Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Marian conspiracy

Last week one of the Dr's prized acolytes left for pastures new, though not without a knees-up and presents. While a fellow acolyte got a big bottle of booze, the Dr got the first series of Maid Marian on DVD. This says quite a bit about the level of respect and seriousness with which the Dr is served by her underlings.

The Dr was very excited about a rewatch, though I'd only seen a couple of episodes when it first went out last millennia because of not getting home from school until late. (I also missed all of Press Gang and have still not seen a bit of it. This, I feel, is a grevious oversight on the part of those who lend me Things To See.)

We laughed a lot, which is the main thing. As Robinson points out in the commentary, he was trying to put into practice all he'd learnt from Richard Curtis while playing Baldrick (and looking at the date, I realise Maid Marian overlapped with Blackadder, and also when-it-was-still-good Red Dwarf).

He also points out that every episode is based on a hoodie legend. I like how it plays with our ideas about history, with plenty of gags on things Yet To Be Invented (hot water bottles, rubber bands, ball billiards...). More implicitly, there's the central wheeze of Joe Public remembering Robin as the brains of the operation when really it was all down to a girl. In a single one-liner, Kate Lonergan says more about the treatment of women in history than any worthy degree courses in herstory ever could.
"Valentine Harries, whose book The Truth about Robin Hood examines with devotion and determination all possible clues, concludes that the legendary hero existed, first as a robber in Barnsdale, gradually acquiring a reputation for good deeds and remarkable skill with the longbow; that in 1324 he was found as a valet or yeoman of the chamber to Edward II, who was lenient over the question of his poaching and, being attracted to him -"
No sniggering at the back -
"took him into service; and that he died at Kirkless, possibly murdered by the Prioress there and one Roger de Doncaster, to be buried under Robert Hode's Stone in Barnsdale."

Robert Hardy, Longbow - a social and military history, p. 40.

Hardy's excellent book (which I obviously thieved The Immortals from) explains that, in a time when everybody had to practice their archering for the sake of national security, a working-class pretty boy with any talent would swiftly do well for himself. Hood was the David Beckham of his day then, rather than the Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen as Tony Robinson has it.

As well as the historical stuff, Maid Marian also gets in gags about the media versions of Robin, with Clannad-style sighing for the Whiteish Knight and a nice riff on Errol Flynn's horny anthem. I note from a programme guide that later seasons also shows gags about Costner. Was this first batch before even that? Gosh, that is a whole lifetime ago...

Hoodie new Hood, but that's not a longbow!Of course, there's new hoodie stuff coming soon, with Droo's Paul Cornell even writing one and Droo's grandson Sam up to Much. Same timeslot and promise of rollicking family fare as Droo, too. I remember back even before Maid Marian being on mutterings that Droo would be better more like Robin of Sherwood. How things have turned all about.

But look at that picture; that bain't be a longbow! I'm with Cornelius Fudge on this one:
"If Robin Hood did not draw six foot of good English yew, then he ought to have done."

Ibid., p. 38.

4 comments:

Neohippy'84 said...

woah, nostalgia time! MM and her Merry Men were a stsple part of my childhood viewing (alongside classics such as knightmare), and it's nice to see it referenced. Frankly though, any vehicle for Tony Robinson tends to get my vote - anyone heard him read Terry Pratchett? Brillilant.

0tralala said...

Not heard his Pratchett, but before MM he told brilliant stories-to-camera about Odysseus and Fat Tulip's Garden.

Paul Cornell said...

You try firing a longbow when you're crouched down inside foliage. That be a *different* sort of bow, young master.

0tralala said...

Pah, I say. You shouldn't be crouching if you're a man of honour. Like not shooting King John with a crossbow when you have the opportunity (as happened in 1215 in Rochester) - it's just not what David Niven would do.

Apparently it's not possible to fire a longbow from on top of horse, either. You can't help but fall off.

But the fifth Doctor manages it in "Dr Who and the Immortals", what with his being a dudey sharp shooter.