Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Crystal Maze Parodies/Sketches Extra (Another Video)

The bane of many a schoolteacher having to deal with their kids shouting 'Bogies', Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow was a weekend morning show (Two hours on a Saturday, one on a Sunday) that had kid contestants playing daft games throughout the mornings. Examples of such games saw them having to stick toast to themselves with chocolate spread, betting on who would win a race between a group of crawling one-year-olds, and spending points on forfeits for their friends, one of which saw a girl wearing a large gutted fish on her head. The finale of the Saturday show was always an overblown excuse for everyone to throw custard at each other to the sound of 'Ace of Spades' by Motorhead, often punctuated by a bucket of the yellow stuff slipping from one kid's hands to crack another in the head. For the last series, they made this segment into a game show parody which culminated in a muck-muck fight. 'Bullseye' was reincarnated as 'Bullsmuck' complete with original co-host Tony Green calling the scores, 'Strike It Lucky' became 'Strike It Mucky', and The Crystal Maze became...

Monday, 13 May 2019

TV Choice Awards Voting

Throughout the year TV awards from different groups come and go, and the longlist for the TV Choice Awards features our favourite game show in the Best Entertainment category. So if you get a spare 3 minutes, feel free to go onto the TV Choice site, vote for whatever you like in the other categories but when you get to the Best Entertainment grouping, save your click/tap for The Crystal Maze.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Crystal Maze Parodies/Sketches (Video-heavy Post)

In 1992 Kurt Cobain, of the grunge group Nirvana, said that he felt like the band had finally made it after 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' was the basis for a parody by Weird Al Yankovic. Comedic tributes for things don't happen out of malice, they happen because the subject involved is highly ingrained in the public consciousness. Over the years there's been a few tributes to TCM featured on TV, so for those that haven't seen them (I'd guess mostly through age or these shows not being shown wherever you may be reading), here's a few.

The Mary Whitehouse Experience

Having started on BBC Radio 1 (remember when they did scripted comedy? Me neither), Rob Newman, David Baddiel, Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis made the transition to TV on BBC2 in 1991-92 and this critique on the ineptitude of contestants proved one of the more memorable sketches.

Spitting Image

Satirical puppet show 'Spitting Image' used TCM to also highlight ineptitude, this time that of the Labour Party at the time. Recognizable contestants include a boozing John Prescott and an overly specific Gordon Brown. With names involved such as Steve Coogan, Craig Ferguson (more known in the US now than he is over here), Stewart Lee, Alistair McGowan, Andy Parsons, Kate Robbins and John Thompson, Spitting Image was iconic for its grotesque caricature puppets and its willingness to leave no public figure safe from its cutting commentary. Have the look for 'The Chicken Song', you'll be humming it for weeks.

Maid Marian and her Merry Men

Moving away from sketch comedy for this one, MMAHMM was a children's sitcom created by Tony Robinson (Baldrick in Blackadder, host of archeological investigation show Time Team). Often parodying pop culture of the time, and in this case using, again, contestant ineptitude as the basis of the segment. Well worth watching full episodes of this if you've never seen it.

Cardinal Burns

The most recent one I could find, this one from E4 sketch show 'Cardinal Burns' is pretty self-explanatory. If you've ever been stood in the Post Office waiting ages for them to find your parcel, this is why.

The Adam and Joe Show

Starting in 1996, TAAJS featured a series of recurring sketches where the titular Adam and Joe recreated television shows with Star Wars figures giving us this. 20ish years later Adam would go on to be Jarhead on the revived series asking riddles to confused contestants, and at some point in-between he's recognizable as the reporter in the Simon Pegg film Hot Fuzz whose head befalls an unpleasant fate. And as if to bring the Adam Buxton/Jabba the Hutt/Crystal Maze trifecta full circle, here's an extra clip of Adam, Richard and Jabba together in Lisbon in 2016, pre-revival.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Live Experience plugged on Radio X

This morning, the old tablet I use as a radio alarm clock woke me up to the sound of Chris Moyles talking about visiting the Live Experience at its now month old venue in Piccadilly, London. He always spends the first half hour just chatting with his producers and newsreader and after an obligatory chat about Avengers: Endgame (Go see it, if you haven't yet, stop reading and just go. Don't let the internet have a chance to spoil it, go watch it now.) the topic came up about a visit to our favourite London attraction.

A good helping of the original end credits theme to set up a really good, enthusiastic chat about their visit to the LE yesterday afternoon. Chris, his producers James, Matt and Pippa and her other half/the 10am host on Radio X/Chris Tarrant's son Toby.

Matt, Toby, Chris, Pippa, James

"It was bloody brilliant" - Chris Moyles, says it all really.

The show can be found here and the TCMLE talk starts at 0:21:33

The Chris Moyles Show can be heard weekday mornings from 6:30 to 10am, and Saturdays from 8am to 11am on Radio X on DAB and online.

EDIT: the conversation in question is also available on this weeks Chris Moyles Radio X Podcast starting at 1:10:45

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Cheapshow podcast visited the new Live Experience venue/Cheapshow cheap plug

Last week, as my podcast subscriptions updated, one of them started off with a brief description of one of a visit to the Trocadero on opening day.
'Cheapshow', hosted by Gamesmaster alumnus Paul and his pet gremlin Eli, is an unusual mix of Bottom, The Price is Right and Bargain Hunt.
I won't get too far into what was said as I'd rather leave you to find it and listen yourself. Although I will say if you aren't a fan of adult humour, foul language or charity shops, then the economy comedy podcast 'Cheapshow' isn't for you. It's got 'Explicit' on it for a reason, one of those reasons being I was once listening on an overnight coach and the point my Bluetooth headphones decided to disconnect was the moment one of them started repeatedly shouting the one word you can't say on TV until after 10pm. So if you don't want to listen, I'll sum his experience up with 'teething problems'.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

The Crystal Maze is possibly getting a US version

Before I say this, it must be taken with a wheelbarrow sized pinch of salt so prepare accordingly. An article popped up online today suggesting the possibility of a US version of everyone's favourite British game show devised by a Frenchman.

