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The Krypton Factor

The Krypton Factor was a British game show, produced by Granada Television and hosted by Gordon Burns, broadcast on ITV on Mondays at 7pm from 1977 to 1995. Contestants from across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland completed in a series of rounds that tested their physical stamina and mental attributes. The title alludes to Superman's home planet Krypton, the title denoting strong superhuman powers that the contestants had for taking part in the challenges they were set.

The most common structure for the series was a 13 episode series. The series was divided into three groups of three heats each: Groups A, B and C. Each heat had four contestants, and the winner of each heat went through to the Group Final, along with the highest scoring runner-up. The winner of each Group Final went through to the Grand Final, along with the highest scoring runner-up from the Group Finals. The overall winner of the Grand Final would receive a bronze trophy and be titled as Superperson of the Year.

For some years until 1987, there was also a Group D, and thus the winner of each group final qualified for the Grand Final, with no place for the highest scoring runner-up. The group rounds still only had 3 heats, with the runner up heading for the Group Final.

In the first few series, there were no groups and 8 heats, the winner of each advancing to a semi-final. The top two of each semi-final qualified for the Grand Final, in other series there were 12 heats where the 12 winners and the 4 highest scoring runners up went through to the semi-finals then the winner of each of the 4 semi-finals went through to the final.

It has been confirmed that The Krypton Factor will be revived in 2009. The producers have said that the new version will use "the latest technology" and the return of the assault course, but has not stated if Burns will return as host.

The Rounds

The rounds were usually in the same order as shown below. However in the earlier series, there were only five rounds (as Physical Ability was the second round and Response had yet to be introduced), and in the 1988 series, the intelligence round was third, the observation round fourth, and the assault course the penultimate round.

Mental Agility

This often took the form of a memory test (though other versions would require mental computation of time and date differences, or to add up a sequence of numbers and return the number which, when added to that sum, gave a pre-determined answer). Usually, the Mental Agility round consisted of a speed-test with a time limit of 40 (or 50) seconds, but occasionally a "knock-out" format, where contestants were eliminated for incorrect answers until only one remained, featured in some series. The contestants frequently had to memorise a sequence and then answer a series of progressively more complicated questions. For instance, if the sequence to be memorised was a series of coloured blocks, the questions might start as "What is the colour of the third block from the left?" and progress to "What is the colour of the block two to the left of the block to the right of the green block?". Other forms of memory test might require contestants to remember a phrase or proverb and answer a series of questions about it (e.g. "What was the fifth letter of the fourth word?" or "Spell the last word backwards"). This round was conducted with all contestants wearing headphones to prevent the other participants from hearing their competitors' answers. However, from the 1991 series, each contestant came on individually to perform their test in front of the audience before sitting down in their respective places behind them. No headphones were worn, In the early series the contestants were shown 9 images along with a statement read to them by Charles Foster and the contestants had to pick which 4 images were correct and they scored 2 points for correctly matching each image.

Response

The Response round was introduced in the 1986 series. Prior to 1988, the Response round was a combination of a race between the contestants using double-ogometer bicycles, and a video wall which would display random numbers of coloured blocks; the contestants were required to press one of four coloured buttons corresponding to the highest number of blocks of any one colour being displayed. This alternated with a test in which the contestants had to walk a balance beam to the first challenge - placing coloured wooden blocks into frames either side of them, swinging from side to side in doing so (this was known as the Fleischmann Flexibility Tests). They then had to run across a balance beam linked to the Minnesota Manual Dexterity Test, where they had to take a shape and place it into a corresponding space. After a final balance beam, they jump onto their respective mat to finish the race. From the later heats in the 1987 series, this consisted of each player taking turns on a flight simulator and being marked by an actual flight instructor. (Prior to 1988 the simulator appeared in some of the episodes, but then became a permanent fixture). In 1988, the contestants had to land a BAe 146 in the heats, a Harrier Jump Jet in the Group Finals and a Sea King on an aircraft carrier in the Grand Final. In 1989, the heats used three different simulators. The first heat in each group required the contestants to land Concorde, the second heat required the contestants to land a Red Arrow, and the third heat required them to land a Boeing 737. The group finals required the contestants to land the Sea King on an aircraft carrier. The Grand Final of the 1989 series saw the contestants use a Space Shuttle simulator in California. In 1990, the contestants landed Concorde in the heats, the Sea King on an aircraft carrier in the group final and in the Grand Final, the contestants were in the Sea King again, but this time they used the simulator in a rescue mission. They started from an oil rig (carrying an injured passenger), and had to take off from the oil rig and land on the aircraft carrier. From 1991 to 1993, the heats and group finals were the same; Boeing 737 in the heats and the Sea King in the group finals. The 1991 Grand Final involved the contestants using a Nimrod simulator in a refuelling mission involving a Hercules aircraft. The 1992 and 1993 grand finals required the contestants to land a real plane.

