If you haven’t seen the first two seasons of ITV’s Robin of Sherwood, you might want to stop reading now, as there’s no way to adequately talk about series three without spoiling a big plot development. If you are in the know about how the British Robin Hood series from the mid-‘80s ended its second season, however, you’ll want to check out the newly released Blu-ray of Robin of Sherwood: Set 2, which collects the third and final season in a fantastic presentation from Acorn Media.
Losing your lead actor mid-series usually is a death knell for a TV show. Some series with ensemble casts have pulled off the switch with aplomb, but it’s far tougher to do in a show that centers around that character, much less a show named for that very character. That’s the dilemma the producers of Robin of Sherwood faced at the end of the second series, when Michael Praed decided to stop being Robin Hood and start being a Broadway actor. Series two concluded with the death of Robin Hood and the lingering question of how the show would continue without its star and most important character. The answer came in the form of some clever writing that both introduces new elements to the Robin Hood legend and also draws from traditional folklore to create an unexpected and highly enjoyable continuation for the story.
Creator Richard Carpenter, faced with the challenge of somehow resurrecting the folk hero he killed at the end of the second season, embraced the unreliable nature of folklore. Robin Hood is one of the best known figures of British lore, but there are many conflicting stories about who the famous rogue actually was. Some tales present him as a peasant who assembled and lead a band of heroic thieves, much like Michael Praed’s Robin in the first two series. Still others have Robin Hood descending from a line of aristocracy to don the cowl and fight against the very institution and class that birthed him. That’s the direction Robin of Sherwood goes when it introduces Robert of Huntington, the son of an Earl, and destined to pick up the bow dropped by his fallen predecessor.
Jason Connery, the son of film legend Sean Connery, joins the cast as Robert, the reluctant heir to Sherwood. Herne, a forest spirit who called upon the previous Robin Hood, similarly summons Robert to the task of protecting the poor from the villainy of the rich. It takes a few episodes before the transition sticks, but eventually the Merry Men rejoin, and even Marion, still dealing with the death of her outlaw husband, heads back into the forest. The old villains are back with the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisburne, working under the command of King John. New in the rogue’s gallery this season is Gulnar, a wicked sorcerer played by Richard O’Brien of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame.
The third series of Robin of Sherwood deals largely with Robert’s transition into the role of Robin Hood as the former Robin’s allies and widow learn to live with this newcomer. The capers and encounters pit Robin against his foes with some new twists that manage to break away from the tried and true patterns of Robin outwitting the Sheriff at every turn. There’s even a developing romance between Robin and Marion that progresses at an appropriately slow pace, given that Marion still is grieving the recent death of her husband. It’s a shame that the third series turned out to be the final one for Robin of Sherwood, because the season lays some very intriguing groundwork that doubtlessly would have delivered even more exciting adventures in the following season. Alas, the funding ran out after this third series was produced, so this volume closes the book on Richard Carpenter’s unique take on the robber king.
The Blu-ray presentation looks fantastic, especially considering the age and source of the original material. Three Blu-ray discs come in the set, spreading the third season’s thirteen episodes across them. There’s an additional DVD included that rounds out a robust collection of bonus material. Among the extras are the following:
- Nine audio commentaries for episodes
- Photo gallery
- Music-only tracks for three episodes
- 76 minute documentary about the making of Series 3
- Interview with Clannad about the musical scoring of the series
- Photographic retrospective by the producer
- Robin Hood: 1-2-3 Screen Swordplay – A featurette about the sword fighting styles used in the series
- 13 minutes of outtakes
- 5 minute promotional short
If you enjoyed the first Blu-ray volume of Robin of Sherwood released by Acorn Media, this second volume is a must-have. If you’re new to this classic but perhaps hidden gem of a series, you should start with the first volume and watch your way up through this one. Either way, Robin of Sherwood is a uniquely written and produced take on the legend of Robin Hood, and the masterful development of this third season is a testament to the creators’ ability to adapt to situations that would demolish most TV shows outright. Robin of Sherwood: Set 2 released on Blu-ray on February 14, 2012, and is available in stores now.