TV Review: BBC’s Robin Hood Episode 1.05 “Turk Flu”

Series Title: Robin Hood (IMDb)
Episode: 1.05 “Turk Flu”
Original Air Date: March 31, 2006
Length: 45 minutes
Director: Dwight O’Dwyer
Writer: Dominic Minghella
Lead Actors: Jonas Armstrong (Robin), Sam Troughton (Much), Richard Armitage (Guy of Gisborne), Keith Allen (Sheriff of Nottingham), Gordon Kennedy (Little John)
Synopsis: “The Sheriff is importing slaves to work in a dangerous mine. In the meantime there is an archery competition at Nottingham Fair.” (Wikipedia)
Recommendation: While the story has some interesting aspects, including a different take on the classic archery competition, it also introduces the ridiculous character of Djaq, a “Saracen” girl, who so far has greatly annoyed me.

Key Thoughts

This episode includes many references to modern-day issues, such as the suspicion of Middle-Easterners in the West, Britain’s 2006 bird flu, and Muslim resentment towards “Christian” nations (yet interestingly, nothing about the dangers of radical Islam). The vehicle for these “themes” is the arrival in Nottingham of a batch of “Saracen” slaves that the Sheriff has bought to work his deadly iron mines, represented by the spunky girl-poorly-disguised-as-a-boy Djaq. Unfortunately, both the character and the references are basically ham-handed liberal rants against the West that threaten to interfere with the more fun aspects of this episode’s story. Djaq is less a character than a mouthpiece, and despite being apparently a teenager, she seems to be this wise (yet fiery) receptacle of all Arab science and knowledge. Her lines are few, but annoying. Her actions and reactions are mostly illogical, especially her ill-explained decision to join Robin’s group at the episode’s end (or was there even an explanation? Everyone seemed to take it for granted).

Apparently all English believe that "Turks" have a contagious and deadly flu. Or at least, that's what Robin hopes they believe...

Robin’s men intercept the slaves as they are being conspicuously transported in a wagon, and once our boy Hood realizes the situation, he resolves to strike at the Sheriff twice with one stroke; firstly, by using the slaves to help him infiltrate and destroy the mine, and secondly, to free the slaves. Ah, but that’s not all he has to worry about! For the Sheriff is holding an archery contest—for the express purpose of trapping him, naturally—and even though Robin knows it is a trap, it pains him that the job destroying the mine is keeping him from attending. But of course, you know things will work out so that Robin gets to win the contest and accomplish his other noble goals. Of course!

I think my favorite moment is the look on the Sheriff’s face when—reclining happily at the archery contest, waiting for Robin to arrive—he is told that his precious iron mine has been destroyed and all the slaves set free. It’s a look of absolute horror and panic, followed by he and Guy galloping desperately to the mine in time to see Robin mock them and escape.

Would I watch it again? Probably not, unless I was bored. All of the Robin Hood episodes seem pretty interchangeable. The fun comes from the fast-paced adventure and abundant roguish quips, making the increasingly-frequent “political commentary” quite annoying and out-of-place.


  1. Djaq didn’t annoy me as much as Marian did (though Marian does improve over time). I still rolled my eyes at some of the painfully obvious political correctness her character brought in though.

    I think because I watched Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood, the thought of a Saracen companion didn’t rankle, and Djaq’s expertise (while utterly unbelievable for a woman) and grumbled comments about English incompetence were close enough to Morgan Freeman’s sentiments that I was able to overlook them.

    1. David says:

      I still haven’t seen Costner’s version, and honestly I’m a little apprehensive of it. Costner, especially in his flat “heroic” mode, does not strike me as an inspiring or roguish Hood. And while the idea of a Saracen companion is becoming tradition (I hear it started with the ’80s Robin Hood show starring Michael Praed, which is supposedly excellent), it still smacks of gimmickry and political correctness in its very concept. I suppose it could be done well — so far, I just don’t see why it’s needed at all.

      Increasingly frustrating is the fact that in the episodes following this one, Djaq still hasn’t received any character development, and hardly plays a role at all. It’s like they thought they had this great idea for Episode 5 of introducing her, and then promptly forgot about her. She has fewer dimensions than Much! Can you have a half-dimensional character?

      1. A. Setliffe says:

        You don’t watch Costner’s robin hood for Costner. In fact, my brain seems to wander off when he is the focus. Watch it for the other characters, and as with this series, be sure to not take it seriously… at all. I find Rickman highly entertaining.

        1. David says:

          Maybe sometime I’ll see it, but I’m more interested in other adaptations now. I like my Robin Hoods to have some spirit and fun to them.

          1. A. Setliffe says:

            Robin Hood isn’t my area of expertise, but I suspect there is much better fare out there than Costner’s version.

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