The Crystal Maze

Knightmare and The Crystal Maze

By Mashibinbin

If you like the dungeon, chances are you like the maze. But what else connects them?

When it comes to themed, puzzle-based room-by-room challenges with time pressures, shout-at-the-screen team interactions and formidable hosts, two gameshows stood head and shoulders above the rest in the 1990s. We may no longer have the thrill of a new episode of Knightmare on a Friday, but being able to watch new Friday escapades in The Crystal Maze has not been a bad consolation.

With that in mind, here are 10 things that the maze and the dungeon have in common.

1. Medieval settings. In fact, the three-part wolf howls heard in the Medieval Zone early on sound very similar to those heard in the forests of Knightmare Series 4. In one 2018 episode, Richard Ayoade said he planned to "have a word with the dungeon master who lives here".

The Forest of Dun, as seen in Series 4 of Knightmare (1990).

2. Both led to live experiences, with the help of crowdfunding. In our case, Knightmare Live and the Knightmare Convention in 2014; in their case, the first Crystal Maze attraction, which opened in London in 2016.

3. Teammates doing guiding. In Knightmare that was the whole thing; in Series 3 of the original Crystal Maze run, there was a game in the Futuristic Zone where only the contestants outside the room could see the walls of the maze within. The Crystal Maze Experience in London had a game inspired by Knightmare dungeoneering, with a Helmet of Justice donated by Knightmare Live's Paul Flannery.

4. Repeats on Challenge TV, renewing the series' cult statuses.

5. New episodes in the 2010s. For Knightmare, just the one new episode so far (YouTube Geek Week 2013), but we've had more episodes in total (113 versus 93 for The Crystal Maze to date).

6. Official books. They even shared an author: Dave Morris, who wrote most of the Knightmare novellas/gamebooks, co-wrote The Crystal Maze gamebook with Jamie Thomson. Their latest gamebook collaboration is about Brexit.

Cover of book 2: The Labyrinths of Fear

7. Official board games. In 1991, you were having a good Christmas if you got both (and so was Milton Bradley). The Crystal Maze is reportedly getting a new board game this year. Expect Richard Ayoade in your living room telling you what the parts are made of and how unreal it is.

8. Some Crystal Maze contestants turn out to be Knightmare fans. Michael Underwood appeared in the 1991 children's special. 12 years later he was a CITV presenter, describing Knightmare as ''the coolest show from the '80s" during the CITV Birthday Bash in 2003. Mike Park, who captained the Cosplay Team in 2017, has since been a Knightmare Live advisor and has met Hugo Myatt (Treguard).

Mike Park with Hugo Myatt
Photo: Mike Park

9. When one came back, people wanted the other back too. As shown by this selection of tweets:

10. Earlier this year, The Crystal Maze Experience in Manchester had a team called Knightmare. What's the story behind this? Over to Robin Barlow:

One sweltering August afternoon, six of us connected by Knightmare (including three of the staff) trod the path to Manchester's Crystal Maze. A pair of plucky locals were grouped with us to make up the team of eight.

Before we took on the challenge, there were a few formalities. We disposed of our bags and valuables in handy lockers, posed for a photo for the first time in those inimitable jackets and perspired more than a person whose secrets have been uncovered in the heat we endured.

We had an initial pep talk and suffered the ignominy of having myself as captain. One of our new local friends was my vice (not like that you filthy lot!). We were then treated to an intro video including Crystal Maze clips, placing us firmly back in the 1990s with our childhoods alive once more.

Our mazemaster was the mistress of mayhem known as Pamela Bloom. Her backstory was that of a former carer of children who encouraged them to play with fire rather too much, but Mumsie took pity on her after her unjustified sacking.

We had only one lock-in, during the very first game. Thankfully our teammate gained his freedom by answering a riddle, so we didn't begin with the shame of -1 crystals, dampened spirits, or a scenario like this:

The character behind bars in the original opening title sequences in Knightmare.
Behind bars - Knightmare titles

We made our way across the four traditional zones with the Ocean Zone casually forgotten about - maybe global warming has had another dramatic effect not yet reported.

Some games were ported straight across from the TV show and others were new to this maze. Some of the games were easier than others and it was truly the luck of the draw what you got. The team overall did exceptionally well: we managed to get 11 of the initial 17 games as victories (two games each plus a bonus game for one of the team).

In the Crystal Dome there were only gold tokens to collect and no floor scraping was permitted. We managed a highly impressive score of 245 (based on the weight of the tokens we collected) which placed us as 14th out of that week's teams.

It's not a cheap day out, but it is one by my reckoning that represented good value for money. It was also a lot of fun in the company of trusted friends near the area where I first met one of them nearly 20 years ago! What are you waiting for? Go out and win some crystals!

Of course there are differences between Knightmare and The Crystal Maze: one taught us left from right, the other helped us learn our five times table. But the sheer enjoyment on offer from both - the tension, the trips, the triumphs and the theme tunes - will still be with us when 'ALIS' and 'dungeoneer' enter the Oxford English Dictionary, Treguard becomes the number one baby name and the Futuristic Zone looks positively historic.

Thank you for reading, if indeed you still are. Farewell.

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Series 1 Quest 6

Series 1 Quest 6. Richard examines a bottle labelled Sniff in the Level 3 clue room.

Team 6: Richard, Jonathan, Paul and Edward from West Yorkshire.

Series 1 Quest 2

Series 1 Quest 2 arrive at a Bomb Room.

Team 2: Maeve, Christina, David and Lee from Lancashire.

Monk Room

Series 2, Team 4. Mark and team encounter Cedric in Level 2.

This small cavern was the standard entrance to Level 2 in the early seasons. It was normally guarded by Cedric the Mad Monk.

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