‘Right,’ said Ollie, ‘here we go. Long, long ago, in a galaxy far away, there were two planets, Citadel and Voida. As you might guess from its name, Voida was empty of all resources, void of anything that could produce food, energy or building materials. This left the Voidarians reliant on imports for pretty much everything. In need of something to export in return, they became expert designers, builders and mechanics, at first exporting their skills, and later building starships and weapons systems on Voida that were in demand throughout the galaxy. Their planet became home to technically brilliant, if not always very wise, men and women, as well as the fastest pilots in the known universe, and, travelling in the wake of these daredevils, some of the meanest criminals.

‘In contrast, Citadel was rich in resources, and by some quirk of fate it was the only planet in the universe to produce a mineral deposit known as complodium. This was a strong yet flexible mineral that could be fashioned into a material excellent for building. But the Citadellians never exported complodium, preferring to keep all of it to themselves, and this was for one simple reason. They learned that, for those who were able to manipulate it properly, exposure to complodium, together with mental thought-power, could confer the ability to travel not only from one location to another, and even from one planet to another, but also one time period to another. The Citadellians quickly realised the value of this discovery, and some amongst them became expert travellers through the spacetime continuum using this rare substance.


‘When the Voidarians learned about complodium, they of course wanted the material for themselves. They declared war on Citadel and built a huge weapon that was capable of destroying an entire planet. Unfortunately, the collective lack of wisdom among the Voidarians meant that they failed to realise the use of this weapon would deny them the very substance they were fighting for. They did use it, and Citadel was blown into a billion pieces, which were then scattered throughout the galaxy. Many of the planet’s inhabitants managed to escape – either by starship or by use of complodium – before their home was destroyed, and some of these dedicated their lives to searching through the galaxy for scattered shards of complodium. The most assiduous, and the best time travellers, amongst them formed together as a band they called the knights of the lost planet Citadel, which later became shortened to the knights of the lost Citadel. Whenever they found enough complodium, the knights fashioned it into a tube that could be inserted into a special type of ray-gun, the firing of which transported whoever it was aimed at through space and time. The more sophisticated knights, who did not want to keep pointing ray-guns at themselves, also created complodium bracelets called wraserbands, that they wore about their wrists at all times, which could be used to transport themselves or others, as they chose. Both the guns and the wraserbands emitted complodium as a green ray, and it was the force of this ray that initiated the process of travel through time and space.


‘The Voidarians, meanwhile, were also on the lookout for complodium, and the most dedicated seekers called themselves dark lords, or sometimes lords of the dark void. At one time, they discovered a dead star called the Black Planet which held an enormous lake full of dissolved complodium. By drinking the lake water, the powers of this mysterious mineral were conferred upon the drinker, and the dark lords relied upon this source to enable their own journeys through space and time, and they developed their own ray-guns to use upon others. Their mission was to travel back through time to just before the moment Citadel was destroyed, so they could take over the planet instead. The knights spent much of their time trying to foil this plan. Some dark lords, though, preferred to make a profit out of their discovery, and a dried version of complodium, the properties of which became active through burning, soon became available on the black market.

‘Criminals on the run were the main customers for complodium, because a lot of them thought it would be a cool idea to commit a crime quote openly and in plain sight and then, when the cops came looking for them, travel back through time to undo the crime for which they were being pursued. To the knights of the lost Citadel, these criminals became known as time burners, and some of the knights became specialists at tracking down such renegades. Three levels of punishment were decreed for time burners. First, the criminal would be sent back to wherever he or she had come from to face due justice for what they had done: the knights could send them back to the exact moment of their departure. For a second offence, they would be imprisoned in a place called The Prison of Lights; and for a third offence, they would be sent to the Prison of Darkness. It was widely believed that this third prison was really just a euphemism for death. The knights were a kind of intergalactic FBI, you might say.


‘Now, all of this is merely background information. The first book in the series, which was the only one actually titled Knights of the Lost Citadel (although it was later re-named The Mask of Silvitius), begins in a different corner of the galaxy, on a planet called Moravia, where young Danny Cosmos lives with his family on their farm. Now, Danny is a talented young lad. He can run faster, jump higher, has quicker reflexes than any of his peers, and he is a little bit smarter than them too, while remaining heroically modest at the same time. Danny’s family are in the midst of a long-running feud with a neighbouring family, the Flectors, who, at the start of the book, have just set fire to the Cosmos farm and destroyed their star-plough machine.


