The Crystal Cube (BBC2, 1983)
I have enjoyed a lot of the work that Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie did as a comedy double-act over the years, including A Bit Of Fry And Laurie and Jeeves And Wooster. Before that they worked on a few other shows including Alfresco, and also The Crystal Cube. This is a show that I was very interested in seeing, and I managed to track it down on YouTube for a review.
The Crystal Cube was a typically unusual show that was written by Fry and Laurie, it was essentially a parody of science type-shows (and this was long before Look Around You), and this edition was based around the subject of genetics. It was hosted by Jackie Meld (Fry and Laurie’s Alfresco co-star Emma Thompson), and also featuring were Dr Adrian Cowlacey (Fry), and Max Belhaven (Laurie, with an American accent that he would put to use with much success in more recent years).
It began with a parody of a 60s film called Tomorrow, and there was also a sketch featuring a scientist in 1876 with his madness theories (“bottom!”). There was then a discussion about what the world would be like in the future when it could be possible to choose the characteristics of your child (separated into Alphas, Betas, and Gammas). Could this really happen as soon as 1986?
Belhaven then reveals that 20 years earlier a professor successfully engineered a human, known as Gamma 0001 (Arthur Bostrom of “good moaning” fame). He is then asked to perform some tasks to show how advanced he is at them compared to the average person. There is then a look at the ethical side of the debate as Mead interviews a bishop (John “Ashley, I say, Ashley!” Savident), who is later joined by Martin Bealey (Robbie Coltrane, another Alfresco co-star).
They then go on to have a discussion about the whole subject, but unfortunately the show ends in chaos as Gamma 0001 (or “Gareth” as he is better known to the lads in the laboratory) begins to malfunction and tries to kidnap Meld, causing the show to end, and presumably leading to him being destroyed. It didn’t stop his parents from being very proud of him though.
The Crystal Cube was shown only once on BBC2 in the month that I was born between series one and two of Alfresco, and it hasn’t been released on DVD. There was only one edition made and it was certainly not what I expected. I’m not sure if there were plans for a series, as it seems that BBC2 weren’t really prepared for the unusual mix of sketches and parodies that this show offered (and Fry and Laurie’s style is already well developed here). Thankfully, they did go on to get their own sketch show where they could finally expand on these ideas.