I may have spotted an inaccuracy in Robin Hood

Robin Hood
What is wrong with this pic­ture? Apart from the fact it isn’t of Marian.

I’ve tried to like the BBC’s new series Robin Hood. I know some people didn’t like it, but I thought the first epis­ode had some redeem­ing fea­tures and I think I’ve been proved right, because they were removed for the second epis­ode. I grudgingly admire the way they’ve sought to hide the poor qual­ity of the story by dis­tract­ing the viewer with truly awful cuts in edit­ing, but it’s not work­ing. Take the shot above for example. In the lead up to this Robin breaks into the Sheriff’s room and threatens him with an arrow. The Sheriff, being Keith Allen, just laughs and sneers because he thinks Robin doesn’t have the guts to kill him. He’s prob­ably right, des­pite all the fight­ing no-one’s died yet. He sig­nals to a sol­dier sneak­ing up behind Robin. In an instant Robin turns round, shoots the guard dead and returns to threaten a now cower­ing Sheriff. The prob­lem is that he didn’t kill the guard. The guard was a Merry Man act­ing dead. To pro­tect him from the arrow he was wear­ing a board over his heart, which you see later hence the shot above.

If the pro­gramme had a plot then this would be called a spo­lier, but fair play to the BBC they’ve done that already.

Shooting secateurs out of guards hands, and then imme­di­ately shoot­ing them again to smash them in mid airt doesn’t bother me. Killing a man and instantly tak­ing another arrow to the bow doesn’t bother me. Robin has super­hero powers with a bow, so I can live with that. But I can­not live with a Merry man sur­viv­ing an arrow to the heart with a flimsy board over his chest. This man should not be at all merry. In the hands of a good bow­man the arrow is a deadly weapon, even if you’re wear­ing armour at a short dis­tance. If the bow were pulled prop­erly at this range I’d expect to see an exit wound. With the thin board as armour even a rel­at­ively poor bow should cause a lack of jol­lity. So clearly Robin couldn’t have pulled the bow prop­erly. But that would be pain­fully vis­ible to the Sheriff and so not at all scary. In Robin’s hands an arrow becomes a magic wand, and magic wands tend to kill stor­ies when in the hands of the good guys.

This is the major fea­ture killing the show for me. There’s fight­ing but no-one suf­fers. In this case the sol­dier could have died in a mor­ally accept­able fash­ion, Robin’s shot was self-defence, but instead a ridicu­lous explan­a­tion is give to show why no-one really dies. It’s like the A-Team without the gritty real­ism. The fight­ing in the court­yard between the pro­fes­sional sol­diers and the out­laws is equally limp. You get your sword and you attempt to whack your oppon­ent with as more force as pos­sible so that should the inter­cept your blow with their sword they end up sli­cing their own shoulder off. Unless you’re fight­ing a Merry Man in which case you act like a very bad Morris Dancer.

There’s really no excuse for this. I’m told it’s to avoid upset­ting chil­dren, but chil­dren love gore. It might be to avoid upset­ting their par­ents, but learn­ing that when people fight they get hurt and even die is an import­ant life les­son. Learning that you can shoot someone at point blank range and they’ll be ok is a very dan­ger­ous les­son. Besides how heroic is a hero who isn’t risk­ing his life?

I don’t know if this is the onset of middle-aged grump­i­ness, or whether it’s simply that the defin­it­ive Robin Hood was a fox. Mind you, so is Marian.

In related news Nottingham University are offer­ing an MA in Robin Hood Studies.


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.

4 Responses

  1. Ioannis says:

    MA in Robin Hood Studies? I hold an MA and a PhD from that Uni. Should I be wor­ried??? LOL

  2. This man should not be at all merry.” Haha, great stuff!

  3. sharon says:

    Yep, I agree. It’s a broader prob­lem than just the non-killing; the whole thing lacks any bite. It’s thor­oughly aver­age. (Even Keith Allen is disappointing.)

    I saw A Knight’s Tale on C4 last week. Now that was more like it, if you want silly medi­ev­al­ish­ness. Proper fun.

  4. Alun says:

    I think the MA could be a rather clever idea. If you can bring in com­bine good courses in History and English for an MA based on Norman England, then there’s no reason why Robin Hood Studies shouldn’t be worth­while. If they’re selling it by Distance Learning it could be a big attraction.

    As for the lack of bite I think I’ve worked out why I don’t like Robin Hood but am per­fectly happy with things like Xena or Mønti Pythøn ik den Høli Gräilen. It’s not even the lack of killing. It’s the impres­sion they’re try­ing for accur­acy and fail­ing appallingly. If Robin Hood had pulled out an AK-47 and shot the guard, who sur­vived because he had a pil­low stuffed with feath­ers from a bullet-proof goose under his clothes, then I’d like it a lot more.