Alan Boyd with the team from Geek Week Knightmare: Daniel Howell, Phil Lester, Emma Blackery and Stuart Ashen.

Interview with Geek Week Team (Part 1)

By Alan Boyd

This is the first of our two-part interview with the contestants of the Knightmare Geek Week episode - Phil Lester, Daniel Howell, Emma Blackery, and dungeoneer Stuart Ashen.


We found the contestants tucked away in the green room at Epic Studios.

Although the veil of secrecy has been slightly lowered for these adult contestants, rules are rules. Scripts are closely guarded and the movements of the contestants are restricted in order to prevent them seeing anything they shouldn't and thereby spoiling the game.

And a game it remains. The entire team was quick to agree that they wanted Knightmare to remain as before and for it to stick to its roots.

Stuart: "It would have been awful, with all of these fans watching and wanting to take part themselves, to not take it seriously. It would have just been the worst thing."

Phil agrees that the game has to be taken seriously and that they didn't want to either put on some kind of a personality or to die in the first room.

First room of Knightmare geek week
Stuart Ashen in the first room of the Geek Week dungeon

In order to counteract this latter problem, Dan has apparently become a walking encyclopaedia of Knightmare knowledge (thanks, we understand, to the knightmare.com website, which might go some way to explaining our huge increase in visitors this month).

Having seen the team in action, it's pretty clear from their reactions to the hurry-ups (the various monsters or mechanisms that force a team to move more quickly in order to either exit a room or make a decision more quickly), that the team have taken their quest seriously, and we doubt that any viewer will disagree.

Watch the Geek Week episode

A Level 2 Clue Room formed from the original wellway Room, remastered for the Geek Week episode of Knightmare (2013).
Stuart reaches a clue room

I expected not to be scared. Children I can understand jumping and being nervous and scared... There was one certain room where we all jumped out of our skins and we all felt like children again.

Emma

Stuart: "One of the things I remember from the show was that the dungeoneer was always very static, rarely reacting to what was around him/her. Obviously that was because they were in a big empty blue room with actors! But it did knock the illusion a bit.

"However, after actually experiencing it, I have no idea how the kids didn't react. Although you can only see their feet, you've got real people talking to you and standing right next to you - and as you can't see what they're up to you don't want to turn your back on them. And when something happens in a floor puzzle you get a MASSIVELY LOUD disorienting sound in your ear which induces a mild panic for a second or two!"

Undoubtedly Tim Child (creator of Knightmare) will be pleased to hear that. Lord Fear certainly would be.

Extended Geek Week showing prime causeway
The team encounters a floor puzzle

Dan also remarked that there was a steep learning curve in response to the first hurry-up that the team encountered (we're determinedly not revealing what it is).

Of course, Knightmare veterans will understand exactly where Dan is coming from here. It's not uncommon for a team to be a little wobbly in their navigational skills or responses to puzzles in the early rooms and it generally takes few rooms for the dungeoneer and advisors to start gelling.

Who remembers Knightmare?

We asked the team about their memories of Knightmare in the past. All of the team had seen Knightmare before they took part and jumped at the idea (Phil - "yessssss pleeeeeeeeaaaase", Stuart - "Yes, God Yes") when they were asked to participate in the Geek Week episode.

It's worth noting that, in each case, each of the team saw Knightmare at almost the critical demographic age of the show. Certainly this seems to contradict some of the comments made by TV executives in the past that Knightmare was targeting an audience that was moving away from the TV on to other forms of entertainment.

Phil recalls watching Knightmare at about age 6 with his brother and being terrified of the lifeforce clock. As he got older, he started to understand more about the show and found it fascinating from a technical standpoint.

Dan and Emma, who are slightly younger, both saw Knightmare from one of the repeats shown on Challenge TV aged about 9 or 10.

Stuart was 11 or 12 when the original broadcast on CITV aired. He recalls it being considered the "coolest ever show", which was "must watch TV".

We ask Stuart if he ever considered applying to take part, since he was in the accepted age range at the time of the original broadcast. Sadly, though, Stuart tells us that he didn't, and that it's taken nearly 20 years for him to have the courage to take part.

Aerial POV shot of 'Slice Me Dice Me' from the Geek Week episode of Knightmare (2013). The challenge was first seen in the Knightmare VR pilot of 2004.
Stuart encounters the formidable Slice-Me-Dice-Me challenge

Room for a return?

Finally, I ask the team about their feelings regarding Knightmare making a return. The team are unanimous in their answer - yes, it should return.

Dan would like people to know that, as a walking Knightmare encyclopaedia, his knowledge is wasted unless it makes a return. Meanwhile, Stuart intends to breed the ultimate dungeoneer - with a third eye on his chin.

All in all, we found the team to be lovely, friendly, and very genuine, which may explain the presence of 50-odd teenage fans who camped outside the studio to get autographs from the team.

That the team took the game seriously will undoubtedly also be appreciated by old fans of Knightmare, who may (understandably) be more guarded in seeing changes made to their beloved show. Having watched the team play the dungeon, we don't think fans have anything to worry about. Knightmare is in safe hands.

In part two, we ask the team about their quest and its final outcome.

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