Western Animation / King Arthur & the Knights of Justice

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"And then, from the field of the future, a new king will come, to save the world of the past."
Merlin quoting the Opening Narration

King Arthur & the Knights of Justice is a syndicated cartoon show that debuted in 1992. It was created by Avi Arad, and Diane Eskenazi of Golden Films.
The premise involved the evil Queen Morgana and her cruel Warlord army, commanded by Lord Viper, trapping the legendary king and the knights of the round table in the Cave of Glass. When Guinevere, queen of Camelot is also captured by the Warlords, Merlin searches through time to find suitable replacements for the knights to rescue the queen. Does he find a hardcore team of military commandos? Nope. Instead he finds an Identical Stranger to King Arthur named Arthur King who is a quarterback for the New York Knights, a college football team along with 10 of his teammates and their equipment manager.

The replacement knights are partially successful as they rescue Guinevere and hold back Morgana and the Warlords. Keeping their true identities a secret to all the citizens of Camelot (sans Merlin), the Knights must keep up the facade until they recover the 12 Keys of Truth, one for each knight that only they can initially touch. Once all of the keys were collected, the real knights would be freed and the team would be able to go back home. Too bad the show had No Ending (unless you count the one supplied by the Super Nintendo game).


King Arthur and the Knights of Justice contains examples of:

  • Action Figure File Card: The few toys released have these. Several are not compatible with how the characters ended up being used in the cartoon. Notably, the Warlords are simply the baddies and not specifically warriors of stone. Toy!Slasher is not made of stone and Toy!Viper is a Warlord, while in the cartoon he is explicitly set apart from the Warlords. Toy!Darren is described as smart and organized, which doesn't fit his cartoon self and, humorously, is the bit of his file card not incorporated in his SNES write-up.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The Lady of the Table is the Lady of the Lake. A minor hint to this is in "What the Key Unlocked", where the Lady comes get Lance from an underground lake beneath Camelot. The SNES booklet claims the two are separate characters, but the game uses the same model for them.
  • All Part of the Show: What everyone thinks the Knights fighting the Warlords is when they travel to the future and end up in a Camelot theme park.
  • Amusing Injuries: The Warlords suffer this regularly. But since they are creatures of stone whom Morgana can revive at any moment, this isn't as bad for them as it would be for anyone else.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: In the second season.
    • Each season also had an anti-sexism episode.
  • Animal Motifs: Each Knight has an emblem beast to call upon in times of need. Several can be easily linked to the relevant Knight's personality.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The Knights come to medieval England not knowing how to swing a sword or ride a horse, which is handily taken care of by their Transformation Sequence. No wonder the Warlords were always trying to sneak into Camelot and destroy the Round Table.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: In "The Unbeliever", Darren laughs at a man claiming to have been attacked by a dragon. Even though he's been brought back in time by a wizard, gained knowledge of how to be a knight from a magic table, and seen a dragon jump out of Arthur's shield and come to life. In the end he's right, there wasn't really a dragon. It was an illusion created by a sorceress.
  • Art Evolution: Season 2's art is cleaner and clearer, if at the same time disastrously cheaper. Some design changes take place to: In season 1, Wally has brown eyes and Morgana black hair, while in season 2 Wally has green eyes and Morgana dark brown hair.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Zeke.
  • Attempted Rape: Season 2's first episode, "A Matter Of Honor", starts with an attempted gang rape of Katherine by a group of highwaymen. She is saved by Master Chang, the leader of the new season's secondary villain group.
  • BattleCry: "KNIGHTS KNIGHTS KNIGHTS!!!"
  • Big Bad: Queen Morgana. Only a handful of the entities the Knights battle are neither her servants nor her allies.
  • Big Eater: Sir Phil.
  • Big NO: Several characters. One notable moment had Morgana use this as part of an act to distract the Knights.
  • The Blacksmith: Tone and, when he's not around, Zeke.
  • Blinded by the Light: Blinder's main use to the Warlords.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Whenever the Warlords lay siege on Camelot, there's a lot more axes, arrows, and boulders flying the castle's way a lot faster than logically would be possible. The Knights pulled a similar stunt themselves in "Assault On Castle Morgana".
  • Brown Note: Looking at the Beast of Fear Island will turn you to dust because of his ugliness. He isn't immune to himself either, although magicians seem to be able to look at him without consequences.