Observation

This round involved watching a specially made video clip or a clip from an ITV drama series that was being broadcast at the time. In the earliest series, contestants were asked questions on the clip, this being followed by an identity parade where they had to identify one of the actors. In later series until 1988, contestants were shown a clip twice and asked to spot five continuity errors between two similar clips. Many of the sequences recorded for the 1988 series were written by, and featured, Andrew O'Connor. From the 1989 and 1990 series, contestants were invited to spot six continuity errors contained in one single clip. Steve Coogan starred in many of the sequences featured in the 1989 series. From 1991 onwards, contestants answered multiple-choice questions relating to the clip (e.g. "What did he say when he entered the room?" or "What was on the table?"). Sometimes, serials were used; such as 1990s Sam Smith: Private Detective (starring Gwyneth Strong), which saw the female detective investigating rather silly cases (which often featured her young chubby nephew, Wallace). Some guests in then Sam Smith stories included Derek Griffiths, Matthew Kelly and Keith Chegwin, who all appeared in the final instalment of the series. The 1991 series featured the saga Where is Don Day? starring Tony Robinson and Michelle Collins, about a bank manager whose dull life is suddenly changed when he accidentally becomes involved in a robbery from his own bank. 1992 saw Dead Ringer starring Tony Slattery; a thriller about a man suffering from amnesia trying to discover who he really is, whilst being hunted down by a hitman named Preston, played by Roger Lloyd Pack. In 1993, the round featured Roy Barraclough and Annabel Giles in a collection of investigative police stories, with Barraclough playing a retired police detective.

Physical Ability

Probably the most memorable of the rounds, this pre-recorded segment involved the contestants racing to complete an army assault course located at Holcombe Moor in Bury, Lancashire. This round typically included 20 obstacles including vertical and flat cargo nets, rope swings, water jumps, Burma rope bridges, and a rope slide into water. In this round, female contestants were allowed a head start over their male competitors, and in early series, contestants were given staggered starts to the assault course; following practice sessions with army officers, the contestant of the weakest physical ability would set off first, followed by the contestant of the third strongest physical ability, followed by the contestant of the second strongest physical ability, leaving the contestant of the strongest physical ability to start last. The physical ability criteria were established from a simple formula derived from age of the contestant and the gender. (The staggered starts were finally eliminated in the 1988 series, when the show reverted to female headstarts only). Typically, in 1980 this meant two seconds per year of age difference and a 40 second advantage for female competitors. In the 1980 semi-final, the youngest competitor, Ted Stockton, (a taxi driver, aged 25) started 56 seconds after the only female semi finalist who was 33. The 1990 series saw many of the metal obstacles on the course replaced by wooden substitutes, including a wooden S-bend frame contestants had to descend. One of the female contestants broke her ankle after landing badly on one of the obstacles (near the end of the course), but bravely managed completed the rest of the course.

Intelligence

A two- or three-dimensional puzzle where shapes had to be put together to fill a rectangular grid or make a bigger shape was the basis for this round. Most of these were devised by Dr. Gerry Wickham of the University of Manchester's School of Mathematics. As the contestants performed the task, presenter Gordon Burns provided a commentary to viewers at home on the contestant's progress and advice on how to solve the puzzle. It is reputed that some of the intelligence tests featured took contestants hours to solve, with edited highlights of their performance in the round shown on the programme.

