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The Crystal Maze is a British game show devised by Jacques Antoine, in which a team of contestants take on a range of challenges set within a labyrinth of the same name consisting of four time zones, winning a "time crystal" (golf ball-sized Swarovski glass crystals) for each one they successfully complete. Reaching the centrepiece of the Maze, "The Crystal Dome", the team work together collecting a certain amount of gold tokens to win a prize, with the allotted time inside the Dome being determined by the number of crystals they obtained in the previous zones.

The Crystal Maze
The Crystal Maze 2017 title card.jpg
2016 revival titlecard
GenreGame show
Created byJacques Antoine
Based onFort Boyard
Presented by
Theme music composerZack Laurence
Opening theme"Force Field"
Ending theme"Force Field"
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series6 (original)
2 (revival)
No. of episodes78 (inc. 5 specials) (original)
18 (inc. 12 specials & 3 unaired) (revival)
Production location(s)
Running time60 minutes (inc. adverts)
Production company(s)Chatsworth Television (1990–95)
Fizz in association with Little Lion Entertainment (2016)
Fizz and RDF West (2017–)
DistributorZodiak Media
Original networkChannel 4
Picture formatPAL (576i) (1990–95)
1080p (16:9) (2016–)
Original releaseOriginal series:
15 February 1990 (1990-02-15) – 10 August 1995 (1995-08-10)
16 October 2016 (2016-10-16)
Revived series:
23 June 2017 (2017-06-23) –
Related showsThe Crystal Maze (American TV series)
Jungle Run

Broadcast on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, The Crystal Maze was originally aired over six series and five Christmas specials between 15 February 1990 to 10 August 1995; the first four series and three specials were hosted by Richard O'Brien, with the remaining two series and specials hosted by Edward Tudor-Pole.

In October 2016, Stephen Merchant hosted a one-off celebrity edition of the show for Stand Up to Cancer. Channel 4 announced the return of the show a month later, to be hosted by Richard Ayoade and featuring a revamped format. The broadcaster commissioned twenty episodes for the 2017 series, which consisted of fifteen civilian episodes and five celebrity specials.[1] On 22 January 2018, a second series was commissioned with twelve episodes, which consisted of six civilian episodes and six celebrity specials.[2] On 7 March 2018, the revival began airing in Australia on SBS Viceland.[3]

In March 2016, The Crystal Maze Live Experience opened, allowing the public to buy tickets and compete in a replica of the game show's zones and challenges.[4][5] On 3 June 2019, it was announced that a 10-episode American version of the show had been commissioned by Nickelodeon with filming taking place in Bristol during the summer.[6][7]


Upon seeing the idea of Fort Boyard (then known as Les Clés de Fort Boyard), producers at Chatsworth Television decided to devise a British version and began work on making a concept. According to Richard O'Brien, who was selected to be the host for this project, the original outlined concept was "kind of like "Dungeons and Dragons", with the host acting as the "Dungeon master". A pilot of the show was filmed in London, as it became apparent that the fort used by Fort Boyard on the west coast of France would be unavailable for filming due to its ongoing refurbishments in 1989. The pilot wasn't successful and as Channel 4 had commissioned the production company for a full series, producer Malcolm Heyworth contacted Fort Boyard's creator, Jacques Antoine, about developing an alternative format, with a proposal that it used themed zones as a means of keeping the show visually fresh. The concept of The Crystal Maze was developed in just "two days", creating a show which although similar to Fort Boyard, was substantially different in presentation and style.[8]

It was later adapted in France for children under the title of Les Mondes fantastiques (Fantastic worlds) and broadcast from 9 September 1992 to 15 November 1995 on France 3.


Each team that compete on The Crystal Maze undertake a series of challenges (referred to as games). Teams begin at a pre-determined zone, whereupon they compete in a finite number of games in each zone, accruing as many time crystals as they can before travelling to the large "Crystal Dome" at the centre of the maze to meet their final challenge. Upon entering a game's cell, the objective is usually determined by either a clear written message or cryptic clue. The remainder of the team watch their progress either through a cell's windows or monitors depending on the zone aesthetic, and may give advice to the contestant unless stipulated otherwise. The host will serve reminders of the time limit and of any special rules, and generally will not give hints unless the contestant is struggling badly.

Each game falls under one of four categories:

List of The Crystal Maze Categories
Category Description
Mental Mental and memory skill ranging from simple brainteasers, to acute memory and 2D/3D puzzles.
Mystery Testing a contestant's problem solving abilities ranging from treasure hunts to large-scale mazes.
Physical Testing a contestant's physical abilities ranging from obstacle courses, to lifting, using, cranking, or manipulating objects.
Skill Testing a contestant's dexterity, accuracy and eye–hand coordination ranging from target-shooting, timing tests, to vehicle driving.

