is a revolutionary kids' TV show produced by Anglia Television for broadcast on ITV
that is a blend of a TV show, an RPG
and an Adventure Game
. The basic premise is that children in teams of four challenge the Dungeon of Deceit. The game was unashamedly difficult
for a kids' TV show: over the eight years that the show ran, over eighty teams entered but only eight teams actually won. Not a single team won in the first and third years.
The reason for the popularity of Knightmare
was the way the dungeon was fought. One member of the team walked around a room with a Blue Screen
while the other three guided him. In order to explain why he needed guiding, the Dungeoneer wore "The Helmet of Justice" that basically blinded him to everything more than about a foot away. The puzzles were heavily focused on riddles of wildly variable difficulty and lateral thinking. The Dungeon Master, Treguard (played by Hugo Myatt, husband of Anglia news anchor/continuity announcer Katie Glass), was a wonderful character. Whilst on the children's side, giving advice where needed, he was also more than a little sarcastic and seemed to be just as happy whether the teams won or lost.
Spawned a number of gamebooks
and a board game
Not to be confused with the Humongous Mecha
from Code Geass
. Or the Konami game.
The series is currently being repeated on Challenge TV
in the UK. A new episode was filmed for Youtube's "Geek Week" in August 2013, handled by the original cast and crew, guest starring various UK Youtube personalities as the players.
This show provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Several. Velda, The Warrior Elf in Season 3, Gundrada, The Sword Mistress in S4 and Gwendoline The Green Warden in S5, Romahna, The Dragon Wardress in S7 & Stiletta, The Warrior-Thief in S8.
- Art Evolution: For the first three series, the dungeon rooms were hand-drawn pictures. From series 4, stills of real-life locations such as Hedingham Castle were used, making it possible to film the Eye Shield cutscenes on location. In series 7, the third level of the dungeon was completely CGI, and in series 8 this was used throughout.
- Badass Beard: Treguard
- Bewitched Amphibians: In one episode, the warrior McGrew gets turned into a toad by a mysterious robed figure.
- Big Bad: Lord Fear in later series, Mogdred to a lesser extreme in earlier ones.
- Big Bulky Bomb: The Bomb Room. Not the most subtle of 'puzzles', but it provided some exciting close shaves.
- Bragging Rights Reward: The prize for winning was medallions or, later, a trophy made to look like a Frightknight (one of the monsters in the dungeon). Even if you died, you still got scrolls "as proof of your quest."
- Catch Phrase:
- Treguard's "Ooh, nasty" whenever the Dungeoneer died. Impossible to describe. It was also ad-libbed by the actor, apparently.
- Another one for him, said when ushering off a losing team: "Spellcasting. D-I-S-M-I-S-S."
- In the first season, he had the awesomely creepy sign-off line "Join us again, for Knightmare. And just keep telling yourself, "It's only a game!"...isn't it?"
- Treguard also opens every episode of Knightmare's first season by saying, "Welcome, watchers of illusion, to the castle of confusion."
- Others had their own, especially for some reason Lord Fear's minions.
Sylvester Hands: "Like feet, but at the other end of your body."
Dreadnought: "Live in fear."
- For anyone receiving an answer to a quiz question: "Truth accepted" (if correct) or "Falsehood" (if incorrect).
- In the first two series, the Wall Monsters typically opened their speeches with "I am [Olgarth/Granitas/Igneous] of legend."
- Cloudcuckoolander: Merlin was this at times. Or should we say Marvin? Folly was also eccentric at times.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: It's been confirmed that whenever a team cheated in some way; by for example not following the rules of a room yet managing to escape anyway, they would throw something that's next to impossible to escape from at them. For example, the fuse of a bomb in a "bomb room" would last only a few seconds or their health will start draining faster.
- Chromakey: How the dungeon was created.
- Colour-Coded Emotions: The Gargoyle's colour indicated its mood, ranging from blue (life force-draining sorrow) to red (tentative happiness).
- Consulting Mister Puppet: Series 8 had Snapper Jack, an independent villain who chatted to his dragon glove puppet.
- Convenient Replacement Character: Majida for Pickle.
- Conveyor Belt-O-Doom: Made up the floor of the deadly Corridor of Blades.
