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Many Knightmare fans aren't so fond of the Christmas ending to Series 4 (1990). However, Chris Ballard explores a more positive connection between Knightmare and Christmas.

The ending of Series 4 is a controversial one for Knightmare fans. The team's quest is cut short - not because the dungeon is collapsing - but because Christmas is approaching.

Merlin appears in the antechamber and conjures up some festive decorations. “You do want to be home for Christmas, don't you boys?" he asks the team.

They nod but don't look convinced. D-I-S-M-I-S-S.

It's like a reversal of a childhood dream about Santa and presents - but this time you’re deep in an exciting dungeon adventure before suddenly being shaken awake because, bugger, it’s Christmas.

Why deck the dungeon halls?

Several criticisms have been levelled at this episode.

The mawkish tone jars with the perilous, adventuring spirit of Knightmare. Couldn't the team have been given a fair shot at completing their quest? And wasn't that a disappointing way for the iconic Merlin to bow out of the show?

But I understand why the producers did this. There are pragmatic reasons and - more importantly - emotional reasons.

The pragmatic view simply hinges on the fact that all television networks are chasing ratings. Christmas specials are churned out for practically all shows because everyone wants to feel Christmassy throughout December.

The Series 4 finale was the closest Knightmare got to a Christmas special. We should probably be grateful that it was as fleeting as it was perhaps inevitable.

Festive fantasies

However, Knightmare and Christmas will forever be closely linked.

The show was broadcast during the school autumn term, the slow 'countdown to Christmas'. Carol services, school plays, Christmas lists and advent calendars were all bound up with the weekly visits to the world of Knightmare.

It was one big ball of excitement fluttering around my eight-year-old tummy. When the halls of Dunshelm became decked, it just seemed like a natural coming together of everything magical about childhood.

Then, there were the ways Knightmare made its presence felt on my own Christmases.

The Catacombite on the cover of the first Knightmare book; the blue jumper with the silver frightknight logo I insisted on wearing for Christmas dinner; the Knightmare board game I played with my father one Boxing Day (I suspect he was bored rigid but he never let on).

And of course, the many gifts I received because Knightmare had introduced me to the wonderful world of high fantasy - gamebooks, Hero Quest, Tolkien.

Some of my most cherished childhood memories are of Christmas time. Many of those are because of Knightmare.

So, the next time you wince at festive cheer ruining Knightmare, just remember that the ghosts of Christmas past generally represent happy, innocent times when magic was real and anything was possible.

Dickens understood this and Knightmare did too.

Merry Christmas from everyone at knightmare.com. We hope you have a happy and peaceful one. (And Merry Knightmare too.)

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