TV URBAN LEGEND: The original, unaired finale of Dungeons and Dragons ended with the reveal that the kids had all died during their original amusement park ride at the start of the series.
One of the most acclaimed animated series of the 1980s was Dungeons and Dragons, about a group of young people who go on a Dungeons and Dragons amusement park ride...
and find themselves magically transported to another realm, where they each are given a magical item and then take on the attributes of a notable Dungeons and Dragons character archetype (like a Ranger, a Magician, etc.). They then fight against the evil Venger (and other bad guys that they happen to come across along the way)...
Now, Dungeons and Dragons was a controversial show for the time period, because the writing was so advanced (for the era) that the tone of the show was a good deal darker than other, similar shows. This does not mean that it was really DARK, per se, but contextually, it definitely was. This was a show where it really did seem like people could theoretically die, ya know?
It had some great writers on the episodes, with Mark Evanier writing the earliest episodes, plus episodes by Steve Gerber, Buzz Dixon and Paul Dini. Some of the top animated writers of the 1980s.
One of the most common writers on the series was the great Michael Reaves (a very acclaimed writer of both books and animated programs - he won an Emmy for an episode of Batman: The Animated Series that he wrote). Reaves wrote an unused finale to the series. You see, back in the old days, cartoon shows would rarely wrap up. The whole idea was to come up with a show that could air reruns repeatedly, so there rarely was ever a need to give any sort of final resolution. Heck, they never even showed Scooby Doo and the gang capture all 13 escaped ghosts in Scooby Doo and the 13 Ghosts, and that was the name of the darn show!
However, Dungeons and Dragons did get a chance at a finale, but then it was scrapped. This has led to many rumors over the years that Reaves' original finale was set to reveal that the kids DIED on that amusement park ride and that the whole series was set in a sort of afterlife.
Reaves explained otherwise on his (now defunct) personal website years ago:
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."
Here's the actual script if you'd like to read it.
The legend is...
Thanks to the great Michael Reaves for the information!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.