- Cut Scene: To create the illusion of a larger world, Series 4 brought in the Eye Shield, which showed the journey from one location to the next from a first-person viewpoint, and spyglasses, which would let the team watch what the villains were up to for a few minutes.
- Dead End Room: In the early series, at least two teams ended up in a room with no viable exits, their only option being to wait for their life force to run out.
- Others met their demise in a variant of the bomb room, which featured a bomb that exploded before a player could humanly reach an exit.
- Dismantled MacGuffin: Lissard's cunning plan to neutralise the wizard Grimaldine is to steal his staff, break it into four, and scatter it around the dungeon. When he hears about this after the fact, the Genre Savvy Lord Fear spots the trope at once and is decidedly displeased.
- The Ditz: Gretel, big time. Sidriss even more so.
- Dragon with an Agenda: Subverted. In one sequence Lissard claims to Maldame that he's a master-manipulator who secretly pulls Lord Fear's strings. As soon as she's gone, his story is revealed as a lie to gain her trust, with Lord Fear's connivance.
- Dungeon Bypass: The last two teams in Series 8 were given a shortcut from Level 1 to Level 3.
- Dungeon Master: Also the original meaning.
- Eldritch Abomination:
- The Gargoyle from the first quest is a giant, color-changing head which seems to have control over darkness. Its easily-swayed emotions can drain your Life Meter if he becomes depressed, which can happen quite easily.
- The Catacombite may be a milder example of this as well.
- Elevator Floor Announcement: Brother Mace, directing a dungeoneer to the elevator waiting to transport him to the next level: "Top floor: Haberdashery, necromancy, trainee dungeoneers."
- Epic Fail: See the entry under "Too Dumb To Live" below.
- Evil Gloating: Lord Fear is keen on this, as he happily admits.
- Expanded Universe: The books were half-novel, half-Game Book, and dealt with how Treguard became the master of the castle. They're an awful lot better than they had any right to be.
- Eyes Are Unbreakable: The original Life Meter; the head disintegrates, but the eyes are left behind until the very end.
- Fat Idiot: Fatilla the Hun.
- Fish People: The Mire Men.
- For Doom the Bell Tolls: A dungeoneer's demise would be heralded by the peal of a bell. And usually an "Ooh, nasty."
- Functional Magic: Rules- and Item-based.
- Gender Bender: In one Series 7 episode, Lord Fear turns his henchlizard into a tavern wench and then comes onto him/her!
- Genre Savvy: Lord Fear has his moments.
Oh dear. Why is it when somebody says "Don't worry" it's a dead cert the next scene is going to be one of blind, screaming panic?
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Oh yes. At least once a Wall monster said something that with a little squinting could be mistaken for something more pungent.
- In one episode, a female dungeoneer in her early teens slid down into the mine, knocking Bumptious the Dwarf over and causing an explosion to be accused by Gretel of "playing with his plunger". Even better/worse was when after running off for a cold compress she runs back screaming "I'm coming, Bumptious, I'm coming!"
- Then there were the magic pills marked "Upper" and "Downer".
- And of course, the wall monster called Granitas (say it out loud). Granite Arse.
Granitas: "MY NAME IS NOT AMUSING!"
- Pickle, after a dungeoneer took a hunting horn from a table: "Dickon's got the horn, master."
- The pub was called The Crazed Heifer, or Mad Cow.
- One personality of the dragon Bal-Sheba somehow got away with calling the other a "smart-arse".
- In a Series 3 episode, one of the advisors drops an f-bomb quietly (yet still able to be heard) and covers his mouth with his hand, looking guilty. This was never detected and later broadcast.
- At one point the habitually rude elf Elita loses her voice. When Hordriss suggests that the dungeoneer may be able to cure her, she performs an elaborate mime, at which he comments: "Oh, come, come, that's most uncharitable. And physically quite improbable."
- The Ghost: Mogdred in the first series.
- Giant Spider: The giant tarantula Ariadne. A smaller one also appeared late in Series 2.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: Lord Fear, when he detects he's being spied on.
- High Collar of Doom: In series 6-7, Lord Fear sports one that wouldn't look out of place on a Time Lord.