  • Butt Monkey: Lug among the Knights.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: "I am King Arthur..." "And we are the Knights of Justice! We pledge fairness to all, to protect the weak and vanquish the evil!"
    • There were two versions of this sequence, the difference being the volume of the Knights' voices as they recite the oath.
  • Canon Foreigner: There's an exclusive warlord in the comic adaption. He is nameless, but his design goes for an executioner look.
    • A special case is the character Blaise made up for the SNES video game. He is a canon foreigner to the cartoon, but he has his origins in the Arthurian legends the franchise is based on.
  • Catchphrase: "Excalibur, BE MY STRENGTH!"
  • The Charmer: Gallop and Darren.
  • The Chew Toy: Axe gets noticeably hurt more and more embarrassingly than the other Warlords.
  • Collapsing Lair: In the SNES game. Justified in that one episode notes Morgana's magic is in the castle, so No Ontological Inertia is arguably in effect.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: The story of the first two episodes was retold in three comic issues created by Marvel. Major changes include Guinevere's abduction being far less female-friendly, the Knights being decidedly less supportive of Arthur, Arthur being overly enthusiastic about his new role as hero, and Morgana considering her troops disposable.
  • Combat Pragmatist: While the Knights have a Thou Shalt Not Kill policy, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll fight fair.
  • Crystal Ball: Merlin has a standard one he rarely uses. Morgana has a large red crystal she calls a viewing rock she uses often and a portable white one she used once.
  • Damsel in Distress: Of the times she appears, Queen Guinevere is regularly in trouble or otherwise burdened.
  • Dark Action Girl: While a magic user and strategist and not much of a warrior, Queen Morgana is not hesitant to get physically involved if that is what is needed. She's stolen Merlin's book, risked herself as a means of distraction twice, infiltrated Camelot by being dropped in by Blackwing, taken Guinevere hostage to trade for the safety of her troops, and dealt with Elaine to subdue Gallop.
  • Dark Age Europe: The main setting.
  • The Dragon: Lord Viper and, to a point, Master Chang.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Merlin does this thrice onscreen and makes mention of other times, although once he got his dream sent by Morgana. Tone and Elaine had one each once too.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Elaine in "Winter Campaign".
  • Evil Laugh: Queen Morgana whenever she has a plan or when a plan goes into motion. Lord Viper and the Warlords if things seem to be going right.
  • Easy Amnesia: Part of the plot of "The Warlord Knight".
  • Evil Matriarch: Queen Morgana, who is the creator of most of her army (ánd her castle). She is the version that is benign towards their creations.
  • Excalibur in the Stone: A clever but unused combination. Excalibur is, along with the knights' other equipment, a gift by the Lady of the Table and Merlin. The details of who is responsible for what part of the weapons, like creation, power supply, and shield emblems, is not given. Early on in the story, the reason Arthur can fight the Warlords is because they are made of stone and Excalibur is the one sword that is harder than stone. This loses meaning a few episodes in already and the warlords become vulnerable to whatever the plot needs them to be vulnerable against.
  • The Faceless: Rim is the noteworthy example. He always wears a black slate in front of his face so there's not even a hint what his head looks like. Po's mask is similar but at least shows his eyes and follows the outline of his face. To a lesser extent are Viper, Ti Ben, and Hung, who also never take of their masks but who only cover the upper halves of their faces with them. A special situation are the warlords, whose heads all look like helmets and have virtually no movement in their faces to express emotion.
  • Face Your Fears: Lug regarding getting involved in anything dangerous and Breeze regarding heights.
  • Farmer's Daughter: Katherine.
  • Flight: Warlord Blackwing has wings and doubles as Morgana's scout and errand boy. In the second season, Slasher is also shown to be capable of flight. The Knights possess flight in as far as some of their emblem beasts can carry them. Flight is a plot point in the episode "The High Ground", wherein the Knights build small planes to get the advantage of the sky usually reserved to the Warlords due to Blackwing. Blackwing's inevitable attack on the planes seems to be fueled by more personal feelings than just a desire to keep the advantage.
  • Genre Savvy: To save some of his teammates from the Purple Horde, Arthur challenges their leader to single combat. The thinking is he wouldn't dare lose face by refusing a challenge to personal combat, which seems to come from an understanding of movie portrayals of East Asian honor.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Morgana.
