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Series / The Krypton Factor

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"Welcome to The Krypton Factor, television's toughest quiz!"
Gordon Burns

British Game Show, launched in 1977 and run until 1995, then revived from 2009-10. Known for its comprehensive approach to testing its contestants, through its varied rounds testing Mental Agility, Response, Observation, Physical Ability, Intelligence and General Knowledge. Conveniently, these were the names of its six rounds for the bulk of the series' run.

The rounds are scored with 10 points for a win, 6 points for second and 4 & 2 for third and fourth respectively, with the exception of General Knowledge, where two points are awarded for geting a question right, and one is deducted for getting it wrong.

The format was re-sold to the United States, Germany and New Zealand.


This series provides examples of:

  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": It isn't 32 points, it's a Krypton Factor of 32.
  • Catchphrase:
    • From Gordon Burns: "Are you all ready, contestants? The test starts... now," (at the beginning of Intelligence) and "That's it - the end of the round, the end of the contest..." (or "That's it - the end of the round, but not the end of the contest!" if two or more contestants were level at the end of General Knowledge).
    • From Ben Shephard: "Activate the Kube!"
  • Colour Coded Armies: Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue for the four contestants.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Viewers who were introduced to the Burns era through re-runs of the late 1980s and 1990s episodes on Challenge TV might be surprised at how different the early series of The Krypton Factor were from the later versions.
    • In the earliest series from the late 1970s, the contestants were not colour-coded.
    • The first series from 1977 featured a Personality round in which the contestants' creativity and imagination were tested by having them perform such tasks as re-writing a nursery rhyme as a news story and reading it on camera; a focus group would vote on which one they liked best. This round was replaced by Mental Agility in 1978.
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    • Mental Agility went through several versions before settling into the Speed Round test of memory and detail juggling of later series. Initially, contestants were asked increasingly difficult questions in turn, and would be eliminated if they answered incorrectly. By the early 1980s, this had changed to seeing a series of nine images, each accompanied by a statement read by Charles Foster of which four were true and five were false; the contestants had to select the four true statements, and would receive 2 points for each correct choice, and a bonus of 2 points for getting all four.
    • The Response round wasn't added until 1986, and even then, the heats featured contestants performing tests of balance and dexterity involving placing coloured blocks into holes (namely, the Fleischmann Flexibility test and the Minnesota Manual Dexterity test). In 1987, this alternated with a round in which the contestants had to pedal double odometer bicycles with their hands and feet simultaneously, in opposite directions, and at different speeds to reach a bank of video screens which would flash various colours, requiring the contestants to press a button corresponding to the colour which appeared on the most screens. It wasn't until 1988 that the flight simulator, previously only used in the group and grand finals, was used in every programme.
    • Until 1986, when specially made clips began to be used, the Observation round used a clip from an ITV drama series or recent movie, and each contestant would be asked a different set of questions about the visuals and the dialogue, with additional toss-up questions being added in the early 1980s. In addition, the round ended with an "Identity Parade", in which the contestants had to identify an actor from the clip out of a lineup of nine. The contestants also received points for each correct answer rather than according to the 10/6/4/2 system. Moreover, in the original order of the rounds, Observation came after Physical Ability and Intelligence rather than before.
    • The Physical Ability round initially used staggered starts, giving head starts not only to female contestants but to older contestants. This was eventually reduced to just giving the female contestants a head start. The assault course itself went through several incarnations; in the very first series, it was a circuit rather than a linear course, and instead of staggered starts the contestants started at different points based on age and gender. Also it wasn't until the early 1980s that some of the most familiar obstacles, such as the 30-foot scramble net and the aerial slide, were introduced.
    • In the early series, the Intelligence round had a rather strictly enforced time limit, with some contestants failing to complete the test in the time given and instead being ranked based on how far along they were. In the very earliest series, it was also the first round to be played, and some Intelligence tests were more similar to what would become Mental Agility tests.