- Honest John's Dealership: Julius Scaramonger, who even describes himself as 'honest Julius' at one point.
- Horny Vikings: Olaf the Viking.
- I Have Many Names: When the arrogant sorcerer with the stripy hair is first encountered, Treguard says that he is known by many names; "Hordriss the Confuser" is the only one anyone ever uses, though.
- Indy Ploy: While the game had fairly strict rules, it seems like the players could sometimes bend them, if they said the right things and the actors decided to play along.
- The first winning team actually convinced one of the dungeon characters that they were friends, and said character escorted them for a bit and beat up one of the guards to grant the player an auto-pass.
- When a team accidentally destroyed the clue room, they received help from Folly the Fool. Folly managed to use an "Emperor's New Clothes" trick on a guard, and when the dungeoneer had to face Olaf the Viking alone, he used the exact same trick, turning an instant-loss scenario into a fighting chance. They eventually won.
- One team didn't have a gold bar they needed to bribe someone blocking their path, and instead offered him a goblin horn and claimed that it was magical, with the power to create riches beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Unfortunately, the person they were trying it on happened to be Skarkill, Lord Fear's hired Goblin Master, and not only did he not fall for the ploy, he actually turned it right back on them by tricking the dungeoneer into blowing the horn, summoning some goblins to take him prisoner.
- Inept Mage: Hordriss the Confuser's daughter Sidriss ('the Confused').
- Infant Immortality: Averted, and as noted in "Taken for Granite" not even the advisors were safe! However, also played straight in the fact that they were always stated as being alive in "our time".
- Involuntary Dance: The 'DANCE' spell. Also inflicted, a few series later, by Elita's Pan pipes.
- Jerkass: Lord Fear, obviously.
- Elita the elf was invariably rude and obnoxious to everyone on the show, not least the dungeoneers. One dungeoneer alone, on being addressed as "face-ache" had the guts to reply "Yeah, you're a face-ache too!"
- Knight in Shining Armor: Featured in the first version of the title sequence.
- The Lady's Favour: In an episode in the third series, one of the potentially-useful items the questers are given to choose from is a scarf; when the dungeoneer subsequently encounters the lady Mellisandre, she recognises the scarf as her own, and declares that she will aid the questers if the dungeoneer will wear the scarf as her favour and dedicate the quest to her. (In a twist which may have just been a result of arbitrary quest assignment, the dungeoneer on this occasion was female.)
- Last-Second Word Swap: When the ill-mannered elf Elita is introduced, Pickle refers to her as a "little cow...slip".
- Let's Get Dangerous: Most of the time, Sir Hugh De Wittless is, as his name implies, a bungling Upper-Class Twit. But the one time he does battle with Skarkill, he easily defeats the formidable Goblin Master.
- Life Meter: It ran down if the Dungeoneer came across a non-lethal foe (very rare), as well as over time.
- A Lizard Named Liz: A lizardman named Lissard.
- Actually he's an Atlantian.
- Lost In Transmission:
- In one episode of the third season, Mellisandre falls into a trapdoor in the middle of giving advice, leaving the questers with the information that when they encounter a wall monster it's vitally important to... aargh?
- Another occasion was Lampshaded by Pickle.
Hordriss: It looks just like— [He vanishes]
Pickle: Oh, would you believe it? Why does that always happen when you get to the best bit?
- Luck-Based Mission: If you missed a clue or item at times it was possible to get past the obstacle they related to by luck.
- MacGuffin: Starting with the second season teams won by finding a magic artifact or rescuing a damsel. Frankly we don't know what happened if somebody won in the first season.
- Mad Oracle: The Oracle of Confusion.
- Magitek: The Descenders (elevators). Also the Fear Knights and the Dreadnaught.
- Mega Neko: The chromakey allowed scaled-up footage of a domestic cat to put in an appearance several times, under several different identities.
- Mercy Mode: One team were given the spell TRUTH (never otherwise seen in the game), allowing them to pass the Level 1 wall monster despite not knowing the answer to any of its riddles. It's theorised that in the original take, their quest did end at this point, and the sequence where they receive the spell was part of a second chance given to them by the production team.
