The Adventure Game

The Adventure Game is a game show that was originally broadcast on UK television channels BBC1 and BBC2 between 24 May 1980 and 18 February 1986. The story in each show was that the two celebrity contestants and a member of the public had travelled by space ship to the planet Arg. Their overall task varied with each series. For example, the team might be charged with finding a crystal needed to power their ship to return to Earth. The programme is often considered to have been a forerunner of The Crystal Maze.

The Adventure Game
GenreGame show
Presented byPatrick Dowling
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series4
No. of episodes22
Production
Running time26-45 minutes
Release
Original networkBBC1 (1980)
BBC2 (1981-6)
Picture format4:3
Original release24 May 1980 (1980-05-24) 
18 February 1986 (1986-02-18)

Programme origins

The programme came about because Patrick Dowling (who also introduced episodes of series 2) had an interest in Dungeons and Dragons and wanted to televise a show that would capture the mood. The programme also had a similar sci-fi feel to the work of Douglas Adams, who was asked by Patrick to write the show, as he had already agreed to write a TV series of his own radio show The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The first two series were written and produced by Dowling and directed by Ian Oliver, who wrote and produced the final two series after Dowling retired from the BBC.[1]

The characters

Arg was inhabited by shapeshifting dragons known as Argonds. As a reference to this, most proper nouns in the programme (including Argond) were anagrams of the word dragon. To avoid scaring contestants, Argonds commonly shifted form, mostly to human, a few minutes before the contestants arrived.

Notable characters within the game included:

  • The Rangdo, who was the ruler of planet Arg and initially referred to as "Uncle" by the other Argonds. In the first series, his human form was played by Ian Messiter, who appeared as an old professor in a velvet jacket, but in later series he became one of the few Argonds not to appear as a dragon. In series 2 and 3, he became an aspidistra atop an elegant plant stand; he could move around the room and roared and shook when he was angry (the Rangdo was controlled by Kenny Baker). Any human meeting the Rangdo immediately had to placate him by bowing while uttering the phrase "Gronda! Gronda!". In the last series, the Rangdo changed into a teapot instead, spouting steam when displeased.
  • Darong (series 1, played by BBC newsreader Moira Stuart).
  • Gnoard (series 1 – 3, played by Charmian Gradwell), whose job it was to explain the initial stages of the game to the contestants.
  • Dorgan (series 4, played by Sarah Lam), who took over from Gnoard in the final series.
  • Gandor (series 1 – 4, played by Chris Leaver), an ancient, half-deaf butler who took the contestants through most of the puzzles and refereed the Vortex and Drogna games. In some episodes, he could only hear when he was wearing his spectacles, which he continually (and conveniently) misplaced.
  • Rongad (series 3 & 4, played by Bill Homewood), because he was Australian, spoke English backwards and could only understand the contestants if they did the same. His Australian accent was a mild clue to help the contestants realise he was speaking backwards. Noted for habitually singing Waltzing Matilda in reverse, and exclamations of "Doog yrev!" when the contestants did well. He appears in every episode of series 3 and episode 2 of series 4.
  • Angord (series 4, actor unknown) was an Argond who never seemed to turn into a human. She always misbehaved when Gandor and Dorgan were checking over the puzzles.
  • The Mole (series 2, played by Lesley Judd), pretended to be one of the regular contestants but was actually working against them. The actress had been a genuine contestant in the first series.

The look of the characters in Argond form was quite different in the various series. In Series 1, they looked like dragons, and each was rather distinct. In Series 2, they didn't look much like dragons, but were furry, with no tails and mask-like faces, and primarily differed in colour. In Series 3 and 4, their heads returned to looking like dragons, with ruffs, though they had furry bodies and monkeylike tails, and they were almost identical to each other.

Notable contestants included Keith Chegwin, Sue Cook, astronomer Heather Couper, John Craven, Paul Darrow, Noel Edmonds, Sarah Greene, Bonnie Langford, James Burke, Elizabeth Estensen, Janet Fielding and Richard Stilgoe.

