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Monday, February 27, 2012

Robin of Sherwood set 2 concludes series

Robin of Sherwood Set 2, containing all thirteen episodes of the third and final series, is now on Blu-ray and DVD. When Robin of Sherwood Set 1 ends, Robin of Loxsley (Michael Praed, Timewatch. Dynasty) is dead, leaving the characters in disarray. As Set 2 begins, a new Robin, Robert of Huntingdon (Jason Connery, Shanghai Noon), emerges. This Robin is significantly different, coming from a privileged background. But he is soon tapped by Herne the Hunter (John Abineri) to take over the legendary sword, and with it, the role of Robin of the Hood. The new Robin is reluctant, until Marion (Judi Trott) is kidnapped, and he springs into action, rousing the Merry Men back together, and resuming the noble work left undone by his predecessor.

If one is a fan of Set 1, Robin of Sherwood Set 2 has many of those same great characteristics. It is largely shot outdoors, in authentic settings. The budget may not be huge, but what there is is dedicated to the special effects of the magical elements, which are stepped up in this second set. This is a show with a lot of the supernatural, and also, a lot of sword fights, which are usually executed in a seemingly realistic manner. The acting is the same high quality as Set 1, and aside for a handful of cheesy missteps, the story, as a whole, remains among the best of the genre. Robin of Sherwood, which aired in the U.S. as Robin Hood, is worthy of being remembered, and Set 2 carries on the proud traditions of Set 1.

Connery, son of Sean, takes over the mantle well. He is physically and temperamentally very different from Praed's Robin, which is a good thing. Any imitation would have fallen short, and for Robin of Sherwood to keep going with a different lead, a new nature needed to be incorporated. Connery plays the part in a manner that does not resemble the former Robin, but it is not inferior, either. He handles the dramatic and the mystical with ease, and one wonders why his career, while respectable, did not take off further after this.

Of course, many of the other great characters from the first set return. Of particular note are Will Scarlet (Ray Winstone, the fourth Indiana Jones), Nasir (Mark Ryan, the new Transformers films), and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Nickolas Grace, Brideshead Revisited). The latter is a fantastic villain, who still chills and proves a worthy antagonist three seasons in. Another bad guy with an intriguing twist is Sir Guy of Gisburne (Robert Addie, Excalibur), who uncovers a startling secret. Unfortunately, Robin of Sherwood is canceled before all of the implications of that twist can be fully explored.

For a series so old, it is remarkable at how well Robin of Sherwood has been restored! The picture quality is quite good, if a bit soft, with clear colors, and images relatively sharp, considering. It isn't the same as today's releases, of course, but it is definitely one of the better touched up series of the past that surely needed a lot of work. That it looks as good as it does deserves high praise. The audio is pretty good, too. The episodes are not available in surround sound, but the stereo mixes are decent, and not distracting. Sound effects and music are blended well with dialogue, and it does not appear that anything gets lost in the output.

Robin of Sherwood Set 2 delivers on the bonus features. Nine of the thirteen episodes have audio commentary tracks, which use some of the principal actors and creative team. There are fun anecdotes, and some rich background information. There are also cast filmographies, a thirteen minute blooper reel, a photo gallery with over 400 images, three episodes with tracks available to listen to the music by itself, and a preview for the U.S. Showtime run.

That's far from all. A 76 minute documentary called "Nothing's Forgotten: The Making of Robin of Sherwood) tells a comprehensive story of the series, with many of the central acting and backstage team involved. The band Clannard, which won awards for scoring the show, gives a twelve minute interview about what they bring to the table. Performer Mark Ryan talks about the swordplay techniques used in an eight minute feature. And Esta Charkham, a producer, presents a four minute retrospective through photographs.
Robin of Sherwood Set 2 is a solid collection, well worth the purchase price. For fans of British television of the fantasy genre, this is a must-have for any comprehensive collection. Buy Robin of Sherwood Set 2 on sale now on Blu-ray and DVD.

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