Knightmare Lexicon - A Knightmare Encyclopædia

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1. Sylvester Hands
"'Ello. My name is Sylvester 'Ands; you know, 'ands, like feet, but at the other end of yer body."

So the insalubrious, disreputable and frankly disgusting Sly has introduced himself to so many, almost never to their liking. Hands is a leading member (apparently) of the Honourable Guild of Thieves and Beggars, though all that is known about in any detail of his professional activity has been in the service of Lord Fear and has had at least as much to do with kidnapping as with theft or beggary. And hasn't been very successful.
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Hands's task was to kidnap dungeoneers and others as directed by Lord Fear with the aid of his ostensibly "magic rope", though the nature of its magical properties is uncertain, as indeed is their existence. He tried many times but only had three victims, all female and one a dungeoneer, in his known career: January in Level 2 in Series 6 (who made the mistake of trying to bribe him with Lord Fear's magic ring instead of using it against him - a video clip can be found here), Romahna of the Airwan, whom he deceived, much to her embarassment, by means of his 'goosie gander' trick in Level 1 in Series 7, who was then rescued by Nicola and whom he later in the series captured again only for her to be saved by Barry, and Marta the tavern wench in the same series, whom he locked in a chest in Level 2 and who was subsequently saved by Ben.
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Hands's appearance and manner need hardly be described to any "Knightmare" fan. Suffice it to say that he is ugly, poorly dressed, smelly and, although not cunning or devious enough to be a real bastard, tries as hard as he can: he will rob, kidnap or even attack (preferably at a distance with his beloved, if usually ill-aimed, catapault, which he acquired some time between Series 7 and 8) without a qualm, as long as he thinks he can get away with it.

Which he usually doesn't. Hands has frequently been outwitted and humiliated by dungeoneers and others, perhaps most memorably and entertainingly by the notorious Barry in the final episode of Series 7, when he was persuaded to take a potion of freezing on the grounds that it was in fact a potion of strength and would enable him to keep guard over both Barry and Romahna.
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Here is what has to say:

"The disreputable (all right, disgusting) Sly is a leading member of the Honourable guild of Thieves and Beggars. Sylvester serves himself, rather than The Opposition, although he is certainly not on the side of truth and light. Dungeoneers may only deal with Sly from a position of strength. If he finds them defenceless, he will rob them of all possessions."

A version of Hands as he might be some years on is active (perenially) at Knightmare Role-Play, played by myself. He has risen to be Lord Fear's right-hand man (which simply goes to show that you just can't get the staff) and his rope has been discovered to be magical after all.

Provided By: Thanatos, 2006-01-09 20:23:11
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2. Sylvester Hands
From TES issue 65 (September 2010)

Series 5/6/7/8. Level 1/2/3.
 [Related Image] Despite the fact that I would have liked to see Paul Valentine’s screen time split a lot more evenly between Sylvester Hands and the seldom seen Motley during series 5 and 6, I have always been a fan of his portrayal of Sly, a character who provides or facilitates a good chunk of Knightmare’s genuinely amusing moments. It is hard to imagine a dirtier, scruffier vagabond than the one Paul presented to us, always with a mad glint in his eye and a disgustingly slurping manner of speaking. Sly’s interaction with dungeoneers was always brilliant, and his habit of laying his filthy hands all over them (even stroking or sniffing parts of them at times) was both repulsive and wonderful. And of course Sly was always good for a hearty laugh, because he was always so incredibly stupid… er, wasn’t he?

Well, no, not really. When the character was first introduced at the beginning of series 5, he had not yet evolved into the brainless twit who soon became so familiar to Knightmare fans. Although he was as dirty and disgusting as ever, the original Hands was rather devious and sharp, and he had a genuinely threatening air about him. After his very subdued first appearance with Brother Mace and Catherine, and his fairly brief yet undoubtedly painful appearance with Pixel and Richard, Sly made probably his most interesting appearance ever, with Sarah at the Greenshades inn. It was the first time we really saw what he was like as a character, and it became very clear that he was someone to be very cautious of.

The scene involves Sarah negotiating the fairly simple exchange of a bar of gold for a key, but with this particular performance as Sly, Paul Valentine really makes the encounter into something special. His negotiation technique is cunning and shrewd, and his manner towards Sarah is distinctly lecherous, though entertainingly rather than disturbingly so. He calls her my dahlin’, he sniffs her hair, he leers at her alarmingly throughout the exchange, creating the impression that he might sweep in to attack her (possibly rather inappropriately) at any second. This is a scene I’ve appreciated more as I’ve grown older, as it really is a brilliant performance from Paul Valentine. But perhaps as this interpretation of Hands is probably less accessible to younger viewers (i.e. a good proportion of the CITV audience) the decision to devolve Hands into a clueless oaf was understandable.

