The first season ran originally on BBC in 1984. It has six episodes.

This is one of the first Robin Hood adaptations I ever saw and it’s still my favorite. It’s an interesting blend of mystical and gritty.

Robin (played by Michael Praed) is from the village of Loxley which the Sheriff of Nottingham (played by Nikolas Grace) destroys in the first episode. He also kills Robin’s father. But this isn’t a tale of revenge. In fact during the show, Robin has several opportunities to kill the Sheriff but he doesn’t. I think mostly it’s because Grace was an excellent actor in his part and they didn’t want to replace him.

In the first two part episode, ”Robin Hood and the Sorcerer”, Robin gathers his band of Merry Men and Marion. He’s also chosen by Herne the Hunter as an agent of light and fights the forces of darkness, represented by Baron de Belleme. The magic in this first episode is mostly visions but Belleme is able to do some sort of telekinesis, as well, and put people under his control. Robin is called Herne’s son and the ”Hooded Man”. The pagan religious element isn’t overwhelming in the series but is present in almost every episode.

The first episode has several classic elements. Robin fights Little John over a river, just as the old tales say. However, in this version, Baron Belleme has bewitched Little John to be his servant and Robin frees John. Another element is the archery contest which Robin wins by shooting an arrow which splits another arrow. He wins the silver arrow which is here a magical artifact.

Much the Miller’s son is Robin’s foster brother and after Guy of Gisbourne kills Much’s father, Much has no choice but to follow Robin as an outlaw. He is the youngest of the group and a little naive. Will Scarlett is found in Nottingham’s dungeons. He’s a hot tempered Saxon who hates the nobility and is the quickest to argue with Robin. Marion is the Sheriff’s ward and Tuck is her confidante. A completely new character is brought in and people liked him so much that in later adaptations, too, the Merry men include a Saracen. Nasier is another of Belleme’s servants. After Robin kills Belleme, Nasir joins forces with the Merry Men. He doesn’t talk much but nobody ever doubts his loyalty. Also, the group seems to be always recruiting more men so most episodes have some extra Merry Men around.

Other episodes:
”The Witch of Elsdon”, ”Seven Poor Knights from Acre”, ”Alan A Dale”, and ”The King’s Fool”.

Right from the start, the series’ main villains, Gisbourne and the Sheriff, are established as very nasty men. They are both bullies with short tempers. The Sheriff also bullies and belittles Gisbourne constantly. They both treat the villagers like, well, like Norman overlords most likely treated the Saxon serfs. The Sheriff is a supreme opportunist who grabs at any chance to make his life easier or make Robin’s life harder, as is seen in the ”Seven Poor Knights from Acre” or ”Allan A Dale”. Gisbourne (played by Robert Addie) is the muscle of the pair and commands the men-at-arms. A third recurring villain is Abbot Huge the Rainault, the Sheriff’s land-greedy brother. I think all three were superbly cast. Also, the camaraderie between the Merry Men is shown in stark contrast to the way that the villains behave towards the people around them and to each other.

The show doesn’t glamorize the outlaws’ life: they literally live in the forest, and people are killed often. In ”Allan A Dale” we are shown how difficult it is for any of the band to have a family or even a lover. Little John is found in the village of Wickham where he has been visiting his lover. Even just seeing the outlaw fleeing from the village is enough for the Sheriff to charge extra taxes from the village.

Oh and I really enjoyed the portrayal of Marion. In the first episode, ”Witch of Elsdon”, the men try to make her just ”a nurse and a cook” and leave her in the camp ”safe” when the men go out to rob the rich, but she won’t have it. She shows them that she’s a valuable member of the group and the writing supports this. So, she’s always in the thick of things. And she’s a terrible cook. 🙂

A strong part of the show’s atmosphere comes from the haunting music which is done by Clannad.

Apparently, the show was quite expensive to make and it was canceled one season sooner than was planned.

I don’t know if it looks dated to someone who is seeing it now for the first time, but it doesn’t to me. I believe it was filmed outdoors in England so the places are authentic. I noticed that they used the same three or four horses everywhere which was a bit distracting.

I think this first season might be the strongest of the show. The writing is good and the stories are highly entertaining. In the first episode, a pretty woman is accused of sorcery and to save her and her husband’s life, she agrees to poison the outlaws. In the second episode, the Merry Men are pitted against the Knights Templar. In the third, the Sheriff is getting married because a large dowry and Robin is persuaded to save the poor, young bride. In the final episode, King Richard returns home and wants to see the famous Wolfshead.

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