  • Gold-Colored Superiority: King Arthur, as well as his horse and dragon.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: The Keys of Truth. Only four out of twelve were found by the end of the series (Darren's, Arthur's, Lance's, and Tone's). As well, one episode had the Knights almost retrieve a key, but lose it due to an accident. This key was eventually recovered in a later episode. Another episode had the three keys found up until become lost, but they were re-obtained within the episode.
  • Guns Are Useless: Subverted. Although slightly less numerous than the Knights and Warlords, part of the reason the Purple Horde are still a threat is the fact that while the Knights and Warlords have catapults and ballistas, they have cannons.
  • The High Queen: Queen Guinevere and the Lady of the Lake/Table.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Will in "Quest for Courage".
  • Hellish Horse: Viper's horse.
  • Identical Stranger: King Arthur and Arthur King; Sir Lancelot and Lance. No one says anything about the other new Knights either.
  • I Know Madden Kombat
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: The Purple Horde is likely named after the Golden Horde, a powerful Mongolian khanate that stretched its control to Eastern Europe. (The Huns were the ones that made it to Western Europe.) Their possession of fireworks and the names Chang, Hung, and Po establish Chinese ties (though the names are also associated with other Asian countries). Their weapons and details of their fashion are of Japanese origins. Awan is a mostly West Asian name despite his sumo wrestler look and nunchaku. Rim and Ti Ben have no clear origin. The matter can partially be explained that the Mongols and Huns incorporated the people they came across, so the Purple Horde may have done so too.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Lord Viper and Master Chang cannot stand each other, which doesn't bode well for their factions' alliance.
  • Irisless Eye Mask Of Mystery: Three out of six members of the Purple Horde. Chang either has this too (with the mask replaced by face paint) or Monochromatic Eyes is in effect.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: Merlin split the evil out of himself, creating a counterpart creatively named Nilrem. Merlin keeps him locked up in magical ice for life.
  • Jet Pack: Or Jump Jet Pack. Ti Ben has rocket boots. He only uses them once in "A Matter of Honor" and the extent to which they are of use to him is not made clear.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Chang.
  • Kid-Appeal Character: Everett and Tyronne.
  • Kill It with Fire: Be careful when Arthur summons his dragon.
  • King Arthur: The titular protagonist.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The Knights of Justice.
  • Lady of Black Magic: Queen Morgana.
  • Living Statue: The Warlords.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: 12 Knights of Justice, 8 Warlords + Viper, and 6 members to the Purple Horde. The regular cast also includes Merlin, the Lady of the Table, Morgana, Guinevere, Elaine, Mary, Katherine, Everett, and Tyronne.
  • The Low Middle Ages: The era of the main setting.
  • Love Potion: Morgana uses this on Tone in "Tone's Triumph" to get him to build warmachines for her.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: On account of the Knights being able to bring the emblems of their shields to life to fight for them.
  • MacGuffin: The Keys of Truth. They are supposed to be able to both send the football team back and free the true knights, but it's never explained how or what these two powers have to do with each other.
  • MacGyvering: The Knights, particularly Tone and Breeze. Zeke is implied to be capable of it too.
  • Magic Cauldron: Morgana and Merlin both have a cauldron in their workshop, but only Morgana is ever seen using it for magic.
  • Magic Wand: Merlin has one in "The Quitter".
  • The Maker: Queen Morgana, who not only created the Warlords, but is also adapt at creating dragons and other manners of beasts. She's made at least four large independent creatures, twice brought stone to life, and was responsible for a swarm of bat-like creatures but it's not clear if they were real or illusions. In the SNES game, she was supposed to create a large dragon as end boss, but this was changed to her turning into one so she could be defeated by the player instead of escape. In the comics, she has a guard dog whose origins are unknown but may also be one of her creations.
  • Meaningful Name: Lord Viper's got a snake motif going on and each Warlord is named after their weapon or the way to use them (give or take that Blackwing's got wings, but they're blue). The trope applies in two ways to the Knights. For one, several Knights also have a name that communicates their team purpose or power. Secondly, for some their legal names pretty much predicted they would one day be called to replace the Camelotian crew, 'Arthur King' being the most obvious.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Relatively subtle, possibly due to the fact that very few toys were released. One's never going to guess from a watch that Axe and Blackwing have no toys, but Slasher does. The most obvious signs of the merchandise-driven nature of the show are that the first three (out of four) Knights to retrieve their Keys of Truth are the ones who got toys and the episode "Darren's Key", in which Morgana reminds the audience of the Slime Pit's purpose every scene she gets the chance. Ironically, the Slime Pit, while advertised with the other released toys, never reached stores.