For a bit of background, as I understand it, the ownership of the show is as follows:

TCM is produced by Fizz, which is owned by RDF Television, which itself is a subsidiary of Banijay Group after BG bought RDF's parent company Zodiak Media. I think this is how it goes, I may not be 100% accurate but I know the name above the door at the top of the pile is Banijay Group.

An American producer by the name of Bunim Murray Productions, which is also under the Banijay Group umbrella, is wanting to shop the format around to US broadcasters. BMP being the people who brought the world 'Surviving R Kelly' and some unknown thing called 'Keeping Up With The Kardashians', so TCM seems like something a bit different for them.

The sales video used for MIPCOM, an international television industry trade show

Before everyone gets defensive and protective, with admittedly very good reason (US versions of UK source material rarely succeed), let's just take a quick look at this situation with a positive light on it.

First off, it probably won't happen. Many, many formats pitched in America rarely make the pilot stage. Secondly, if it does get that far I would bet on the pilot being filmed at the Bottleyard in Bristol. It would be far cheaper to simply use the original set and fly out an American host and contestants. This has been done before in TV, the first series of Phillip Schofield's 5 Gold Rings was filmed in the Netherlands on the set of the Dutch original. Also, when 'The Cube' was being lined up for a US run, the pilot was filmed on the UK set and that was it, the show wasn't picked up and all that exists of that filming is this four seconds...

So should a pilot get filmed, that could well be it.

However, if it isn't and a series goes into production there are options: A) a set is built in America and looks very expensive rendering our original looking rather underwhelming or they make no effort at all with it, or B) They use our set, in the same way Fort Boyard is used by companies worldwide, and with any luck it's this option that happens because that could bring in money to allow improvements to the set. A water tank isn't cheap you know.

Like I say though, it's not a definite thing that is going to happen yet. We shall keep you updated.

In other news closer to home, E4 have started showing TCM revival repeats at 5pm before The Big Bang Theory, although if you've already seen every TBBT episode more often than you've seen every episode of Friends then you can switch over to Challenge at 6pm for the original series. Two hours of tea-time TCM every weeknight. Sit your kids down. Sausage, chips, and beans for tea (I'm Northern, its tea, get over it) and have a bit of family time watching Rob's adventure into space.

EDIT: seems like this blog is getting more reads than our usual amount, so let us know what you think? Are you American and looking forward to your own version to apply for and have a go on? Do you think it could work? Whatever you've got to say about it, we want to hear it. Leave a message below, or find me on Reddit HERE, or on YouTube HERE

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

The Crystal Maze Fan Group - Get involved

As an administrator for The Crystal Maze Fan Blog / Fan Group - I am delighted that this blog is becoming such a success. We are getting a wide global readership with lots of people getting in touch with us to talk about the Maze. A few years ago, the Maze didn't even exist on Social Media, so it's nice that it has been brought up to date with the times. I absolutely love the show and it's always so fascinating to hear production and contestant stories, as well as the inspirations behind the various games. Next year The Crystal Maze reaches 30 years old, (as old as me!). I am so chuffed that three decades later, the show is still so popular. Please feel free to comment on any of our posts, or message us if you'd like to contribute towards an article, or even join our Crystal Maze Fan Facebook Messenger Group.

- Neil (Admin, Crystal Maze Fan Blog).

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Interview with the games designer of the new West End Live Experience Maze - Charlie Wheeler

Designing games for the Crystal Maze must be a very rewarding process, and while Anna Kidd designs fantastic games for the new TV Series, today we interview Charlie Wheeler, who is only 22 years old and was not even born when the Crystal Maze originally aired. Yet the Maze still captivated him enough to design all 32 games in the brand new West End London Live Experience maze.

When did you start coming up with ideas for the West End Maze games? Did you design games for the previous experiences? How many have you devised?

I guess "to devise" is not really a singular task as so many elements make a Crystal Maze game a reality. The whole design and development process is quite huge and involves loads of people! The rough process of getting a game from start to finish began with the Crystal Maze directors, we would talk (about a year ago now) about ideas, often having an old favourite from the TV show or maybe someone might have seen something out and about and thought ‘that would make a cracking game!’, and from this the directors’ treatments would be created. Each treatment would be totally different: some just a sting of an idea or a sketch or for others much more of a solid vision for a game. This is where I joined the ‘production line’ as it were, attaching this idea to reality (and the space it would soon inhabit) and turning an idea or a brief into a full size digital 3D representation of how the game and room would turn out like, fully dressed and decorated and lit as it would turn out in the end. This - I guess fairly unique - prototyping method really helped everyone get a feel for just how immersive each idea could become. From me the designs were passed onto the production team or the games manufacturers to make the physical products. In terms of numbers, there were 32 games used but almost double that number designed.

What work did you do for the Live Experience?  

I previously worked as the Production Manager of the Manchester Crystal Maze experience which turned out to be an invaluable qualification in the role of concept designing the new games, as however nice something looks and seems on paper, it needs to stand up to the general public! And doing that job allowed me to (at least try to) understand whether the majority of the public will understand, enjoy and not manage to destroy a certain game! (or indeed themselves!)

What's your favourite game you have designed and why?

My favourite original game might have to be Morse Code, it was quite a sedentary and cerebral mental game to start with but the scenario the player is put in in the finished product just makes it extra special! It definitely knocks the ‘boring’ stereotype away from mental games! (I'm so proud of my spoiler-free description there!)

How did you come up with inspiration for the games? We've played some, and we think they are absolute nostalgic gems - they are truer to the original series. Our favourite is the Power Saver game, and Generator. How did you come up with ideas to adapt them?

Power Saver is an absolute classic but, as it exists on the TV show, an absolute health and safety nightmare. Having someone crawling about on a welded steel frame (ouch) is worrying enough let alone what you'd do if the fire alarm went off and someone's trapped 6 feet deep in a metal box… But the concept of the game was just too good to let slip and so the creation of a bespoke soft play solution with obstacles made it a reality - and the cool new techy update (trying very hard to not spoil) brought it into the 21st century!

