Knightmare Lexicon - A Knightmare Encyclopædia

#  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

[Home] [Login]
1. Virtually Impossible
When Knightmare’s eighth series came to an unexpectedly early conclusion in November 1994, its timeslot was inherited by a new show called Virtually Impossible, which really could have been subtitled Knightmare: The Next Generation. It was certainly no surprise to see that Tim Child and his friends at Broadsword were the ones responsible for the new show. At the time, I remember worrying that Virtually Impossible was intended to be some kind of permanent replacement for Knightmare, although as it turned out neither show was recommissioned.

Despite the fact that it had unceremoniously usurped Knightmare and cut its run short, I quite enjoyed Virtually Impossible, although obviously nowhere near as much as I’d enjoyed Knightmare. Recently I found an episode on YouTube, and watching it inspired me to write this article. Most of the observations I’m going to make are based on the content of that particular episode, although I will be digging into my own memory as well, which may not always be totally reliable!

Virtually Impossible ran from November 1994 to February 1995, and featured teams of four young gamers pitting their wits against the challenges of a computer-generated world. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? In this article, I am going to discuss some of the many similarities between Knightmare and Virtually Impossible, and then explain why the latter show was little more than a far inferior version of the former.

Despite the fact that there was nothing remotely medieval about its main location - Sim Station Alpha - the whole setup of Virtually Impossible was strikingly similar to that of Knightmare. A dungeoneer (or “Ranger”) was sent into the gaming world, while the three “advisors” remained behind in Sim Station Alpha, along with the host, Codsby. Although a computer-generated fish was hardly a suitable replacement for Treguard, I was always quite impressed by Codsby’s hosting skills. He always liked to get involved in the game with the team, offering advice and encouragement at times, very much like Treguard and his assistants. Interestingly enough, the same process that had been used to create the Brollachan (Virtual “V” Actor) was used for Codsby.

As in Knightmare, the Ranger could incur life force damage during the games, which was healed by medi-kits rather than food items. The Ranger was also seen to interact with characters inside the game and improvise scenes with them, although the actors who played Cass and Qwerty were definitely not up to the standard of acting and improvising that Knightmare would have demanded, if you ask me! Another striking similarity between Knightmare and Virtually Impossible is that they were both very hard to win – I remember one winning team during the one series of Virtually Impossible. There may have been more (if so, I have forgotten about them) but if indeed there was only one, this works out as the same average as Knightmare winners – one per series!

One of the gaming locations in Virtually Impossible, Castle Ghastly, was strikingly reminiscent of the Knightmare Dungeon, albeit in pure VR form. It even had a dropping ceiling, bringing Doorkis’s room to mind. The supernatural creatures that inhabited Castle Ghastly were obviously based on Knightmare creatures – toadiles were clearly based on toadadiles, while skullions were strikingly similar to skull ghosts and stormgeists. As they attacked, the skullions made the same noise as was used in Knightmare series 8 to signal the approach of Bhal-Shebah or a snapdragon. Other sound effects carried over from Knightmare included the “Bug Alert” noise, which had previously been used to signify that Nathan’s glass globe had started glowing amber, and the noise of the Cyber Ports appearing and disappearing to carry the Ranger from one game zone to another, which was the same sound that Lord Fear’s elevator platform in Marblehead made.

So, why should Tim Child and friends not have bothered making Virtually Impossible, and concentrated their efforts on Knightmare instead? Simply because the two are easily and directly comparable, and Knightmare is better in every sense of the word. Perhaps Virtually Impossible was a little ahead of its time – the VR was comparatively basic and perhaps not ready to carry an entire show. The virtual gaming worlds were not nearly so appealing as the extensive (and far more believable) fantasy world that Knightmare created, and so the new show could do nothing to recapture the unique atmosphere of the original, even though it was virtually identical in its basic setup.

The main problem with Virtually Impossible, I feel, is that the viewer is doing nothing more than watching four people (or four geeks, if you prefer) playing a series of four computer games. With Knightmare, you were also watching people playing a game, but you could get into it with them and join in with their thought processes, rather than watching them endlessly tapping away at keyboards and joysticks. The dungeoneers always appeared to be walking through a tangible fantasy world, whereas the Ranger is obviously in a harness the whole time and is not undertaking a believable journey through different locations. When a dungeoneer picks up an item, he reaches out and actually physically picks it up, but when a Ranger does it, he clicks on it with his joystick and it disappears, which isn’t nearly so nice to see.

Another big problem with Virtually Impossible is that its underlying premise is incredibly weak. As Codsby puts it, his mission is to prevent the bad guys (the Ice Woman and the Freeze) from taking over the plum factory… wtf?! It seems that Tim Child and friends decided that they could and would make Virtually Impossible, and worried about why later. What a shame that this time and effort wasn’t spent on the eighth series of Knightmare – it certainly needed to be!

When you get right down to it, Knightmare and Virtually Impossible are pretty much the same thing. To make Virtually Impossible, they just stripped Knightmare down to its bare bones and rebuilt it in a far more modern style that pretty much misfired, which I think was rather a silly thing to do. What makes Virtually Impossible quite good is the fact that it is basically Knightmare by another name, but there’s no way that it should ever have been considered as a replacement for the classic! Why change a winning configuration just for the sake of it, or because technology means that you can if you feel like it? On the whole, a bad decision, Tim.

Provided By: Eyeshield, 2010-05-23 19:57:10
Thumbs up    Thumbs down
1 up, 0 down
login to vote