queen & Country, series I like a lot – and that’s how a learned about the series.

Back to Robin – music is great and stayed with me for years, long after I’ve forgotten the details of the show. That, and the memories of my younger self engrossed in the story of our valiant heroes fighting against the Norman oppression ensured the Robin a place in my personal Hall of Fame for years. Until, a ten years ago or so, I decided to go back and revisit the Sherwood. I fell asleep halfway through the first episode. Another attempt, a year or so later, made me give up after two.

Ola: Sadly, it was the same for me. I tried to watch the first episode about five years ago, and I switched it off after twenty minutes or so. I couldn’t stand the shaky image, the terrible fighting scenes with repeating images necessary to create even a shred of dynamism in the action scenes… The acting is very… naturalistic, which is my kind way of saying “almost nonexistent”, and the suspense is built mostly with music and scenery – which is generally a very smart and efficient way, provided it is not overused. I believe it still could be watchable – but mostly for kids, who usually don’t pay attention to technicalities ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have very fond memories of the series, and I spent days and months playing Robin with my cousins, making bows and arrows and frightening my grandmother’s chickens. But after the failed attempt of five years ago I never went back to the series, preferring to keep my memories intact.

Piotrek: Yes, our first journey into childhood nostalgia does not end well. The show aged badly, on this we agree. Fighting scenes… I see them as an example that progress do exist. With the rise of HEMA and, I would argue, more realistic games and genre books, the audience is more demanding and the specialists are more numerous and easily available. Not every show does it well, but it’s easier for those who try. The fights got not only more realistic, but also more dynamic, and here it’s hard to blame the creators of Robin, it’s just the case of modern audiences being used to different pace. So, trying to re-watch the series in this millennium was, for me, a painful experience.

Ola: And yet it had influenced so many other movies and shows and books – it became a true wellspring of ideas and imagery associated with Robin Hood. First of all, almost entirety of the series had been stolen and incorporated into Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – starting with the figures of a loyal, smart Saracen, the imagery of Marion as an ethereally beautiful, feisty redhead, and the slightly animal, hulking figure of Little John – all the way to the famous pole fight over the stream.

Piotrek: Yes, it was influential, and changed the wayย  Robin Hood was portrayed on the big and small screen alike. And the changes were for good. No more tights, more active Maid Marian, king Richard no more a good king to right all wrongs… I’m ready to acknowledge all the good it did, but don’t make me watch the show. I’ll just re-ready Pyle while listening to Clannad ๐Ÿ™‚

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Hmm, but if I want to go beyond Pyle’s Merry Adventures, what is the best modern literary take on Robin Hood? I seem to remember reading good things about Robin McKinley…

21 thoughts on “Nostalgia #1: Robin of Sherwood (1984-1986)

  1. Hurray for Clannad. I was never a huge fan of theirs, but they introduced me to Enya and for that I’d overlook a literal multitude of meh’ness. I’ve got an Enya station on Pandora and the theme from Harry’s Game regularly shows up ๐Ÿ™‚

    So this show was the precursor for the movie Prince of Thieves, eh? I remember watching that movie with my dad one weekend while my mom and younger siblings were away. It made quite the impression on me ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m sorry this didn’t age so well for you two, but I am glad you were smart enough to not force yourself to consume the whole thing all over and get sick of it. Keep those good memories!

    I also like this post in general ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thx! Well, I’d say it was. The Saracen character was reportedly originally going to be called Nasir, as in the show, but they changed it to avoid lawsuit ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Enya is great, I agree!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚ Yeah, I remember a few instances of things I had been awed by when I was younger which had aged poorly… Robin of Sherwood is the most nostalgia-tinged one, and that’s why we chose it for the opening of our series of posts ๐Ÿ˜‰ Some things are better left as fond memories ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m especially intrigued about the clannad music tbh- cos I really like that sound of thing. Shame that your first try at revisiting childhood nostalgia wasn’t so successful, but it makes sense to me- I’ve revisited some old BBC and ITV stuff in the past and it’s not all great! (I have no idea if I watched this to be honest- even though the costumes look familiar- because I grew up on so many Robin Hood adaptations that I can’t for the life of me tell which ones I’ve seen for definite- except for prince of thieves, which gave me nightmares ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, it’s always risky, sometimes I’m a bit afraid to go back, sometimes I only do to introduce my nieces to sth I liked…
      At least it gave me Clannad, and they are always somewehere on my playlists…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! We intended it this way, actually – nostalgia is sometimes a traitorous feeling, after all ๐Ÿ˜‰ But there is also a lot of good stuff in the queue ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Like

