The Crystal Maze, one of the most brilliant game shows of all time is set for a return…sort of. The original series, which ran on Channel 4 from 1990-1995 and starred Richard O’Brien of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame, is making a comeback. Sadly, looking at the official Crystal Maze website, you get the sense it will be as a “live immersive experience” this Fall as opposed to their being any thought to a telly reboot.
For those that remember the first go-round of the series, I bet you can still picture the immense ‘Crystal Maze’ set, which featured four different zones, Aztec (ancient village amidst ruins), Futuristic (a space station environment), Medieval (a castle set where the host purportedly lived), and Industrial (a present day chemical plant). A team of six contestants (three men and three women) took part in a series of challenges in order to win ‘time crystals’. Each crystal gave the team five seconds of time inside The Crystal Dome, which was the centerpiece of the maze where the contestants would take part in their final challenge.
Before each game in each zone, the team captain would choose which contestant would play and which type of challenge the game would involve. There were four categories of game: skill, physical, mental or mystery. Each game involved a contestant venturing into a room on their own. The host advised the contestant on the time limit or special rules (e.g. automatic lock-in stipulation) before allowing them to enter.
As soon as the door was closed and locked, the clock would begin. The rest of the team could see what was going on inside the room through monitors or windows in the walls. Contestants might find themselves left behind if they were locked in due to exceeding the time limit in trying to secure the crystal in the room. The contestant could also choose to vacate the room sans crystal in order to save him/herself. But, when the object of the game was to amass the most crystals, more often than not, a team member was sacrificed trying to get the elusive crystal. All was not lost for the imprisoned team member as the team captain could choose to buy the contestant’s freedom at the cost of a previously earned crystal.
With every television show ever produced subject to remakes and reboots, I always wondered why, in this day and age of endless game and reality television shows, a series like The Crystal Maze was never remade. One obvious reason was the gi-normous size of the set. Built in 1990 at a cost of £250,000 ($400,000), the overall set was the size of two football pitches (2 soccer fields in the U.S.). The second reason, to me, was you wouldn’t have a host anywhere near the genius that is Richard O’Brien. How can you not like Dr. Frank N. Furter’s handyman, Riff Raff, as host!
In today’s TV landscape, a remake that has Ryan Seacrest hosting the 21st century version of The Crystal Maze would not scream appointment television. Maybe I’ll just watch the originals again and be content with that.