Series 4 Appreciation Week

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Pooka
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Series 4 Appreciation Week

Post by Pooka » Fri Jan 23, 2015 10:20 pm

Knightmare Chat is here; last Sunday, we had loads of people in and it was a lot of fun. At some points we even mentioned Knightmare.

Anyway, Series 4 appreciation. Sounds a bit like an oxymoron, since it's the worst series by a mile in my opinion (and I'm assuming many other people's opinion too), exacerbated by the fact that it could have been so much better and was just trying a little too hard not to be.

Whatever you think of Series 3, one thing it isn't is repetitive, and yet Series 4 goes exactly the other way, with the teams running exactly the same quest over and over, the only real variety coming with teams that get all the way into level 3, such as Dickon (who won, of course), Giles, and Helen. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Helen's quest is perhaps the most exciting in Series 4 by virtue of the fact that she got really far, she died in a final encounter scenario and we hadn't seen any of this stuff before, so it was fresh and exciting and new.

And then the rest of the series is really boring.

I'm frustrated by this because it could really be a genuinely nailbiting series. The characters are well-realised - I absolutely love Brother Mace; Melly and Motley are back and pleasantly flirtatious; Gundrada and Fatilla are both amusingly silly and, yes, I do actually quite like Pickle. He can be irritating, but because both Treguard and Pickle say exactly the same thing at exactly the same points in every quest during this series, he manages (somehow) to make it variable.

Good moments include Simon sidestepping left, Mace turning into a lizard, the Chamber of Opposite Extraction, the introduction of the Eye Shield (yes, I know it is hated, but the first time you see it and it works, it's absolutely fascinating), Ali charming Fatilla to let him through, the appearances of Mogdred, and Mistress Goody.

And floor puzzles. There haven't been many of those up to this point and we get the introduction of the B&T, the Transporter Pad room and the CoB - all deadly traps and an excellent sign of things to come, each one (Transporter Pad notwithstanding) bagging at least one victim, and in delightfully nasty ways too.

However, let's not overlook its bad points. I don't actually mind the outdoor sequences - it does bring a little more variety to the whole thing, and Level 3 is still set in the Dungeon itself, to a point - but the purple tint is both confusing and pointless, adding a drugged-up quality that doesn't really work. Dickon winning is a good watch, although (despite his action-packed Level 3) the actual final chamber is a bit of a disappointment - I was fully expecting another twist.

And it's really, really boring. Especially the bits with the Weeping Doors, which are terrifying and teeth-grindingly irritating. The third time I saw the Dooris scene I was ready to gnaw my own arms off.

But I think the worst thing about Series 4 is the way that Merlin appeared - trapped in stocks, selling equipment, disguised as a poor beggar - it's what happens when you don't know what to do with the MOST POWERFUL WIZARD IN ALL OF HISTORY. It's crass and disrespectful and robs him of all the magical quality he had in the first few series - you only get a taster of his past glory in Dickon's reward scene and, sadly, in the final scene ever, which is spoiled a bit by him announcing Christmas (which must have made sense in the original broadcast, but not in repeats!).

Conversely, Mogdred is possibly at his most deadly in this series: it doesn't suit him, but he's doing his best.

Overall, I really don't like this series. It's clearly a period of transition and it's got some great ideas in it, but it's lazily pulled off and so mind-numbingly repetitive that it's almost not worth watching, were it not for the very occasional original scene.

There's a lesson somewhere here, but I've no idea what it is.
Pooka - teacher, writer, comedian, musician, geek, and full-time Knightmarian.

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Re: Series 4 Appreciation Week

Post by Canadanne » Sat Jan 24, 2015 2:21 am

Ah, Series 4. On the one hand, as a fanfic writer I find this series really fascinating, with all the new locations and cryptic references to off-screen power battles. It adds so much to the show's mythology that I'm very glad it exists. As a television series, though, it's pretty bad. Sitting through all the episodes is a real chore, with the lack of variation in the quests and especially the scripts. (It doesn't even make SENSE for Treguard & Pickle to be puzzled and surprised by the same things they've witnessed several times before!) And I'm not against the Eyeshield in general, but those early video sequences are way too long and boring, trudging through the same bits of forest for what feels like about five minutes every time.

I kinda miss Treguard's rhyming recaps; Pickle slowly reading the facts from a book just isn't half as fun. I love the new status bar though, with the little spellbook and pictures of the clue objects.

The Spindizzy is well used here. If we *must* have all quests beginning in the same place (and I prefer it when they don't), I would much rather watch them navigate this challenge than any of the other dull 'choice' rooms - at least there is real skill and danger involved.

It bothers me that teams are blatantly let off for choosing the wrong clue objects in Level 1. I suppose they were trying to get away from having too many short quests, so we'd see further into the dungeon each time, but there seems little point to a test that can't be failed. And it didn't serve to make the quests any more interesting, because we still kept seeing the same stuff over and over again, with half the teams dying in the same room or just beyond.

