Series / The Crystal Maze
Toooooooooooooooo the Crystal Doooooome!
British Game Show
running from 1990 to 1995, initially hosted by Richard O'Brien and later by Edward Tudor-Pole. Produced by Jacques Antoine
. A remake of Fort Boyard
. (Channel 4 originally wanted Fort Boyard
, but couldn't get at the fort itself as the French series was massively popular at the time.)
Each week, six contestants would have to complete a series of challenges in four adventure zones (at first- Industrial, Futuristic, Aztec and Medieval. In the fourth series, Ocean replaced Industrial). Completing these challenges would mean receiving a time crystal. If contestants failed to leave the room (crystal or not) before time ran out, or broke certain rules in some games, they were locked in and could only be released in exchange for a crystal.
The final part was always the Crystal Dome, where contestants would have a certain amount of time (determined by how many crystals won- 5 seconds per crystal) to collect gold tokens*
blown about by a big fan. Silver tokens were also present and these would result in a deduction from a score (which could- and often did- lead to a negative
total score). If they got over a certain total, they would win prizes: usually adventure holidays in B-level British resort towns.
Most of the show's appeal came from the wonderfully eccentric Richard O'Brien (of The Rocky Horror Picture Show
fame) and the way he would present the show: his manic, restless behaviour; his razor-sharp put-downs of (frankly bad) team performances; and how he would always play that damn harmonica at the most inappropriate and distracting times. Edward Tudor-Pole never had a chance
. It also became common for the viewer base to start shouting at the screen at the contestants when they missed
the very obvious solutions. (Extracts from the show's blooper reel that have been leaked onto YouTube reveal that, in the privacy of the technical gallery, the show's director did it too.)
Although it wasn't very apparent to the viewer most of the show was in fact fixed: For example it was the production staff not the Captain that decided what games to play (Physical, Mental, Skill or Mystery) and was in fact decided well in advance of the show. Although on screen it looks instantaneous there was also significant length of time between a contestant entering a puzzle room and actually playing it sometimes in the region of 15 minutes. This was so the crew could set up equipment such as cameras and in some instances to actually reset the game if the player in question mucks up too badly in order to keep it interesting to the viewer. A far more in-depth list can be found on the other Wiki.
There were also Spin-Off Choose Your Own Adventure
style books, set in a more elaborate version of the Maze: The Crystal Maze Adventure Gamebook
by Dave Morris and Jamie Thompson aimed at teens and adults, in which the more "realistic" maze was justified by it being set a hundred years in the future
, with advanced holographics and robotics (including the robot host ROB
); and four targeted at younger readers (The Crystal Thief
, Tea at Rick's
, The Sacred Necklace
and Phantom in the Tower
all by Peter Arnold), which just Handwaved
The show remains a classic and repeats are still shown in syndication. In particular, it was and remains very popular amongst University Students, though there have been no DVD releases as yet. In 2015, it was announced that a "live immersive experience" in central London with Richard O'Brien's involvement would launch funding through IndieGoGo
, which eventually opened in March 2016. Later that year, alongside a second live venue in Manchester being announced, a one-off Celebrity Edition Revival
was shown on Channel 4, this time with Stephen Merchant
as the host, raising money for the charity Stand Up To Cancer
. No full series is currently
planned, but that may change.
This show contains examples of:
- Apothecary Alligator: A Mystery Room in the medieval zone was dressed as an alchemist's laboratory, complete with stuffed crocodile (with a clue in its mouth).
- Aside Comment: The crux of Richard O'Brien's awesomeness.
- Bald of Awesome: Richard O'Brien.
- Bamboo Technology: A feature of the Aztec Zone.
- Berserk Button: Don't tell the contestant "You've got plenty of time", or Richard O'Brien will get very annoyed.
- Captain Obvious: Most of the team "advice" during certain games. Not that the obvious advice was necessarily unhelpful to their teammates...
- Catch Phrase:
- "This is a two/two and a half/three minute game from the very second I close the door..."
- "Will you start the fans, PLEASE!" for Richard, "Let the four winds blow!" or similar for Ed - both just before the Crystal Dome task.
- Subverted for a while by Richard O'Brien who decided to make "Go for it!" his catchphrase, but whenever he used it would shortly after go off on a monologue explaining to the audience that he had decided to make "Go for it!" his catchphrase.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: Kind of averted. Contestants who managed to get a crystal in a method other than the one the game intended were usually allowed to keep it. On the other hand, they'd usually misunderstood the game, rather than strictly speaking cheated.
