The discs present a fullscreen 1.33:1 1080p transfer newly restored from the original 16mm elements. Due to the inherent nature of the filming process, it’s TV origins, their storage and deterioration over time, the work done on these prints reveals a level of detail previously unseen and brings out a depth of frame and boldness of colour that was never originally planned. I’m not going to state that what we have is absolutely pristine and will stand up to modern day big budget (or even limited budget) theatrical films, it clearly isn’t, but what we do have is a lovingly restored print that is worthy of your time and investment, and one that is streaks ahead of even its original broadcast quality.
Detail, as already alluded to, is generally, quite amazing – the series, when filmed, made extensive use of filters, smoke and other tricks to give it an ethereal, supernatural quality, a kind of haze of soft focus – this is, of course, still prevalent but the crispness of the image is now sharper than it has ever been, the definition of clothing weaves, the edges of distant landscapes, facial and skin detail is now clear – you can make out pores, hairs, damage and wear in clothing – highlighting the attention to detail in the costume design. It does have its slight drawbacks, effects, such has the cable holding Little John above Lionheart before he throws him to the ground is now obvious, as are the plainly fake horses on the rafts in the very beginning shot, but for the most part this higher detail level is extremely welcome.
Colours too have a new lease of life, the greens of the forest are now bolder and stronger, the earthy hues shine through with an added sense of urgency. Blues are clear and bright, the reds and oranges of fires of the various courts' colours are strong and shimmer with life. Flesh tones are slightly healthier, still pale, as they should be, but very natural looking. Brightness and contrast are set to give deeper and more impenetrable blacks, look at the dungeon scene in the first episode, particularly Scarlet’s monologue, an exercise in light and shadow!
Digitally there are no compression problems and all cases of posterization are now long gone, neither is there any edge enhancement, but unfortunately there are still some occasion print defects ranging from inconsistent brightness fluctuations to individual frames within scenes to far edge of frame flares (these can be reduced by using full frame rather than pixel mapping on your display), but for the age of the print and considering its source, I think they are perfectly acceptable, as is the healthy level of film grain that gives the entire image an organic and period look. The second season fairs no better than the first in terms of quality of image, both being incredible for their time. Wonderful stuff.
I concentrate on the English Dolby Digital 3.0 stereo track which has, again, been re-mastered from the original recordings and re-mixed by the production’s original sound engineers. A 3.0 track is a stereo front pair and a mono signal sent to the surrounds and for the most part evokes a decent sense of purpose. Stereo effects are rather limited, but galloping horses or the ‘chock, thump’ of flying arrows are well realised. Dialogue is handled very well, sounding very natural, but always from the front. The surrounds help out with some ambient effects, forest sounds, rain, thunder, castle/court mutterings which helps create a sense of immersion, but it is limited. What does come across with gusto is the wonderfully evocative score from Clannad, with its sweeping melodies and haunting cues, makes far more use of the surround environment. Bass is very limited, but that is to be expected, it does hold everything together well and there are seldom, if any, LF effects, but the sub does spring to life with the odd rumble of thunder and arrow hitting home. More a functional track than one to set your system alight, this is nevertheless a terrific track, considering its age and source, without any noticeable hiss, crackle or distortion.
- Audio Commentaries
The first season has commentaries from series creator/writer Richard Carpenter and director Ian Sharp on episodes Robin Hood and the Sorcerer Parts 1 & 2, and The King’s Fool. Now these two really know their stuff, they talk at length about the inspiration, their interpretation, the developments being both technical and anecdotal about what is happening onscreen, including all the historical references, Carpenter particularly getting to show off his near encyclopaedic knowledge of the period. The chat’s come across as two old pro’s chatting about their work, it is never dull or dry and always engaging.
The second season has commentaries from director Robert Young and series producer Paul Knight on episodes The Swords of Wayland Parts 1 & 2, and in stark contrast to what has gone before is all rather dull, mainly due to the amount of gaps in the talk. When they do strike up a conversation the information is relevant and pertinent with such information about costume design, where ideas came from, the direction the show was taking and how to deal with Praed’s leaving, but it dries up very quickly.
All these commentaries were recorded for previous DVD releases and are therefore a product of their time.
- Image Gallery
Both seasons get newly scanned in HD images of production and publicity shots than run as a montage for around 15 minutes.
- The Electric Theatre Show – 35.01, HD
Digitally restored, expanded and presented in HD, this behind the scenes making of documentary was filmed during the making of the very first story and contains plenty of footage and interviews with all the principle cast and crew, who all deliver their uncompromising thoughts on this new adaptation of a classic legend. It is a fascinating period piece and one that is quite historic in its nature being both informative and entertaining. They don’t make them like this anymore.
- Nothing’s Forgotten: The making of Robin of Sherwood – 1.42.14, SD
This exclusive feature is split into series one and series two but can be watched together with the play all function (even though you get the credits for part one before part two starts up). It is basically interviews with everyone involved with the series, principle cast and crew as they discuss everything about the series’ from conception to post production leaving no stone unturned. The only filler is film clips used to illustrate what is being talked about otherwise it’s just candid interviews and information. Never once is it dull and there is a real sense of camaraderie amongst the cast who are, even now, still firm friends.
- Outtakes – 08.35, 07.13, SD
Split into series one and series two these comprise of fluffed lines, dropping props, missing arrows, falling, slipping and gags pulled on each other, in what amounts to a great deal of fun for those involved and for us watching.
- Textless and Foreign Titles – 13.22, SD
The opening titles in various foreign languages showing the international appeal of the series.
- Prophecy Fulfilled – 10.01, SD
A short, newly recorded, feature on the making of The Prophecy episode with interviews recorded with the director Robert Young and actors Philip Jackson and George Baker. It’s short but to the point.
- Robert Young Remembers: The Swords of Wayland – 05.55, SD
Obviously filmed at the same time as the above feature this one concentrates on the titular episode, unfortunately contains material already heard in the commentary.
- Robert Young Remembers: The Greatest Enemy – 07.08, SD
Final piece of these short series’ of newly recorded material, this time concentrating on the season finale and the ideas on Pread’s leaving the show.
- PDF Material
Includes Richard Carpenter’s original story treatment for the series as well as scripts.
- 22 page booklet
Covering the conception, casting and filming of the entire three seasons of the show (i.e. beyond what is presented in this set) in the minutest detail and in full colour, an excellent read.
Whilst some of this extra material has been seen/heard before on previous DVD releases it is still well worth time invested, particularly the newly restored making of documentary. The inclusion of newly recorded material is very welcome and goes to show that the show still commands an audience and that the makers are so justly proud of their achievements that they are prepared to contribute to new releases. Shame that everything from the previous “Complete Collection” hasn’t been included. All the SD material is presented on a seperate extras DVD.
Ethereal, elegant and rightly hailed as a classic of television, Richard Carpenter’s take on British legend Robin Hood is regarded as the definitive interpretation of the myth. By combining mysticism, historical fact, folklore and absolute realism, this classic show is as relevant and watchable today as upon its original airing in 1984. With a stellar cast, tight, action packed scripts that tell terrific stories, this is, and still remains, the benchmark upon which all subsequent interpretations are measured, and for my money none come even close.
As a Blu-ray package, Network has released a magnificent set, by cleaning up the image and sound to a degree that surpasses even its original broadcast and backed up by a fantastic bunch of extras, this set needs to be in your collection. It’s marked ‘limited edition’ if that is so, don’t hesitate - get yours now.
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