A principal risk is that of being locked within a game's cell. If a contestant is locked in, they are unable to take any further part in proceedings unless they are released by their team. A locked-in contestant may be absent for the remainder of the episode, and thus increase the difficulty for the team completing the final challenge. If the team's captain is locked in, the vice-captain takes over and may select a new vice-captain to replace them. If a team does have one or multiple locked-in contestants they have the option to buy them back with one of their earned crystals, though this is solely at the discretion of the captain.

There are two ways a lock-in can occur in The Crystal Maze:

  • Exceeding the time limit: Each game is usually set within one of the three time limits: 2 minutes, 2 and a half minutes, and 3 minutes. While contestants may usually leave the cell whenever they wish, staying within a cell beyond the allotted time will cause them to be locked-in.
  • Automatic Lock-In: In a number of games, contestants may be locked-in if they breach a game's special rules or restrictions, irrespective of their progress in obtaining the crystal. For some games, a rule strictly forbids the contestant from making contact with the floor, while other games follow a "three-strikes" rule, in which a contestant will be allowed a maximum of two errors. An example of the latter is making contact with a restricted part of the game's puzzle.[9][10]

Several games were derived from familiar, commercially available children's or fairground games, including steady hand testers, mazes, and sliding puzzles, games in some zones sometimes appeared in other zones with some cosmetic changes and some variations to previous incarnations, with some game designs tending to become more elaborate in later series.[11] A small number of games differed from the traditional style of those that were featured; while they fell under one of the four categories available, they did not comply to the traditional style for the games on the show:

  • Some games had a special condition that would forfeit the crystal after it is obtained, if the contestant broke a rule. In some games, for example, a contestant could not wade back through a body of water after getting the crystal, but could earn it only by returning through the use of specified platforms or a raft. In other games, dropping the crystal would render it forfeit.
  • A game designed for the Futuristic Zone featured a humanoid "robot" opponent whom the chosen contestant had to shoot with a light gun, while the robot could shoot back at them; if the contestant lost all their lives against the robot, they were locked-in. If the robot was defeated, the contestant then had to complete a second puzzle to secure the crystal, located behind the robot.[12]
  • A maze game used on the show was designed with 'virtual reality' properties. In it, a contestant is given a special piece of headgear and had to be navigated around a maze by their teammates, who could shout commands on how they should move, seeing the maze on a monitor outside the game's cell, along with a special marker on the contestant's headgear that marked where they were. The contestant was restricted from letting this marker touch the walls of the maze, being locked-in if they did this a third time, but could freely leave the cell once they had navigated round to the crystal's location and picked it up from the cell's floor.[13]
  • Some games involved contestants donning special equipment, sometimes for protection. Contestants frequently became submerged during water-based challenges, following which they would be sent by the host to change into fresh clothing.
  • In some games, a contestant could be penalized by having their progress cancelled out by any mistakes they made. One example of this was a game in Aztec Zone, which was designed so that contestants needed to get balls into a "win" basket, in order to secure the crystal, thus if any were missed, they landed in a "lose" basket and counter-weighed against any in the win basket.[14]
  • Several skill games involving target shooting only had a limited number of instruments and each can only be used once. If a contestant uses all of them, the game is over. Similarly, in series 3's Futuristic Zone, one game involved a player taking out bars from an apparatus but at the risk of dropping tennis balls. If the player dropped more than four tennis balls, the crystal's path would be blocked.
  • During the fourth series, a game in Medieval Zone did not directly reward the successful contestant with a crystal. Instead, the successful contestant would emerge from the cell with a sword containing a crystal-like object in the hilt. The host would then place the sword with a suit of armor, thereby retrieving a crystal locked in the armor's glove.

Once the team arrives at the Dome, they are told how much time that they have to complete the final challenge, based on the number of crystals they have brought with them. At this point, the team enter the Dome, and upon the challenge beginning, they must collect as many gold (foil) tokens as they can and deposit them into a container along a wall of the Dome, while avoiding any silver tokens mixed in with them; these are blown about by fans beneath the floor of the Dome. Once time is up, the fans are switched off and no more tokens can be deposited into the container; a slot is opened during the challenge, which closes up when the time is up. Once the team is outside the dome, they, along with any members who were not present for the final challenge, are given the tally of their efforts by the host. If the team can accumulate a total of 100 gold tokens or more, after deduction of any silvers they collected, the team wins the grand prize that they chose for themselves before partaking in the show. All contestants who participate in the show win a commemorative crystal saying "I Cracked the Crystal Maze", which acts as a consolation prize if a team fails to secure the required number of gold tokens.[15]

