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Knightmare appeared in the 1980s instalment of Children’s TV on Trial, a series of six episodes broadcast in May 2007 on BBC4. The short feature included new commentary from Tim Child and Hugo Myatt.

[Clip available below.]

Children watching Knightmare on TV

The Children's TV on Trial series provided a decade-by-decade survey of children’s television from the 1950s through to the 2000s.

Children's programmes were grouped thematically to highlight their relevance to the contemporary culture of the decade.

Today's younger generation was also given the chance to cast its verdict on children's television of the past.

Violent scene on Grange Hill

At the end of the 1980s instalment, Knightmare bridged a gap between the use of computer technology and the emergence of darker themes through children’s television of the 80s.

The documentary featured children's involvement in politics and Grange Hill's portrayal of the taboo realities of school culture, with drugs, bullying and violence.

Knightmare episode introduction on BBC4

This was followed by Knightmare's use of cutting-edge technology to create a macabre virtual-reality environment designed to be terrifying - a zeitgeist of its age.

“We scared an awful lot of children”

There is a glint in the eye of Knightmare creator Tim Child as he explained how a computerised dungeon could create a convincing level of fear.

Tim Child, creator of Knightmare, is interviewed for Children's TV on Trial (2010)

"Some of the gameplay was really quite complex," he says. "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 six-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.

A dungeoneer flees the goblins on Knightmare Series 8

Whitehouse saga

Surprisingly, the show did not reference Mary Whitehouse's controversial (and later withdrawn) objections to the show.

The indefatigable moralist had criticised Knightmare after being provoked by journalists. She later retracted her comments after watching the show.

But the attempt to historicise Knightmare was a brave move to include factions of children's television that reacted to, or were inspired by, the cultural politics of its era.

Image of Margaret Thatcher from the 1980s

  • Download a video clip below. Despite featuring in the 1980s episode, most footage is from Series 8 in 1994.
  • Read a transcript (including the footage with Hugo Myatt) on the following page.
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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