OF SHERWOOD: JASON CONNERY
was quite impressed by Robin of Sherwood when
it first appeared on TV, but by the time Michael Praed had bowed
out of the title role at the end of the second series, I’d
begun to lose interest, and I never saw the third and final series
except in passing. So this collection of the Jason Connery years
was pretty new to me.
Taking a more mythical approach to the Robin Hood legend than
previous versions, Robin of Sherwood offered
a solid mix of action, fantasy and humour, aimed squarely at the
Saturday evening family audience. When Praed bailed to join Dynasty,
Connery took over as a new Robin, trading on the fact that the
legend of Robin Hood alternately identifies him as two different
people – a commoner-turned-outlaw, and the son of the Earl
of Huntingdon. It’s this latter incarnation that Connery
plays – a wealthy nobleman who is summoned by Herne the
Hunter to take over as the new Robin Hood when the original is
killed. Initially resisting, he is finally spurred to action when
Maid Marion (Judi Trott) is kidnapped by a band of ruffians. He
sets out to reunite the Merry Men – Little John (Clive Mantle),
Will Scarlet (Ray Winstone), Much (Peter Llewellyn Williams, Friar
Tuck (Phil Rose) and Nasir (Mark Ryan), and after the expected
misunderstandings and mistrust, the band are reunited. The rest
of the series follows their adventures as they battle the Sheriff
of Nottingham (Nickolas Grace) and Guy of Gisbourne (Robert Addie)
while robbing the rich to feed the poor.
Robin Hood has been filmed so many times that bringing something
new to the story was quite an achievement, especially as the story
had long since descended into camp. But there are no ‘men
in tights’ here, and the shows are fairly rough and ready,
with a surprisingly violent edge (bad guys are routinely shot
in the back; when the Sheriff refers to Robin and his men as ‘murderers’,
he’s not entirely wrong, given that one episode opens with
what can only be described as a massacre by them). Helped by Clannad’s
atmospheric music, the series has an authenticity and atmosphere
sadly missing in most versions – the less we say about the
recent BBC version of the story, the better.
Connery, it must be said, seems a little stiff at times, and while
convincing as the son of a Lord, is less effective in fight scenes.
But the supporting cast help things along nicely, and a strong
array of guest villains – Richard O’Brien, Lewis Collins,
Ian Ogilvy – along with strong screenplays from creator
Richard Carpenter and Anthony Horowitz keep things moving along
nicely. Nickolas Grace in particular does a fine job as the twitchy-eyed
Sadly, as sub-plot that reveals Robin to be the half-brother of
Gisbourne goes nowhere – presumably this would’ve
been explored in the fourth season. The abrupt cancellation of
the show, which was a ratings hit but too costly, means it ends
more on a whimper than a bang.
Still, watching it now, I was impressed at how well it holds up.
Thankfully shot entirely on film, it looks good, and while Connery’s
hair is very Eighties, it generally hasn’t dated.
It is, in short, a lot better than I recalled, and well worth
Network’s Blu-ray set is suitably extensive – with
commentary tracks, more chatty than informative, on each episode,
plus isolated music scores on several; a feature-length retrospective
documentary; vintage promo slots, outtakes, a piece on Clannad
and much more rounding out an impressive set.
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