Stirring 'Robin Hood' series leads new DVD sets from BBC

by Doug Nye

McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

6 February 2010


One of England’s most enduring characters, Robin Hood, swings back into action in one of several sparkling new DVD sets recently released by BBC Home Video.

“Robin Hood: Season Three” ($59.98) stars Jonas Armstrong as Robin of Locksley, who returns with vengeance on his mind in this 13-episode, 5-disc set. Robin’s mission is to kill Sir Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage), who Robin holds responsible for Marian’s death.

Marian’s death? That is a tipoff that this television series goes where no Robin Hood saga has gone before. There are no laughing merry men decked out in green costumes and funny pointed hats. You’ll see few smiles from Robin in this series as he hunts his prey.

Meanwhile, the wicked Prince John (Toby Stephens) summons all his minions, including the Sheriff of Nottingham (Keith Allen) and Gisborne, to launch an all-out effort to take care of Robin Hood once and for all.

The set includes numerous extras, among them the behind-the-scenes “A Legend Reborn” and “A New Look,” which addresses the costuming. Season Three marks the finale for this outstanding and excellently produced re-telling of the Robin Hood legend.

Still available are Season One ($59.98, Blu-ray $99.98), which chronicles how the legend began, and Season Two ($59.99), showing the events that lead up to Marian’s death.

Other BBC sets:

“Doctor Who: The Complete Specials” (Blu-ray, $59.98): This is the swan song for David Tennant’s run as the time-traveling doctor, a fixture on British TV since 1963. It also offers an intro to Matt Smith, who will play the 11th doctor. The specials include “The New Doctor.” “Planet of the Dead” (2009), “The Waters of Mars” (2009) and “The End of Time” Parts One and Two (2009-10). The latter features Tennant’s farewell and Smith’s regeneration as the new doctor. Timothy Dalton plays the Time Lord President.

“Top Gear 11” ($29.98) and “To Gear 12” ($39.98): Hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are back again in this series devoted to everything to do with automobiles. In season 11, Richard races an Audi against skiers in the French Alps and then Jeremy races a Nissan GT-R across Japan. His opponent? Public transportation, including the 200-mph bullet train. In Season 12, the trio returns to America to take three cars on a road trip from San Francisco to the Bonneville Salt Flat of Utah. Guests include actor Mark Wahlberg, singer Tom Jones and London Mayor Boris Johnson.

“The Cranford Collection” ($49.99): Leading the collection is the original five-part miniseries that aired in 2007. It is a beautifully filmed production that takes place in the British town of Cranford in 1842. The series follows the ups and downs of the people’s lives and especially of the ladies of the town. The key characters are sisters Matilda (Judi Dench) and Deborah Jenkyns (Eileen Atkins) and their relative Miss Smith (Lisa Dillon). Rich costumes and the locations make this feel like a trip through time. “Return to Cranford” is the two-part 2009 sequel that takes place in 1844. There have been some changes; some good, others not so good.

“New Tricks: Season Two” (2005, $39.98): Retired cops Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong), Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman) and Jack Halford (James Bolam) are called back for duty under Det. Sup. Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman). There is plenty of suspense and action but there are also some laughs as the old-style trio try to adjust to new-style police methods. A 3-disc, 8-episode set.

“Emma” ($34.98): This new adaptation of Jane Austen’s romantic novel aired earlier this year on PBS’ “Masterpiece Theater.” The 3-part, 2-disc set is about Emma Woodhouse (Romola Garai), whose main aim in life seems to be playing cupid in the village of Highbury. Her next project is to match up the lovely Harriett Smith (Louise Dylan) and the supposedly dashing Mr. Elton (Blake Ritson). Things don’t go quite as Emma planned.

“MI-5: Volume 7” ($59.98): A 4-disc, 8-episode set of the exciting spy drama about terrorists, double-agents, dangerous undercover operations and more. Richard Armitage plays Lucas North and Peter Firth plays his old friend Harry Pearce.

//Mixed media