Robin v. Robert v. Robin
Likes: Michael Praed makes a very nice-looking Robin (despite the 80s rock band/faux mullet style hair)- he is likeable as a rather reluctant hero, responding to a calling that had been given to his father and eventually passed to him. Jason Connery’s Robert of Huntingdon does a much better job of capturing the personality I’ve always associated with Robin Hood—cocky but good-natured, playful but knowing when to be serious, etc. Jonas Armstrong’s Robin is much the same (even the gap-toothed grin adds to the charm somehow), and I like how his Robin is much more impressive with the bow, something I think is fairly essential to the character of Robin. All three are good with the fighting/action.
Winner: Jason Connery—he does the best job capturing the essence of Robin’s character. (Jonas Armstrong is a close second, but loses on account of his relationships with both Isabella and Kate.)
Likes: Both women are strong-willed and independent, avoiding any “damsel in distress” stereotypes. Judi Trott’s Marion is part of the gang of Merry Men, joining with them in their various escapades, while Lucy Griffiths’ Marian acts as a spy for Robin in Nottingham Castle whilst masquerading as her own vigilante, the Night Watchman.
Winner: This one is tough—I really do like both characterizations of Marion/an overall. However, though I still hate Marion’s decision to become a nun even after she discovers Robin (Robert) wasn’t killed after all, I hate Marian’s flip-flopping even more. Judi Trott wins this round.
Likes: Clive Mantle’s gives Little John a very bearish look, reinforced by his shaggy hair and the furs he typically wears. Gordon Kennedy’s Little John is similar, minus the furs. Both are huge; both are formidable with the quarterstaff; at one point, both consider choosing marriage and family over life in Robin’s gang (though they both end up staying in the gang). I do like how Gordon Kennedy’s Little John, a man of few words, finds a way to make them memorable.
Winner: This one is also a hard choice. Since they are both very similar in the way they bring Little John to life, I declare this one to be a tie.
Likes: Phil Rose’s Friar Tuck is very likeable—he goes with the typical jovial interpretation, and it works. What is interesting is he is still able to maintain his Christian faith whilst respecting the fact that Robin and crew revere Herne the Hunter as their spiritual guide. It is a curious blend of paganism and Christianity, but I rather like it. I also like that despite his experience as a friar, he still fights for truth and justice. David Harewood is more unconventional—to begin with, he’s of African descent. He is not the stereotypical “fat friar”—in fact, he is not a friar at all, but just a priest (which is actually historically accurate—friars did not exist at the time of King Richard I). He portrays Tuck as a very strong-willed, progressive-thinking leader who pushes Robin to keep fighting for the people because the idea of Robin Hood is what gives them hope. Although he respects Robin as the leader of the gang, he has his own ideas of how things should be done, which sometimes clashes with how Robin thinks they should go.
Winner: Though I appreciate the originality of David Harewood’s Tuck, it just doesn’t quite fit with the Robin Hood story. This one definitely goes to Phil Rose.
Likes: Ray Winstone is fantastic as a fiery, hot-headed Will who would much rather take money for himself than do it for altruistic reasons. He sometimes challenges Robin, especially when Robert comes on the scene to take over the leadership of the “Merries.” He also has a personal vendetta against all Normans, since Norman soldiers had raped and murdered his wife in the not-too-distant past. Harry Lloyd’s Will is much more mellow. He’s more on the reticent side of things, but he has known Robin for years—even before the Crusades when Robin was still a nobleman—and is loyal to him. I like that he develops a romantic relationship with Djaq, even going so far as to stay with her in Acre.
Winner: This one is a tough call. They are on such opposite ends of the spectrum, but each does a fantastic job with their interpretation. I think I’ll go with Harry Lloyd, though, because his is the Will I picture for my story.
Likes: Peter Llewellyn Williams does a great job as far as his character is concerned. (I’m just not sure I agree that Much should be a simple-minded person.) I do like that he brings a sort of innocence to the gang, and his unconditional loyalty to Robin (which quickly transfers to Robert when he takes over) is sweet. Sam Troughton’s Much is more the loyal, comic sidekick—Robin’s manservant who followed him to the Crusades and back again, who is always ready to see the gloomy, practical side of things and ends up creating much of the humor. He is appealing in his own way, and I was very disappointed that he didn’t end up with Kate as a love interest, as he should have.
Winner: Sam Troughton’s comedic, complex character wins out over the innocence of Peter Williams.Nasir v. Djaq (a.k.a. The Saracens)
Likes: Since both series put Robin Hood at the time of the Crusades, I like how both characters, as Saracens, bring the Crusades back to England. Mark Ryan’s Nasir doesn’t say much with his mouth; instead, he says plenty with both his swords. From the get go, he was really just cool. Anjali Jay’s Djaq is skilled with bow and sword as well as with medicine, which helps the gang out of several tight pinches. She also contributes the much-touted superior knowledge of the Saracens (“black powder,” for example). What is also impressive is that for several episodes, she’s able to hide the fact that she’s a female from the rest of the gang.
Winner: Anjali Jay is pretty cool with fighting skills and medical know-how, but somehow, even with so few lines, Mark Ryan makes Nasir pretty much awesome! (Of course, I’m easily swayed by anyone fighting with two swords!)Now, the Villains:
Likes: Nickolas Grace plays a greedy, ruthless, corrupt Sheriff. Keith Allen plays a greedy, ruthless, corrupt Sheriff who is also quite ambitious. The difference? Keith Allen is a little more flamboyantly over the top, while Nickolas Grace is only slightly more subtle, very reminiscent of many Tim Curry villains (I am, of course, not counting The Rocky Horror Picture Show). I like that Nick Grace may be unscrupulous, but somewhere in his unstable mind, he thinks he really is upholding the law. He hates Robin not only because Robin steals money that is rightfully his, even if it is oppressive for the people, but also because Robin operates outside the law that he is responsible for upholding. Keith Allen goes with the Alan Rickman-type Sheriff who is willing to go so far as to depose the rightful King in order to further his own ambitions. He is conniving, manipulative, merciless, and mostly hates Robin because Robin keeps disrupting his carefully laid plans of treachery.
Winner: Nick Grace—as entertaining as Keith Allen is, I like Nickolas Grace’s Tim Curry-esque Sheriff better—over-the-top without pushing too far into ridiculous, so his crazy element is a bit more believable.
Likes: Though Robert Addie’s acting is solid, I just didn’t like how the writer/directors interpreted the character—far too whiny a bully to be a good villain. Still, he has moments where he is appropriately (villainous), and I like that he is still human and not entirely ruthless like the Sheriff. On the other hand, Richard Armitage’s Gisborne is a darker, brooding villain whose primary weakness is his genuine attraction to Marian. Unfortunately, he seems to think the “bad boy” persona is more likely to win her, even though she repeatedly tells him otherwise. However, despite some terrible deeds he commits in the course of the series, he is at last able to find redemption when he realizes just how dastardly and duplicitous the Sheriff really is and decides to actually help Robin.
Winner: Richard Armitage, hands down!
So, there you have it--my lengthy analysis of two enjoyable Robin Hood series. Now, it is up to you to decide if you want to make it worth your while to check them out...