Robin of Sherwood is a show that captured my heart as a child. I was very young when it was on (between the ages of three and five) and it was never repeated but I remember vividly playing “Robin Hood” every summer, with a Bamboo longbow and cane arrows that for some reason I was allowed to carry and use in our garden and the local villages. When I heard about an Indiegogo campaign to produce an audio adaptation of an unused script (The Knights of the Apocalypse), I jumped on board immediately. Now, the audio drama starring the original (third season) cast – with the exception of the late John Abineri and Robert Addie – and some voices familiar to Doctor Who televisual and audio alumni has arrived on my desktop and it is time to see if it measures up to a show I watch once a year now that I have it on Blu-Ray …
England in the reign of King John and a dark force is intent on conquest. Only the hooded man can stand against it… The church lies impotent at the mercy of the Pope and the interdict against the kingdom. With the people living in fear and a series of disappearances that threaten the very fabric of noble society, Robin ‘i’ the hood and his band of outlaws must race to rescue the past so that the future may be protected. A journey to Huntingdon and beyond Sherwood will see them battle their most dangerous enemy yet as Herne’s son faces The Knights of the Apocalypse…
As the audio started, I felt like I was watching an episode of the classic series. A teasing pre-title scene which led into Clannad’s haunting title music coming in over the top of the dialogue. A great start. Capturing the magic of a beloved television show is not an easy process, but Spiteful Puppet have certainly managed it with The Knights of the Apocalypse. The story – adapted for audio by John Dorney (who I am familiar with from his work on Doctor Who audios) – came from the pen of Robin of Sherwood creator Richard Carpenter and it shows, bearing as it does all the action, drama and mystical elements of that series.
During the course of the two-part story, Dorney manages to fill in enough character and “world” back story through the play to introduce a new audience to this classic series without being heavy handed and intrusive to those, like me, who are invested in the series. The adaptation of The Knights of the Apocalypse to the audio medium holds up well. Yes, there are a few moments where characters are forced into some exposition of what they are doing – notably Nasir explaining to his foe where his blades are at the end of an altercation – but these are unavoidable to an extent in an audio production and for the most part slip by without taking the listener out of the story.
As to the plot itself … well, I don’t want to go into details but suffice it to say that The Knights of the Apocalypse is a brilliant blend of historical and magical drama. The pace is well balanced and enough time and attention is spent on all characters so that listeners truly get a feel for them as the audio progresses. One thing that really jumped out at me were the moments when the band of outlaws were clearly just enjoying their company. the camaraderie between the outlaws and the bickering of the Sheriff and his villainous associates are my favourite elements from Robin of Sherwood. Both of these elements were present at various stages of the production, which added to my delight.
The cast are on top form in this audio offering – both regulars from the series (I’ve listed the full cast at the end of the review) but also the guest cast. Both Colin Baker and Anthony Head are excellent in their performances on the wrong side of the Outlaw band. Head in particular seems to relish his role and makes a charmingly villainous foe who fully believes in his cause.
Particularly satisfying was that the original cast all sound exactly the same as they did those thirty years ago. Nickolas Grace in particular seemed to enjoy his return to the series and once more steals the show with his performance of the definitive Sheriff of Nottingham. A performance that influenced Alan Rickman and beyond.
The sound design is also superb. Forest background noises help set the outdoor scene and the stone corridors of castles and priories all echo magnificently. If I were to make one small criticism it’s that the sound of bows being fired in Knights of the Apocalypse don’t match the unique (and inaccurate it has to be said) sound that appeared in the television series. On the other hand, new elements added to the score recall the original Clannad musical score perfectly.
I realise that this review may seem to be tinged with broad strokes of nostalgia but it is almost impossible for me to step back from a series that really helped mould my childhood and – in all honesty – my adulthood. Knights of the Apocalypse is a must listen for fans of audio drama, Historical drama, fantasy drama, Robin Hood and Robin of Sherwood in particular.
While I eagerly await news that the producers are putting together a whole series of Robin of Sherwood releases (please please do!) I feel the urge to take out my Blu-Rays and watch the original series … Oh and get hold of the OTHER Robin Hood series that Spiteful Puppet produce!
Robin of Sherwood: The Knights of the Apocalypse is produced by Spiteful Puppet and is available to pre-order now. The Audio Drama will be released on 30 June, 2016.
- Robert of Huntingdon (Jason Connery)
- Maid Marian (Judi Trott)
- Will Scarlet (Ray Winstone)
- Little John (Clive Mantle)
- Nasir (Mark Ryan)
- Much (Peter Llewellyn Williams)
- Friar Tuck (Phil Rose)
- Abbot Hugo (Philip Jackson)
- Earl of Huntingdon (Michael Craig)
- Herne The Hunter (Daniel Abineri)
- Gisburne (Freddie Fox)
- The Sheriff of Nottingham (Nickolas Grace)
- With Anthony Head, Colin Baker, Terry Molloy and Lisa Bowerman.
Rating: 5 / 5