Generator too is great fun! It's one game that has sort of come full circle from it's origin, starting as the infamous Lighthouse game from Series 6, which at one point I redesigned into a game called Lift Shaft (a sort of vertical reimagining of the original) and eventually turned back into a really nice homage to that old Lighthouse, but equally more impressive to look at… And a bit less wet…

How does it feel that hundreds of people will now be experiencing your work on a daily basis, it must be very rewarding?

My single favourite thing about any work is seeing how people react to it and nothing could be more perfect than this big crazy adventure game that is The Crystal Maze. It's really nice to see how faithful some of the games have turned out to my designs too, I was absolutely prepared for them to look totally different as they passed through the various production and development stages but I'm honoured that they've come out so close!

What is your favourite zone of the Live Experience and why?

Industrial. Easy. It's just the right mix of manual labour and tech, some games can be brutish physicals and others can require some serious dexterity - all of which are coated in a healthy layer of industrial grime and rust.

Has any of our Maze feedback shaped your work?

Definitely, as somewhat of a super fan myself I really try to get all the passion and attention to detail that made the original show so special into my work. I love hearing the stories from all of the old production members and I really owe my whole creative vision to the people who made that show! Particularly the vibrant colours and art direction Richard Drew brought to Series 6 and of course to the tireless work of James Dillon. (Tiny Spoilery Easter Egg: If you play the game Candy Crash in the new maze and look very carefully you'll see a little reference to Mr Dillon himself in there that I managed to slip in!)

Tell us about your creative background.

I am - I guess - a creative wanderer. I wander about (metaphorically and sometimes physically) doing different things. If someone asks what I do I just say I'm a Freelance Designer which is I guess a rubbish and vague answer, but it does pretty much sum me up. I created my company WhoProductions before I went to university and it’s now (very grateful to say) my main income. I do a lot of graphic design for various people and brands and occasionally get to do really awesome special projects like concept designing these games! I do also enjoy writing music too, and I've been sat on recording an album for the past year or so now too but I just want to get it perfect before I release anything!

You have also made lots of cool online Maze Videos with concept map graphics and titles. How long have you enjoyed watching The Crystal Maze for? What is it you like about the show?

That map graphic haunts me. It's one thing that's just been ingrained on my mind since I was a child I have no idea why. (That and the blade runner-esque Blockbusters titles.) I've got school books in drawers emblazoned with exquisite from-memory drawings of that iconic map drawn by a lunatic 11 year old version of myself. (Yes, now might be the time to start worrying about me, but there's no need I'm fine.) I was obsessed with the show as a kid. I grew up on a farm watching VHS tapes of the same two or three episodes over and over again, I even made an 8ft tall Crystal Dome in the stables once from bamboo canes, poly tunnel offcuts and about 20 rolls of Wilko gaffa tape. (The front triangle even opened like the door on the original… Ok I'll stop now.) The then 15 year old me was just as sad as the 11 year old it seemed. And now at the ripe old 22, very little has changed. I'm still captivated by that magical show and all the details and wonderful intricacies it had and I'm just happy to be able to put that lunatic inside me to work doing something useful and something that people can enjoy!

Friday, 29 March 2019

First review of the BRAND NEW Crystal Maze Live Experience - West End, London

A critique of the new Maze Live Experience Venue on Opening Day

Just hours after our lucky involvement once again with the best show ever made, (that's all I can say for now), we had another Maze to attend to, and that's one I'm allowed to currently talk about - that's right, the brand new Crystal Maze Live Experience venue that recently relocated from Angel, to the heart of London's West End in the Trocadero. 

Our slot was booked for 3.15pm and we were the very first team to go through on opening day today, 29th March 2019. We walked in and were greeted by staff who were stood behind a very lavish mirrored Crystal desk. There was also a rather cool looking neon light fixed to the wall behind, with the immortal words 'Will you Start the Fans, Please".  We were told that they were still rushing upstairs to get the bar finished in time, and that the lift was not currently working. We were led up a lot of stairs into a briefing room, before entering the Maze. Unfortunately, teething problems were expected due to being the first team into the new Maze. This was the case in fact, at one point, some of us were left alone in the briefing area for a good five minutes, before eventually being led into the Medieval Zone. Two players had already started without us, and we were there before them! Not quite sure how that confusion had come about. It wasn't the best of starts for me and Adam. We had missed two games in Medieval. Our host was 'Enzo'. 


I won't spoil the games for you but will tell you that the games are a lot truer to the original series and feature some of my personal, all-time, favourite ones. Ok. I will spoil one game because I loved it so much, and that was the 'Power Saver' game in Industrial. This game was brilliant in the original series as it featured 'game boy' style countdown packs you had to slot in. This worked really well, they used a soft play area on two levels instead of a caged crawl maze. The execution of the games are brilliant and a perfect take on the original - my friend Charlie Wheeler designed all of the games for the West End Maze, but kept them under wraps from us. He is part of the Maze Fan Group and I've already told him personally I love what he's done at the West End Maze. 

Even the information slate signs in the game cells have the original font- now that is attention to detail. My only criticisms of the new Maze: The initial 'cock up' where we were left in the briefing room while the Maze Master started with two other people without us! The Maze itself is a lot narrower in terms of smaller corridors and hallways, compared to the Manchester Maze. It feels more cramped and confined, despite the space available. But the original games make up for that.

The Crystal Dome looks to have improved lighting compared to when it was at Angel. However, we had a few teething problems here as well as the fans didn't start a few times, and they forgot to add tokens. You'd have thought that they should have offered cheaper 'tester tickets' like they did with the previous Live Experience Mazes. We paid full price for our tickets, so you would of thought everything would be as expected. I have no idea why they abolished 'tester' tickets. We were thanked individually by a manager once we came out of the Maze for being the first players of the new maze. (We wish that we were given something to mark this, like a free drink, especially as Maze Bloggers/Fans).