Original seriesEdit

During the run of the original series between 1990 and 1995, teams consisted of three men and three women, each aged between 16 and 40, who were put together by the production team and did not know each other before appearing on the show[16] From their pre-determined starting zone, teams either travelled clockwise or counter-clockwise around the maze, engaging in at least three games in each zone, sometimes being given the opportunity to play a fourth game in a zone during their trip around the maze. Between the first and fourth series, the total number of games that could be played varied between 14 and 16 per episode, but for the fifth and sixth series, the number of games played was reduced to standard of 13. Throughout the run, 3D maps of varying sophistication were used to highlight where the host and team were. Until the end of the third series, each contestant on the team could win a prize for themselves that they chose before taking on the Maze if the team succeeded at collecting 100 or more gold tokens, but from the fourth series, this format was changed to the team choosing a prize that they shared together if they won the final challenge. During the first series, a runner-up prize could also be chosen by each member of a team, which they won if the final tally of tokens was between 50-99, but this format was dropped by the start of the second series.

During the Christmas specials, the teams consisted of similar setup, with each aged between 8 and 16,[citation needed] and selected by the production team. While the format was similar to the adult version, there were notable differences, such as easier games with fewer chances of a lock-in, more lenient time limits and additional clues from the host. The prize would always be awarded at the end, irrespective of achievement.

One-off specialEdit

For the Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) special in 2016, the format was slightly changed. The team, which consisted of celebrities, was reduced to five members, and because the show did not take place on the original set, fewer games were played. However, the one-off special stuck to the format of the captain choosing the type of game and nominating a member of their team to play it. The brain-teaser game was featured but operated slightly differently, in that there was no time limit, and the nominated contestant had to get two out of three correct to get the crystal. The show was not filmed on the set used in the original run, which was dismantled in 1999. The show featured a revamped map which retained the same layout, as well as indicating the team's position. The Futuristic zone was renamed Future zone.

For the final challenge at the Dome, the team were given an extra crystal, and were charged as normal with collecting as many gold tokens as they could. More than 200 gold tokens were acquired (net), securing the maximum cash prize of £25,000 for charity.

Revived seriesEdit

A year after the Stand Up to Cancer edition Channel 4 revived the show. It returned the original setup of zones, used the same map design from the SU2C special, included a brand new collection of games and a newly designed taller set, it also revamped the format:[17]

  • The team setup was based on that from the SU2C edition, with all five contestants knowing each other, rather than being a group of strangers put together by the production team. The roles of captain and vice-captain are still retained and the host now spends time at the start of each episode getting to know each contestant, usually asking them about themselves and giving or getting interesting trivia preceding the opening Zone.
  • The number of games that can be played is reduced to 10, two in two zones (usually, but not always, the first and last zone), and three in the other two zones.
  • The specific category of games to be played next is now pre-determined by the host. The captain now only needs to determine who to nominate in the team to tackle each game.
  • Teams don't necessarily travel in a circular fashion as they did in the original series, meaning the order in which the zones are visited can be completely random for example, if the team begins in Medieval, they can move on to Aztec directly after playing all the games that are available, without having to do so via Industrial or Futuristic.
  • The riddle game format from the SU2C edition is retained; the nominated contestant may confer with the team. A variation of this game now requires the contestant to get two out of three correct answers to avoid being locked-in.
  • Each zone now has its own background music which is played while a contestant is engaged in a game.
  • The on-screen timer used on all versions of The Crystal Maze is no longer used during the Crystal Dome. Instead, viewers are left to rely on both the host and a shot of the crystals to know how much time the team has left.

A series of celebrity episodes was initially broadcast. Like the one-off edition in 2016, the contestants taking part were given an extra crystal upon reaching the Dome to add to those that they had brought, and would earn cash for Stand Up to Cancer depending on how many gold tokens they got, after deduction of silver £5,000 for less than 50 gold tokens, £10,000 for 50 to 99 tokens, and £20,000 for 100 or more tokens.

The 2019 series introduces a new concept the "Mega Crystal", a noticeably larger version of the Crystals within the Maze. Playable once per episode, the Mega Crystal grants an additional ten seconds of time when in the Crystal Dome if the team are successful in completing a game (akin to the Ruby Monkey from Jungle Run).


Throughout its history, The Crystal Maze has been presented by a series of hosts. Each takes on the role of the Maze's custodian, responsible for guiding each team around the various zones, keeping them updated on their progress, leading each nominated team member to the respective games, acting as the timekeeper on all games and the final challenge at the Dome, and taking safe custody of each crystal won by the team.

The short monologue to camera scenes originated when O'Brien began joking with the cameramen during filming of an episode. When the production team reviewed the footage and realized what it could bring to the show they "asked him to do it all the time", to which O'Brien felt that looking straight at the camera, "unknowingly added a complicity between me and the audience at home".[18] However, he also "often appeared detached from proceedings, bordering on deadpan",[19] Each successive host has continued these monologues, adding their own variant to the show.

