THE KNIGHTS OF GOD
Gervase Edwards -
Prior Mordrin -
Brother Hugo -
Julia Clarke -
Owen Edwards -
In the not too distant future, British society will have collapsed and the country plunged back into a neo medieval state. People will scratch out a living by farming and fishing in the old manner. Law and Order will be kept by the Knights of God, an quasi military religious order based on the principles of the Knights Templar, but armed with tanks, helicopters and machine guns. There is a resistance movement, mainly based in the northern wastelands and Wales.
This is the setting for THE KNIGHTS OF GOD a thirteen part series made for family viewing on the ITV network. Surprisingly bleak in its outlook for the future for a family show, it is downbeat throughout its run. The boy, Gervase, is imprisoned, beaten, tortured, brainwashed and put on trial for murder, though he also finds time to fall in love and becomes the most important person in the whole country as well. His story, however, is hampered by the fact that the two young leads of the show have serious limits to both their charisma and acting ability.
Much more fascinating from start to finish is the power battle that is going on between the head of the order, Prior Mordrin, and his second in command Brother Hugo. With a powerhouse performance from John Woodvine as the self-assured, arrogant Prior who slips towards madness as his plans unravel and a splendidly slimy Julian Fellowes as the scheming Mordrin, the screen is afire whenever they share it.
There are supporting roles for ex DOCTOR WHO Patrick Troughton and leader of BLAKE'S SEVEN Gareth Thomas.
The plot doesn't run to the show's thirteen episode length and the early parts especially are full of longeurs, but things pick up considerably towards the end and the final episode is explosive in all senses of the word.Top
Following the bitter civil war, the forces of Prior Mordrin and the Knights of God have been victorious throughout England (renamed Albion), Wales and Scotland (renamed Northumbria). Whilst Prior Mordrin, head of the order makes a placatory victory speech, villagers in Wales are herded up to be taken to 're-education' camps. Amongst them is Gervase, whose father is something big in the Welsh resistance, but who tells him that he must not take part in any fighting and he must live for the sake of everyone.
THE KNIGHTS OF GOD is off to a good start in this first, explanatory episode. In the modest running time, the background is cleverly set up, the militaristic nature of the victorious knights and the proud, but beaten resistance forces are identified and Gervase, the young man at the heart of this is, is introduced to a shadowy destiny that his father warns him off, but won't explain.
The depiction of the fascist knights with their stormtrooper outfits and black helicopters is fantastic and the presence of John Woodvine and Julian Fellowes as their leaders suggests that they are not going to be two dimensional villains. They are certainly more interesting than the so-far bland Gervase and his smart, resourceful father. Ex-Time Lord Patrick Troughton also appears for a brief time, which promises that there will be more of him to come.
It's not all good, of course. The attack on the prisoner convoy starts off well enough, but suddenly peters out and the resistance don't make good on their apparent superiority. The mystery around Gervase is introduced in a horrible, clunky fashion, the welsh singing in the face of oppression is nowhere near as effective as the scene it was stolen from in CASABLANCA and some of the dialogue isn't great.
That said, there's far more to be positive about than negative.Top
Gervase is put into the prison camp where he sets about making himself unpopular and being attracted to Julia. His father attacks a convoy heading for Caernarvon and steals the guns and ammunition. Prior Mordrin identifies both father and son.
Not an awful lot actually happens in this second episode, but a history lecture in the camp gives valuable background. It's 2020 and the civil war came about as a result of unrest between the north and south of the country due to the increasing poverty divide. Prior Mordrin established the Knights of God as an alternative to the 'forgiving' kind of Christianity and through them took power. That power, we see in Knight HQ, is much further removed from complete than previously suggested.
The prison camp tries to look tough, but since this is a family science fiction show it's not as tough as it should be and the internal security is shocking.
For someone whose father told him to stay alive, Gervase goes about this in an odd way, annoying every guard he can find, but looks more like a peeved schoolboy than a threat. It is left to Mordrin and Hugo to provide the most interest as the heads of the order who don't always see eye to eye.Top
Gervase and Julia make their bid to be put in solitary confinement so that they can escape the camp, but Prior Mordrin arrives in time to foil the attempt. When persuasion fails, he sends Julia up in front of a firing squad with Gervase forced to choose between her life and his principles.
Almost nothing happens in this episode, with the running time made up of Prior Mordrin trying to get Gervase to sign his soul away through a series of tricks and threats. The plot moves along not at all and could probably have been wrapped up in five minutes with a bit of editorial pruning. This is a disappointment after the initial set up and doesn't bode well for the rest of the show.Top
Prior Mordrin inducts Gervase into the Knights of God through a mix of mind control and drugs. He places a post-hypnotic suggestion into the boy's mind that he will find the man who is organising the resistance and kill him. Meanwhile
The focus of attention here is clearly on the struggle for power between Prior Mordrin and Brother Hugo. Gervase is merely a pawn and his failure to resist the conversion that Mordrin has for him is a surprise considering that this is a family show. No doubt, that will come later.Top
Gervase is being trained by the Knights of God to carry out Prior Mordrin's orders, but he wishes to see Julia, whom they believe to be dead. She is being nursed back to health by a nearby cottager. Brother Hugo is grooming his own protege to be used against Mordrin.