  • Mildly Military: All factions, but the Warlords in particular.
  • Mooks: The non-identifiable Warlords. Subverted slightly in that while they are the disposable troops, they never are disposed of. That fate only befalls the identifiable Warlords.
  • Mr. Exposition: Merlin from time to time. Especially bad in the episode "The Dark Side" when he finds out Nilrem has been freed. Morgana won't shut up about the slime pit in "Darren's Key".
  • Near Villain Victory: The premise of the series is based around the fact that the villains have already won, and only cheating by getting some replacement Knights from another time period prevents their full victory. In addition to that, several episodes have the villains come very close to conquering Camelot.
    • Which ties in rather nicely with the idea behind the Arbitrary Headcount Limit in the game; if you take more than two guys exploring with you, Camelot's defenses are sure to be overrun in your absence.
  • Neutral Female: True for Guinevere, Elaine, and Mary in a handful of episodes.
  • Never Recycle Your Schemes: Averted and subverted. Morgana and Arthur each have used comparable tactics twice. Some of Morgana's potions take years to create and require rare ingredients, accounting for why she never uses them again.
  • No Ending: Type Cut Short. The cartoon ended when only four of the twelve Keys of Truth had been retrieved. A Left Hanging within is created by "The Cure", which avoids any hint as to how the Purple Horde will regard the main two factions from then on.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: The alliance between Morgana's troops and Chang's troops was never a strong one. The episodes "Quest For The Book" and "The Cure" play into this.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: The Keys of Truth, one for Arthur and one for each knight.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Lucan, who is not a werewolf so much as a Warlord with a wolf theme.
  • The Plague: Striking Typhus in "The Cure".
  • Platonic Life Partners: Morgana and Viper.
  • Plotline Death: Two knights will die in the game. Who depends on who you've brought along.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Queen Morgana throughout the series. The second season introduced the aptly-named Purple Horde, an invading group of multi-Asian warriors able to hold their own against the Knights and the Warlords at the same time.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Most of the Knights. The certain ones are Breeze, Gallop, Trunk, Lug, and Tone. Tone's name was revealed to be short for Antonio, while the SNES booklet explains how Trunk (not very smart) and Lug (got called "big lug" by Arthur once because of his size) got their nicknames. Implied explanations are also given for the others: Breeze is "always cool" and Gallop is the fastest knight and good with horses.
  • Redhead In Green: Queen Guinevere.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Arthur and Lance.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Breeze, though it's pretty much limited to the first season.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Arguably every creature created by Morgana that's not a Warlord, especially the ones that dwell the hallways of her castle. In the Marvel comics, she has a lizard-like creature that more properly fits the role.
  • Ruins for Ruins' Sake: In "What the Key Unlocked", ruins are located in the caverns underneath Camelot that are, for all intents and purposes, inaccesible without magical aid.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Queen Guinevere.
  • Snake People: Viper in the SNES video game.
  • Spell Book: Morgana stole Merlin's prior to the series. It is a plot point until it is retrieved, but its nature varies per episode. Sometimes, it is portrayed as Merlin's personal notebook, other times it is one of many books in a series and Merlin can borrow another copy from a friend, and again other times it's treated like an immediate source of power.
  • Spock Speak: Zeke occasionally does this.
  • The Stoic: The old man in "A Matter of Honor".
  • Strange Salute: Morgana's troops have a greeting in which they turn their right hand into a fist and lay it palm down on their chest towards the left shoulder. As per "The High Ground", the Purple Horde is familiar with this greeting and might choose to use it.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: Blaise.
  • The Strategist: Queen Morgana.
  • Summon Everyman Hero: The football team replacing the true knights.
  • Supervillain Lair: Castle Morgana, which is implied to have been built by Morgana herself. It comes with a magic workshop, a throne room with a dragon-themed throne, traps everywhere, various monsters that roam around freely, an in-built harbor, a dungeon, and the stables are on the roof.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: Most of Morgana's troops in the SNES game, in particular if the player leaves the designated knight at Camelot to get the opportunity to fight the boss as Arthur. Subverted slightly in that some bosses take a ridiculous amount of hits before they go down.
  • Time Travel: The twelve protagonists are all from the 1990s and have been dragged to Medieval England by Merlin. They temporarily return to their own time twice, in "The Way Back" and "Camelot Park". In both instances, a handful of Warlords follows them to the future and back.
