The Crystal Maze was a wonderful piece of nonsense with Richard O’Brien, creator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in the early ’90s. He hosted it for four series in his own inimitable style before calling it a day and being replaced with Tenpole Tudor’s Ed Tudor-Pole for the last two before it was cancelled, a change not favoured in my opinion. Another change I was less than excited about was for this one-off, brought in as part of Channel 4’s Stand Up 2 Cancer season, to be hosted by Stephen Merchant.
I loved The Office, as well as Extras, but his contribution to Portal 2 was a step too far. Ironically, his additional presence may have saved David Brent: Life on the Road, given how long he has worked with Ricky Gervais, but while I watched this new episode, I’d much have preferred others to have presented it, not least David Tennant who it sounded like was voicing the teasers announcing this show’s return.
At least Merchant went with the bald head in this programme, but according to his interview on Sunday Brunch, this only came about because he had shaved his bonce for a part in the third Wolverine movie. Given how the second was better than the first, I don’t relish his presence in W3, and I hope he quickly gets dispatched!
The maze contains four zones (Aztec, Futuristic, Medieval and Industrial – the latter changing to Ocean, halfway through the six, although it’s back in this one-off), and each requires team members to choose a contestant to take part in games based on varying degrees of skill, physical or mental agility. Each crystal gets you 5 seconds in the Crystal Dome – collect the gold and silver pieces of paper, and if you get more gold than silver, it’s happy time.
The contestants in this episode are Stockport’s finest export Michelle Keegan, ex-footballer Rio Ferdinand, comedian Josh Widdecombe, paralympian sprinter Jonnie Peacock, and loudmouth-on-the-radio Sara Cox.
A lot of people are calling for The Crystal Maze to return for a full series, but if it does, please get someone other than Merchant, not least because his constant interruptions-to-camera broke the flow of each game. All that said, there’s often a reason shows get cancelled – they’ve reached the end of their natural life, so would it still work? Presuming they’ve still got the set in storage, the costs would be relatively cheap.
So, did they succeed? Well, if you haven’t seen it, look online. I’m not going to tell you!
The Crystal Maze can be seen on All 4. Also, click on the top image for the full-size version.
In addition, you can donate to Stand Up 2 Cancer.
Director: Toby Baker
Series Producer: Myles Jenkins
Writers: Stephen Merchant and Fraser Steele
Presenter: Stephen Merchant
Contestants: Michelle Keegan, Rio Ferdinand, Josh Widdecombe, Jonnie Peacock, Sara Cox
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.