List of The Crystal Maze Hosts
Name Active Notes
Richard O'Brien 1990–1993 The first host, O'Brien often wore a long fur coat, paired with a brightly colored shirt, skinny-fit trousers, a shaved head and long, sleek leather boots,[20] and brought to the show a unique style of presenting, displaying an "infectious... enthusiasm and manic energy" to his role. He was always broadly welcoming and encouraging to teams, being congratulatory on their successes, but would show visible frustration with a contestant for a particularly sub-standard attempt at a game, and would encourage them to use their allotted time effectively. During a game, O'Brien would produce a harmonica from his pocket during a game, and played one short and repetitive tune which he called "excitement music". On a number of occasions, he would 'find' other musical instruments in the maze, which were used to showcase his talents, even occasionally breaking into song. O'Brien departed at the start of the series five Christmas special, where he left to start a new life in California with Mumsie.
Ed Tudor-Pole 1993–1995 The second host, Tudor-Pole, wore an elaborate waistcoat and tunic, off-white sleeves and trousers, and long black boots, in a similar style to his predecessor, with his look having been described as "Georgian". While his style of hosting had the similar energetic style to O'Brien's, it was less detached, with Tudor-Pole being more sympathetic towards contestants, and often talking up the 'time travel' elements of the show, with the inclusion of nonsense words, such as "trignification" to describe the process of travelling between time zones, providing fictitious backstories of each zone while often referring to unseen companions in the maze, such as his horse "Bert" in Medieval Zone, and "Starbuck", a deranged cat, who lives in Ocean Zone. According to h2g2, "pale and looking a little emaciated, Ed Tudor-Pole gave The Crystal Maze a dark and intimidating feeling".[20]
Stephen Merchant 2016 The third host, appearing in a one-off edition for Stand Up to Cancer in 2016. Merchant wore a blue dress suit, red waistcoat and white shirt with a floral neckerchief. His style of presentation involved quirky jokes about real-life events and a cheerful demeanor with the contestants. Merchant was asked to reprise his role when a full series was commissioned, but turned it down due to other commitments.[21][22]
Richard Ayoade 2017–present The fourth host, Ayoade is dressed in a smart, colourful suit, wearing his trademark glasses and carrying "The Hand" a wooden effigy of a hand on the end of a stick which changes based on whether the contestants are civilians or celebrities. His style of presenting is described as being "a more cerebral and intense version" of his The IT Crowd character, Maurice Moss,[23] using acronyms such as "ALIS" (Automatic Lock-In Situation), and being aware that the show is entirely fictitious, with jokes being at the expense of the production values and editing of contestants when wearing safety gear. Ayoade will frequently refer to contestants by their initials, colour jumpsuit (e.g. yellow Katie) or coin a nickname based on their performance in the Maze.

Other charactersEdit

The following lists the characters that appear or have appeared on the show:

  • Mumsie and Auntie Sabrina Portrayed by Sandra Caron, Mumsie is a genial fortune teller, and a supporting character during O'Brien's tenure, hosting a recurring mental game in the Medieval Zone that involved brain teaser questions; Caron portrayed Mumsie for the first, second and fourth series of the original run, and Auntie Sabrina for just the third series, who was described by O'Brien as taking over while his Mumsie was away. Both characters were portrayed as friendly to the contestants, with Mumsie sometimes being motherly with O'Brien, and often talked about her affair she was having with a man called "Ralph" to both the contestants and audience during the first and second series, showing disapproval of her next affair with man called "Dwayne" during the fourth series. Mumsie departed with O'Brien at the start of the fifth series.
  • The Computer The operating system for the space station that Futuristic Zone is situated within; if the team's starting point is this zone, the computer provides a question for the team that they must answer correctly to gain entry into the Maze. During O'Brien's tenure (except series 2), the computer had a male voice and usually acted antagonistically towards him. During Tudor-Pole's tenure, the computer had a female voice and was referred to as Barbara. In Ayoade's tenure, the computer retains a female voice and refers to Ayoade as "Richard", but no other personality traits are shown, only speaking when a team seeks entry to the maze.
  • The Knight Portrayed by Jessica Hynes, the Knight is an unnamed guard of the Medieval Zone who wears oversized battle armour, carries a large sword, and grants entry into the maze if the teams answers her riddle correctly, in a similar role to The Computer.[24] The Knight typically asks Ayoade to attend events in the Maze, which he frequently rebuffs. When Medieval was replaced with Eastern in 2019, the Knight did not return.
  • The Riddle Master Portrayed by Adam Buxton, The Riddle Master (credited as Jarhead) is a disembodied head in a jar that appears primarily in the Futuristic zone, gifting crystals to those who can correctly answer two out of three riddles in his game cell. Jarhead has also been shown in the Medieval and Eastern zones in the same role, with his jar reflective of the zone he inhabits. Unlike the Knight, Ayoade is friendlier to Jarhead but is subservient as shown when he falls asleep on command after his game concludes.
  • Game characters Several games have had a character whom contestants encountered, and who often played a decisive role in the acquisition of a crystal. An actor in a Medieval Zone challenge, for example, will play the part of a princess, a soldier or a jailer. Dennis Knight portrayed two such examples in Lance, a guard who required contestants to present him with a stamped version of the Kings seal, and an Aztec High Priest, who provided clues as to which shrine on a wall the contestant could find the crystal.[25][26][20][27]
  • Other personalities During the 2018 series, Tipping Point was seen during a zone transition as Ben Shephard discussed The Crystal Maze as Ayoade interrupts with his team. Pearl Mackie appeared as a cryogenically frozen Princess in the Futuristic zone that gifted a team with a Crystal on completion of a group task. Ayoade additionally plays a "pre-recorded Richard" who explains the Mega Crystal concept in the 2019 series and talks to the present Richard, seemingly grateful that he is still alive.


