IT Crowd’s Richard Ayoade heads to ‘The Crystal Maze’


There is now joy in Mudville today and, yes, Virginia there is a Santa Clause as Channel 4 has finally confirmed that the brilliant 90s classic, The Crystal Maze, will return for a 20-part series beginning in 2017. Originally hosted by the greatness of Richard O’Brien (Rocky Horror Picture Show), the newest incarnation will see former IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade as the ‘Maze Master’ guiding contestants through a host of skill, mystery, physical and mental challenges to win crystals to trade for time in the legendary Crystal Dome.

The Aztec, Medieval, Future and Industrial zones, the themed areas for the Maze, will be housed in a new 30,000-ft Maze purpose-built in Bristol by original series designer James Dillon. Fans of the original series were teased a bit earlier this year when the series was brought back last Fall for a one-off ‘Stand Up for Cancer’ celebrity special with host, Stephen Merchant (The Office) but a longer return remained up in the air as Merchant declined to host the new series proposed by Channel 4.

For those that don’t remember the 90s, The Crystal Maze was originally intended to be a British remake of the French program, Fort Boyard, whose set was actually a real fort in the middle of the sea. Realizing that this would make it impossible to import, British producer Malcolm Heyworth decided to reinvent the show using four themed zones, representing various periods of time and space, all designed to weave contestants through a myriad of physical and mental challenges.

Each week, the team of six contestants took part in a selection of challenges in order to win ‘time crystals’, which were actually, golf ball-sized Swarovski glass crystals. If the contestant failed to complete the stated challenge and exit the chamber in the alloted time, they would be locked in until the team captain opted to buy their teammates freedom at the cost of a previously-earned crystal, which could be done at any time after the lock-in.

With a stated overall goal to collect ‘crystals’ each of which would give the team five seconds of time in the Crystal Dome, the heart of the maze, teams would then enter the dome to take part in their final challenge and, hopefully, win prizes. While the weekly challenges were ‘challenging’, the set was the star. The maze, itself, cost £250,000 to build and was the size of two football fields. One can only imagine in 2017 £’s what that translates to.

The Crystal Maze returns in 2017.