With that sand timer running out and four angry strangers shouting from the sidelines, it’s not surprising that plenty of contestants on The Crystal Maze buckle under pressure.
But whilst it’s forgivable to emerge sheepish empty-handed if you’ve given it a good go, sometimes their efforts are so embarrassingly bad that it’s almost incomprehensible to fathom.
Little did these poor sods from the 90s era of the Channel 4 game show know that a thing called YouTube would be invented, and that we’d all still be laughing at their disastrous attempts to win crystals almost two decades later.
1. PRESS U3!
Sometimes the ‘advice’ the other Crystal Maze competitors yell through the little flap in the wall is either indecipherable, unhelpful or a mixture of the two.
Richard, or ‘U3 fail guy’ as he’s more widely known, had neither of those excuses. Quite why he was rendered temporarily deaf and daft is anyone’s guess, but he did spectacularly cock up his three minutes in the Futuristic zone.
Weirdly the most tricky element proved to be a piece of piss for “Ricardo”, as host Richard O’Brien called him. After putting a tricky puzzle together, the number and letter ‘U3’ was spelt out. What Richard then proceeded to do was wander aimlessly around the room looking for ‘U3’, despite it being on a big wall of numbers in front of him. All while his teammates – and the Crystal Maze computer – all very clearly and succinctly shouted ‘PRESS U3!!’.
Richard was told to look for U3 a staggering 18 times, but he still seemingly had no idea where to look or even what was going on. This nonsense went on for two solid minutes before he eventually gave up and left. Well, he tried to leave. He was promptly dragged back in to the room by Richard O’Brien, who pressed that elusive U3 button in front of his face and showed him just what a numpty he’d been.
2. Did you get it?!
The Crystal Maze took on a literal meaning when rather dystopian scenes saw contestant Andrew trapped like a big confused mouse in a human-sized maze looking desperately for a crystal – and possibly his dignity.
With just two minutes on the clock, Andrew located the crystal in a record 30 seconds and made it to the exit with a whole minute left to go. Essentially, he was a Crystal Maze hero.
Emerging bleary-eyed on his hands and knees through the tiny door, his elated teammates all applauded his incredible feat and there was only one question for Andrew. “Did you get it?!” they all excitedly exclaimed, as he – confused – said “no”, as he looked up at them like an apologetic dog.
There’s one big question here. If Andrew didn’t know that he had to bring the crystal out from that maze, what the hell did he think he was doing in there?
3. If logic doesn’t work…
Simon was on it from the get go. In the Medieval zone, he went into the game to be confronted by a pile of wooden cogs, a candle in a cage and a piece of string that had a crystal dangling from it.
Essentially, it was pretty obvious what was going on. You had to put the cogs on the wall, turn the handle and move the candle to burn the string thus releasing the crystal.
After Simon spent half his time fiddling with the cogs he decided to ditch logic in favour of brute force. With over a minute to go he grabbed at the cage like a rabid madman, trying to yank the mesh off and mutilate some poor game designer’s pride and joy.
After that failed, he went back to the cog approach and he finally figured it out. Didn’t matter though – he still didn’t manage it and got locked in anyway.
Richard O’Brien sees a lot of stupidity in the maze. He gets frustrated, he shouts at incompetence, he gets exasperated at people’s slowness.
So just how much of an infuriating twit do you have to be for your actions to lead Richard to smash his head against a door in genuine annoyance?
Well, this much.
Watching Ian for three whole minutes incites genuine physical pain as he simply has no idea what that red light means, tries to poke a metal rod in all sorts of incorrect places, reaches down in desperation, Mission Impossible-style, and generally just can’t fathom what the hell he’s doing – despite being told quite clearly and repeatedly what the aim of the game is.
From this we can deduce that Ian should never be allowed near litter pickers, scaffolding or even ladders. Watch him crash down the steps like a third Chuckle Brother as he desperately tries to escape is the final humiliation after a catalogue of errors.
5. You horrible man!
Attitudes towards health and safety were on the lax side in the 1990s, and producers thought nothing of letting someone loose with a pool of deep water, a wet log and no crash helmet.
There are several times where Lorraine narrowly avoids serious injury as her head comes perilously close to smacking a hefty piece of wood as she slips. And that’s not even why this video is so funny.
The aim was to make your way across the log, use the piece of bamboo with a metal hook on the end to unlatch a small cage containing the crystal and make your way back.
After two minutes of falling off the log, standing in the water and, most puzzlingly, just lobbing the stick at the cage from a great distance like a desperate javelin thrower (come on, Lorraine, that was never going to work was it?) she eventually managed to unhook the cage. Cue huge applauds and relief all round from the rest of the team.
With four seconds to go, Lorraine started to make her way back to safety. Her balance faltered, the crystal flew off the stick and into the water and she followed close behind. She was locked in, leading one of the team – for some reason – to brand Richard O’Brien a “horrible man”.
6. The taps, the taps, the taps!
What’s not to get here? Anyone with even the most basic understanding of gravity shouldn’t struggle with this game.
Faced with three empty containers that had taps attached, the aim was to put them in height order, turn the taps and let the liquid cascade out to the bottom. It was honestly one of the easiest games to figure out, and the challenging aspect of was meant to be having to use the big, clunky rubber gloves to turn the fiddly little taps.
Siobhan made an absolute pig’s ear of the whole thing. After first of all putting the containers in the wrong height order (how is this even possible?) she then couldn’t fathom that the taps had to face forwards.
It left her teammates – and Richard O’Brien – screaming “the taps, the taps, the taps!!” like loonies to try and get through to her. It still didn’t work.
It wasn’t just during the games when contestants suffered near-death experiences on the show. Here’s a woman nearly dragging Richard O’Brien with her as she falls head-first out of the slowest-moving boat of all time on her way to the Aztec zone:
And also in the Aztec zone, this chap makes a five foot ledge look like Kilimanjaro as he nervously traverses it like a baby goat. A piece of plastic masonry has never looked more menacing:
The Crystal Maze airs at 8pm on Friday 25th August on Channel 4