I hate the Weeping Doors. I don't know why they had to be crying constantly - it makes them particularly annoying - and I really don't like the old riddles being replaced by True-or-False questions. Especially since they never specify whether a certain score is required, so it doesn't appear to matter whether they get all three right or only one. And whilst other characters such as Oakley still ask proper riddles, they don't respond to falsehoods by giving the correct answer, which leaves both the team and viewers confused and is less educational than previous series.

I don't find the gloomy forest setting as appealing as later outdoor locations, but I can't deny it made a lasting impression on me, as some of my clearest childhood memories are from watching this series - the pooka path outside the Crazed Heifer, and the spider web stretched over Ariadne's lair. The sense of progression through the levels is somewhat lost with all this wandering about on the surface, and Treguard doesn't even recognise the staircase down to Level 3! (Thankfully this becomes clearer again from Series 5 onward, with the use of Smirkenorff and the Descender.)

The Corridor of Blades was introduced this year. Enough said.

Brother Mace is another brilliant addition, whom I also remembered from this series. (Love his hilarious cockup with the playing cards!) I do like Gundrada too, and Fatilla is reasonably amusing. I don't find Malice all that convincing as a villain and her behaviour is weirdly inconsistent, though it does provide the fic writers with some intriguing material. Mistress Goody is even more bizarre, using her very occasional speaking appearances to babble utter gibberish that gives no clues as to what the hell she's actually there for.

Merlin's appearances are all rather confusing. I guess it's nice that he had a bit more variety in his scenes, but he doesn't come out of Series 4 with a huge amount of dignity.

I can't *believe* how badly overused those bloody stocks and pillories were. They couldn't think of *anything* different for the characters to do?! That really is lazy writing.

I'm a fan of Pickle so his arrival is a positive thing in my book, although Series 4 is definitely his weakest, due to the repetitive nature of his lines. I do enjoy his "elfishness" here, but he's just a bit too serious, without the impish grins we see in Series 5 and 6.

There are some good teams. Helen's death was unfair, Alistair's was gutting, Dickon's team are fun (though I too found their victory anticlimactic - as did they, judging by their reactions!), and the last team are also quite entertaining. Elsewhere there was some real incompetence on display. I can't stand Vicky's shrieking, panicky advisors, who are almost (but not quite) as bad as Becca's in Series 8.

Oh, and there's also the new arrangement of the theme music, which I like (not that I didn't like the original version).

Blimey, that was longer than I expected it to be.

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Re: Series 4 Appreciation Week

Post by wombstar » Sat Jan 24, 2015 4:07 pm

Series 4 was when I started watching it back in it's original run, it fascinated me enough then to keep turning in for every episode until the show went off the air. But I'll need to refresh my memory and watch it again because I don't remember it too well, I tend to get it mixed up with series 5 but good bits I can remember happen o be series 5 so many there weren't any here.. lol

Felt sorry for the last team, they were very unfortunate their quest ended early.. they would have one other wise.

I didn't mind the trams getting to pick witch quest item they played for, made more sense then the previous years, and I didn't mind the eye shield, it was new and different plus the format needing a little tweaking by this point.
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Re: Series 4 Appreciation Week

Post by pjmlfc05 » Sat Jan 24, 2015 7:17 pm

Although looking back at it now, it is my least favourite series. However at the time, it was the season I really got into Knightmare.

Highlights of series 4:

Corridor of blades - the one and only!
Use of outdoor locations - what I felt it needed to breathe new life into Knightmare
Hordriss - he became a good guy in this and I felt his character developed more in this and future series
Simon's sidestep to the left - So funny!
Block and tackle - also see above!

Lowlights of series 4:

Merlin - his character deserved so much better in this series
Weeping doors - should never have been used.
Repetitive and predictable

Overall the worst series but at the same time the one that really got me into Knightmare as a kid!
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Re: Series 4 Appreciation Week

Post by GranitasIsCute » Sat Jan 24, 2015 8:55 pm

I agree that Merlin's appearances in Series 4 come across a little disappointing - not seeing him in his proper robes etc., but I do quite like the idea of him testing the compassion of the dungeoneers as well as their brains. I also don't object to him turning up at the end of the series and announcing Christmas, unlike many others, I think. ;)

Series 4 is very often overly-repetitive, and on the whole I prefer the dungeon-bound setting, but in many ways I find it quite atmospheric. I like how the Level 3 has a sense of identity in the Tower of Time - something that's lost a little in Series 5 and 6.

Back to its repetitiveness - it is frustrating how much of the set up of each quest is very similar, particularly when Treguard and Pickle say the same thing over and over again. That's why I like it later in the series when more variety starts to creep in. At the same time, a sense of identity and familiarity is good I feel, and I can appreciate how a young viewer would enjoy a 'dungeon' set up that they recognise. It's all about striking a balance I feel, and in this series they went too far on the repetitive side.

