This year, my two favourite TV shows from my childhood have returned. Robot Wars returned successfully and has been recommissioned for a second series. Does The Crystal Maze also deserve a full series? I hope so, but there are some improvements that should be made.
Being aired as part of Stand Up to Cancer, Stephen Merchant is guiding a team of celebrities around the four times zones: team captain Rio Ferdinand, vice-captain Sara Cox, Jonnie Peacock, Michelle Keegan and Josh Widdicombe. Tackling physical, skill, mental and mystery games in the Aztec, Medieval, Industrial and Futuristic zones, will they be able to win enough crystals to successfully complete their final challenge inside the Crystal Dome? We’ll leave it for you to find out if you haven’t seen it.
Starting in the Aztec Zone, they started with a welcoming message from Richard O’Brien – a nice touch, as the computer. Normally the computer is in the Futuristic, but I think we can allow it this once. Also liked the photo of Ed Tudor-Pole in Industrial – they didn’t name him, but it was good to see him honoured as well. It was also good to see Maureen Lipman playing the role of Mumsy, providing some tricky questions. Of the five contestants, Widdicombe the best of the lot because of his humour value and his skill on the show. Sara Cox was also entertaining, but for other reasons that are a bit of a spoiler if I were to reveal them.
One problem I did have was that being an original fan of the show, I kept being pedantic when I was watching it. I was a bit confused as to why the captain was not allowed to choose the type of game to play. Surely they could have had at least four games in each zone, one of each, and allow Ferdinand to choose which type of game to play. While I was one of the people who helped crowdfunded The Crystal Maze experience in London where this was filmed, some of the studio designs were off-putting, from the use of push rather than sliding doors in Futuristic to the visible smoke alarms in Aztec and Medieval. I know that healthy and safety is a concern, but they could have done more to hide them. I was also annoyed by the fact that during the challenges, whenever they cut to Merchant outside they removed the clock, which they didn’t in the original series.
If I were to commission The Crystal Maze for a full series (rumour has it though that it won’t), some of the more technical aspects can be more easily handled like the clock and the choice of puzzles. Maybe the Manchester version of the Maze currently in development will be better constructed too. I do hope that Channel 4 do make it a full series however. Despite its faults, it still contains the things that make the original great: fun conundrums, a good host, and the satisfaction of feeling superior while shouting at people knowing that the challenge they are doing is so incredibly easy.
The Crystal Maze can be streamed on More4. You can find out more about Stand Up to Cancer at www.standuptocancer.org.uk