  • Toyless Toyline Character: Only a handful of toys were ever released, so most characters fall in this category. However, many were designed to receive a toy in the future. Merlin, Queen Morgana, the squires, and the female protagonists? Probably not.
  • Transformation Sequence: The Knights have one that utilizes the Round Table. It also affects their horses.
  • Trapped in Another World: Or rather, in the past.
  • Unflinching Walk: Rim in "A Matter of Honor".
  • Unicorn: There's one in "Assault on Castle Morgana". He promises to aid the knights in finding the Keys of Truth but is never heard from again. Unicorns are creatures portrayed as crucial to the magical environment and so much as one being in trouble shakes up the field.
    • The Purple Horde probably utilizes normal horses, but they aren't ever seen without their elaborate yellow headgear. The regular horses have headgear with a horn placed on the snout like a rhinoceros. Chang's horse does not have this, but instead has a (short) horn on the forehead emphasized by a red color.
  • Villain Decay: In the second season it became a semi-regular thing for the Warlords to be smashed into rocky debris upon being defeated by the Knights, something that happened not a single time in the first season.
    • On the other hand, Morgana became more involved in the various battles than she was in the first season.
  • Weapon of Choice: Each Knight, Viper, each Warlord, and each Purple Horde warrior had at least one. Several Warlords were even named after theirs.
    • An Axe to Grind: Axe: he wields a big one himself and uses axes as ammo for his cart. Trunk also is an axe-wielder.
    • Archer Archetype: Darren wields a crossbow and Hung wields a regular bow.
    • Arm Cannon: Ti Ben has a mounted cannon on his left arm.
    • Blade on a Stick: Several. Among the knights, Gallop owns an elongated mace, Lance has a lance, Zeke has a spear, and Breeze wields a pike. Among the Warlords, Spike carries around a double-bladed voulge and Blackwing rarely utilizes a bill which instead of a hook blade sports a bird's claw.
    • Carry a Big Stick: Bash wields a club seemingly made of bone. Phil utilizes a short mace in battle.
    • Cool Sword:
      • Excalibur: Arthur wields it, of course. Wally also got to wield it for a specific reason in "The Quitter".
      • Serrated Blade of Pain: Viper wields one.
      • Katanas Are Just Better: Chang wields one.
      • Nearly everyone in every faction has wielded a sword once or twice, mostly during large battle scenes. The only one who stands out is Ti Ben, who carries around a sword as his standard equipment but never uses it on the show.
    • Drop the Hammer: Hammer and, if rarely played so, Tone.
    • Dual Wielding: Wally, Blinder, Awan, and Rim.
    • Fighting with Chucks: Awan.
    • Improbable Weapon User: Slasher fights with his cape. Lug's weapon is a football, but it never saw use in the cartoon, so like Brick's brick walls it might have had unexpected usefulness.
    • Knife Nut: Blinder and Wally. They can, surprisingly, hold their own with them against much bigger weapons, but during focus scenes they more often have alternate uses than direct combat for the knives.
    • Razor Wings: Blackwing occasionally fights with his wings. Slasher qualifies for the Cape Wings variety starting season 2 when he acquires flight.
    • Rings of Death: Po utilizes these both himself and as ammo for his war wagon. Slasher also acquires them in the final three episodes.
    • Shoulder Cannon: Ti Ben has two.
    • Throw Down the Bomblet: Rim carries around small bombs.
    • Wolverine Claws: Lucan wears gloves with three claw stubs on each. They can be shot as projectiles or extend into long claws for close combat. Awan also has claw gloves and even claw boots, but he never uses them in combat.
  • What's in It for Me?: Chang's reaction to Morgana's offer for an alliance: "And what do I get?"
  • Whip It Good: Viper has a snake whip he can summon. Whether it is an actual (magical) snake or a whip that looks like one is unclear.
  • White Magician Girl: Chryslyn in "Quest For Courage".
  • White Stallion: Valor.
  • Wizard Classic: Merlin.
  • Woman in White: The Lady of the Table/Lake.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Queen Morgana is quite adapt at this. She has reworked failed plans into new ones in "To Save a Squire", probably "The Surrender", "Tyronne and Everett Alone", and "The Cure".
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Unlike the male characters, all recurring female characters have a different hair color. Notably, Lady Mary has blue hair when no one else has an unrealistic hair color.
  • You Have Failed Me: Averted by both Queen Morgana and Master Chang. Both rarely get angry at their troops and will jump into action to save them if necessary.

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