The bar looked upmarket and rather lavish and swanky. It featured only subtle Maze features, such as Aztec foilage and plants - no obvious features were noticable that you are in a 'Crystal Maze' bar, like the Angel one which caught our immediate attention. It featured people sat down around us who seemed to be shareholders and management - this wasn't the best image to present, but we're told they've tried to make the bar more inviting, because it was barely used in Angel. At the end of the day, fans crowd funded it and brought it back, so that fact should not be forgotten. The crowd funded Crystal picture with supporters names from Angel wasn't anywhere to be seen. Please Crystal Maze Live Experience, don't forget the people who helped crowd fund you. We were hoping things would go a bit smoother for us. But this was opening day, maybe our expectations were too high. They had produced two Mazes before, so we thought things would be smoother. However their guest relations have been really good.

It wasn't going to be perfect on day one. Recent Trip Advisor reviews for the brand new West End Maze haven't been kind because its still settling in. Overall, the Maze isn't as good as Manchester, but the games are better, and the new location is a lot more accessible. They were selling limited edition blue Crystals today for £14, of course, I had to get one to add to the massive collection!  I hope that the new maze beds in, I guess these things take time.  They were only minor niggles, the games made up for it. I hope you enjoy your time when you go and visit. But it's not as good as the other venues before it, we expected bigger and better for such a prime location. The Manchester Maze remains our favourite Live Experience venue. We will revisit the West End Maze once it's had a chance to iron out issues. We've been told by the Manager from Mid May onwards it should become fully established, and we wish them well. We look forward to returning once it's fully up and running! article on how the games are designed and tested

Now, for reasons you either will or won't know, I want to share this quick interview last year with Anna Kidd, the Crystal Maze games designer, from where she discusses the process behind the games. From initial ideas through to having a ready and willing group of games-testers try them out on set to ensure they work as expected when the cameras are on.

"In one game, contestants sit on a rope swing suspended from the ceiling and have to push a number of buttons placed on the walls within ten seconds. Many contestants spend the three minutes allotted for the task hopelessly bouncing off the walls. But one completed it after just a couple of goes, with more than four seconds to spare."

I'm still far too smug about that. Only just outdone by that bloke from Derry Girls. Who is now my sworn nemesis.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Guess What We Did Today!!!

Go on, guess.

And keep that guess in your mind because we can't say if you're right or wrong. We can't say a thing. Although if you're a regular reader here, then that itself might suggest something.

I'm writing this on the coach home from [NAME REDACTED] and a few of us are still there now. I only left a couple hours early as I had to keep to a coach timetable to get home from [NAME STILL REDACTED] but it was absolutely worth the 9 hours each way travel. We can't say anything, nor would we want to yet. Can't go killing the surprise. Rest assured if you're a fan of a very specific TV show, you're in for a hell of a treat this year.

Now wish me luck, it's 9:30pm, I won't be done with the coach until 6am, and even then that's not the end.

EDIT: It was 7:10am when I got home, absolutely worth it.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Happy Birthday Richard O'Brien!

The Crystal Maze Fan Blog would like to wish a very happy 77th Birthday to the Maze legend that is Richard O'Brien! You might be living in New Zealand, but we hope you read this. Nearly 30 years since the inception of the Maze and your legacy lives on.

O'Briens birthday falls on a big week for us. We are involved with a project again. In addition to this, the new Live Experience Maze in London's West End opens its doors this Friday. We will be there for that. This is a very exciting week, and this all coincides with the week of O'Briens Birthday. What's your favourite O'Brien quote?

Monday, 18 March 2019

A King's Seal of Approval - Exclusive interview with Maze actor (Part 2)

(Continued from below). My enjoyment of series 6 was greatly enhanced by the time I was lucky enough to spend with these two fine gentleman, as well as with the crew and the few people I’d got to know at all well, like Nick Badham. There was a wrap party at the end of filming with a staggering amount of booze on offer, while we were all treated to a highly amusing film made on the set featuring the crew, cast and some contestants. I remember that my majestic tones were overdubbed by one of the guys in wardrobe to make me sound like some colossal lisping pervert, so a great time was had by all.

I was woken at home the next day with a hangover that felt as if underground nuclear testing was taking place in my skull, to learn the sorrowful news that my father had died just a few hours before, but I know that dad was proud of me for being a part of such a famous and successful production, and perhaps even more pleased and proud had he known of the eye-watering amount of alcohol I’d somehow managed to surround the night before. I have nothing but the very happiest memories of my time on The Crystal Maze. I was elated to audition for this programme and delirious with joy when I was accepted. I’m not usually one to tempt Fate, but I told anyone and everyone who would listen at the time that I was going to appear on this iconic programme, broadcasting the good news to the Four Winds, not in the least bit worried that my part might be edited out at the last moment.

I was excited to depart for the distant set each morning and I was awestruck to arrive at the airfield, with its haunted hangar and the enthralling production homed within its walls. All the contestants I encountered were ecstatic to be part of the programme, while I got the impression that all the crew equally felt that they were part of something special as well. I was in awe of the vast, intricate and imposing sets, while the act of getting ‘robed up’ as Lance was a heady sensation, knowing that I was about to become a real, living part of a programme that had captured the imagination of the world. It was just as exciting the following year to appear as the Aztec High Priest, to meet and work with Marino and Sam, then to renew my acquaintance with David, Ed and the rest of the crew.

I have a large extended family, with many younger cousins, nephews, nieces and the like, who were all thunderstruck to learn that I was going to appear on The Crystal Maze. My neighbours were excited, as were my other friends and family, while I don’t mind admitting that I was delirious with joy to see my gauntleted hand cradling a crystal in the opening sequences. I’m the only person, as far as I’m aware, to have had two separate speaking parts as two different characters on this fantastic show, but even if this hadn’t been the case and I’d just had one, fleeting appearance, I’m sure I’d be just as contented to have once been a part of something truly lasting and extraordinary.

With the recent revival of The Crystal Maze, I am often asked if I’m going to reprise my part as Lance or else as the Aztec High Priest. Well, to paraphrase Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, I’m always ready for a close up, but failing that happy eventuality, I continue to bask contentedly in the warm glow of my former thespian triumphs. It would be very poor form to hog the limelight, as I also had a small part as The Barker in the pilot episode of The Magic Carnival, which was planned as the successor to The Crystal Maze, but my photographs of my time on that particular set were lost in the fire that destroyed my home last year. A small part of me sometimes thinks that it would be great to appear once again in The Crystal Maze, but what will be, will be, and I wish nothing but happiness and great good fortune to all those involved in the programme’s latest incarnation.

