The Crystal Maze....a contestants view
.....(please bear in mind that I am writing this in 1999, and that I am trying desperately to remember the details from 4 years ago....I really should have finished writing this story at the time!!...so please forgive me any inaccuracies...)
So, we are waiting to play the first game, which is Neilīs physical game.
This was when we realised that the whole program was recorded in very short bursts.
First we are returned to the end of the river set, repositioned to where we were before the break, and then "action"....Ed leads us through to the Aztec Zone, whist the cameras roll. This is lesson number two...how to look as though you are running, whilst not having the space to run! You quickly develop this "jog", which looks quite effective on camera, but is actually quite frustrating....(a bit like trying to get around the shops on Christmas Eve)... lots of jostling but not much progress. Anyway, we arrive in the Aztec Zone. This is without doubt (for me) the most spectacular of the sets. It is actually much larger than it appears on TV, with tons of real sand on the floor. The plants are of course plastic, but look very real, and with all the studio lights, it is as hot as you would imagine the Aztec Zone to be!!
When we arrive, we have to do more "noddies". Ed gives some spiel about the Zone, and then asks Tracey who is playing the first game.
"I think well have Neil, playing a physical game" she obligingly replies, and we all race over to the first game cell.
"Youīve got three minutes" says Ed, opens the door, and in jumps Neil.
...shouts the floor manager, and someone grabs Neil by the scruff of his neck, and drags him back out of the cell. We all look well confused at this point, thinking "what has he done wrong??"
"thank you folks" says the floor manager, "you can go back to the green room now".....Eh?..what?....
We are taken back to the green room where Elaine explains that the whole show is filmed with just two cameras. So whenever we play a game, there is no camera inside the cell, as they are being used to film the external shots. So they stop filming the moment you enter the cell in order to put one of the cameras inside and film you doing the game. "please do not look into the camera at any time" begs Elaine... "it looks really stupid, and has to be edited from the show".
Like...please .Ive got 2 minutes to do a game...my credibility is on the line in front of 6 million viewers, and you think Ive got time to gawp into the camera?
I think not.
15 minutes later and were called back on set to resume Neils game. Everyone put back exactly where they were (as per the Polaroid shots), but now with a camera inside the cell waiting for Neil.
In this game, Neil has a wooden sledge hammer (itīs similar to those "test your strength" stalls at the fairground) and three targets. However, the rope is tied to a rotating pole which makes the rope shorter by the second. When the see-saw is struck, a weight is propelled upwards which SHOULD break a ceramic pot full of gold dust which then pours onto a conveyor belt and eventually raised the crystal for Neil to retrieve. This is a purely physical game, the only thing you have to realise is that the rope is getting shorter, so you must start with the furthest away in order to break all three, which is necessary to raise the crystal. Other than that, it is simply a technique of using the hammer, which unfortunately Neil didnīt have. We watched frustrated for the three minutes whist he tried desperately to raise the weights high enough to break the pots, but he was using brute force, rather than gravity to strike the see-saws. We all shouted encouragement but to no avail, and eventually he came out after we shouted he was almost out of time.
1 game played. No crystal
When Neil's came out of the cell, I was expecting another "CUT!!!", but no, filming continued as we crossed the set to Kates game and only when she jumped into the cell did we hear the now familiar "CUT!!". More coffee and croissants, and the process began to repeat itself.
We returned for Kates game. This time it was based on a pantograph, which is basically a tool for reproducing a shape or drawing. She had a hidden shape, which she had to trace and then identify it from one of about eight possibilities. If she got it wrong, the crystal would be trapped forever, so rightly she decided to use all her time to establish exactly which shape she was tracing. As a team we couldnt really help her (except for shouts of encouragement) as our view was non-existent, and it was a tactile game anyway. Something told me that she knew exactly what she was doing, so I just relaxed and enjoyed the game. Kate emerged triumphant with her crystal and the teams morale when skyward! We had at least one crystal!!
Next it was my turn. Ed asked Tracey who was next and when she told him, he grabbed my arm and dragged me across the set...I almost fell over, as I wasnt expecting to be man-handled down the steps (there are a small flight of steps leading up to the cells on both sides of the Zone). I arrived, told 2― minutes, jumped in the cell and... "CUT!!" ..off to the green room.
A cigarette and coffee later, we returned, repositioned and prepared to restart my first game. Suddenly the floor manager came up to me and said "remember, keep talking all the way through, tell us what youre doing and why.....oh ..and by the way,.. use the green blocks". Eh?....what?...I had no idea what he was on about!
Ed shouted (and I mean shouted...his voice was so loud!!) "You have 2― minutes" and I jumped through the door. I landed in the cell to see what I thought was a table-football game, but on closed inspection it was a maze with holes all around the edge for the crystal to drop out of. I soon realised that the stick they had provided was not long enough on itīs own to push the crystal out of one of the holes, and then realised that I needed to use it in conjunction with one of the green blocks. The "clue" given tome by the floor manager has actually been more hindrance than help, but Id sussed it and was on my way to a crystal. It fell to the floor, and I grabbed it and ran for the door. As I left the cell, I remember thinking... "I dont care now what happens in the rest of the show...Ive got a crystal...
... Ive got a crystal ! ! .."
The cameras continued to roll as Ed told us that we were going to the next zone, the Ocean Zone, and led us to a gap in the set with a small river and stepping stones..we dutifully followed him and I expected us to to come out of the set and there be nothing there. Wrong! It actually did lead us to the Ocean Zone( which stank of old seaweed), and we arrived at the top of the stairs and ran down them into the main galley of the ship. This was really impressive. I realised for the first time that the whole "set" was not merely a collection of different sets, but that it is actually one huge set built exactly like the diagram shown on screen each time you change zone. It really is The Crystal Maze!
"CUT!!" - Time for lunch.
...(please bear in mind that I am writing this in 1999, and that I am trying desperately to remember the details from 4 years ago....I really should have finished this story at the time!!)...so please forgive me any inaccuracies...
We left the aircraft hanger for the first time that day. It was about 12.30 and we were to have lunch on a DOUBLE DECKER BUS! This was the canteen, and boy, the food was great! The bus had been converted into a complete restaurant with the top deck being the eating area, whilst downstairs was converted into a buffet area with all kinds of things, including veggie stuff!
This was also the first time the team had chance to talk about what had happened so far without the production crew being around. Everyone agreed that Ed Tudor Pole was actually more sane when the cameras were rolling than during the breaks in-between.
On hour passed and we were called back onto the set which was now the Ocean Zone. It stank. Apparently they used real seaweed when they first built the set and that was then over three years ago. Believe me, the smell of rotting seaweed really added to the authenticity of the set!
(to be continued....if you bookmark this page with IE5 you can set it to inform you when it's been updated and come back and read the rest.....when I get chance!!)