- Moral Guardians: Mary Whitehouse, moral Knight Templar and Worthy Opponent to Doctor Who fans everywhere, was deeply critical of the show, what with children being killed in various ways and what have you, until it actually turned out that she had never actually watched the show and apologised after she had. It was one of the last things she commented on before disappearing into the night and then passing away in 2001.
- Mr. Fanservice: Treguard was this even before the books angst'd him up. And Pickle.
- Ms. Fanservice: Stiletta and Romahna, to mention but two.
- Multicolored Hair: Hordriss and Sidriss both have red streaks in their otherwise pale hair.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Lord Fear; Malice.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The sorceress Maldame has a tendency to make speeches espousing views associated with Margaret Thatcher. Just in case anyone didn't get the hint, her in-universe nickname is "The Iron Maiden".
- Obi Wan: Treguard.
- Oh, Crap: Very rarely is anything to this effect actually said, but there have definitely been some moments. One notable instance is given in series 2 by one of the advisors when a Dungeoneer comes face to face with an enormous dragon.
- Only Smart People May Pass: About 70% of the puzzles are riddles or lateral thinking problems.
- Overly Long Name:
- Elita at one point claims her true name is 'Ellathasanthasanthasanchirgawinkle'.
- Majida's full name is even longer: 'Daughter-of-the-Setting-Moon-Whose-Eyes-are-like-Daggers-in-the-Hearts-of-Men-who-guard-the-Great-Caravan-of-the-Sultan'.
- Painting the Medium: Treguard explained the gaps between episodes as "temporal disruptions" and made it clear that whilst people may die in his reality, they were fine in "your time".
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Hordriss's occasional attempts to disguise himself as a beggar, witch or animal. Even when shapeshifted as a giant cat, his intonation of 'meow' is instantly recognisable.
- Multilayer Fašade: There's a school of thought that one time, the beggar is really Lord Fear in a very good Hordriss disguise plus a very bad beggar disguise.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything:
- Lissard, Lord Fear's seneschal in series 7 and 8, despite appearing in every episode, never actually did anything (except once, when he ventured into the dungeon disguised as Marta the barmaid to trick Hordriss) and seemed only to be there to give Lord Fear someone to talk to in the spyglass scenes.
- Majida, Treguard's assistant in the last two seasons, was supposed to be a genie but outside of coming out of a bottle in her debut she displayed no real evidence of this.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Pickle the Elf, later Magida the Genie.
- Polly Wants a Microphone: One room in the third season contained a talking raven which gave a clue in between demands that the dungeoneer tell it who was a pretty bird then.
- Potty Emergency: In one quest, Sidriss is reduced in size and trapped in a bottle. She drops some fairly strong hints that this trope is one reason why she'd very much like to be released as soon as possible.
- Previously On: During the early seasons, Treguard would recap the previous episode in rhyme. Later, the sidekicks would give a brief synopsis of the quest state. For series 8, the recap was given in rhyme again, with Treguard and Majida delivering alternate verses.
- Produce Pelting: Suffered by Motley on one occasion.
- Psychic Powers: Owen the dragon spoke telepathically, which saved the show's creators having to figure out a speech animation for him.
- Put on a Bus: Pickle the Elf "went back to the forest".
- Quicksand Sucks: The fate of at least one hapless dungeoneer.
- Reality Show Genre Blindness: Justified in the first series in that they didn't know what they were in for...yet later on they somehow never learned to solve simple riddles and other such things but they especially couldn't give directions. As pointed out by Spoony, they never seemed to learn how to tell people how to make a diagonal step.
- Real Place Background: In series 4-7, tinted pictures of real locations were used as dungeon rooms.
- Rollercoaster Mine: The path from Level Two to Level Three in the third series.
- Rule of Three: Questions were usually asked in sets of three. With few exceptions, missing all three meant death. Getting only one right would often result in the dungeoneer's later doom, typically due to lack of information. Getting two right would give the team either a small bit of information (wall monsters) or a spell (most others). Getting all three right actually gave the team a decent chance.
- Running Gag: Whenever Treguard tried to guess which of the identical wall monsters the team had met, no matter what his his reasoning, he was wrong.
- Shout-Out: To much of legend and to myth, especially in the riddles and major NPCs.