The credits for the series listed the human characters as being played by Argonds, rather than the other way round.

Common tasks

The contestants had to complete a number of tasks in order to achieve their overall goal (i.e.. regain their crystal and return to their ship). Many tasks involved the drogna, a small transparent plastic disc containing a solid geometric figure, which was the currency of Arg. The value of a drogna was its numbered position in the visible spectrum multiplied by the number of sides of the figure (though the contestants usually failed to work this out). For example, a red circle is worth one unit, an orange circle is worth two units, a red triangle and a yellow circle are both worth three, and so on.

Tasks which often appeared included:

  • Interaction with a computer, in series 1 a 2D dungeon-crawl-type game on an HP 9845 Technical Desktop,[2][3] then later a text chat with an Apple II that generally failed to provide any useful information until the password was revealed elsewhere and entered into the computer,[4] then in series 3 and 4 a pseudo-3D first-person POV dungeon crawl on a BBC Micro to find the password in the maze.[5] In series 3, the players were guiding an alien doglike creature called a Dogran (voiced in a deep Cockney) down his "Dogran-hole" after meeting him in person. In series 4, the radio-controlled dog puppet was eliminated and the players guided an unseen entity speaking in a Scouse accent to find the password "somewhere in the north" of the maze.
  • The Drogna Game, which usually came in the middle of the programme. The rules of play, format and end result of this game was changed frequently, always with each series and sometimes even from one episode to another. One variation from series 3 was played by two players: one would be a contestant and the other would be a creature known as the Red Salamander of Zardil. This version of the game became so popular that Acornsoft released a home version for the BBC Micro, written by Patrick Dowling.
  • How many Argonds around the pond. This was a game played predominantly in series 4 just before the Vortex game. Every player had a chance to win, and winners received a "Green Cheese roll" or, in later episodes a "Great Crystal of Arg" to triumphant fanfare. This Green cheese roll was of use when playing the Vortex. Gandor would compère the game; it would start on a table with a number of drogna inside a velvet bag with draw strings. He would shake the bag and withdraw some drognas and place them on the table, then asking the first contestant "How many Argonds are around the pond?". The contestants would usually either count the drognas, count the non-blue drognas (assuming the blue one represented the pond), or add the sides or points of the geometric figures on the drognas, and fail to guess the right number. The key was that Gandor would place his fingers on the table top as he said "How many Argonds are around the pond?" The number of fingers he would place down on the table would be the correct answer. Most people did not guess the answer, or they would just happen to get it right by accident.
  • The Vortex (series 2 - 4). This was the last task in the programme. To return to their ship, the players had to jump between a grid of points, taking turns with their opponent, the Vortex. The Vortex was represented by a video-effect-generated pulsating column in series 2, and a computer-generated flashing column in series 3 & 4. If the human player jumped into the Vortex (which they could not see), it would explode and the human was said to have been "evaporated", losing the game and making a long trip back to Earth which had to be walked by foot along the interplanetary highway. Patrick Dowling devised the game, believing that his inspiration was probably nine men's morris.[1]

Episodes

Episodes with a dagger (†) after the number are missing from the BBC archives.[6]

Series 1

Originally broadcast in 1980 on BBC1 on Saturday mornings.

Repeated in 1980 on BBC2 on Saturday mid-afternoons.

EpisodeBroadcast dateRepeat dateDuration (minutes)Participants
124 May 198027 September 198026Elizabeth Estensen, Fred Harris, Mark Dugdale
231 May 19804 October 198037Liza Goddard, Michael Rodd, Stephen Cox
37 June 198011 October 198037Pat Cater, Maggie Philbin, James Burke
414 June 198018 October 198029Denise Coffey, Dr. Garry Hunt, Toby Freeman
521 June 198025 October 198045Lesley Judd, Robert Malos, Paul Darrow

Series 2

Originally broadcast in 1981 on BBC2 on Monday early-evenings.

Repeated in 1982 on BBC1 on Friday late-afternoons.

