Most of the cartoons we had on Saturday morning were funny diversions, like Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Smurfs. But for those of us who thirsted for more action and adventure, then we could not have asked for better than Dungeons and Dragons.
The plot is simple: 6 friends ride an amusement park ride that, for no reason that is explained, transports them to the magical world of Dungeons and Dragons. Here, they meet a seemingly all-powerful Dungeon Master who gives them each a magical weapon. The evil Venger believes that these weapons are the key to ruling the realm.
Each episode brings the children to another adventure where they believe that they will find a way home. In doing so, however, they end up fighting some great evil that brings hope and goodness to the people around them but ruins their chances of getting back.
Each of the characters is incredibly well defined and everyone has at least one episode that revolves around each of them. There was nothing quite like it on television at the time. As someone who loved stories from Narnia and Middle-Earth, Dungeons and Dragons was the closest thing I could get to seeing those stories come to life every week.
I have two favorite episodes. The first involves the self-centered Eric. Complainy and callow, Eric blows up at the Dungeon Master for not simply sending them home with his power, saying that he, Eric, could do a much better job. In response, Dungeon Master gives Eric all of his powers for a day. While this sound like the plot to Bruce Almighty, Eric also slowly starts realizing that it is not the power, but the wisdom of Dungeon Master that is important.
The second takes place Where Dragons Go to Die. The group must travel there because their weapons are malfunctioning and they must return them to their place of origin. At this dragon graveyard, the group have a final confrontation with Venger and someone lays down their life for another. I remember watching this episode with tense excitement at what would happen. The ending was surprising and, to my young self, moving.
I loved that the show had a very clear objective for our heroes: get home. What child can't identify with this primal need. But I loved that each week, they were making the world of Dungeons and Dragons less barbaric and more peaceful. In that way, it reminds me of Quantum Leap, where Sam only wants to go home, but he cannot help setting right what once went wrong.
Dungeons and Dragons only lasted 27 episodes, but they are definitely worth your time.