In conclusion, I’m not sure that I can add a lot more to this account of my part in the story of The Crystal Maze. When I was invited to compose this piece a few days ago, I glanced at the Wikipedia page for The Crystal Maze, something I’d not done in years, and I was mildly surprised to see no mention of either Lance or else the Aztec High Priest. I’m not remotely bothered by this, not least because so many other people played more lasting and important parts than mine in this production, but I know from long personal experience how many people the world over are fascinated with the historical details of every aspect of this wonderful show. I hope that in writing this brief essay and in supplying some photos, that I’ll have satisfied the curiosity of anyone who’d ever wondered about these minor characters, and if you’ve derived any enjoyment from reading this account, then I’ll be very pleased.

- Dennis Price, Actor - The Crystal Maze (Series 5 and 6, 1994/1995).

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Crystal Maze Excitement reaching new levels

Crystal Maze excitement is reaching fever pitch here at the Maze Fan Blog right now... we have something secret we are working on - but we cannot talk about that just yet, maybe we will tell you later on in the year - so onto other things... We are looking forward to the new West End Maze in London to open on 29th March. It will feature 32 brand new games and be located in the iconic Trocadero Building. The venue will be 30,000 sq foot, which is almost the same size as the real TV Maze set in scale.

Here are some sneak first previews of the new Live Experience Maze. What a time to be alive, as a Crystal Maze Fan. It opens 29th March, and we will be there on opening day! Here's an article:

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

A King's Seal of Approval - Exclusive interview with Maze actor (Part 1)

WITHIN the mysterious world of The Crystal Maze, lived a few characters who brought the Zones to life. Dennis Price (Actor, Stage name: Dennis Llewellyn) - 1990's Crystal Maze actor who played Lance, Guard of the Kings Seal and the Aztec High Priest, talks exclusively to The Crystal Maze Fan Blog. Here is the first installment of his memories from working on the show.

If my memory serves me well, over a quarter of a century after the fact, I first set foot on the path that led to my time on The Crystal Maze a year or so before I started filming on series 5. I’d been lazing around at home in north-west London one afternoon when I was surprised to get a series of urgent phone calls from a few friends and an agent, asking me if it were true that I could speak Latin? At some point, during the course of a previous shoot I’ve forgotten, I must have mentioned that I’d studied Latin and ancient Greek to A level at school in the 1970s to some of my new friends and colleagues, and someone, somewhere must have remembered this.

I returned the calls, but without going into the minutiae of what I later presented, I composed a short excerpt from a Black Mass in Latin and performed it for an episode of Channel X’s The Unpleasant World of Penn & Teller. I was a Satanic High Priest, whose role it was to perform a Black Mass at some luridly decorated church in Richmond in south London for the benefit of the late, lamented Christopher Reeve, the star guest on the show. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time, but I’m as certain as I can be that Nick Badham worked on this production, then later recommended me for the part of Lance, Guard of the King’s Seal on series 5 of The Crystal Maze, for which kindness I remain eternally grateful to him.
For some reason connected to the passing of the years, I don’t remember my audition for the part, but I clearly recall that I was enormously excited to be appearing on The Crystal Maze, as it was a huge, huge show at the time. I made my way early in the morning in my old Ford Capri from Hendon where I lived, around an insanely busy M25 and then eventually up to the Aces High Studios at North Weald Airfield. I was overjoyed to be able to surround a huge, hot breakfast after I’d turned up, then I was taken to the wardrobe department, where I was gradually transformed into the baleful, taciturn character that Ed Tudor-Pole described as “Lance, Guard of the King’s Seal”.

All the original photos I had of my time on The Crystal Maze were lost in a blaze that destroyed my home on March 8th last year, which is a great shame, but I have a few photos of photos. I don’t remember having any say in what I eventually wore on set, but looking back, I’m delighted with the massive sword, huge cloak and furry collar, as I’ve long thought it was like a forerunner of Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch on Game of Thrones. Not that I come close to this man amongst men, but it’s yet another pleasing memory and aspect of my time on the show.

While I remember, aficionados of The Crystal Maze will be aware that Ed Tudor Pole went on to have a small part as a preacher in one episode of Game of Thrones. I never appeared in this particular series myself, to my regret, but two of my friends from my time on what was then the world’s only touring mediaeval jousting tournament worked extensively in the murderous world of Westeros; one was Rowley Irlam, the triple Emmy winning stunt co-ordinator and the other was Dominic Preece, who in turn spent most of his working time as the stunt co-ordinator on Outlander. But I digress.
On set, I was taken to meet David Croft, the director and another man amongst men, and I’m delighted to say that I’m still in regular touch with him all these years later. I also met Ed Tudor Pole and we got along well, but my contact with him was strictly limited due to the nature and schedule of the filming. I got to meet pretty much all the crew during my time there, but it was a bit bewildering for me as there were so many of them and they were all so tied up with their different jobs in and around the vast hangar.

I was given two lines to say; which one I articulated depended on whether or not the eager contestant had successfully completed their allotted task, which was correctly putting together the elements of the “King’s Seal”. I was told the result through a concealed earpiece and every one of them got it right, as far as I can remember, so “That is the King’s Seal” was all I said on camera during series 5. I had a great time while I was there; I was paid very well and I think I spent 6 mornings filming in total, while I was intrigued by the stories of the cavernous Hangar 6 being haunted, as I’d been seriously interested in ghosts and such like since I was a kid back in the 1960s.

I was invited back the next year to audition for the part of the Aztec High Priest in series 6, so I think I met up with David once again at some offices in Oxford Street before being given the part. This time around, instead of looking like Jon Snow and his brothers would do over a decade later in Game of Thrones, I wore some spangled outfit that might not be completely out of place on a particularly lurid edition of Rue Paul’s Drag Race. And now, I had some company, as there were two other guys with me in the Aztec Zone and we spent a fair bit of time chatting together in some secluded room before we were required on set.

