Pretty much every single Richard Carpenter series has achieved classic status, from Catweazle to The Ghosts of Motley Hall to Dick Turpin and most of all his retelling of the Robin Hood legend.
Set at the end of the 12th Century (with suitably atmosperic theme tune and incidental music from Irish folk outfit Clannad), Michael Praed, then an unknown, is Robin of Loxley whose home is destroyed by soldiers of the Sheriff of Nottingam. Finding himself imprisoned, he teams up with the other inmates to mount a break out and once safely in the woods of Sherwood realises his destiny is to become the outlaw Robin Hood and try free the people from the tyranny of the evil Sheriff and wicked Prince John and see King Richard (who is off fighting the crusades) restored to his rightful place on the throne.
Carpenter’s vision is wonderfully fresh and adds a huge amount to the whole Robin Hood legend, a thrilling mix of historical realism with a heavy dose of both magic and myth. Robin for example is shown his destiny by Herne the Hunter (John Abineri of Survivors fame), a folkloric figure of the forest who is there to dispense words of wisdom to Robin, likewise Little John joins the outlaw after Robin frees him (during the traditional fight over the river) after he is bewitched by the evil Simon de Belleme (the excellent Anthony Valentine). Realism is provided by the take no nonsense Will Scarlet (a young Ray Winstone) and there is also a great addition to the team in the shape of Saracen Nasir (Mark Ryan) who proved so successful that most subsequent versions of the legend (including the Kevin Costner big budget Hollywood version) have kept a Saracen in the mix, this of course was a total invention of Carpenters. There is romance too with Judi Trott’s sweet Marion becoming a major part of the outlaw gang.
After two seasons Michael Praed decided to take advantage of the offer of a leading role in a Broadway musical (The Three Musketeers) and he would also go on to appear in Dynasty. Carpenter thought that would be the end of it and made sure that Robin was given a fitting hero’s death in the final episode of the season, sacrificing himself to save the rest of the outlaws.
Not surprisingly the makers were unwilling to let the series go and a third (twice as long) third season was made, Carpenter very clevery got around the death of Robin of Loxley by incorporating the other main figure in the Robin myth, Robin of Huntingdon into the mix. Chosen by Herne he has to bring together the outlaws, who, not surprisingly have gone their separate ways and Marion herself has returned to her father. During the course of the season Friar Tuck discovers that Robin and the horrible Guy of Gisburne are actually brothers but that doesn’t stop the gang siding with Huntingdon. The love interest with Marion is rekindled and some of the strongest episodes in this season focus on their relationship, things don’t work out how you anticipate either although we won’t say more.
The show always attracted a high level of guest stars including the likes of John Rhys Davies, John (Midsomer Murders) Nettles, Gemma Craven,Oliver Tobias, Lewis Collins (and his Professionals partner Martin Shaw in an unbilled role in the same episode), Ian Olgilvy and Patricia Hodge.
“Nothing’s forgotten, nothing is ever forgotten”.
UK / ITV – HTV – Goldcrest / 2×120 minute episodes 22×60 minute episodes / 1984-86
Creator: Richard Carpenter / Music: Clannad / Executive Producer: Patrick Dromgoole
MICHAEL PRAED as Robin of Loxley(84-85)
JUDI TROTT as Maid Marion
NICKOLAS GRACE as Sheriff of Nottingham
RAY WINSTONE as Will Scarlett
CLIVE MANTLE as Little John
JASON CONNERY as Robin of Huntingdon(86)
JOHN ABINERI as Herne the Hunter
PHIL ROSE as Friar Tuck
MARK RYAN as Nasir
PHILIP JACKSON as Abbot Hugo
ROBERT ADDIE as Guy of Gisburne
RICHARD O’BRIEN as Guhar(86)