Each episode had a budget of £125,000 and was filmed over a period of two days at the show's studio. During the first day of shooting, the team, followed by multiple cameras, tackle all the games and discover their fate in the crystal dome in the style of a "live" shoot. The following day then focuses on acquiring close-up shots of gameplay with a single camera, requiring team members to return to games they had already won or lost, along with redoing the last challenge in the dome to get footage of them grabbing for tokens. An entire series requires about five weeks to be filmed, with three episodes produced per week.[18] Each series of the show featured its own portfolio of games: 37 different game designs in series 1, and between 41 and 49 games in each subsequent series.[28][29]

The setEdit

Every episode, with the exception of the 2016 special, is filmed on a very large custom built set. The set, designed by James Dillon for both the original run and the revived series, is divided into five parts, four of which are named as zones, set in different periods of time and space, which house the games that contestants take on, while the final part, called the Crystal Dome, houses the final challenge that the team tackle together towards the end of the episode.[28][30] The theme of each zone is not only reflected via its time period, but also in the time-keeping devices, the design of the games, and how the host and team entered and moves between the zones. As of 2019, six zones have been used within the Maze.

Current zonesEdit

As of 2019, the zones used are;

Zone Appearances Description Method of timekeeping
Aztec Series 1–6
An ancient Aztec village amidst ruins, with carved pillars, sand, various plants and a sky backdrop; the lighting for this part of the set is used to depict sunlight, thus can be altered to reflect other times of day, with occasional episodes showing this zone at night. Night-time viewings may likely have been to simulate a long recording day. The plants that are used consist of artificial and real-life varieties; entry to the zone was originally achieved by rowing along a river, and in the revived series had contestants moving large boulders blocking the entrance. Exiting was either a tunnel leading off towards Industrial/Ocean and a set of steps to a ledge heading towards Futuristic though in the revived series the latter is implemented for all zone transitions. The revived series removes the river, having a small waterfall addition instead, added at the request of the show's producer.[31] Water clocks
Industrial Series 1–3
A present-day chemical plant with metal barrels, warning signs, a bubbling chemical pool, corrugated roofing and panelling; cells had metal doors with bar handles, with some having office-like interiors. The zone was used for three series in the original run, with teams able to watch their nominated member's efforts in a game via one of a number of monitors used in the zone. Industrial was brought back for the revived series, maintaining the same design style as the original, though with teams able to watch proceedings in a game via either monitors or panels that opened into a cell. Entry into this zone was initially designed towards finding a key to unlock a chain-mesh gate, but later changed towards finding a way over it and around a number of small obstacles, with stairs leading to an upper floor passage towards Medieval, and a pipeline tunnel towards Aztec. At the start of series four, Industrial was replaced by Ocean until the original series ended. In the revived series, Industrial returned in its original place. Analogue clock
Futuristic Series 1–6[a]
This is designed as a space station, orbiting a planet in the solar system in the distant future; the planet is not made clear in the show. In the original run, Futuristic was designed as run down, with metal sliding doors, exposed wiring, viewpoints that looked out into space with monitors spread over the station to view inside the cells, and cell doors having a keypad prop next to them that the host punched a code into to allow access. At times whilst in the zone, "disasters" befell the station, including a notable "meteorite" storm during a "hazard sign" game, with explosions and sparks coming from the exterior parts of the set. In the revived show, the station was redesigned, becoming cleaner and sleek, with a central console set on a floor that rotates and cell doors no longer having keypads next to them. Entry was designed around an airlock setup, with a computer panel the host used to boot up the station's computer and request a question for the team, with a passage leading off towards Medieval, and a lift that allowed the host and team to shift between a walkway and a ledge connecting to Aztec. The revived series uses a 'teleporter pad' to traverse between zones. Digital clock
Eastern 2019–present Themed around the architecture and iconography of East Asia with a lily pond, ornate vases, lanterns, and solid colors throughout. Entry is outside a garden surrounded with cherry blossom trees which takes contestants down a small ramp into the center of the zone. Teams are able to watch proceedings in a game by drawing back curtains in the cell or a circular hatch on the cell door. Exiting the zone is via jumping across oversized lily pads. Pendulum clock
Crystal Dome Series 1–6
A 16-foot (4.9 m) model for the show's time crystals, located in the centre of the Maze. The interior is designed with rails for the team to hold onto before the final challenge begins, with a mesh floor and a series of fans below the base which activate on the host's command, blowing foil tokens around. The exterior differs between the original run, one-off special and revived series, but always provided the host with a small hexagonal podium designed to hold the team's acquired crystals. Each crystal is illuminated from below by lights which are deactivated sequentially at intervals of five seconds, serving as a countdown. The challenge is over when all crystals are dark. In the original series the Dome featured an encircling moat and the podium had two switches with which the host operated the door into the Dome, and raised and submerged a moat bridge. For the revived series, the moat and switches were retired and the Dome redesigned to feature a set of flashing lights (Red to cease collecting tokens, Gold for achieving the top prize, etc.) The opening scene of each episode often comprises a greeting from the host from in front of the dome with tokens flying within.[31] Time crystals