One of them was a male model by the name of Sam, a lovely, kind and warm gentleman, while the other was Marino Franchi, who was working as a stripper at the time – well, not at exactly the same time, but after he’d finished filming for the day. Marino was a great guy as well, but I’ve not seen either him or Sam since then, although I naturally hope that they’re both happy and healthy, and that life has treated them well.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

First Look Inside the New Crystal Maze Experience

On the 29th March, the new live venue for The Crystal Maze Experience will open it's doors in the West End of London, just around the corner from Piccadilly Circus.

Up that road, opposite McDonalds
Following a £6million investment in development in the old Golden Nugget casino building, the new venue will be able to hold 3 times the number of visitors that the Islington location could handle. London's Evening Standard were invited along and have a few pictures from inside the venue and from what we can see it looks like the money is being well spent. Obviously, there's not an awful lot being shown and why would there be? Better to maintain the surprise for paying customers. It just so happens that two of those paying customers on opening night will be going representing us so as experts of the Crystal Maze, who better to cast reviewing eyes on the experience.

One game from the new venue has been revealed in an artist rendering so if you want to visit and go in completely blind with every game being a surprise, do not click...

Looks to be based on a game from the 90's series, one that you were guaranteed a soaking from.

Tickets for the new Crystal Maze Live Experience can be bought from and at the time of writing, there are still places available for opening night.

Prices start at £50pp.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Charity Auction for a Crystal Maze set tour

Well wouldn't you know it, the day after I post because of a lack of Crystal Maze news, there's some Crystal Maze news

As part of a selection of charity auctions to raise money for Sightsavers, this beauty has popped up:

"Fiendish challenges, glittering crystals and the famed Crystal Dome: our winner will join host Richard Ayoade on a personal tour of this fantastic game show set. You'll get the chance to visit the Aztec, Medieval, Industrial and Futuristic zones for a peek behind the scenes as Richard guides you through the maze.

Winner must be available between 1-12 April 2019 (weekdays only). Prize also includes a Crystal Maze goody bag, which means you'll be taking home your very own crystal! Depending on the ability of the winner, you'll also be able to try out a game or two. The prize will last no longer than an hour and take place at Bottleyard Studios in Bristol."

Be aware the experience is for one person only, so there's no point clubbing together as a group to outbid others. But if you've got something you can afford to donate and want a hell of a TCM experience, have a look.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Here's the News: There isn't any

All has been quiet on the Crystal Maze front, and the reason we haven't been posting any Crystal Maze updates is we have none we can share. However, it's been nearly a month since the last post so I thought I'd reassure all the thousands reading this blog every day (yes, thousands! if I count you as about 40 people each) that this blog hasn't been forgotten.

Nil desperandum, we're still here with our ears to the ground, lurking and waiting to pounce on the moment where we can share news with you lucky, lucky readers.

In the meantime, it's the Brit Awards tonight. Here's Richard O'Brien, host of the 1993 awards, introducing a child arsonist and a workshy fop as they present the award for Best British Group (The Cure were robbed).

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

What 2019 looks like to be a Crystal Maze Fan

2019 is shaping up to be a good year, with lots of things to look forward to as Crystal Maze Fans. Firstly, we have the brand new London Crystal Maze at London's West End, which opens on 29th March 2019. I had one more visit to the original Angel Maze on 10th January, that is sadly closing for good in a few days. We owe a lot to that venue, if we all didn't crowd fund it the way we all did, it wouldn't of returned as a live experience, let alone another TV series. Let's not forget the 2016 Pilot with Stephen Merchant was recorded there.

We have tickets for opening day of the new West End Maze. They've spent £5 million pounds on the new Maze Live Experience, so we can't wait to see what it's like. In terms of new merchandise, we will just have to keep our eyes peeled and see what unfolds. Richard O'Brien turns 77 years old in March. He's one person we want to wrap in cotton wool forever. Edward Tudor-Pole meanwhile will be 64 in December this year. Richard Ayoade will be 42 in June. Keep supporting the Crystal Maze, let's keep it here for good. Next year it will be thirty years since the Maze was born.

Exclusive Interview with Nick Badham, Production Manager, The Crystal Maze Original Series 2-6 (Final Part)

11. Did any parts of Industrial Zone get recycled into the Ocean Zone set, and where did all of the Maze props come from?

N: James re-used flattage from a few of the cells, but the design was so different as well as the layout and construction method that not much could be. Most props on series 2 were hired. There were/are several large film and TV hire companies around London and between them you can hire a truly amazing range of things from every period in history imaginable. Prop hire is quite expensive but very convenient and time saving – you turn up walk around an enormous Aladdin’s cave of warehouses picking what you want. But it is expensive because prop companies need to have big warehouses and stock so many things – many of which might only get hired for a few days or weeks a year or even over several years. When Channel 4 committed to the show longer term and we were able to keep the set up at North Weald for 5 years - we hired less and less each year and bought or had made what we wanted. This saved money that could be spent on other things. The one thing that was still hired each year was the table in Medieval – a beautiful large antique oak table that would have cost a fortune in a shop and would have cost a lot too to make from scratch.

12.  Was the Crystal Dome visible from any of the zones? Where was it the most easiest to access from, as I have always wondered this, because the shot of them running to the dome was not geographically accurate in terms of the map?

N: You couldn’t see the dome, but you could see the black star cloths that encircled it – only by looking up and off the top of the sets though. The set was laid out exactly as the animated show graphic depicts in the programmes. You see it when teams arrive in a new zone and it rotates and camera zooms in on the new zone. The dome was in the middle and you could only practically access it from the ‘path’ that led from the edge of the set between Industrial/Ocean and Medieval and ran under the bridge obstacle that the teams used to get between the two. The shot of the run to the dome was artistic licence – just a visual mechanism for the transition!

13. What I particularly loved were the ‘zone events’ that brought the Crystal Maze to life, such as the meteorite storm in futuristic, the plane wreckage and parachute in Aztec, and the night setting in Aztec. Did your team think of any others, and how were they devised?