- Comically Missing the Point: On more than one occasion, a contestant completely fails to understand their task, leading O'Brien to helpfully offer advice on what to do. When they still don't get it, O'Brien will offer the advice again... and again... and again. He's clearly getting irritated at these utter morons!
- One episode had a contestant simply stand there with a dumbfounded look for the entire 5 minutes.
- Christmas Episode: Between seasons there were Christmas specials with child contestants.
- Fashion Dissonance: The perms, mullets, and toupees sported by so many of the contestants certainly were a product of the time.
- Fifteen Puzzle: Sometimes appeared as a challenge.
- Fortune Teller: One of the inhabitants of the Medieval Zone was a stereotypical fortune teller who asked quiz questions and handed over a crystal (which was hidden in the base of her crystal ball) if the contestant answered correctly. O'Brien would provide the contestant with silver coins to cross her palm with. The fortune teller is his in-show mother, 'Mumsie', something that O'Brian made up on the spot during a first-series episode and it stuck. In Series 3, 'Mumsie' was replaced by 'Auntie Sabrina' - which was strange, because they were both played by Sandra Caron (possibly it was just an elaborate excuse to change her costume, as the characters did dress differently). 'Mumsie' returns in Series 4, announcing her arrival back in the Christmas Episode which kickstarts said series.
- Golden Snitch: Ultimately, the number of crystals gathered meant nothing if the team gather too many (negative-scoring) silver tokens in the final stage. And they frequently did. (In theory, they could have used the extra time to check for silver tokens instead of just shoving in as many as possible, but apparently no-one ever thought of that.)
O'Brien: I'm not going to wish you luck, it's a complete waste of time!
- Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Mr O'Brien dresses like a fashion designer, that is to say like a man who knows nothing about style.
- Not to mention the team uniforms.
- Ed, on the other hand, wears his "scruffy dandy" look remarkably well.
- Large Ham: Richard O'Brien. Ed Tudor Pole tries to go one up, but doesn't quite make it.
- Laser Hallway: Sometimes appeared as a challenge in the Futuristic Zone (but using tripwires — they probably didn't have the budget for real lasers).
- Linked List Clue Methodology: A lot of the games had a dash of this, but particularly one of the most iconic games, the 'Murder Mystery' where a trail of clues would lead around a messy room (which also had a dead body in it because reasons) to the crystal. These games were so popular a different incarnation was done in each series.
- Loophole Abuse: It wasn't unknown for contestants to obtain their crystals in ways they weren't really supposed to.
- Mayincatec: The Aztec Zone.
- Messy Hair: Ed Tudor Pole.
- Mineral MacGuffin: The Time Crystals, which grants the team 5 seconds in the Crystal Dome, or can be used to buy out a locked in contestant.
- Only Smart People May Pass: Although the audience might have argued that it was more like "Only a complete idiot cannot pass".
- Pirate Booty: One of the challenges in the Ocean Zone was searching for the key to a treasure chest in a pirate cave, complete with pirate skeleton and stuffed Pirate Parrot.
- Put on a Bus: Richard O'Brien, when he left the series. Although the Series 5 Christmas Episode helps to explain the transfer of the ownership to Ed Tudor Pole.
- The Cameo: Richard O'Brien and Mumsey make an appearance at the beginning of the 1993 Christmas Episode to explain their departure before Ed's takeover as host.
- Theme Tune: Much more dramatic than it has any right to be
- Timed Mission: Every challenge is 2-3 minutes long. The crystal dome has 5 seconds per crystal earned.
- Time Travel: Some of the challenges seem to take place in a medieval time period, or the future, or something similar...
- Too Dumb to Live: Several contestants, although this is probably the most ludicrous example.
- Voodoo Doll: Used for a throwaway gag in a series 2 episode:
Richard: Oh look, it's one of Mumsey's pin cushions. Strange thing, she has a thing about pin cushions, and she always makes them in the shape of little people, I can't think why.
- Wire Dilemma: Sometimes appeared as a challenge.
- Who Would Want to Watch Us?: The hosts would both moan about the quality of the prizes, the game design, the contestants, the set, just about everything.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: In the fourth series, a game involved creating a chain of words to release a sword from a stone (King Arthur reference). That sword had a crystal as the pommel, but the game had no crystal for the winner. Where is the crystal? In the hand of a suit of armour, possibly worn by a crew member, who is given the crystal-pommel sword by Richard O'Brien.