EpisodeBroadcast dateRepeat dateDuration (minutes)Participants
12 November 198128 May 198245Graeme Garden, Carol Chell, Nicolas Hammond
29 November 19814 June 198245Madeline Smith, David Yip, Derek Gale
316 November 198111 June 198245David Singmaster, Sue Cook, Philip Sheppard
423 November 198118 June 198244Tessa Hamp, Nerys Hughes, Derek Griffiths
530 November 198125 June 198245John Craven, Bill Green, Kirsty Miller[7]

Series 3

Originally broadcast in 1984 on BBC2 on Thursday early-evenings.

Repeated in 1985 on BBC2 on Thursday early-evenings.

EpisodeBroadcast dateRepeat dateDuration (minutes)Participants
12 February 19845 September 198539Sarah Greene, Anne Miller, Richard Stilgoe
29 February 198412 September 198538Sue Nicholls, Duncan Goodhew, Emma Disley
316 February 198419 September 198540Adam Tandy, Sandra Dickinson, Chris Serle
423 February 198426 September 198539Paul McDowell, Bonnie Langford, Christopher Hughes
51 March 19843 October 198539Janet Fielding, Nigel Crocket, Neil Adams
68 March 198410 October 198545Fern Britton, Noel Edmonds, Ray Virr

Series 4

Originally broadcast in 1986 on BBC2 on Tuesday early-evenings.

Repeated in 2002, 2003, and 2004 on the digital TV channel Challenge.

EpisodeBroadcast dateDuration (minutes)Participants
17 January 198639Sheelagh Gilbey, Roy Kane, Ian McNaught-Davis
214 January 198639Johnny Ball, Barbara Lott, Liz Hobbs
321 January 198639David Sandeman, Fiona Kennedy, Ian McCaskill
44 February 198638Prof. Heinz Wolff, Deborah Leigh Hall, Ruth Madoc
511 February 1986[lower-alpha 1]38Joanna Monro, Val Prince, George Layton
618 February 198639Heather Couper, Keith Chegwin, Adam Gilbey

Signature tune

Home video releases

In 2016, the show was made available to purchase for the first time, with seven episodes from the first two series available digitally from the online BBC Store.[9] The store and apps were discontinued on 1st November 2017, rendering purchased programmes no longer playable.[10]

A six-DVD box set of the series was released on 12 June 2017, rated U.[11] The DVDs are region 2–encoded, with a total running time of 665 minutes. The artwork on the discs represents five different colours and shapes of Drogna. Each disc's number can be identified by very small writing around the outer rim. Series one and two are presented on one disc each, with four episodes per disc (each missing one broadcast episode). Series three and four are complete and are split across four discs.

Notes

  1. The broadcast of this episode was postponed from 28 January 1986 due to coverage of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

References

  1. Jones, Ian (August 2004). "'I Was Deaded by the Rangdo!' : Off The Telly". www.offthetelly.co.uk. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  2. "The Adventure Game S01E04 part 1 of 3, 14 June 1980 , Denise Coffey , Dr. Garry Hunt , Toby Freeman - YouTube". 24 December 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  3. "HP Computer Museum: Technical Desktops: 9845". Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  4. "The Adventure Game S02E02 part 4 , 9 Nov. 1981 Madeline Smith , David Yip , Derek Gale - YouTube". 4 January 2010. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  5. "The Adventure Game S03E03 , Part 3 , Adam Tandy , Sandra Dickinson , Chris Serle - YouTube". 11 June 2010. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  6. "TV Archive". www.tvbrain.info. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  7. "Kirsty Miller". IMDb. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  8. "Julian Bream & John Williams (7) - Together". Discogs. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  9. McEwan, Cameron K (21 October 2016). "Forget The Crystal Maze, BBC cult classic The Adventure Game is back!". metro.co.uk. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  10. "BBC Store: Help and Support". store.bbc.com. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  11. The Adventure Game, Simply Media, 12 June 2017, retrieved 21 August 2017
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