N: Everyone contributed ideas and they added humour, variety and something for the presenter to talk about or do during a slightly boring or longer running game. David usually picked the ideas he liked. I came up with the idea of having a ‘What The Butler Saw’ machine which I used to see on Brighton Pier when I was a child. I thought Ed could peer in, turn the handle and make up a lot of nonsense about what he was seeing. David loved the idea and it grew into a production number. On one of our shoot days we dressed our floor assistant Sharon up like a Victorian French maid and Ed as a gentlemen with huge moustache, and filmed him chasing Sharon and waving a loofah! This was then edited to look like vintage Victorian “erotica” and shown in the episode. Another idea I had was a magic show already set up in Ocean when the team arrive and Ed would walk into the cabinet and re-appear at the top of the staircase - or similar such gag – but it never progressed.

14. What could have a Series 7 looked like, had the original show continued beyond 1995?
N: We were talking about replacing a zone – probably Aztec. No-one had come up with a solid idea though as to what the zone would be. I think David and Malcolm had discussed Wild West zone as an idea. But apart from that I think everything else would have stayed pretty much the same with the addition of a new dome and funkier moving lights.

15. How do you feel about the continuing success of the show today, with re-runs, live experiences, the new series, merchandise and a new modern following? Why do you think it is still so enduring and popular?

N: It is a perfect format and at the time completely original (although based on the Fort Boyard format that show had not been seen in the UK), and the new series is introducing a whole new generation of fans in addition that never grew up with the C4 series or wouldn’t watch re-runs of anything from so long ago. It was also very popular abroad. Star Asia (covering the whole of Asia and parts of Africa, Middle East and Oceania) ran all the series and repeated them quite often. Over the years we received quite a few fan letters that had been sent from this region – often not in English and some just addressed “Crystal Maze, England”. I take my hat off to the Post Office because most of these letters found their way eventually to Channel 4 (via BBC or ITV sometimes) but several got delivered directly to North Weald airfield! Merchandising, live experiences and the like are natural spin-offs of popular shows.

I haven’t watched the new series religiously, but have seen a few. I think it’s great. It’s always easy to criticise when things are remade and moan that they aren’t the same as the original. But if you are re-launching something you need to change some things and make it more ‘of the moment’. The set looks as good as ever and I think the lighting is far better, even accounting for newer technology and high definition. The games I’ve seen are particularly good. I have always liked Richard Ayoade and nothing personal against him but I still believe the show should have cast an unknown and not made any “celebrity” episodes, which I find a turn-off. 

Unfortunately many TV execs/commissioners and producers are just too risk-averse these days and simply not brave enough to try new things very often. As for the teams knowing each other, I think it works except for the buying out vs not buying out tension that has been lost. It’s a shame too that the Aztec river, dome tank and deeper water games we could do in Ocean have also been lost, but I suspect this has to do with time (I’m told they shoot 2 shows a day, but we had the luxury of 2 days to make 1 show), money and space pressures, which have also scuppered the vignettes (“Zone events” as you called them) that were so popular before. Is the new series any worse? Not at all. Is it any better? No, just a little different. The biggest disappointment for me is the costumes. Our costumes on the original series were pretty terrible – there never seemed to be enough money left over for the wardrobe department once design, lighting and special effects had spent so much. It’s a shame really because they are the one thing that is seen on screen all the time. I don’t think David or Malcolm were really happy until series 5 when we finally tackled it and they looked much more modern, were better fitting on all body types and also appeared more adventurous. The new series seem to have regressed back to what we had on our series 3 and 4 – ill fitting, baggy boiler suits that look like what they wear at your local tyre and exhaust garage!

16. Do you know why the original series was never released onto DVD?
N: No and it’s strange – I guess that as the series are still shown on channels like Challenge, if people want them they can get them for free, and maybe DVDs wouldn’t sell very well?

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

A new addition to the Maze Collection: Medieval Egg Timer Prop!

Left, the egg timer today in 2019, and right, O'Brien holding it in Medieval

Ok, so today was an awesome day, I travelled to London and met up with Nick Badham in person, the Production Manager for Series 2-6 of The Crystal Maze. We met in a pub in Victoria this afternoon. I nipped to the bar to buy him a pint, came back and out came an actual Medieval Egg Timer Prop from the 90s set, which was used by both Edward Tudor-Pole and Richard O'Brien. Wow! He had started the timer with the sand running through and joked I had to get back with the drinks quickly.

There we were talking in a London Pub, with a prop from a massively popular TV show sitting there, as if it were a table decoration. He very generously gave me the original Medieval timer for me to keep! This lovely gesture was a token of being a true fan of the show. (Thank you so much Nick you've made my 2019 already, and we are only two weeks in!). I've supported and loved the original series through this blog. We spoke for an hour in depth about his previous and current shows, as well as Crystal Maze. What struck me is he is very talented and skillful in TV Entertainment. Some of his earlier shows did not enjoy the technology we have today, so Nick always sought to overcome production challenges. I enjoyed listening to all his stories about working on Crystal Maze. Some amazing things I learned today from him, were that there were actually three different types of Crystals used on the original series. One type for gameplay (clear), one type presented to contestants (colourful), and a colourful Crystal with mirrored bottom for the Crystal Table. Wow!

I learned that there was only ever one injury on the set of The Crystal Maze, however that was not a contestant. Unfortunately a Video Editor broke their nose on the Rat Run game. (Industrial, Series 3). There were several first aid trained team members and a Local A&E department very near by.

They had to keep rats at bay on set. I learned that they had to bring in a local swimming pool company to weekly treat the water tanks in Ocean and Aztec, and they had to construct a large element to keep the Ocean tank warm, as well as a filtration system. This was because trodden Aztec sand from the contestants would cloud the water.

I also learned that Ed Tudor Pole and Richard O'Brien only ever actually met for the first time ever back in 2012 at a Maze Crew reunion! I never knew this. Nick went on to say that C4 once received complaints about the 'House Burglar' Industrial game from Series 3, as some viewers believed it encouraged people to break into peoples houses! Sound effects such as thunderclaps and sounds of creaking, etc were dubbed in post production to mask airfield sirens/aircraft noise as they were filming in a hangar. All ticking clocks in the Zones had sounds added on afterwards.