- Smug Snake: Lord Fear.
- Spiritual Successor: Virtually Impossible - basically the same idea, but explicitly set in a virtual world in The Future. Didn't do as well, partly due to Special Effects Failure but mainly due to the lack of a live-action host to interact with the kids (instead, it had a bizarre CGI fish thing).
- Stalked by the Bell: If a dungeoneer spent too long in a room, a floating skull would occasionally appear to chivvy them along.
- Stealth Pun: The Helmet of Justice blocks the wearer's vision, referencing the idiom "justice is blind" and depictions of justice in general being blindfolded.
- Steam Punk: The Mechanical Warrior in the early seasons. In the later seasons, there were the "Descenders", voice-activated lifts/elevators by any other name. And Lord Fear occasionally referred to "Technomagic" which he presumably used to create the Dreadnought.
- The Stinger: One episode ended with a dungeoneer plunging to her doom within sight of victory. At the end of the credits, one of Lord Fear's lines was repeated: "Now that's what I call 'lovely', Skarkill."
- Synchro-Vox: The wall monsters in series 3, and the tree troll and weeping doors in series 4.
- Taken for Granite: The team that lost at Medusa. The entire team.
- Take That: In the last episode, Lord Fear delivers one seemingly aimed at Virtually Impossible:
"It's good, isn't it? I'm thinking of calling it 'Virtual Reality'... If you invent something new, give it a really pretentious name. Everyone goes overboard for it."
- Third-Person Person: Most characters spoke like this at least once.
- Too Dumb to Live: Many teams.
- This is probably the most famous. Left and right can sometimes be tricky, and mistakes fatal.
- There were lots of teams that died similarly (or, in one case, in exactly the same way); for example, the one where they walked up the Fire Exit and got incinerated.
- To dispel a spell, characters had to recite the correct letters in the wrong order; for example, "S-W-O-R-D" could be dispelled by reciting "D-R-O-W-S" or "O-D-W-R-S" or any of a large number of other possibilities. Teams still managed to get it wrong. One famous team had "S-H-R-O-U-D" cast upon their player by Mogdred. This was big. No-one had ever faced Mogdred before. To cancel it, they tried "D-U-R-H-S". They then tried "D-U-R-H-S" again, to the same effect. Mogdred dispelled it silently, then recast it, spelling it out — and Treguard began to moan "Oooooo... Ooooo..." After another attempt, with "Stalactite", Treguard moaned "Let... ter... Oooo..." Finally, they came up with "Dispel! O-S-R-D-H-U." Mogdred fled in terror of the incredibly-bad spelling.
- The guy who got his friend killed trying to cast "Spade", when the spell they were given was named "Shovel". As Treguard said to the offending team, "How would you like it if someone got your name wrong?"
- The team who tried to bribe Lilith with an empty jar of humbugs. They had found the item they needed to give to Lilith (the Potion) earlier, but had misread the label as "Poison".
- And the girls who gave the ring to Sylvester. They were supposed to use it.
- Near the start of the show's run, one team became the first ever to make it into Level 2, and were on the verge of making it into Level 3, when their "Lantern" spell woke up an irate guard who was blocking the wellway. The guard threatened to kill the dungeoneer, and the team's spellcaster immediately worked out what they were supposed to do, which was to cast their other spell, "Anvil" to dispose of the guard. However, the other two advisers decided it'd be a better idea to turn out the light, and browbeat the spellcaster into dispelling "Lantern" instead... instantly resulting in the dungeoneer's death.
- Also near the start of the series, one team did well enough on solving the wall monster's riddles that they were told which items to take with them, the soap and the comb. After some deliberation, they leave the room with just the soap in hand... only to end up with Lilith removing the floor from underneath the dungeoneer as they didn't have the comb to give her.
- Later in the first series, one group who had managed to get to Level 2 gets a riddle from Folly the jester which tells them to take the door on the right hand side, only for them to take the door on the left. Big mistake, as it leads them to a room with a bomb that explodes the second the dungeoneer took a step.
- The very next team lost in almost the same manner in the very same episode, but were (harshly) denied a clue by only getting two of three of Granitas' riddles correct.