Former zonesEdit

Zone Appearances Description Method of timekeeping
Medieval Series 1–6
This is designed as a castle of the Middle Ages, laden with a straw covered flagstone floor, wooden barrels/casks and a large dining table with solid wooden chairs. The area is lit with 15 flaming torches and over 100 candles, which when combined with sound effects such as lightning and wolves howling, are used to create an atmospheric "frightening dungeon".[32] The zone's cells have sturdy oak doors with slide locks on, barred windows to look in. This zone was referred within the show as the homestead of the current Maze Master. Entry into this zone was initially done by contestants raising the portcullis at the castle's entrance by finding the right chain, and then later having to climb over it. In the revived series, this method was changed to simply answering a riddle to open a portcullis. The zone was designed with a passage that led to Futuristic via a beam that had to be crossed, and a set of stairs that had to be crossed to get to Industrial/Ocean, later this was changed to a set of ledges that had to be traversed. In the 2019 series, Medieval was replaced with Eastern. Hourglasses
Ocean Series 4–6 A replacement to the Industrial zone from 1993-1995, this zone was designed as a sunken ship called the "S.S. Atlantis", held within an air bubble at the bottom of the ocean, and consisted of a saloon with an elegant staircase, wooden panelling, couches, a grand piano, covered furniture and objects and upper walkway, a boiler room, and maintenance corridors, with cells designed as either maintenance rooms, the interior of one of the ship's boilers, or refined cabins. Entry was designed around teams climbing down from the bridge into the boiler room via a rope ladder, with a hatchway at the top of a ladder leading to Medieval, and a ventilation shaft leading towards Aztec. The zone was in use until the end of the original series and did not return for the revival. Analogue clocks


For the first series, the show was filmed at Shepperton Studios, within a stage set measuring 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2) and containing a water tank on-site. After the first series, the production team decided to expand the maze, relocating the set to an adapted aircraft hangar, Hangar 6, operated by Aces High Studios at North Weald Airfield in Essex. After the show ended in 1995, when Channel 4's contract with producers Chatsworth TV expired, the set was eventually dismantled. When the broadcaster decided to make a one-off edition of the show for Stand Up for Cancer in 2016, the episode was filmed at The Crystal Maze live immersive experience in London, as it was no longer possible to use the original set. When Channel 4 made the decision to revive the show for a full series in November 2016, James Dillon was asked to design a new set at a 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2) warehouse at The Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol.[33] Dillon went back to his original plans and sketches but took the opportunity to build and expand on several of his original ideas and concepts. The most drastic change is that the Crystal Dome is actually located in a separate part of the studio; originally its proximity to the Aztec zone caused a problem with sand contaminating the Dome area.[28]

Theme tuneEdit

The theme tune for The Crystal Maze was composed by Zack Laurence and is entitled "Force Field". It was used through all six original series, with an updated version being used for the new series. The original track is one minute and five seconds long; however it was shortened for the opening and ending titles. Likewise, the new re-recorded version of the theme lasts for 33 seconds. The "Underscore" remix of the theme tune played during the show itself was also composed by Laurence.[34]


