Were some of the deaths on Knightmare unfair? SpectralScorpion plays judge and jury over the most controversial deaths on the show.
Knightmare was a TV series written by the contestants. Whatever they did contributed to the story of each episode, whether that story was a continuation of an exciting quest, the beginning of the end or a good laugh at some ridiculously stupid contestant that seemed to have forgotten how to use their judgement between their audition and filming.
However, while the contestants always played a pivotal role in their fate it was the producers who made the decision to pull the plug on a quest, and as many fans will tell you not all endings were created equal. There are a number of instances where people feel contestants were treated unfairly, but no formal judgement has been made. While no scientist, I will now examine the evidence and give my own verdict on the deaths labelled controversial by the KM community.
Cliff - Series 3, Quest 2
This one has struck a chord with a few people, including myself.
Before we examine the death itself, let's rewind. When the DANCE spell was given, Merlin advised it was diversionary magic - a distraction while they made their escape. It is also worth noting that in the entire run of Knightmare, spells were rarely dispelled. Usually it was only when offensive magic turns on the players. It's quite clear the team had no idea that the spell was meant to be dispelled.
But what about the death itself? Well, it's clear the team have done the right thing in casting DANCE, and knowing it's diversionary magic they quickly make their escape. Now comes the bit that divides a lot of people - just as they are about to leave the room McGrew says 'I'll do anything!'
By this point it is too late and they leave the room, leaving Treguard to mock them for ignoring McGrew's pleas as a spectral sword polishes them off. So who is to blame? Is it the team for making too hasty an exit?
I don't think so. McGrew had tried to attack them, so you'd be inclined to ignore his pleas for mercy. Also, McGrew only hints at a benefit of dispelling DANCE just as they're about to leave the room, by which point it is too late. It is clear through simply watching the programme that the producers often aided the teams in awkward situations, so when Cliff's team made a swift escape McGrew should have come out with the 'I'll do anything!' line sooner, which would have at least given time for Treguard to drop a hint.
No hints were given until it was too late.
Leo - Series 3, Quest 4
Regarded as the one who should have been, Leo's undoing came about when he failed the Gargoyle's riddle deep in Level 3, meaning he lacked the spell needed to find the path ahead in the Stained Glass Window room. Though not as hotly debated as the others the Gargoyle's riddle has come under scrutiny, so was it overly harsh?
Let's answer that question with a question: how many of you knew that Avebury stone circle actually existed? Readers from Wiltshire may do, but I'd say the majority of us are hard-pressed to name another stone circle after Stonehenge. Given that Knightmare's trivia selection usually revolved around mythology, in particular stuff that was on the National Curriculum, this is a massive curveball for Leo and friends.
An obvious question to very few.
Simon - Series 3, Quest 3
1989 was a year in which Knightmare took no prisoners. It was also a year in which the production team were keen to show off their fancy new graphics. The Vale of Vanburn, a long, continuous area and various bits of animation all made their debuts here. It was also clear things were getting a little too repetitive for Tim Child. In the Level 2 clue room Simon came across an amulet that turned him into a little star that allowed the advisers to see him plunge over a cliff face as he was guided off it.
It all sounds good in theory, but let's be honest: the star was completely out of sync with Simon. This is pretty clear to see when he picks up the amulet again after putting it down, and when instructed to start stepping forward the star moved much slower than Simon would have were he visible. It was a difficult task for even the older contestants, and seeing how young Simon's team were it was an overly tough challenge indeed.
Apparently Tim Child thought so too - the amulet never appeared again.
Helen - Series 4, Quest 1
One of the few contestants to hail from my home county of Tyne & Wear, Helen showed pretty early on that Series 4 would be a drag by making it to Level 3 without much trouble. Her end came, however, at the hands of Mogdred. Armed with two spells, TRANSFORMATION and BUT, she chose the former to fight him with, but was too slow to cast and thus her quest ended there.