This episode is made up almost entirely of scenes of Gervase training. He may be running down the sides of buildings or taking part in assault courses, but he certainly isn't acheiving anything new. There is also no new information in yet another conversation between Owen and Arthur about Gervase's importance.
Once again the best thing going on is the internal struggle between Mordrin and Hugo. Julian Fellowes is marvellously slimy as the predatory Hugo whose interest in the new officer borders on the disturbing. By contrast, Julia's recovery is completely tedious.Top
Prior Mordrin visits Gervase and agrees to let him search for Julia before refreshing his hypnotic programming. Brother Hugo manipulates his new officer into the belief that the only way to save himself from Mordrin's wrath is to kill Gervase and a trap is laid.
Brother Hugo twists his fellow officer with lies and deceit in a display of underhandedness that is hard to believe until sold by Julian Fellowes.Brother Hugo is backing Mordrin ever more into a corner of his own making by basing all his plans on Gervase and his hypnosis. It's fascinating stuff, far more fascinating than Gervase or Julia's stories themselves.Top
Brother Hugo's plan fails and he sets about covering his tracks. Gervase heads deeper into the wasteland, reunited now with Julia, but they are being followed.
The first half of this episode is made up of a fairly unconvincing seige sequence in which Gervase, Julia and the crofter hold off Brother Hugo's elite forces. The farmer's wife happens to have a cache of arms available and Gervase comes into his own as a killer.
Even less convincing are the last few minutes in which the men of the wasteland hunt Gervase and Julia. Though they are supposed to be guerillas and trackers, they are obvious for anyone to see.Top
Gervase and Julia are taken to meet the leader of the resistance, though Gervase fights against that knowledge so that he will not have to kill him. A meeting is brokered with Prior Mordrin who activates his hypnotic order.
Arthur is revealed as the leader of all resistance against Mordrin, but also as Mordrin's father. Both of these bits of information have been hinted at before so they don't come as any great surprise.
As Gervase is reunited with his parents and Arthur with his son, the threads have come together for a neat cliffhanger, but with Brother Hugo making his move on the leadership of the order, it clearly cannot end here.Top
Brother Hugo fails in his attempt to usurp the leadership of the knights and Brother Mordrin shows his power in a full meeting of the council. At another meeting, Gervase is put on trial for his life for killing a resistance fighter.
The end is nearly here and the story of Brother Hugo and Prior Mordrin's battle for supremacy comes to a head. There is cross and double cross and death ensues. By contrast, Gervase being put on trial in front of the friends of the dead man seems ridiculous and unbelievable and ends up with a verdict that is supposed to be the cliffhanger, but is just a bit 'so what?'.Top
Exiled from the Resistance, Gervase and Julia are sent by Arthur to Canterbury in search of the king, whom rumour suggests is still alive. A vengeful resistance fighter is on their tails and Prior Mordrin's men are combing the countryside.
With the internal power struggle within the order itself sorted out, the focus falls to the continuing story of Gervase and a new quest that is suddenly thrust onto him by Arthur with all sorts of overtones of prophecy and mysticism. It is, in fact, all very Arthurian and any minute you expect someone to come across a sword in the stone.
Even so, the struggle with the resistance man is possibly the most exciting fight in the whole series and the time passes by much more quickly than many of the other episodes so far. Top
Prior Mordrin is starting to come apart at the seams and the supporters of Brother Hugo spirit him away to London. In Canterbury, Gervase is promised by the Archbishop that he will know the identity of the surviving king, but there are assassins in the city.
The power and arrogance of John Woodvine's performance as Prior Mordrin is tipping over into madness, but in a believable deterioration, which makes the actions of the Hugo supporter easier to understand and their success at freeing him easier to believe.
Owen's success at Caernafon seems to be a pointless diversion to fill out some time that the story doesn't need at this point, but you can't help feeling that if earlier episodes had been a bit tighter then the whole thing would be wrapped up by now.Top
With the Archbishop of Canterbury murdered, Gervase and Julia travel to an island community where a priest lives who can tell them the identity of the surviving king. Brother Simon attempts to keep the order together as Prior Mordrin goes ever madder and Owen Edwards plans an attack that will destroy the Knights of God altogether.
The revelation of the identity of the king is all that this entire episode is leading up to. It takes Gervase and Julia practically fifteen minutes to walk up a beach, Mordrin makes several mad speeches to Simon and Owen makes one gung ho one to his men. Nothing happens until that final revelation.
And it's a revelation that's been obvious since the search for the king was laid on Gervase's shoulders. It's the only answer that would explain why Gervase has been so important and it throws up some interesting ideas about what the hypnosis and the news will do to Gervase's mind.Top
Now that the king has returned, the people are flocking to his banner. Hugo attacks the Knights of God headquarters and both his and Mordrin's fates are decided.
There's an impressive amount of destruction in this last episode as the entire action budget appears to have been spent on the battle between the forces of Mordrin and Hugo. It's difficult to see how they could tell each other apart after the first few moments since they are all wearing the same uniforms.
The individual stories of the main characters are brought to satisfying conclusions, though some of the minor ones (Owen most especially) seem poorly served.
THE KNIGHTS OF GOD stuttered and stumbled along much of its run, but at least it goes out with a bang.Top
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