'Danny volunteers to fix the star-plough and sets off to pick up supplies from a mining planet called Tontonina. Here, he meets a mysterious figure known only as The Monk. As he dresses in the habit of the Rhamesthelian order, Danny assumes he is a Monk of Rhamesthelia, but he is in for a surprise. Observing the above-average physical abilities of young Mr Cosmos, The Monk reveals himself to be none other than Silvitius Starbright, one of the knights of the lost Citadel. Silvitius explains the powers of complodium, a supply of which he has discovered in the mines of Tontonina, and urges him to join the knighthood. Danny Cosmos promptly abandons the idea of fixing the family star-plough and accepts a wraserband from Silvitius. The next thing you know, the two of them are chasing down time burners all over the place. Word spreads about this new galactic hero, and the book ends with a huge party after the arrest of a notorious time burner named Mordecai. The knights look forward to a golden future they think Danny will usher in for them, but the young man has attracted enemies as well as friends, as shown in the second book in the series, Ghost Planet.


‘This story follows the fortunes of Obsidious Cloud-Shadow, one of the dark lords, who has established a secret base on the planet Lithunia. Due to its peculiar orbit, which hides it from view behind a sun for half the year, Lithunia is known as the Ghost Planet, and it is here that Obsidious plots the destruction of the knights of the lost Citadel. Central to this plan is the use of rogue time burners, agents who pose as criminals in order to lure the knights out into the open. Obsidious then traps them in a certain time period, robbing them of their wraserband and ray-gun, and effectively imprisoning them there. Inevitably, the book ends with a showdown between Silvitius and Danny on one side, and Obsidious Cloud-Shadow on the other. An extra twist is added with the revelation that Obsidious is actually Danny’s real father, and the people he thought were his parents adopted him as a baby. All three main characters survive the tale, but Danny runs away, angry that Silvitius had known the truth about his father but not told him.


‘True fans of the series rate the second book and film as the best of the lot, mainly because of the role of Obsidious. It is revealed that he was once a good man, a knight of the lost Citadel, and the idea of such a noble mind turning to evil pulled the rug out from under the feet of many of the predecessors of this series, which tended to have clearly defined sides on which characters had to remain. What Ghost Planet did was to raise the possibility of a fluid exchange between one side and the other, something that had barely been explored before. The original book had its critics, but nobody was sneering at Guy Laker after this volume came out, and everyone was eagerly awaiting the third and final volume of the trilogy, The Dark Empire.


‘This book begins with Danny, who has returned home to his family, keeping to himself what he now knows about them, and wanting just to return to the simple life he had before. Obsidious, meanwhile, has also returned home and is now, on Voida, second-in-command to Emperor Silkblade, the ruler of the planet. Cloud-Shadow’s plan is to somehow win over the trust of his long-lost son, and, with his help, destroy once and forever the knights of the lost Citadel, and in particular Silvitius Starbright. It is revealed that it was Starbright, realising the superhuman powers of Danny even as an infant, who stole the child from Obsidious and placed him with the Cosmos family.


‘One day, a mysterious stranger appears at the Cosmos farm, offering to help with the harvest. Desperate for anyone they can get, the family take him in. During a dramatic storm, in which star lightening threatens to destroy all the crops in the harvest barn, the stranger (who calls himself One-Eye, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone) saves the day, using what appears to be a magical control of the elements to create rain, putting out the fire and saving the whole family. One-Eye then reveals that he is really Silvitius Starbright. Cosmos, unable to turn his former mentor away after what he has done to save the farm, agrees to listen to what he has travelled across the galaxy to tell him.