  3. I seem to remember watching a few of the Michael Praed episodes with our kids, but we all gave up (don’t know why) when Jason Connery took over—there may have been something less predictable on BBC… ๐Ÿ˜

    Nice to have a reminder of Herne, Cernunnos and the Cro-Magnon shaman again, especially after recently reviewing his appearance in The Dark is Rising, though I would have baulked at his relocation from Windsor Forest to Sherwood, I’m sure!

    “My” TV Robin Hood is played by the aptly named Richard Greene in the late 50s and early 60s, particularly because of the catchy theme tune. If you think the 80s fight scenes were tame you should have seen the ‘battles’ of the earlier Hood series involving, er, three or at most four outlaws and adversaries combined! There were other low budget TV series I enjoyed then featuring William Tell, Ivanhoe (Roger Moore!!), The Buccaneers (Robert Shaw!!!) and Sir Lancelot—all staple teatime viewing for us postwar youngsters!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haven’t seen any of this, but a two generations earlier Adventures of Robin Hood with Flynn were… kind of cool, in a nostalgic way, but so obviously dated, and the fights had no authenticity, I’ve been spoiled in this department by newer productions “)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Herne and Cernunnos and The Sorcerer seem to crop up in our conversations quite often lately – from Mythago Wood to The Dark is Rising to Robin of Sherwood…
      I really didn’t like the Connery series, it seemed so far-fetched and unrealistic(!) after the Praed series, and besides the six-year-old me still believed Robin alive, so when a blondie came to take his spot you can imagine I was quite irritated! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Like

    • Rickman is always a delight ๐Ÿ™‚ Great wizard, great sheriff, and the list goes on and on…

      Right, I remember reading your post, now that I feel like reading some Robin Hood stories, I’m reminded I should add Tomlinson to my list!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks!
      I definitely need to read something by Tomlinson…
      And yes, Rickman was a great actor, in whatever role he chose to play. His Sheriff was wonderful – though I remember the Sheriff from Robin of Sherwood was not bad either – capable and ruthless, a worthy foe ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What I like about all this is how the score stuck with you two. It’s the one thing that is undoubtedly timeless in all this too. And that makes me realize even more how important it is for a show/movie that its score beats the test of time. A bit unfortunate that all the rest doesn’t age well, even if it had major impact culturally and on so many cult classic shows/movies nowadays. Really nice first “nostalgia” post. I look forward to the next installment. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks! We’ve had a lot of fun writing this, despite the rather morose tune of it all ๐Ÿ˜‰ So there are definitely more posts to come ๐Ÿ˜€
      Yeah, music is pretty important to both of us – and I can see it is becoming a major feature of the movies and TV series these days, just look at Guardians of the Galaxy and some other new MCU movies, or series like Stranger Things, Mindhunter, or Luke Cage ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Nostalgia #2: Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995) | Re-enchantment Of The World

  6. Pingback: Nostalgia #3: Willow | Re-enchantment Of The World

  7. Awesome post!! I too loved Robin of Sherwood as a child. My best friend and I used to draw images of Herne obsessively and were in love with both Robins, although Michael Praed was our favourite. It was definitely a show that led me down the path to who I am now.
    Duly noted that it doesn’t stand up to re-viewing. It’s so sad when that happens โ€ฆ and yet, in a way, kind of magical that our memories have preserved it as something wonderful. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I love the idea for these Nostagia posts, and look forward to reading your others as and when. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice thought about the nature of childhood memories ๐Ÿ™‚

      We decided to take risks, for me it’s, among other things, a way to select stuff from my childhood to show my nieces, but some memories will lose their magic along the way…

      Liked by 1 person

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