Before I get into the review, I must admit that Robin of Sherwood is my show. My one true fandom. I can’t overstate the impact the series had on my life in the mid-80s, from forming certain spiritual beliefs, to flying cross-country for numerous conventions, to writing volumes of fanfiction. To this day I count amongst my friends so many people I met from those glorious days, including at least two cast members.
Writer/creator Richard “Kip” Carpenter created magic back then, but in 1986 the series was canceled and we were left with an ending that broke our hearts (Marion in the convent? No way!). Carpenter had a script he shopped around with no success; this was about the time “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves” came out. The less I say about that movie, the better, except that Alan Rickman admitted he was riffing off Nikolas Grace’s Sheriff, and Morgan Freeman’s original name was Nazir – way too close to Carpenter’s Nasir, so they had to change it.
Thanks to a fandom that never let the series die, a cast who acknowledges the impact of their roles, Kip’s daughter Harriet, and actor/producer Barnaby Eaton-Jones, that this script, “Knights of the Apocalypse” has finally seen the light of day as an audio production. I can’t even begin to describe all of the feels, every emotion that flowed through me when I opened up my package this weekend and saw my CD. After the initial shriek of joy, I just held it for a while, not completely believing this was really happening.
I listened to the CD yesterday, having finally scrounged a CD player (not as easy as you think in this digital era), closed the door, put all family on notice of the perils of interruption, closed my eyes, and let myself be transported back to Sherwood……
Some time has gone by since we last saw our Merries; Robin has wooed Marion out of the convent, and Gisbourne went off to fight in Normandy and somehow survived. Now, King John has been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church, which means England is under Interdict – no baptisms, no marriages, no last rites. The atmosphere is ripe for fringe groups to take charge, like the Knights of the Apocalypse. The mysterious group sends an envoy Gerard de Ridefort (played by Colin Baker) to Nottingham, whom the Sheriff blows off in his usual sardonic, I’m-so-done-with-you way.
Meanwhile our Merries, are up to their usual no good, breaking the law – this time, it is Friar Tuck at the helm, performing those forbidden baptisms, marriages, and last rights. Of course, Gisbourne and his goons show up, there’s a battle and a chase, and on the way back into Sherwood, they encounter de Ridefort.
That’s where the breath-taking adventure begins, and to give any more plot detail away would be entering spoiler territory. Our Merries are all back in fine form, their banter as clever and funny as ever – great work for a cast who hasn’t worked together in over 30 years. Nasir talks more than he ever did in the entire 3 video seasons, but his lines are great ones: “I like to fight with swords. Two swords.” Sounds almost James Bond-ish to me. Marion is feistier than ever, a fighter in her own right, not just a love interest. She gets in some pretty good zingers, too.
Nickolas Grace very nearly owns the show; he hasn’t changed one iota and most likely never will, despite what befalls him during this adventure. Anthony Head as Guichard de Montbalm, the Grand Master of the Knights of the Apocalypse is dark, scary and vicious. Freddie Fox steps up well to the plate to fill in for the late Robert Addie as Gisbourne and he does a great job. Daniel Abineri steps in for his late father John Abineri, and the voice resemblance is uncanny. Herne is still Herne.
The audio production is incredible – you hear the pounding hoofbeats of the horses, the clang of steel on steel, the twang of the bow, the rushing of water – all in glorious stereo. The story is a bit darker than the usual Robin of Sherwood episode; there’s a rather jaw-dropping plot twist too. That being said, there are also some great full on belly laughs, such as when Will, John, and Nasir have to break into Nottingham Castle. That was absolutely brilliant.
Musically, Clannad is back with the iconic opening, “Robin the Hooded Man.” Other music is provided by Alexander White, whose riffs on the original Clannad themes are just beautiful (I’d love the soundtrack.)
Was this diehard fan happy? She was indeed. To be back in the forest again after so many years, and as if time has stood still for all of us, is a gift beyond words. Once again thank you to a committed cast, Kip Carpenter’s daughter Harriet, and most of all to Barnaby Eaton-Jones, who made this dream a reality. Nothing is truly forgotten, my friends. Nothing is forgotten.