- The Un-Smile: Lord Fear's evil replica of Sidriss ('the Bimboid') obeys simple commands, including 'smile'. He is, however, quick to admit that the result is not entirely convincing.
- Unwanted Rescue: Sir Hugh de Wittless is under an enchantment compelling him to rescue people whether they want it or not.
- Unwinnable: There was no returning to a previous room. If a team missed an important item or character in a room, it was only a matter of time. Well, he did warn them: The only way is onward. There is no turning back.
- This was also invoked with the last team to play on each series, as in game the dungeon would be on the verge of collapsing, and the team would be stuck on a seemingly impossible quest. Treguard would have to summon the player back as the room began to disintegrate around them.
- Video Game Lives:
- Averted; when you die, it's Game Over (accompanied with a loud BONG! and Treguard usually saying "Oooh... nasty.") Mentioned because, at least in the first couple seasons, Treguard lampshaded the lack of lives by saying something like, "This is no game of numerous lives, here you have only one."
- Played with in the French and Spanish versions (which did not use a life meter): any mistake is fatal, and one of your advisors gets sent in in your place. There always has to be one advisor guiding the active player, or the game is over. With a team of four players, that gives the team three lives. (Though if your team wins, you get to share in the prize, usually a Sega video game console and games.)
- Violent Glaswegian: The barbarian warrior McGrew; the first challenge in any situation involving him was generally to win him over before he decided to run the dungeoneer through with his claymore.
- I'd question Glasgwegian being in the Highlands however.
- Visible Invisibility:
- When a dungeoneer picked up an amulet of invisibility in the third series, he disappeared but his location was marked for his advisors by a glowing point of light. (Unfortunately for the dungeoneer, and the advisors attempting to navigate him around the subsequent hazards, the glowing point of light gave no indication of which direction he was facing...)
- The fourth series had a magic dagger which made the wielder invisible; this time, the dungeoneer was visible but transparent to the advisors and the audience, which worked much better when it came to steering her around.
- Who's on First?: In The Spoony One's review of the series, he points out a common British verbal affectation which many participants seemed unable to shake at the cost of the game: the habit of ending all imperative sentences by saying "right?". This led to exchanges such as "Go left, right?" "You want me to go right?" "No, left. Right?" "Right?" "Right. Left, right?" "Okay. going right. Aieee!" "Oooh... Nasty."
- Wicked Witch: Mildred, also the first NPC to ever attack Treguard.
- Wizard Needs Food Badly: The way you refill the life meter.
- Yellowface: Ah Wok, a Chinese trader complete with traditional costume and comedy accent.
- You Look Familiar: Several members of the cast played more than one character — for example, Sir Hugh de Wittless and Ah Wok were played by Mark 'Lord Fear' Knight.
- Your Other Left: The bane of many teams. Especially the team in the video next to Too Dumb to Live.
- Another team suffered from this, but just about managed to pull off last-minute saves from their mistakes — until their dungeoneer found an amulet which rendered him invisible, so they didn't realise they'd guided him over the edge of a cliff until it was too late.
- The Spoony Experiment's video on the show speculates that some of this was due to the British Verbal Tic of beginning and/or ending sentences with "Right."
The gamebooks provide examples of:
- Easter Egg: One of the books contains a reference it's impossible to reach from any of the other ones where the player character wanders into a science fiction setting due to getting "lost".
- No Fair Cheating: The first book includes one or two options that end the game immediately as it's impossible to have the items required (e.g. using a spell that doesn't exist, or trying to use three different items from a Clue room when you can only take two).
- Nuns Are Mikos: Fortress of Assassins had an encounter with a nun from a branch of the church that hunts the undead.
The Youtube special episode provides examples of:
Treguard: Warning, Troper. Complete temporal disruption approaching. Time is now the enemy.
Oh, dear. Temporal disruption complete. Time flies as the Romans would say, and although all continues in your world, here time has flown. All editing and troping must now cease until you phase with us once more. Will these editors triumph on the next page? Or will our Troper have his life ruined by all of the other pages on this site?
And if so, why should you care? For here, nothing is real and everything must surely be an illusion. Join us again for Knightmare. And just keep telling yourself, it's only a game... isn't it?