I wouldn't ever considering it being my least favourite series though - that's definitely Series 8 for me (but this is a discussion for another day).

I don't really mind the weeping doors too much either - I think they're quite a nice obstacle and it's always good to see questions in the quest, but seeing them over and over again with the same dialogue from Treguard and Pickle does get a bit much.

I'm not much of a fan on the Eye Shield either. Although it now very much epitomises Knightmare, I think it does hog rather a lot of screen time that isn't actual questing and is just a lazy way of getting the dungeoneer to the portal. It's most of a problem in this series and Series 5 I think - from Series 6 it's not as intrusive.

Brother Mace is one of my favourite characters, because Michael Cule plays him so brilliantly. I'd be tempted to award him the title of Knightmare's best improviser - he's very good at reacting to anything the dungeoneer says and always gives us an entertaining scene. He's also very good as Fatilla, but I think Brother Mace really gives him his moment to shine.

I quite like Gundrada too, but I think it was the right decision to drop her after this series as there wasn't really anything more to do with her.

I don't really think the addition of a helper for Treguard was necessary, but I like Pickle. It's good to see him really getting on board with the team and getting excited along with them, but (as Canadanne said), he ends up with a lot of scripted and repetitive lines in this series.

Dickon's team is my second favourite (after Julie's from Series 7).

They tried to do a lot of new things for Series 4, many of which didn't quite pay off, but things started to creep in that would shape the way Knightmare evolved from there on. It's not my favourite series as it certainly is the most repetitive, but there are many aspects of it that I like.

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Re: Series 4 Appreciation Week

Post by HobGoblin » Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:43 am

See my jumped the shark article!

Interestingly, much of what I now hate about S4 I don't think bothered me as a child. I certainly can't remember thinking it had become incredibly repetitive or that the eye shield provided zero zip and sapped the show of energy and momentum. However, with hindsight I'm actually slightly amazed the changes made in this series didn't derail the entire show - as Canadanne suggests it's pretty appalling television in many ways!

Canadanne also uses the word lazy - which is a perspective I've never really considered before. Were the producers genuinely trying to freshen up the show with new ideas or were they panting on the ropes after a hectic few years and merely following the path of least resistance? (Design new rooms? Nah, just walk around outside with a camera!)

The series is at its best when it remembers the trap filled dungeon - the fact that the CoB and B&T killed most teams reflects the lack of inherent danger in most of the new locations (if Leeds Castle was actually strewn with deadly puzzles I suppose its revenue from tourism might drop a little).

I like Pickle but my view is that he's a good character in a redundant role.

Knightmare had several brilliant years ahead but IMHO was now past its peak.
Extreme warning team, a Hobgoblin in the level!

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Re: Series 4 Appreciation Week

Post by s4t8brett » Fri Mar 18, 2016 5:12 pm

Hi everyone,

I'm not here to present the case that Series 4 was the best, but in terms of playing it as team captain I must say I really enjoyed it, and didn't notice it was too boring (experienced as an individual quest in its own right, why would I think that?!) or 'too purple' - incidentally a colour associated with magic, apparently! - until someone pointed it out on this forum, an aeon later. What was exceedingly boring, and a bit hard to understand, was the tediously long waits in between scenes.

When I first saw the Eye Shield, I thought they had cracked high quality simulation: it wasn't until Level 3 that I realised (for certain) we were watching a recording. When I asked whether there was choice in the Eye Shield, the production team said there was 'some choice'. Perhaps that explains why I was on the lookout for 'secret exits' during the Eye Shield sequences!!!

Yes I was disappointed none of Series 3 was retained as such (in terms of the scenes). But I really liked the forest scenes - inevitable, perhaps, having grown up with the New Forest on my doorstep - also the inn with its numerous actors and the boat crossing (alluded to in the audition scenario, perhaps). Perhaps the colouring would have been better slightly misty rather than the jagged electronic-looking effects, but when playing - as I said - I didn't notice that much. I also really liked the increased interaction with the characters compared with series 3.

I have to say I really wasn't that impressed with Lord Fear and the spyglasses that came later. In fact the only thing I would have liked to have had in our quest, apart from more time of course, was the dragon flight sequence. Possibly Series 4 is unique in not having a dragon in it (Series 1 of course was not completed).

Thanks for reading,
Brett

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Re: Series 4 Appreciation Week

Post by Canadanne » Fri Mar 18, 2016 5:35 pm

s4t8brett wrote:Possibly Series 4 is unique in not having a dragon in it (Series 1 of course was not completed).
So it is... I'd never really noticed that!

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Re: Series 4 Appreciation Week

Post by pjmlfc05 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 6:31 pm

s4t8brett wrote:I also really liked the increased interaction with the characters compared with series 3.
That's a good point. I never really noticed but just checking out an episode of s3 and then s4, you are right. I think Michael Cule was fantastic the way he interacted with dungeoneers. I guess Tim wanted more character interaction with dungeoneers, may be wrong though!
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