Shiny Shelf

Robin of Sherwood: Series Two DVD

By Jim Smith on 08 November 2002

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

The second season of ‘Robin of Sherwood’ sees the programme hit its peak. Not one of these episodes is anything other than first rate. A couple of them are remarkable pieces of work by any standard. Whereas the first season has a couple of ‘lesser’ episodes (‘Alan a Dale’ and ‘The Witch of Elsden’ fall short – in script terms – of the standards set by the others) Season Two’s single second stringer, the deeply bizarre ‘The Enchantment’ is only relegated to non-premier league status by two unfortunate coincidences. 1) It’s wedged between the genuinely epic ‘The Swords of Wayland’, and the downright terrifying ‘Lord of the Trees’, and 2) It’s about the resurrection of Robin’s arch enemy Simon de Bellame – a plot strand abandoned when Michael Praed jumped ship in order to go to Broadway. This renders the episode’s deferred ending mysteriously pointless rather than mysterious and compelling – if Bellame had featured in the third season this would be an enticing curtain raiser – as it is it’s downright disconcerting.

Leaving this petty complaint aside, this is a terrific box set containing terrific television. The series’ original strengths are still hugely evident; literate, witty scripts, a superb cast, inspired filmic direction (tonnes of filters, bags o’ slo-mo and Spielbergian combined dolly shot/crash zooms) and brilliant scores – and the re-mastering of the picture into eyeball-dazzling vision and the sound into stereo has been conducted with remarkable skill.

To praise one episode out of this batch would be to single it out, and the quality is so consistent so as to mean that after finishing lauding the fiendishly complex and action-packed ‘The Prophecy’, I’d have to move on to talking about the wise and moral ‘Children of Israel’. I don’t have the time or space to do this, and I doubt you have the patience. So I’ll come straight to ‘The Greatest Enemy’, in which Praed’s Robin of Loxley gives his life for his friends – his body smashed to the ground by crossbow bolts against a blood red sky. As Praed’s innate nobility combines heart-breakingly with writer Kip Carpenter’s dialogue, the music and production get on on the act, combining with the other elements to produce scenes which touch on the divine. “There are so many things that I wanted to say,” Robin tells Marian moments before his death, “But time’s caught me up and now I’ll never say them; except that I’ve loved you since the moment I first saw you, and every moment since.” She cries. Everyone cries.

The extra features couldn’t feasibly be equally impressive, but they certainly are good. The third part of the enormous ‘Making of’ documentary (the first two bits were in the previous box, the remaining will be in the last two) interviews all the key figures, all of whom have some interesting things to say. Nickolas Grace’s obsession with musicals is amusing – as is his constant repetition of the phrase ‘We make Excitement!’ – and Mark Ryan and Ray Winstone’s mock-bitching session about who killed the most people on the show (‘I killed more Normans in the first episode than he did over three series’ sneers Winstone at one point) is laugh-out-loud funny.

In some ways this box set seems to be setting out to be the Definitive Statement on the series, hence the inclusion of such things as gag reels (moderately amusing) photo galleries and foreign title sequences. Everything you could want to know and more is included. It’s like The Beatles anthology, but for the high water mark of British Fantasy TV rather than world pop.

Line Break

Comments are closed.