Preface to Requiem
The Unproduced Dungeons and Dragons Finale
I've been aware for some time that there's quite a fan following of the Dungeons and Dragons TV show produced by Marvel Productions for CBS from 1984-85. It was a good show, and I still have fond memories of writing for it (a fairly rare and wondrous event, even when you've written as much animation as I have).
As the third season of D&D drew to a close, Karl Geurs, the series' producer and story editor, told me CBS was thinking of doing an episode that would "close out" the season. This is a fairly common practice today, but it was pretty much unheard-of back then, particularly in animation. It was decided that the episode (Titled Requiem -- I don't remember if that was Karl's title or mine, but it doesn't really fit the script as it finally came to be written. I wanted to call it Redemption, but CBS felt that that title gave too much away) should end on a note that was both ambiguous and triumphant to cover all bets, because at the time we were doing the script we didn't know if the show would be renewed for a fourth season or not. According to Gary Gygax, the series' co-creator, the plan was for Requiem to be used as a springboard for a new approach to the show, one in which the kids would be more self-reliant and not dependent on their weapons. Unfortunately, problems with TSR, the D&D parent company, ultimately killed the plans for a new season, and Requiem was taken off the production board.
I was disappointed, but scarcely surprised -- orphaned TV scripts are hardly a rarity, and one either learns to deal with the disappointment or find another line of work. Since Requiem had been bought and paid for (though not produced), I included it in one of the over sixty bound volumes of all the scripts I've written, produced and/or storyedited since I started writing for a living twenty-six years ago. (Years later I wrote an episode of Sliders with the same title, but it had nothing to do with the story presented here.) And there it sat, on the bookshelf in my office, for over a decade ...
Until I received several pieces of email recently, the combined gist of which is that there are rumors abounding on the Net and the Web about a last episode of the show, either scripted and never produced, or produced and never aired, in which we learn that the kids actually died on the rollercoaster that supposedly took them into the Realm, and that they are, in fact, imprisoned in Hell and being tormented with a complex fantasy (as if just being in Hell wouldn't be torment enough) by the Devil masquerading as Dungeon Master, and do I have any words to share with the masses about this issue?
Yes: Bushwah, poppycock and balderdash.
There is no such episode, as even a moment's rational thought would reveal. D&D was a very dark, edgy show for its time -- sort of the Gargoyles of the Eighties -- and credit must go to Judy Price, then president of Childrens' Programming for CBS, for taking a chance on it and not playing it safe and slapping another Care Bears clone on the air instead. We took the show about as far as you could go on kids' TV at the time; as an example, the script for The Dragons' Graveyard (a second season episode I wrote), in which the kids contemplate killing Venger in order to find a way home, caused a battle royale with Broadcast Standards and Practices. The chances of an episode with a plot like the one described above even making it past an initial three-line pitch were -- and still are -- about as likely as Superman snorting Kryptonite.
But I realize that my just saying that isn't going to have much effect on the rumors. So I decided to produce proof, instead of just my say-so. Here, then, is Requiem, the mysterious and much-debated final episode of Dungeons and Dragons -- the first draft, turned in on the 18th of May, 1985. I hope it lives up to (reasonable) expectations. If it does, I'm glad. If not, my apologies -- but do try to keep in mind a mantra that has served me well over the years: "It's only television."
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