Sly’s very next appearance, with Ben and Gwendoline in level two, saw him established as the brainless character we know so well. After trying out a few different things, Paul had finally settled on the voice - he now sounded stupid rather than cunning, and the introduction of the famous Hands, like feet… catchphrase served to underline this impression starkly. And this is how the character stayed throughout the rest of Knightmare’s run, which is a shame in a way, although I never minded at the time because Hands was always a consistently amusing character, and I suppose that’s what really counts!

Of course Hands did prove himself to be a genuine threat on occasion, especially when he claimed himself a victim by dragging January off to Mount Fear in series 6, and he had his goblin horn and rope ready to do the same thing to Julie in series 7 if she had not managed to get him drunk. (The scene between Sly and Julie is always a joy to watch, and contains some of the best actor/dungeoneer interplay you’ll see anywhere in Knightmare.) Like many of the long established characters, Hands did not receive as much screen time as he deserved in series 8 (the one series where Motley actually appeared more than him!) although the scene involving Hands, Daniel and the Fearsome Potion is one of the highlights (and there aren’t that many!) of this series for me.

Provided By: Eyeshield, 2010-10-22 08:59:54
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3. Sylvester Hands
From TES issue 5 (December 1996)


A definite part of the "new breed" of Knightmare characters, i.e. after series 3, and more significantly - one of the few characters from this period to emerge as a truly memorable part of Knightmare folklore.

You may wonder what I mean by "new breed". Well, Up to series 4, actual characters tended to be no more than objects, where all they did was to demand bribes, give spells, offer guidance, or to be evil and sinister. That never really changed - but as Knightmare developed, characters began to enjoy fuller roles, whereby they often would engage in longer conversations with dungeoneers, or on a more frequent basis - two or more characters may appear together - forming a more scripted, character-based adventure. See ?! It's obvious ! So what does Sly have to do with all of that ?!

Well, as I'm sure you all noticed, when Sly appeared - it was never a short visit ! Dungeoneers had to display a new skill of flattering Sly, and to talk their way past him. An alternative method would be to simply threaten Sly, and scare him away.

Sylvester Hands first emerged as a Knightmare character in 1991 - series 5. Played by Paul Valentine, his first appearance made it difficult to judge just what sort of character he was at that point.

Viewers got their first glimpse of Sly, as he played cards - albeit badly - with Brother Mace in the greenwood. Mace talked down to him, and his generally quiet behaviour appeared to suggest he would not be a major character. However, this quickly changed, as his next appearance saw him accosting a dungeoneer and attempting to rob them ! Far more familiar !

Since that point, we have seen countless performances of Sly's infamous "Hands like feet, but at the other end of your body" routine - a joke that soon wore thin! As Knightmare developed into a more scripted format, Sly became an ideal vehicle for sillier, comedy scenes. He would pretend to be a dungeoneer, wearing a helmet. He would often get accused of smelling badly [sic], and Lord Fear saved his best insults for him. In short, Sly quickly became a joke character - light relief from the tensions of a quest, and rarely a serious danger. Admittedly, Sylvester can claim one victim. I won't spoil it for you, in case of future classic quests !, but his dungeoneer removal plan was to simply capture the dungeoneer in ropes, and lead them to Lord Fear.

I know I've been slightly critical of old Sly, so I should also point out that I feel Paul Valentine played the part extremely well, incorporating every disgusting element he ought to. The permanent hunched back, the constant sniffing, and the awful habit of actually laying his filthy hands on dungeoneers ! My only gripe with Sylvester Hands is that I never have enjoyed characters that simply delay the quest with prolonged, and often silly appearances. However, as part of the second half of Knightmare's history, Sly stands out as a truly disgusting symbol of Lord Fear's evil army - a grovelling, smelly minion, with very little upstairs !

FEAR FACTOR : 5 : Only 'cos he worked for Lord F !
HUMOUR RATING : 8 : His main function !
KILLER INSTINCT : 3 : One victim in four years !
OSCAR STANDARD : 9 : Perfect performance !

Written by and submitted with the kind permission of Paul McIntosh.

Provided By: Eyeshield, 2007-12-11 17:19:28
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