    • General Knowledge, in addition to the standard Speed Round, originally played for as much time as was left, with questions worth +/- 2 points (+/- 1 in the first series). Then in the early 1980s it changed to open with three questions to each contestant from a specific category for two points each, followed by a 90-second speed round with questions worth +/- 1 point. From 1986 onward it was one speed round with a solid time limit depending on the year (100 seconds in 1986, 1987 and 1989, 90 seconds in 1988 and 1990-1992 and 75 in 1993 and 1995) and questions worth +/- 1 in 1986 and 1987 and +/- 2 for the remainder of the series.
  • Golden Snitch:
    • Even if you come last in all the prior rounds, if you can play a blinder in General Knowledge, you can score enough points win the game - increasingly so as the series began shedding rounds.
    • The Super Round in the 1995 retool. Instead of deciding the winner, the points gained are used to buy "advantages". You can bomb on all the rounds including General Knowledge and come out the winner by getting to the top of Mt. Krypton first.
  • Hidden Object Game: Observation.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Burns would often crack one after the end of Intelligence.
  • Long-Runners: The Burns version was on from 1977 to 1995. Averted for the Shephard version — it only lasted two series.
  • Lovely Assistant: Penny Smith in the 1995 retool.
  • Man of a Thousand Voices: The 1989 Observation sketches starred a then-unknown Steve Coogan and played to his strengths as an impressionist. His roles included Michael Caine, Dustin Hoffman, Sylvester Stallone, Bob Geldof, arts critic Melvyn Bragg, film critic Barry Norman, Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, and, in a single sketch, Question Time moderator Sir Robin Day and his four guests (MPs David Steel, David Owen, Norman Tebbit, and Roy Hattersley).
  • Mundane Made Awesome: When the Observation round switched to specially made comedy sketches, some of their punchlines involved this trope.
    • "Bob-a-Job" from the 1988 series starts out as a game show, with banter between the host and the contestant, a tense round of questions, and presentation of the prize... and then the "host" and "contestant" are revealed to be a manager and his employee, and the prize is her weekly paycheque. Her last line ("Do we have to go through this every Friday?") suggests he has been applying Making Mundanity Awesome to handing over her paycheque for some time.
    • One of the 1989 sketches featured Michael Caine (as played by Steve Coogan) co-ordinating a team of special agents, closing in on a part of the city that has been "a playground for criminals for too long". In the final scene, his team having bailed out and left him to deal with the situation alone, Caine is in a literal playground, the big operation being simply to keep order among a large crowd of children at the end of the school day.
  • Nintendo Hard: The Intelligence round. What was shown was edited for time — some puzzles took hours!
  • No Fair Cheating: In the 1995 version, a contestant broke the rules of the "Response Revolve" in the Super Round and got DQ'd immediately after "finishing" it. Related to...
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination: In the 1995 Super Round, all tasks must be completed before moving on to the next. Otherwise it's a DQ.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: Skip to 1:15 of this video for the first round of the 2009 revival. The old version was harder.
  • Parody Assistance: The first Observation sketch from 1989 featured a spoof of Treasure Hunt UK in which Anneka Rice (appearing as herself) seems to keep finding new ways to get distracted or annoy the locals while trying to follow directions from Kenneth Kendall (appearing as himself).
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Almost. The most well-known theme song is a rearrangement of the Art of Noise's "Beatbox".
  • Revival: On hold because host Ben Shepard is working at Sky Sports.
  • The Runner-Up Takes It All: In the semifinals, the fourth contestant is always the highest-scoring runner up. It's also possible in series without a Group D since the fourth player in the Grand Final would then be the highest-scoring runner up from the semifinal level. One of the most notable examples was 1990 series contestant Duncan Heryett, who finished second in his heat and second in his semi-final, and had to compete in an offscreen playoff with the joint highest-scoring runner up to advance to the Grand Final. Heryett was visibly gobsmacked when Gordon Burns announced him as the Grand Final winner.
  • Shout-Out: The show's title is a reference to Superman's home planet.
  • Show the Folks at Home: During the "Two Takes" and "Continuity Differences" versions of the Observation Round, Gordon would point out the answers to the home audience while the contestants were handing in their answers.
  • Sound Proof Booth: Only headphones were used in Burns' run, it is replaced by a booth known as the Kube in the Ben Shephard version.
  • Speed Round: The General Knowledge round. Depending on the series, the round lasted for between one and three minutes.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: Two versions in the US (an adult version hosted by Dick Clark that Burns called "more akin to It's a Knockout", and a kids' version that teetered close to being In Name Only), and a more faithful version in New Zealand.


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