November 2nd 2015 marked 25 years since one of Knightmare's all-time classic moments.
Before we look at the incident, let's glance back at the origins of dungeon sidestepping. In Series 1, after two teams who restricted their dungeoneers' movements to turning and walking forward, the first sidesteps were taken by Team 3 of Series 1 during their exit from the Giant's chamber. The direction was to the left; the dungeoneer's name was Simon. How auspicious this turned out to be.
It was the following team, though, who first used the term "sidestep". One team called a sidestep a sidefoot, which was peculiar even by Knightmare's standards.
Three years later, the dungeon was a very different place in appearance - David Rowe's painted rooms had mostly given way to photographic backdrops - but the obstacles were still deadly and good communication crucial. The fourth team of Series 4, four boys from Swansea, finding themselves in the Block and Tackle chamber with floor collapsing, walls sliding and exits distant, had to get their dungeoneer moving. So it was that advisor Andrew gave his teammate Simon a bold sidestepping command that would live on infamy among watchers.
- "Sidestep to your left."
However, to Simon's left was a large hole in the unstable floor. It was a sidestep to the right that was needed, and this mistake meant a higher price than other teams paid for the same simple mix-up: the end of the quest.
Adding to the potential hilarity of this accidental self-sabotage were Treguard's attempt to describe the blunder with tact ("You were never very good at manoeuvring, were you?"), and David Learner's apparent struggle to keep a straight face, as he placed his hand strategically over his mouth. (It has also been noted that Andrew seemed to confuse left with right in the room before the Block and Tackle, telling Simon to sidestep left before recanting.)
The only thing missing was an "Ooh nasty!" from the Dungeon Master, because for some reason, he never used this phrase at all in Series 4.
For a moment that was to echo through the centuries, it was over very quickly. You can watch a clip below.
Over a decade later, the comic power of this scene was recalled and rediscovered when Series 4 was first repeated on Challenge in June 2003. Numerous comments by members of the Knightmare.com forum, including personal anecdotes, illustrate how and why Andrew's instruction has become a classic Knightmare quotation.
- 'Just the best Knightmare moment ever, I was in fits of laughter for ages ... I still feel it was a shame the way they died though because they were a good team and were doing very too. I wonder how far they would have got if they didnt cock up.' - Porsmond
- 'I loved seeing that again! The fact that it happened so quickly and that the Andrew in the red shirt could clearly see that the gap was on the left were what made it funny for me! ... absolute class!' - Velda
- '5:53. I floated to the nearest chair, preparing to watch the greater game [starting at 6:00], when I'm asked to go to the shop briefly. AAAARGH. So I do - Breaking every goddamned speed record possible to make a 10 minute trip fit into a 2 minute jog there and back... I get back in, and turn the TV back to the right channel, barely making the start of the beginning credits. Ten minutes later, Me and my mum laughed ourselves stupid, as 'Simon' and his advisors had a lapse of directional sense, and were sent plunging into the depths of the pit at Block and Tackle...It was worth all the hassle. ;)' - The White Floating Skull
- 'I also like the way the advisor on the left started scribbling out his notes furiously after Simon's fall.' - Crispin
- 'That moment is literally one that every avid Knightmare fan recalls time after time: ;D' - James Aukett (no stranger to Knightmare and 25th anniversaries)
- 'If you can't win at least make sure we can remember you!' - Harvey Towers
- 'It's hard to watch Simon's last few rooms in this episode without sniggering in anticipation at what's coming.' - Billy
- '"Sidestep to your left" remains the funniest moment in Knightmare... partly because it was so unexpected, and partly from seeing the team's reaction after it happened..." Heh, that didn't just happen did it? Wheres Simon gone? Simon...?"' - Werewolf
- 'Perhaps the best part of Knightmare ever.' - David Newton
It has also been nominated over and over in forum discussion threads on funny/funniest/favourite deaths, favourite overall KM moments, worst teams, Knightmare's biggest blunders and laugh-out-loud Knightmare moments.
The incident can be seen in multiple videos on YouTube (including Episode 2 of The Born In The 70s Show, which featured both the clip and a parody), with many comments there reflecting the widespread amusement and disbelief it continues to bring, including the following:
- 'Pure gold. PURE GOLD!' - EvilDMMk3
- 'It's a great pity that this one mistake brands him as one of the dumbest advisors tho. If you watch before the death, how he solves most of the riddles he actually is quite intelligent... he just needs to learn his left form [sic] right!' - dementedgiant
- 'ROFLMAO, funniest death I ever remember seeing.' - SpinDizzyMR
- 'It took me 5 minutes to stop laughing after watching? that!!' - AnfieldRed08
- 'That 'sidestep left' navigator kid must've had nightmares of his own for ages' - icecutter19
- 'Simon, backtrack back to your town and find some smarter friends to bring along.' - TerminalCriticism
- 'Sidestep to your left = Epic fail' - ScreamingTc
- 'The phrase "Simon, side step to your left" became a comedy saying for weeks afterwards in the playground!' - Alsmiff
A clip of Simon's demise, preceded by the end of his encounter with Brother Mace, was shown on Richard Bacon's Beer And Pizza Club in November 2010.
A recent instalment of the reliably fantastic Oculus Rift project by Knightmare fan Jamesuk has shown us what it might have been like to be Simon in that fateful room. We join this at the end.
Is there more to say about the scene than how hilarious it was? Perhaps a little. Discrepancies have been observed between Simon's appearance and position just before and after the sidestepping command (if you missed them, watch the clip again), suggesting that filming of the scene was not continuous, but took place over more than one take. We can only guess at what went on behind the scenes.
It might also be noted that while the hole that opened up next to Simon did so in every Block and Tackle visit, in the same position, not all dungeoneers had entered the room as close to its location as Simon did. This meant that for other dungeoneers, such as Helen of Team 1, a single sidestep to their left would not have caused a fatal drop. So it's difficult to argue that bad luck had a small part to play in what happened to Simon, but not impossible.
And if Simon hadn't become a sinkhole diving pioneer but instead had made it through the Block and Tackle, what then? It could have made a massive difference. The team had already faced the fiendish Corridor of Blades earlier in Level 2 (a bizarre scene in which one of the characters physically guided Simon through), suggesting that they wouldn't have had to negotiate it in Level 3. It's quite possible that without their literal misstep on Level 2, the team could have gone all the way and become Knightmare's only Welsh winners.
To Simon, Andrew, Richard and Andrew: if you're reading, we must thank you for playing such an entertaining part in the best show ever. And with Challenge set to repeat Series 4 again next year - its first showing on free-to-air UK television since original transmission in 1990 - we can look forward to having this moment back on our screens once more.