Doctor Who and Robin Hood: two British icons that go above and beyond the call of duty to fight for the common people. Both are still going strong and sitting pretty atop the pop culture thrones of television and the movie screen respectively, despite it being 2010 and not actually 1963 or 1192.
Of course, they’re not completely similar. Robin steals from the rich to give to the poor whereas the Doctor only gives them a free ride through trippy time and space in his Tardis, but that’s not the point. Crucially, both are beloved British legends that have appeared on screen with an array of different faces.
There’s a core character – sharp arrow shooter with a desire for social justice or two-hearted eccentric with a sonic screwdriver – and then from there the choice is yours. You can pick who best portrays the hero depending on your age, taste and personal preference. In this way, selecting a Robin Hood adaptation or Doctor Who episode is like shopping for underwear.
How do you like your Doctor? You can have your Time Lord looking like a chemistry teacher, Worzel Gummidge, a member of The Strokes, a cricket umpire or a perm wearing a scarf. There’s a man for every mood, an icon for each occasion.
Similarly, you can pick your Prince of Thieves to be an animated fox, Errol Flynn, a CGI-realised singing Frenchman (Shrek, someone please explain), a medieval version of The Bodyguard or, as of now, Russell Crowe.
For me personally, it’s Michael Curtiz’s 1938 technicolour triumph The Adventures Of Robin Hood. Kevin Costner and the Walt Disney fox aren’t too far behind, but the ultimate victors are Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.
Unfortunately, Flynn is about to relinquish his top spot to Russell Crowe as the fresh adaptation of Robin Hood is inevitably ‘the One’. I know this having seen the trailer a few times. Trust me. I’m the Oracle and I’ve read the entrails this morning.
If any modern director can do grand historical blockbuster of depth and style it’s Sir Ridley. If any leading man can embody indomitable lionhearted conviction it’s Russell Crowe. Robin Hood looks epic, immersive and all the signs indicate that it’s going to stand as the be-all-and-end-all of Sherwood outlaw flicks. I expect it to hit the bullseye. There’s no way on Earth it could be bad.
Put in a final scene where every single Robin Hood in the history of visual media joins Russell Crowe on the beaches of Dover to perform a musical number (I nominate The Phony King Of England from the Disney flick), and we may have the perfect film.
Imagining the many representations of Robin gathering together for karaoke and a barbeque, I’m reminded of a rap music video from the not-so-distant past. A few years ago some skid called Slim Shady (he was called Eminem until a candy company sued) released a song that asked for the real Slim Shady to stand up.
The video was a dystopian nightmare where the melodically-challenged Marshall Mathers populated a psychiatry ward with duplicates of himself. It turned out that Shady hadn’t really experienced some Invasion Of The Body Snatchers-style horror, lost his sense of self in the heat of a freestyle rap contest or walked into a hall of mirrors. Apparently, he was just putting together meaningless words.
It’s a shame that it was all fictional, really. The idea of some real weirdness going down, with the Eminems grabbing power tools and slaughtering each other in a merciless bloodbath from which none of the blonde organisms emerge alive, has appeal. There is nothing more offensive than whining white trash ripping off black culture badly and earning an absolute fortune, becoming a ubiquitous, inescapable pain in the arse in the process. The 8-Mile Chainsaw Massacre isn’t cruel. It’s justice.
Anyway, back to real role models instead of hick rappers, and I’ll return to consider the real Hood hero. If Eminem can multiply himself and beat back all opposition through sheer force of presence, then I see no reason why every single screen Robin Hood, from Douglas Fairbanks to Jonas Armstrong, shouldn’t appear together, backed by any merry men who want to join the outlaw band and eradicate the gap between the rich and the poor in the 21st century.
The banking crisis and the parliamentary expenses scandal highlight just how much the elite have ripped off and exploited the masses in Britain. Get the ultimate freedom and fairness fighter of lore in all his incarnations together at the same time and pit them against the system whilst there’s post-election confusion. Then we can start to effectively take the power back, redress the imbalance and realise equality.
To facilitate this, we just need the Doctor to lend Russell Crowe the Tardis so the Legion of Locksleys can be picked up from the scattered points of cultural history.
The combined army of Robins will then deliver the overdue successful uprising that centuries of struggle and agitation have frustratingly failed to achieve. Where Wat Tyler, Luddites and many coal miners didn’t quite make it, now is the moment where a touch of Hollywood, superhuman archery prowess and a pimped-up police telephone box shatter the system and usher in the egalitarian utopia we’ve always dreamed of.
Now that Russell Crowe (the man who was Maximus in Gladiator!) is commandeering a Tardis full of Robins and more Merry Men than can be counted on a single abacus, the time has undoubtedly come. Crowe, directed by Ridley Scott, gives the Men in Tights the edge.
After all the attempts to uproot and overthrow the aristocracy, this is the revolt that will finally do it. Proclaims the tagline: “Rise and rise again, till lambs become lions.” We’ve reached the woolshed moment in British history where the revolution shows its claws and comes out for the kill.
Wow. Lambs becoming lions. Not only is Robin Hood a magician who can turn baby sheep into great feline predators who can fire flaming arrows through the eye of a needle and who redistributes the wealth without asking for a finder’s fee or a commission, he’s also a Time Lord, one heart for Maid Marian and one heart for the oppressed proletariat squeezed dry by the landed nobility of England.
In the end, poverty is made history and Britain is protected from future Dalek invasions. As long as Bryan Adams doesn’t sing the theme tune, everything is perfect.
James’ previous column can be found here.