Last Commanders Series 1

Last Commanders

By David Goldstein

Knightmare has inspired a new CBBC game show set in space.

Sciron, an overpowerful artificial intelligence, has enslaved the Kaladians with an anti-emotion virus. A young programmer called Skye is leading the rebellion as other immune Kaladians try to survive on Sciron's base, the Ykarus Biotech station.

That may not sound much like Knightmare, until we add that these Kaladians are guided on their puzzle-solving missions by teams of Earth children: the last commanders.

Last Commanders - players' view

The influence of Knightmare on Last Commanders is clear through comments from the people who made it.

Cara Ellison, who wrote an excellent piece about Knightmare for Unwinnable and helped get Knightmare into Red Bull TV's Screenland series, had this to say in her January 2018 newsletter:

Objective Media contacted me to ask me if I could develop a TV show with them based on an idea they'd had - a cross between The Crystal Maze and Knightmare, with a videogame twist - it was all first person camera. I said YES. And: OH MY GOD, I HAVE DREAMED OF THE MOMENT I MAY REBOOT KNIGHTMARE. I HAVE EVEN WRITTEN AND TALKED ABOUT IT EXCESSIVELY ON THE INTERNET.

Cara Ellison

Interviewed for a Den of Geek article on Last Commanders, its producer Ryan Meloy said:

I loved Knightmare, obviously, so making a show like this is something I've dreamed of since I was about ten! Knightmare was such a departure from other kids' shows at the time. It felt like a video game brought to life and shared a lot of similarities, puzzle-wise, with the old text adventure games on the Spectrum ZX.

Ryan Meloy

Each mission, set on a different part of the Ykarus station, advances the plot and takes Skye (Zoe Barker) a step closer to defeating Sciron, whose victims include her best friend and parents.

One big contrast to Knightmare is that each Last Commanders episode has four teams taking on the same mission, meticulously edited together. It makes us wonder whether some of Knightmare's less variable quests, such as Series 4, would work in this way.

The commanders' bases are their own homes. They're sent customised laptops by the production team and they use Skype TX to choose, talk with and advise their 'characters' (who helpfully read and speak English). Although this means the kids are quite far removed from the danger - which mostly consists of "Cybers" patrolling the corridors and lurking outside each puzzle room as Sciron threatens a door override - they clearly feel the tension, with many a scream let out. There's also a lot more dabbing (we think it's called dabbing - the thing with the arms) than you get on Knightmare.

If the character gets caught, we get a Game Over screen: much like Knightmare, younger viewers are assured that the harm isn't real. In every episode so far, at least one character has completed the mission. There's obviously a balance to be struck between challenging gameplay and story development.

Knightmare had its own sci-fi sister show, The Satellite Game, now largely forgotten (though YouTube has some episodes). We can see Last Commanders making a much bigger impression.

You'll find a set of playable prequel missions via the Last Commanders webpage, which pleasingly evoke the Knightmare Teletext games. There's even a nod (maybe) in one of them to Knightmare's 'fire extinguisher in the eyeshield sequence' moment.

A fire extinguisher and a water bottle are among the props accidentally on show in Knightmare and Last Commanders.
Props we weren't meant to see!

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