Was this fair, though? No hints were given as to which would be more useful, and when facing an evil Sorcerer BUT doesn't sound like the most useful weapon in your armoury. However, though Series 4 discarded the spontaneity of the previous three incarnations it still involved being quick-witted. The team should have guessed they wouldn't have the time to cast such a long spell and taken a gamble.
Level 3 isn't a place where you should expect prompts from Treguard.
Daniel - Series 8, Quest 2
This Series 8 adventure featuring four affable Jewish lads is probably the only quest where an advisor is easier to name than the Dungeoneer. Gideon is famed for his repeated shouts of 'Oh my God!' at just about everything, and was ultimately responsible for the team's undoing.
The reason for controversy comes from their ending: the Corridor of Blades. Before entering it Treguard insisted they needed a SIGHT potion, which they had given away in a trade not too long ago. This seems to suggest their backs were against the wall the second they stepped into the corridor, and sure enough Daniel was sliced. So why did Daniel's team need a potion for the corridor when so many other teams (including others in Series 8) didn't?
This one is tough to call, but the conclusion I have reached is that the SIGHT potion was a unique clue object: not necessary but helpful if you had it. If it was vital then Tim Child wouldn't have allowed it to be traded away, such as when Barry in Series 7 was given back his potion after using it to trade with Rothberry.
Though the blades appeared to be moving faster than usual a team still could have navigated it, which is why I put this down as a fair death. The only member of the Knightmare team at fault here is Treguard for confusing fans of the show a good 18 years after it has finished.
Mike - Series 8, Quest 4
Though Series 8 is generally regarded as a weak series to its credit there is a great comedy value surrounding it. Treguard going all informal on everyone; Gideon screaming a lot; people forgetting how to use common sense and also Mike and co. from Bristol, who spoke in such prominent West Country accents it was impossible to take them seriously. Call me a snob or whatever but there's something about someone going 'Ooh aar! We're being chased boi moiremen!' that drains away the fantasy mystique established in seven series of Knightmare.
Admittedly though, their death does raise an eyebrow. At the end of Level 2 they encounter the trapdoor. Having used a trapdoor to get into Level 2 in the first place it seems logical that this is the way forward. But this time there's no FLOAT spell, which was the only way to survive falling down the trapdoor in Level 1. Knowing this too, they decide to take the door at the back of the room, and are promptly vaporised by a fireball.
Treguard then berates them for ignoring the trapdoor, and while there's no debate that it was a silly thing to do it's understandable why they went for the door instead. In Level 1 a FLOAT spell was required to fall down the trapdoor safely, so it would be natural for them to assume another one was needed here.
It's also worth noting that the only other contestant who had to navigate a trapdoor to Level 3 was Nathan (Daniel had to tackle a much less threatening stairwell), and he received assistance from Hordriss through a feather that allowed him to float down. You could also argue that Dunstan safely used a trapdoor on the Golden Galleon without a FLOAT spell, but in that situation there was no other method of escape and the team were being chased by miremen, so it was a gamble that had to be taken.
This is another tough one for me to make a decision on but I'm going to say that this death was unfair due to the presence of an alternative exit in the room. That said people have pointed out that Mike may have been in losing status at the time, which means (as far as I'm concerned) that while his death was unfair it wasn't unjustified.
So there we have it. This article probably hasn't covered every controversial death in the series but it has given analysis to the most prominent. Doubtless a few of you will disagree with the conclusions I have reached, but at the end of the day our opinions differ and we can only analyse what we have seen. Who knows what off-screen antics could have influenced what we saw on TV?
And for every 20 minute show a great deal of footage would have been filmed and then cut, and maybe that excess provides the key to better understanding some of the aforementioned scenes. But who knows? We may think a team has been cheated while the team themselves think they were fairly disposed of, or vice versa.
All we can do is keep guessing until Knightmare finally makes it back onto the TV, at which point we can put our squabbles aside, sit down and relive the TV show we all love in glorious high definition. Now what's more agreeable than that?