As well as managing Production of TCM, Nick Badham designed four games on the show. He also played the dead scientist in the Futuristic Mystery game, as well as the Robot in Futuristic. Nick worked on Treasure Hunt as well, and loads of other notable shows. He is currently working on CBBC show Last Commanders, which is like Crystal Maze but using Skype and Avatars. I have seen a clip and it is really good. I showed him some of my Maze memorabilia, and he was kind enough to also sign some autographs for me to give to members of this blog. He told me so many amazing stories about working on the original Maze. What an iconic show indeed. And thank you, Nick, for awarding me with such a great piece of iconic memorabilia from my favourite all time show. The timer was used in Medieval Zone for every series, both Richard O'Brien and Edward Tudor Pole would have used it. I'm feeling like a Crystal Maze Historian now.

Any more pieces and I will have enough to reconstruct the original 90's Maze! There were only eight Medieval Egg Timers produced for the show, and I am lucky to have one of them, perhaps one of the only remaining ones left after 24 years.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Exclusive Interview with Nick Badham, Production Manager, The Crystal Maze Original Series 2-6 (Part 2)

Nick played the dead Scientist in the Futuristic Science Lab Mystery Game!

How were Richard O’Brien and Edward Tudor-Pole as Presenters to work with, on and off camera?:

N: Both Richard and Ed were great to work with and pretty undemanding really. Neither came in with any star pretentions or expecting to be anything but part of the wider team and treated similarly. Although they were building a part/character on screen their off screen personalities were not hugely different either. Of course productions always treat their stars properly and give them some additional luxuries and the strange thing about Crystal Maze was that its stars never wanted any of it. Key crew members and anyone working 6 consecutive days were put up at the Moat House hotel in Harlow just up the road from the airfield. Moat House hotels were the basic 2 or 3 star budget business hotels of the day – ok but very basic. When I told Richard that I was going to book him, Malcolm and David into a luxury hotel slightly further away he was horrified. He said he wanted to be with everyone else at the Moat House, have dinner with the new contestants the night before each show and be able to have a drink with us all in the bar afterwards. David and Malcolm were somewhat disappointed I think at having to stay at the Moat House too! I also offered him a decent chauffeur-driven car for his journeys to/from home but he said he’d rather one of the production runners did it in a hire car so he could have a “good chat about the day’s events”! When Ed joined us I went through similar suggestions, but he was of the same mind and lumped in with the rest of us too.

What part caused you the most challenges on set? I’ve read about the sand blowing into the fans of the Crystal Dome from Aztec. You also had the Aztec River and the Crystal Dome drawbridge, as well as the moving lift in futuristic. A highly ambitious, technical show. How did you ensure it all worked for the cameras?

N: Nothing really major just the usual annoyances that crop up on set. I don’t remember the sand in the dome but I’m not surprised – sand as they say gets everywhere.  George our props man on most series was constantly raking it and hosing it down to keep it damp and contained. The airfield also had a few resident cats that got in and used Aztec as a giant litter tray – George had the glamorous job of dealing with that too! Very occasionally we’d have an issue with hydraulics on the dome drawbridge and Aztec lift – I remember once contestants using a ladder to get from Future to Aztec instead. The key to running a big set is to keep your eyes and ears open, constantly check for damage and wear and tear and deal with things before they get worse – just like you would in an office building or if running a fleet of vehicles. The biggest bugbear, which I mentioned above was the noisy environment. We had to stop recording completely a few times when the RAF decided to land. Malcolm used to tell me to tell them to go away but I explained that the RAF do what the RAF want to do! The gliding club next door, the occasional private pilots based there and airfield security were very helpful and used to call with likely times or advance warning of take offs and landings – on average there were probably only 6 or so a day though. In a few shows when aircraft noise was noticeable Richard or Ed would say “here come the next team flying into the Crystal Maze….”  

Ladders. Never leave Earth without one.
Was it easy to transport games in and out of the cells?

N: Most of the time. Most of the cells backed onto a fire lane/walkway that ran around the entire set or onto hidden voids between the zones, and their rear walls were easily removed for access. The one game that was tricky was a game called Rat Run which was a 3 level enclosed wire mesh maze that contestants had to crawl around. It was huge and filled the biggest cell in Industrial. It came pre-constructed in 3 large pieces (one per level) and there wasn’t room between cell and hangar wall to turn them horizontal and slide them in. We had to bring in a team of riggers with chain hoists and ropes/pulleys and it took a whole morning to install.

9. Why did you pick teams who didn’t know each other, and avoid celebrities?

N: Again this was an early format decision. If teams already know each other they are often ‘too nice’ to each other on screen. I notice in the new series that all the normal teams (rather than the so-called celebrity ones) know each other and nearly always buy out any locked in team members before the dome. I think this is something the new series has got wrong. In the original series the teams only got to meet the night before over dinner. You can see the difference in the shows – the light frictions and strategic decisions whether to leave locked in or buy out based only on a desire to win rather than ‘being kind to your mate’. Back in the nineties, there wasn’t the vogue for all these celebrity shows so I don’t think the idea was ever mooted. What was desired were more episodes with children, but as we filmed during term time and there are a host of other issues when using children (licences and school/local authority permissions, additional parents/chaperones to travel/accommodate, restrictions on working hours etc) it wasn’t feasible. We managed to make the children’s Christmas specials by only taking them out of school for one day with just head teacher approval and working on a Saturday.

10.  Did you have a particularly favourite game in The Crystal Maze?

N: I am a bit biased here because it’s a game I was in! I played the part (if it can be described as such) of a dead scientist in a laboratory in Future zone. Slumped over a desk (so you couldn’t see my face) the contestants had to solve various clues and finally place my hand on a palm reader to release the crystal. The game was in 4 episodes. Although my face couldn’t be seen so many people I know recognised me……usually with “Was that you being a dead body on the Crystal Maze last night?...I thought so, I recognised your bald patch”! Part 3 to follow...