‘Silvitius teaches Danny how to find inner peace through meditation, using techniques he learned from the Order of Rhamesthelia. Danny joins the order, where he learns the importance of balancing good and evil, and Cosmos is eventually convinced that his master is right about his own role in the universe, which is to either turn Obsidious from evil to good, or to destroy him. Silvitius also explains that he took Danny from his father only because Obsidious was turning to evil ways and had threatened to kill his own son. Confirmed in their purpose, the two knights travel around the galaxy, righting wrongs as they go, until of course there is once again the inevitable showdown. Obsidious, who has fallen too much under the control of the evil Emperor Silkblade, cannot renounce his wicked ways, and recognises that he must fall, bringing the emperor down with him, if the galaxy is ever to have peace. This is what happens, both Obsidious and Silvitius dying at the end, and Danny left to lead a suitably sombre celebration.


‘This supposedly final volume was considered such a fitting end to the story that nobody really wanted a further volume. At the same time, these books just served to whet the appetite, and Laker was eventually persuaded to write, not a sequel, but a prequel trilogy. The prequels told the story of how Obsidious, whose original name was Atavel Cosmos, had turned from good to evil. The first book, The Secret Princess, focused on how, as young men, he and Silvitius were firm friends, chasing down time burners and fighting the dark lords together, until Atavel met and fell in love with a girl called Moonlap. She was a princess who had gone into hiding because her wicked uncle wished to marry her to a local ganglord named Villainous. She and Atavel eloped together, but Villainous tracked them down and killed Moonlap. The book ends with Atavel holding Moonlap’s lifeless body and swearing revenge.


‘In the next book, The Black Star, Silvitius tries to dissuade Atavel from going after the powerful ganglord and takes him on a number of missions, chasing time burners across the galaxy. However, during a mission on a planet called Darius Orb, Atavel hears that Villainous has taken up residence on the Black Star, which is the dead planet with the lake of complodium, and he goes off alone to find him. There he meets Emperor Silkblade, in disguise. He tells Cosmos that Silvitius betrayed Moonlap to Villainous, and that it is the knight of the lost Citadel that he should seek to destroy. Atavel at first refuses to believe it, but then Villainous appears and takes him prisoner, removing his wraserband. It turns out that Villainous and Silkblade were working together to make this happen, and that Silkblade has plans for Atavel.


‘In The Emergence of Darkness, the final prequel volume, Atavel is gradually persuaded by Silkblade to join the dark lords. It is also revealed to him that Moonlap is still alive, and that she has given birth to Atavel’s son. Accepting his new role as a dark lord, and his new name of Obsidious Cloud-Shadow, the former friend of Silvitius makes it his mission to seek out and kill him. Of course, there is a showdown, in which Obsidious thinks Silvitius dies, but he is only wounded and later, restored to health by the Monks of Rhamesthelia, he snatches Danny Cosmos from his father and gives him up for adoption to distant relatives, also named Cosmos, in order to protect him, and in the hope he might one day restore balance to the universe.


‘The prequel novels were popular with many, but also attracted an awful lot of criticism, not only from the usual sources (who complained about Laker’s portrayal of women as either victims or sex-objects), but now also from fans of the original series, who felt that too much prominence was given to Atavel and not enough to Obsidious. Guy Laker claimed that he was trying to show the origins of the character’s complexity, but by this time the Knights of the Lost Citadel had become far larger than its creator and was no longer under his control. Laker bowed to the inevitable and sold the rights to the characters and the stories for several billion dollars


'This allowed the floodgates to be opened, and before long a whole range of other series of books were appearing, written in most cases by far more creative individuals and featuring offshoots of offshoots from the original six novels. There was a series called Smugglers of The Ghost Planet Lithunia; another called The Adventures of Moonlap and her Incredible Sisterhood; one all about the Monks of Rhamesthelia; and even a very dull series named Miners of Tontonina. One-Eye had his own series of books, as did various previously unknown cousins and brothers and sisters of Atavel Cosmos. The stories are too numerous to explain in detail, but these and other books in the same universe greatly expanded the original ideas and made it all but impossible for the saga to ever come to an end. Whenever some sort of resolution to the whole story seemed to be on the cards, a new branch of the narrative would spring up somewhere – an adventure set thousands of years earlier, or later, or in a parallel universe. Knights of the Lost Citadel became an inescapable part of contemporary culture; another world that some say is the equal of our own.


Find out what happens next at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1790911036