When I was a kid, I suffered from terrible nightmares.
All kids have them, I’m sure. But mine were especially vivid, and used to frighten me quite badly. I never dreamed of crazy monsters or anything like that. In fact, I rather liked the idea of monsters. I mean, if tentacled fang-beasts or whatever are real, then that must mean that unicorns and griffons and The Popples are real too, right? That’s common sense, but since I wasn’t riding to school on the back of a magnificently feathered Pegasus, I figured out that monsters couldn’t possibly be real pretty quick.
But anyway, dream I did, and still the nightmares came. So I tended to remember things that dealt with dreams pretty well. I had an episode of Transformers on VHS called Nightmare Planet, which is exactly what it sounds like only worse. It was confusing more than frightening, but certainly lived up to its name. It’s so bizarre that I can’t even describe it in any Earthen tongue, so I won’t even try.
Another show I remember quite vividly is Potsworth and Company. I forget exactly when it aired. 1991 or thereabouts, I think.
It told the story of a group of kids – and their dog, the titular Potsworth – who would rush home and go to sleep every night in order meet up in the Dream Zone and do battle with The Nightmare Prince.
While they were asleep, they each manifested themselves slightly differently than in the real world, and had a sort of special power or talent. For example, during the daytime, the diminutive Nick likes to dress as a superhero and carry his stuffed dinosaur Murphy around. While in the Dream Zone, he’s an actual superhero and can fly and do other superheroey things, and Murphy is awarded a life and will of his own.
The idea that you could control your dreams was extraordinarily attractive to me. Even when they aren’t scary, they’re still so totally random. One minute you might be running away from a pack of hungry velociraptors, the next you’re on a dirigible with He-Man, playing kiss-chase with the Cadbury Bunny. It would be cool to have some consistency.
It might prove to be more burden than boon in the long run, though, as the kids had to deal with The Nightmare Prince. I was vaguely frightened of him, you know. Well, the only cartoon character I was truly scared of was Mumm-ra, but I found the idea that there was an entity responsible for all our bad dreams to be quite scary, and it was not something I wanted to entertain. He reminded me a bit of the Quavers dog, but given a pallid and zombie-like human form. If you don’t know who the Quavers dog was, consider yourself lucky. If you’re a foreigner and don’t know what Quavers are, consider yourself lucky.
Anyway, the cast of Potsworth and Co. can be summed up thusly.
(I couldn’t find any clear pictures of them on the interwebs, apart from one that was very, very rude, so you’ll have to go without, my little chickadees.)
Keiko seems to be Japanese, but I don’t recall if she spoke with that horrible phoney accent that dogged every Asian character in 80s cartoons. We get a nice panty shot as she leaps into bed during the opening titles, which I like to think is a subtle homage to Japanese animation and otaku culture. She has a skateboard in the real world, but in the Dream Zone it’s a hoverboard. Very 2015, but a little obsolete considering that some of the characters can actually fly and so could Keiko if she wished. That would be like if Superman ditched his cape and decided instead to use Inspector Gadget’s head-propeller to get around. You’ve missed the point, Keiko.
Carter (and Potsworth)
Carter was the eldest of the Midnight Patrol. He was an artist by day, so by night he went a bit Penny Crayon and used a magic brush that brought whatever he painted to life. He probably got really good at drawing hentai when he was older, but that’s a story for another time. Potsworth was his loyal canine companion. In the real world, he was just your average dog. He probably did all sorts of doggy things like chasing balls and sniffing other dogs’ bums, but in the Dream Zone he could talk and was something of a wise guy. He was very British and very snobby. He was apparently ten years old, so would be long dead now, and that’s quite depressing. Moving on!
Young and idealistic, Nick wanted to be a hero, bless ‘im. He was my favourite character, and I felt I had a lot in common with him. Ironically he has a lot more in common with the adult me, in that I dress in a superhero costume and have been known to carry around stuffed animals. Murphy was adorable – the end of the decade brought a lot of cute dinosaur characters to cartoons. We had Littlefoot, Dink and even Denver the dinosaur. Murphy beats them all on account of being named after Robocop.
Rosie was…. uh…. a girl. She did absolutely nothing except bitch about all the other characters. She didn’t even get a super power or anything while in the Dream Zone. Why was she even in the show? It doesn’t make any sense.
Anyway, I fondly recall watching Potsworth and Co. before school on Children’s BBC. I also had the obligatory Annual, and there was even a game for the ZX Spectrum! If you’d like to recreate the experience of playing it, then you can use the FREE Toy Meets World ZX Spectrum Emulator Guide, printed below. You don’t even have to have your computer turned on, but it helps.
- First, find a small mammal skeleton or, in a pinch, a fern or leafy plant. Place it in front of your keyboard.
- Type Load “” and hit enter. Don’t worry if you can’t see anything on the screen. This is normal.
- Wait for the bones to become fossilised. When it has become as hard as rock, and the glaciers outside your window have receded, your game is ready to play.
- Focus your eyes on a particularly bland corner of your screen. The fewer colours, the better. Make sure to have your face no fewer than two inches away from the monitor – the blurring and eyestrain is an integral part of the game.
- Finally, bash the number keys and spacebar furiously. You will find that almost nothing happens and you have wasted your precious time. You have now played every ZX Spectrum game ever made. Make sure to write in to a gaming magazine of your choice every week for the next thirty years telling everyone how great it was. And don’t forget to email developers, too, demanding that they make new games for the hardware. Otherwise, Potsworth and Co. II will never happen.
There was a real life Potsworth, you know, owned by the creators. They adopted the dog from Battersea, and were apparently inspired to create a children’s cartoon shortly afterwards. They were disenchanted with the programming of the time, saying that “Stories these days have to be believable, contain some logical process”. I’ll leave you to write your own joke about that one.
“I had an episode”