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Knightmare appeared in the 1980s instalment of Children’s TV on Trial, a short series of six episodes that first aired in May 2007 on BBC4. The short feature provided a behind-the-scenes appraisal from Tim Child and Hugo Myatt.

 

Children's TV on Trial

[BBC4 / May 2007]

[Clip Attached]

 

The Children’s TV on Trial series was a chronological survey of television programmes made for children from the 1950s through to the millennium, with one programme dedicated to each decade. A separate item, ‘The Kids’ Verdict’ (listed as an epilogue but broadcast as a foreword), saw today’s younger generation analysing children’s television of the past.

The documentary-style format of the series allowed it to review programmes schematically to highlight their relevance and puissance within contemporary culture of that decade. Knightmare featured towards at the end of the 80s instalment, following a sustained look at the use of computer technology.

Within the context of the show, however, Knightmare was part of a larger initiative: to demonstrate a darker and more worldly genre emerging through children’s television of the 80s. Features on children's involvement in politics and on Grange Hill's strong portrayal of the unacknowledged and taboo reality of school culture was followed by that on Knightmare’s use of cutting-edge technology to create a macabre virtual-reality designed to be terrifying: a zeitgeist of the age.

 

Here, in Tim Child’s most recent TV appearance discussing Knightmare, there is a glint in his eye as he speaks of the modality of a computerised dungeon. The game was intended to be a serious challenge, within which was necessarily incorporated a level of fear. That fear, he identifies, led to great gameplay.

The show did not reference the controversy surrounding Mary Whitehouse’s (later withdrawn) objections to the show, but the attempt to historicise Knightmare was a brave move to include factions of children’s television within media production that could be shown to have reacted to, or have been inspired by, the cultural politics of its era.

 

 

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[The transcript is shown below. The video of this footage is attached below. Despite Knightmare featuring in the 80s show, it is noticeable that the majority of footage is taken from 1994.]

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Narrator [Mark Halliley]: In the 80s, computer games began to emerge as an important player in the world of children's entertainment. As an answer to games like Dungeons & Dragons, ITV broadcast Knightmare, described as the world's first virtual-reality TV show. It was presented by Dungeon Master, Hugo Wyatt [sic].

 

Tim Child: [on Hugo Myatt] He was probably at the time, in the late 80s and early 90s, in any school playground in Britain, he was probably the most imitated person. There would be kids going around saying 'Ooh, nasty', which is his famous catchphrase for whenever a team died in the game. [Rebecca Hughes' team (Series 8) dies].

 

Hugo Myatt: The set I was in was real. It was a real set... And the advisors went into that, and so did the dungeoneer originally, so they never, ever saw the blue set.

[Dungeoneer Dunstan is sent on his way. See if you can spot Alan/Mystara here]

Narrator: The lone dungeoneer was blindfolded by a large helmet and set into a blue-screen set. Through computer graphics, a hazard-filled fantasy world was created around him. Three teammates in a separate room directed the dungeoneer through an imaginary maze in search of treasure.

 

Hugo Myatt: The technical aspect of Knightmare was quite incredible. I didn't know how it was done, or what was going to happen very often, and things would appear that would absolutely amaze me.

Tim Child: Some of the gameplay was really quite complex. It was always challenging, and also, it was quite scary. A dungeon is a dark, dank, dangerous place. It's not the sort of place you would send 6-year-olds in – even in fantasy terms with drawn environments, it's pretty convincing. We scared an awful lot of children. But they made for great gameplay once they'd been scared.

 

Hugo Myatt: You get them calling "GoLeftGoLeftGoRightGoLeft!" The poor thing is out there, going "well what -#- do you want!?" We didn't actually get -#-, but near enough.

[Alastair Gill's S4 team (1990) are the first to perish in the Corridor of Blades]

 

Hugo Myatt: [with reverb]. Ooooh, NASTY!

Attachments:
Download this file (Children's_TV_On_Trial.wmv)Children's_TV_On_Trial.wmv[Knightmare on the 1980s instalment of Children's TV on Trial (BBC Four, 2007)]9659 kB

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