The role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons had many followers. Created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson it had its genesis in the 1970s and was proving increasingly popular by the end of that decade. It was reasonable to imagine that any TV show based on the game was likely to get a good reception from the players. Opinion, even to this day, is sharply divided. Some gamers loved it; some hated it. But one thing was certain; Dungeons and Dragons, the cartoon inspired a whole generation of children to use their imaginations to wish themselves away to the Realm.
The shows premise was simple; take six kids, a rollercoaster ride and a new, and frightening world. Add into the mix a villain named Venger and an enigmatic guide called Dungeonmaster along with a mascot named Uni and there you had it. On paper, surely, a recipe for success. Each child had a designated role, loosely based on the classes that D&D gamers could assign their characters. These were: Ranger, Acrobat, Magician, Thief, Cavalier and Barbarian. It is left to the gamers to decide how closely the classes given to each character linked into the gaming mythos, but there were some traits at least, that they shared (even if, in the Rangers case, it was merely leather studded armour!).
Three seasons, twenty-seven episodes, and a multitude of fans on both sides of the Atlantic attest to the success of the show. In the UK, it was first aired from 1985-6 on Childrens BBC in the popular 4.40-5.05 slot. This meant that the older age range of CBBC viewers saw it, as programmes specifically targeted at the younger end of the market were on during CBBCs first hour. Back in the 80s, the demographic for CBBC was a huge 5 to 15 years age group, and D&DC, with its blend of high adventure, well-developed, human characters and, for the most part, fleshed out storylines, had the widest potential appeal. The show got its second airing in 1987 on Saturday morning as part of the line up on Going Live. A sure-fire way to improve the ratings of the parent show was to split the episodes of D&DC in half; how many of us tolerated an hour of Gordon the Gopher and his sidekick Philip Schofield just to see the second half of our favourite show, I wonder? Much like our American friends, many D&DC fans can remember getting up early to watch the show, armed with our own bowls of breakfast cereal!
However, the shows success was not enough to prevent its end. After three seasons, falling ratings and some controversy that initially started with the role-playing game being (unreasonably) blamed for some teen suicides across the Atlantic, the UK as well as the US waved goodbye to Hank, Sheila, Bobby, Eric, Diana and Presto. No more episodes were made, and, it would be reasonable to assume given the evidence, that the demographic that had so loved D&DC was growing older. There was no longer a space on prime time childrens television for a show with only twenty seven episodes, and the children who had grown up with D&D were switching allegiance to more sophisticated television shows, notably, Knightmare (why watch a cartoon when you can see real people facing the same challenges?). Did our heroes ever get home? Not in terms of broadcast episodes, no.
But all is not lost. In recent years, just as D&DC has reached and passed its twentieth anniversary, a script has come to light. The name of this script is Requiem, written by Michael Reaves. Reaves was, in the opinion of many, the best writer on the show. Many of the most popular episodes were his, including The Dragons Graveyard, Child of the Stargazer and The Dungeon at the Heart of Dawn, so it is reasonable to assume that the final episode of D&DC was in safe hands. It was. The script ties up the loose ends left by the show and finally answers the previously unanswered question-did they ever get home? And did they? Go and read it for yourself¦its available online via Mr Reaves website.
And what of the fans? All grown up now and, for the most part, respectable pillars of the community, they do still exist. The wide variety of D&DC tribute websites, among them The Realm and Darkhaven are just two of the many high quality sites that keep the story of D&DC alive. If you happen to stumble upon Helix Town Square, feel free to leave a message and browse the posts of the people on both sides of the Atlantic who still hold D&DC close to their hearts.
In addition, The Requiem Project is a fan-based attempt to bring the final episode of D&DC to the screen. Fans from all over the world, and, rumour has it, one of the original voice actors, have shown an interest in making the final episode of D&DC a reality. For those of us who need the closure of a final episode, hopes are high that the project will be a success.
There can be no doubt that in the twenty years that D&DC has existed, it has meant a great deal to a great many people. While some die hard gamers might argue that it was a way to cash in on an already successful RPG, there are others who argue that it deserves to stand alone as a piece of television history. Whatever your personal perspective, it is plain that the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon has stood the test of time.
ome good D&DC websites:
The Realm: http://www.zaksrealm.net/The_Realm.html
Fanfiction.nets D&D section: http://www.fanfiction.net/list.php?categoryid=945
Darkhaven fanfiction site: http://darkhaven.freewebpage.org/
Spookys D&DC dungeon: http://www.spookysdungeon.homestead.com/index.html
Cavern of Tiamat (one of the first D&DC sites) http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/2599/nikicavern.html