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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Dungeons and Dragons

The opening titles of Dungeons & Dragons were genuinely terrifying.

As eerie fairground music tinkles in the background, a group of kids take a ride on a ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ rollercoaster. Suddenly, they’re whisked into a nightmarish dimension where they’re immediately charged by a fire breathing five headed dragon.

Luckily, they’re quickly assisted by the Dungeon Master – imagine a sort of squashed Ross Kemp with Jimmy Saville’s hair – who gives each of them a magical weapon and a new job title.

There’s Hank, the Ranger and the gang’s leader, Shelia, who had a cloak that made her invisible, and a massive crush on Hank, and her kid brother, Bobby, the Barbarian. Then there was Presto, the rubbish Magician and Diana, the Acrobat, whose magically super weapon was basically, a stick. And not forgetting the best character, Eric, the Cavalier – a total sh*t, but also the only one who echoed what we were all thinking watching at home, that the whole thing was completely unfair.

Each episode would see the gang try to locate a portal that would take them back to the real world. Invariably, they’d battle their arch foe, the demon-like Venger, before getting within inches of a portal that offered a tantalising but unreachable glimpse of the theme park, filled with sunshine and happy children eating candyfloss.
Of course, they never made it through.

Usually this was thanks to Uni, Bobby’s squeaking pet unicorn and probably the single most annoying cute sidekick in a cartoon series ever. Almost every episode the gang’s attempt to get back home was ruined by Uni getting her horn stuck in a bush or something.

Most episodes found the group trying their best to put on a brave face as they climbed some impossibly harsh rock face or trekking across a never-ending ice-field before Dungeon Master popped up to set them their task.

You could almost hear a nation of kids screaming as he delivered his infuriatingly ambiguous riddle that was supposed to lead the gang home. In fact, this feeling was, once again, regularly voiced by super-cynical Eric, who was the only character who seemed to recognise how ridiculous the situation was.

Most of us were just praying for the episode where Eric finally lost it and spent the remaining 15 minutes of the show repeatedly punching Dungeon Master in the face while shouting ‘JUST TELL US WHERE THE *$%^$% PORTAL IS YOU BALD HEADED LITTLE S@*T’ and then drop-kicking Uni off a cliff.

The sense of hopelessness I felt as a child watching Dungeons & Dragons has never left me. There weren’t many cartoons where the lead characters were almost exclusively miserable – hounded around an inhospitable landscape by a one-horned bastard and continually ridiculed by a wizened old man with a potato face.
So genuinely did I want those poor kids to get home to their parents, I would have gladly accepted that it meant the end of the show. The saddest thing of all though, is that they never did get back home. The show was cancelled in the middle of its third series, leaving the kids stranded forever. (If they ever did get back though, they could’ve sued that theme park for millions…)

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