Character deterioration

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Fright Knight
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Character deterioration

Post by HStorm »

Treguard, Hordriss, Sylvester Hands and arguably Lord Fear are all long-term characters who infuriate me as I watch the later seasons, and it's because they are all victims of a pattern in the way the series was written. If you watch their debut appearances, they all had a real edge to them that added to the harshness of the dungeoneers' situation, but as time passed the edge seemed to fade, sometimes with jarring suddenness.

Treguard was almost manic early on, sadistic to the point of frothing-at-the-mouth. By season 5, he'd become Obi-Wan Kenobi, except when arguing with Pickle or Majida, when he seemed to be acting like he was one of The Three Stooges.

Hordriss was ferocious, sinister, powerful and shrewd on his first couple of appearances, but by season 5, he was just a pompous, dim-witted, old blue-blood whose main role in the dungeon was to be the easily-punctured egotist, and to keep being humiliated and fooled by Lord Fear much too easily to be true.

Hands was quite interesting early in season 5. He was foul and poorly-educated, but there was a really devious quality to him that made his nickname of Sly sound really appropriate. By the end of the season, he was the fourth incarnation of Baldrick, and remained that way for the rest of his time on the series.

And even Lord Fear lost some of his intimidating early quality. To be fair, the sharpening of his wits from season 6 onwards was a real positive, but at the same time, he was scarier in his first season. A sharp-talker is always a good character, but the series was perhaps playing for laughs with him too often, reducing the tension the arch-villain was supposed to induce.

Similar things could be said of Motley - quite good fun early in season 3 but became less and less funny as he got whinier and whinier - and Gwendoline - sharp and tough at first, but becoming unbelievably thick and easily-fooled throughout the course of her only season.

In all these cases, I can't help thinking that the characters were turned into caricatures of themselves, even lazy comic-relief figures. And it's noticeable that the problems frequently developed in season 5. Would you say that it's a sign that the series was becoming more juvenile and less interested in tension from the middle years onwards? And if not, what would you put it down to?
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Re:Character deterioration

Post by Velvet »

I think I know what I'm prepared to put it down to, if it doesn't sound too xenophobic: the Americans.

Before I get shouted at, I'll explain: the Americans have a higher incidence of manic depression (bipolar disorder) than we do. This is frequently reflected in American fiction in which there's often a slapstick 'crazy' quality to at least one of the cast. As time has gone on - even up to the present day - we see more and more emphasis on goofy humour.

America's taste for this kind of humour has translated to our fiction, too - indeed, we do share a lot of fiction with them (e.g., Hollywood). I think that what we saw in Knightmare in terms of the gradual casting-off of edginess in favour of comedy might be an example of this.

But I definitely agree that characters lost their edginess. I'd forgotten how grim Hands was - and I'm watching season 5 at the moment. I don't think he inspected dungeoneers later on, checking them for weapons. But he gives me the creeps. Props to him back then.

Somewhere before I mentioned Motley and the fact that, early on in season 3 when Cliff stumbled upon him, he took a dislike to the dungeoneer - even to the point of not giving Cliff a chance to listen to his advisors when he asked them, "What should I say?". I'd like to have seen more of that from Motley. I still hold that he's a more influential character than most would believe. As for Lissard calling dungeoneers 'kidsies' later on... I find that abhorrent, having watched the first few series afresh. Don't even get me started on Snapper Jack's snapdragon glovepuppet.

I think that Knightmare is refreshingly grim, especially seen in these times of Horton Hears a Who, Bee Movie, Toy Story and all the rest. We need more of that kind of darkness. But I have a horrible feeling that, if we did have a new series of Knightmare then we'd get an awful, goofy parody of it.
Last edited by Velvet on 11 Dec 2008, 11:19, edited 1 time in total.
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