The Krypton Factor (ITV, 1977-1993)
The Krypton Factor was the long-running search for who was best in a series of mental and physical tests to become the overall series champion and the “United Kingdom Superperson”. People from all walks of life took part but it seems that being a 35-year-old computer programmer helped. The show was hosted by Gordon Burns and it was a great success. Most series were split into six rounds so here’s how it worked.
Round one was Mental Agility. Contestants had to memorise a phrase or some numbers and were then asked questions against the clock on them. Looking back now this round is a straight one-on-one between contestant and host, no pounding background music, no fancy effects, just someone being challenged to do their best.
Round two was Response. Contestants had to sit in a flight simulator and land a plane. This was seen as the ultimate test in hand/eye/foot coordination at the time and the performances ranged from superb to disastrous. In the final they had to perform a landing in a spaceship simulator or even a real plane.
Round three was Observation. Contestants had to watch a short specially made for the show comedy or drama sketch and then answer questions on what they saw. Lots of famous names took part in the sketches including Andrew O’Connor, Steve Coogan, Roy Barraclough, Matthew Kelly, Tony Robinson, Tony Slattery and many others.
Round four was Mental Agility. Contestants took part in a gruelling obstacle course. This round was always great to watch, and there were some remarkable moments including contestants falling off the obstacles, landing in some smelly water and some exciting close finishes. Looking back it seems a great surprise now that the contestants wore no safety equipment and there were some injuries.
Round five was Intelligence. Contestants had to solve a logical puzzle. Some of these were very creative and it is said that this round could go on for over an hour before it was edited down to a couple of minutes for the programme.
Round six was General Knowledge. Just answer questions on the buzzer in the allotted time. At the end, whoever had the highest “Krypton Factor” was declared the winner and some the expressions on the contestant’s faces when they realised that they had triumphed were terrific.
The series winner received the trophy which was considered a very prestigious honour and some very talented people appeared on the show over the years on what was considered “television’s toughest quiz”. The show also made the best of the technology that was available at the time, a lot of thought and care had clearly been put into the making of the show which was all pleasingly rounded off with the professional hosting by Gordon Burns.
It’s a surprise to realise that The Krypton Factor started in the 1970s, and the distinctive “K” symbol that people remember didn’t appear until the tenth series in 1986. I do remember watching the later years, and I was really pleased when FTN began a repeat run of the 1987-1992 series, followed by Challenge showing the 1993 series. It was great seeing it again and it definitely ranks as one of my all-time favourite game shows.
You will notice that I described the show in my introduction as ending in 1993, when of course there was a series in 1995. Seemingly realising that after 18 years the format might have become a little tired, there was a doomed attempt to make the show bigger and better with all the “super round” nonsense. This killed the show off and I’d rather forget that series existed. However, there was an inevitable revival in 2009 that was much better and I might review that soon.