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Who Was Better - Pickle or Majida?

             Ah questions, so many questions. Now of course, this is an enquiry that is something akin to the issue of trying to establish which is the finest Police Academy film ever made, not to mention a parallel in its field in terms of titanic heavyweight magnitude of a playground bitch-slap between Felicity Kendall and Dame Vera Lynn. Still I shall offer my view of it, and take it marginally more seriously than I did when I wrote the Top Ten lists.

            Before I get to the guts of this, I should pass comment on the issue as a whole. I've never left anybody who's asked me in doubt as to the low opinion I had of the whole idea of giving Treguard an assistant. I'm not knocking David Learner or Jackie Sawiris when I say that, they did the job about as well as could be expected, it's just it was not a good concept. Oh sure I understand why the makers decided to try it out, but it didn't work. It was completely unnecessary, and neither Pickle nor Majida ever did enough to justify it. For me, watching the early years I saw no occasion where Hugo Myatt's performance as Dungeon Master could ever have been improved upon with outside help. By contrast, the whimsical nature of his exchanges with his unwanted subordinates in later years constantly broke up the flow of numerous quests, while also eroding Treguard's previously sinister character.

            But for all that, it's still possible that one of them was better than the other, if only as the least rotten apple. But who was it? The only way we can judge that is by examining their respective relationships with Treguard, seeing as the two characters were conceived purely to work alongside him. I therefore look at it from two different perspectives: -

            Firstly, straightforward enough, we must ask which relationship was the more entertaining.

            Secondly, and far more complex, we must ask which relationship worked better within the confines of Knightmare as a programme.

            These two questions give very different answers.

            Majida, as far as I'm concerned, wins the first one by a country mile, because Pickle was really just a rather sycophantic no-brainer. Well, let's be fair, no-brainers are a dime-a-dozen in Knightmare, and Majida herself was never going to beat Stephen Hawking in a battle of intellects, but at least there was an edge between her and Treguard. They irritated each other enormously, and the friction led to some razor sharp bickering. Who will forget, "Don't you ever answer a straight question?"  -  "Maybe" or, "What is thees pree-reck-wiz-itt?"  -  "Something you haven't earned yet"? I could forgive Majida's existence if only for feeding Treguard such wonderful lines.

            By contrast, there was very little colour in Pickle's exchanges with the Dungeon Master. Oh sure, he occasionally interfered in quests against Treguard's express instructions, or even said nasty things about the audience, but most of the time he just leapt about in front of the cameras shouting out the very, very obvious in Treguard's direction. I get sick of listening to Treguard always saying, "Quite so, Pickle." And as Pickle never dared to argue with Treguard, nothing much ever came of their conversations. Apart from his infamous "bog-off" remark you have to search hard for any really good moments from him at all. It was all a bit boring.

            No, there are no two ways about it, Majida was the more interesting character and her relationship with Treguard would make for excellent material in a comedy show, and even in a drama series.

            But consider the second perspective, "How well did things work within Knightmare?" and suddenly things don't look anything like as straightforward. The key problem is that Knightmare is NOT a comedy show, nor a drama series. It's a game show composed of on the one hand, player interaction and on the other, set pieces, some scripted, some improvised. The relationship between Treguard and Majida made for the kind of well-fleshed character interplay that you get in Blackadder or even Blake's 7, but this only gets in the way in Knightmare, especially as they are only hosting the game, they're not playing it. We're interested in the way the Dungeoneer and Advisors relate to each other, because that has a huge bearing on whether or not they will succeed. It also doesn't hurt to see the way characters within the Dungeon behave and develop, because that too will have an effect on the different puzzles and tasks that the teams will have to complete. But Treguard's bitching with Majida was an irritant most of the time because it was all happening outside the game, while at the same time being an integral part of the way the game was being presented. So invariably quests kept on having to pause while the Advisors, politely refraining from rolling their eyes, waited for their distinguished hosts to finish snarling at each other and return their attention to the real proceedings. I bet that on more than one occasion the Advisors must have thought, "Will you two just shag and get it over with?" (What a ghastly image that invokes!)

            Furthermore, while Majida may have been a sharper tongued character, she was an extremely poor assistant, chiefly because she didn't have a blathering clue what she was doing or what was going on most of the time. A superfluous assistant is bad enough, but an assistant who doesn't even understand the role that she's been needlessly introduced to do is just asking for trouble. If she didn't know anything or have any ideas to offer, what exactly was she doing there?

            This was where Pickle's strength lay  -  he very much knew what he was doing and furthermore he had plenty of knowledge of the territory that the teams were dealing with, so although he didn't really add anything that Treguard hadn't hitherto provided, at least he didn't get in the way. Therefore he was less harmful to the flow of the game.

            But let's not start showering praise on Pickle just for that. After all, saying that a new character blends in and doesn't get in the way is not exactly a stirring endorsement; at best it's just a non-criticism. The Treguard/Pickle combination may have been better for Knightmare in terms of game play, but that is only because it didn't have the negative effects of Treguard/Majida. The flip side is Pickle wasn't really doing anything that Treguard couldn't do quite adequately himself  -  indeed, generally Treguard did them a lot better.

So Pickle didn't actually provide any positive effects either. And as he added nothing, there was little reason for him to be there either, so it is only by degrees that we can say that Treguard/Pickle worked better within the framework of the game than Treguard/Majida.

            With all this in mind, what conclusions can we draw? Majida wins the first test hands down, but it is perhaps the less important test. Pickle wins the second test, though not by much, and with both of them getting a pretty low score in it, that must be seen as a hollow victory.

            And so I have to choose Majida. Yes, she was loud, yes she could hinder things, yes her voice could be irritating (uh huh, like we want to listen to Pickle giving a speech) but at least she was capable of being entertaining, at least she could provide an edge, at least she did something different. That meant that at least she added something, if only in occasional bursts, where Pickle wasn't much more than a hanger-on, a cipher even. Majida, take a bow, you are the winner of our prestigious "Best Of The Rotten Apples" award.

            So, much love and magic to our winner; muck, leaves and manure to our loser, and let me leave you with this thought  -  why do people say that time is precious when there's so much of it?