At its most popular, viewing figures regularly scored over 4 million, peaking at 5.9 million in 1992 when the show was nominated for its first BAFTA award. Three other BAFTA nominations followed in subsequent years with a Royal Television Society award nomination in 1995. [35][36][37] Although not originally envisioned as a children’s show over 40% of the shows viewers were under 16, a surprise to the crew and O'Brien, who adapted his performance accordingly, forcing himself to think more like a child.[38][39] Contemporary commentary has often suggested that this aspect of O'Brien's performance was the show's biggest attraction. Praising his zaney style and describing him as “a fearless adventurer with a wink and a smile and a verbal knife in the back of those poor saps [contestants]... His style and wit was sardonic, yet never exclusionary, and pointed, yet never bitter.” [40] In 2012 The Guardian's TV & Radio Blog listed O'Brien as one of the six "most loved" game show hosts, describing him as "an unconventional choice for an unconventional series... [who] looked more like a dandy gazelle than a game show host".[41] [42] [43] The same commentary has also suggested Tudor-Pole had an almost impossible task in living up to O'Brien's popularity.[20][43] The Guardian claimed "It was no surprise that the show went downhill after [O’Brien’s] exit."[41]

The show has had a lasting impact and influence on British television, becoming what has been described as a cult classic due to repeats,[28] the makers of the children's TV show Jungle Run openly acknowledge The Crystal Maze as an influence, particularly the final host, Michael Underwood, who was the team captain in the first Christmas special.[44] The perceived stupidity of the contestants was the target of various British comedy shows and spoofs, a trend which continued well into the mid 2000s.[45][46]

Commercial replicas and merchandiseEdit

The live immersive experienceEdit

In June 2015, the interactive theatre production company Little Lion Entertainment announced that a "live immersive experience" of The Crystal Maze would be taking place in late 2015,[47] funded successfully through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.[48][49] Situated on White Lion Street in central London, the new Maze admits members of the public, who can buy tickets and play the show for themselves.[50] Four teams, each guided by their own Maze Master, enter the maze at once, one in each zone, and rotate around the four zones simultaneously before competing against each other in The Crystal Dome.[51] Some game rooms have a camera feed for spectators,[48] The group found a venue for the Maze in the King's Cross area in late 2015, and it opened for contestants on 15 March 2016.[51]

It was later revealed in November 2016 that there would be another live experience in Manchester at the Granada Studios,[52] which opened to the public in April 2017. This version of the experience is around twice as large as the London version; the zones are split in two parts, and the teams move through the maze one after the other, such that each half-zone always has one team in it. Like the London Maze, teams compete for the high score in the Crystal Dome, by collecting as many gold credits as possible, but unlike in London, the teams never meet one another.

The Cyberdrome Crystal MazeEdit

The Cyberdrome Crystal Maze was an attraction usually found in larger bowling alleys and video arcades in the UK. It allowed fans an opportunity to "play" the Crystal Maze for themselves in a computerised format. There were a few differences from the show itself, e.g. there is no player choice of game category, and there is no locking in (instead, failing to win a game would immediately cost the team a crystal). Five of the first six locations were in Britain, while the sixth was in Japan. All of the Cyberdrome Crystal Mazes have since closed. The locations of the Cyberdromes were Sandcastle Water Park (Blackpool), Oakwood Theme Park (Pembrokeshire), Southampton Megabowl, Coventry Megabowl and next to Magnet Leisure Centre in Maidenhead, (Berkshire). The last one, at Canaston Bowl, Pembrokeshire, ceased operations in June 2010.[53]

Video gamesEdit

A single player computer game based on The Crystal Maze was developed by Digital Jellyfish Design and released in 1993 by Sherston Software for RISC OS on the Acorn Archimedes and the PC. A game for mobiles was released in 2008, and later for iOS in 2010. Developed by Dynamo Games, it contains some of the games from the 1993 version.

Quiz machinesEdit

Chatsworth Television licensed a number of popular SWP gambling machines based on the TV series. In 2009, Cool Games created a 3D video version for the UK SWP market. Remaining true to the original show, using touch screen technology, the game achieved widespread coverage in the UK and remains one of the most popular SWP games launched.

Board gameEdit

In 1991, MB Games released a board game loosely based upon the show. The concept of the game differed significantly from the show with players competing against each other as opposed to the co-operative style of the TV show.[54]

In 2019, another board game was reinvented by Rascals Products Limited and also which included The Crystal Maze game timer app. This version of the board game features sixteen games with the player or team playing two games per zone. An expansion pack featuring the Eastern zone was released in 2019 that can replace any zone on the board.


Release name UK release date Author Publisher Notes Ref
The Crystal Maze 15 February 1990 Peter Arnold
and Gill Brown
Time Warner
1 October 1990
Crystal Maze Adventure Gamebook 7 February 1991 Dave Morris
and Jamie Thomson
Mammoth New edition [56]
Crystal Maze Challenge! 21 May 1992 Dave Morris
and Jamie Thomson
Mammoth 1st Edition
21 May 1992
The Crystal Thief 15 April 1993 Peter Arnold Mammoth Puzzle Books [56]
Tea at Rick's 15 April 1993 Peter Arnold Mammoth Puzzle Books [56]
The Sacred Necklace 16 December 1993 Peter Arnold Mammoth, London Puzzle Book [56]
Phantom in the Tower 16 December 1993 Peter Arnold Mammoth, London Puzzle Book [56]
The Crystal Maze 1994 Unknown Mammoth [56]
Crystal Maze Mystery Pack 25 February 1994 Peter Arnold Heinemann Library [56]
The Crystal Maze Puzzle Book 13 June 1994 Peter Arnold Mammoth [56]
The Crystal Maze Puzzle Book: Bk. 2 30 October 1995 Peter Arnold Mammoth Puzzle Book [56]
Crystal Maze A1 Poster 13 June 1996 None Mammoth Hardcover [56]
The Crystal Maze Challenge: Let The Games Begin! 19 August 2017 Neale Simpson Headline Hardcover [56]

VHS releasesEdit

In 1994, a video cassette, The Best of The Crystal Maze was released by Wienerworld Presentation. The video included three episodes: the 1992 and 1993 Christmas specials, and an episode from Series 4. It also featured the clip of O'Brien and Mumsey leaving the maze.

Release name UK release date Notes
The Best of Crystal Maze 16 May 1994 No announcements of any future releases.




Series Start date End date Episodes Presenter
1 15 February 1990 10 May 1990 13 Richard O'Brien
2 21 March 1991 13 June 1991 13
3 23 April 1992 16 July 1992 13
4 1 April 1993 24 June 1993 13
5 12 May 1994 4 August 1994 13 Ed Tudor-Pole
6 18 May 1995 10 August 1995 13


Date Presenter
1 January 1991 Richard O'Brien
24 December 1991
27 December 1992
24 December 1993 Ed Tudor-Pole
24 December 1994



Series Start date End date Episodes Presenter
1 25 August 2017 6 May 2018 12[1][b] Richard Ayoade
2 20 July 2018 24 August 2018 6[2]


Series Start date End date Episodes Presenter
1 23 June 2017 13 July 2017 4[1] Richard Ayoade
2 8 June 2018 6 July 2018 5[2]
3 21 June 2019 26 July 2019 6


Date Presenter
16 October 2016 Stephen Merchant
14 December 2017 Richard Ayoade
26 December 2018

American versionEdit

On 3 June 2019, it was announced that an American version of the show will premiere on Nickelodeon and will feature family members.[7] The ten-episode season was filmed on location as the British edition. In December 2019, it was announced that comedian Adam Conover was named Maze Master of this version, and a premiere date of 24 January 2020 was revealed.[58]


  1. ^ In the 1990–1995 series, the Futuristic zone was coloured grey on the 3D map.
  2. ^ Production of the revived series 1 consisted of 15 episodes plus 5 celebrity specials, but thus far only 12 of the regular episodes have been broadcast in UK to date. There has been no official reason given for the withholding of the remaining three episodes, featuring 'The Ali Family', 'The Sasani Family and Friends' and 'The Midwives', they have however been broadcast in Australia on SBS Viceland and were available on the online streaming service SBS On Demand.[57]


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  6. ^ Davis, Alex (3 June 2019). "Nickelodeon Orders "The Crystal Maze" Adaptation". Retrieved 3 June 2019.
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  11. ^ Comment by David J. Bodycombe, game designer on The Crystal Maze - comment #2 at[permanent dead link]
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  29. ^ "Series". Retrieved 12 May 2013.
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  31. ^ a b "The Crystal Maze: How is the new series different to the original?". Radio Times. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
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  33. ^ "New Crystal Maze series, with Richard Ayoade, will be filmed in Bristol". Retrieved 17 January 2017.[permanent dead link]
  34. ^ "Forcefield". 25 January 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  35. ^ "Television Craft - Graphics in 1992". BAFTA. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  36. ^ "Television - Children's Programme - Fiction or Entertainment in 1993". BAFTA. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  37. ^ "Television - Children's Programme - Fiction or Entertainment in 1994". BAFTA. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  38. ^ "An interview with Rocky Horror's Richard O'Brien". Cocklenuggets. Archived from the original on 25 December 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  39. ^ "Channel 4 at 20: Top 50 programmes on Channel 4 – 1982 to 2002, P.22: Crystal Maze - Kids Special, 27/12/1992, 5.9 million, Chatsworth Television (PDF)" (PDF).
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  41. ^ a b "Six to watch: Gameshow hosts". The Guardian. 9 February 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  42. ^ "Retro shows that are due for a comeback". The Independent. 9 February 2012. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
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  45. ^ "Dick & Dom In Da Bungalow — Series 5–18 February 2006". 18 February 2006. Retrieved 24 July 2009.
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  58. ^ Haring, Bruce (9 December 2019). "'The Crystal Maze' Taps Adam Conover As Host Of New Nickelodeon Family Game Show". Deadline.

External linksEdit