General Knowledge

A quick-fire question round with a varied time limit (which ranged from 60 seconds to 100 seconds depending on the year). One or two points were awarded for each question answered correctly, and one or two were deducted for a wrong answer. This final round was conducted using a side shot of the four contestants lit in profile. A feature of this round was that, as each question was answered, the next question contained either the answer to the last question, a word from the last answer, or a word that sounded like it. Until 1986, the General Knowledge round was in two stages: the first stage had the contestants answering three general knowledge questions each with 2 points for each correct answer, then it was on to stage 2 which was the quick-fire stage.

In the first five games, 10 points were awarded to the winner, then 6, 4 and 2 to the remaining contestants.

From 1986 to 1991, each round was introduced by the distinctive K logo, which would morph into a symbol for the round. The format of some of the games were changed during the run of the series, but the qualities they purported to test remained the same.

For the final series in 1995, the show was heavily revamped. Penny Smith was brought in as co-presenter, and the intelligence round was eliminated. Instead, the second half of the show was a "super round" which included a 3D maze, code cracking and a race up Mount Krypton. While some liked this change, others felt that getting rid of the intelligence round was a sign of dumbing down and that changing the format so dramatically was a mistake.

Young Krypton

In 1988 & 1989, a spin-off series was produced for children, Young Krypton, and was presented by Ross King. The series was based on a similar structure to the adult version, but with simpler intelligence tasks and a shorter obstacle course (located at The American Adventure Theme Park near Nottingham) in place of the Physical Ability round, at the end of both series Gordon Burns appeared to present the trophy to the winner.

Theme tune

Over the 18 years of The Krypton Factor, four different theme tunes for the programme were used.

The first two theme tunes for The Krypton Factor were written by Mike Moran, who also wrote the theme tune for Chain Letters.

Perhaps the show's best-known theme tune was the version used between 1986 to 1993, performed by Art of Noise. The bass hook of the song is also known as Beat Box. The exact version of this theme tune was variated in some episodes/series-for example, the drum beats in the music in some episodes/series were more emphasised, as was the synthesizer melody, but generally it remained the same.

For the final series the theme tune was a reworked version of the 1986-93 theme tune but was performed by Anne Dudley.

The music used during the scoring at the end of the Response round in 1988 was Forgotten Town by The Christians. In the 1989 series, "Left to My Own Devices" by the Pet Shop Boys was used.

Repeat runs

Certain series of The Krypton Factor has been repeated on Virgin Media-owned digital satellite channel Challenge. So far, the channel has shown the series transmitted from 1989 to 1993 on numerous occasions since February 1999.

From January-September 2007, Ftn, a channel ran by the same company who also operate Challenge and which broadcast on Sky Digital, Freeview and Virgin Media, regularly repeated episodes from the 1987-92 series of The Krypton Factor

In 1988, ITV viewers were able to watch repeat showings of the series Grand Finals from 1977 to 1987.

In 1997, The Krypton Factor was repeated on Granada Plus, (like Ftn also now defunct) and shown during the day.

Revival

Since its cancellation, The Krypton Factor has been the subject of persistent rumours of a revival on the BBC. In April 2005, it was widely reported that the BBC would be going ahead with a revival. However, the source of this story turned out to be a misinterpretation of comments by Wayne Garvie, head of BBC's Entertainment Group (and previously the last producer on The Krypton Factor) naming it as the next "TV gem" that should be revived.

On 24 September 2008, Broadcast reported that ITV was expected to commission a new series within weeks. On 26 September, the comeback for the series was confirmed. The producers of the show said that the assualt course in the "Physical Ability" section would return, as well as new elements return due to the use of technology. The producers said: "The contestants' most dreaded foe will be back with new challenges, twists and technology." Controller of entertainment at ITV Productions, Claire Horton said: "We are taking a brilliant format and bringing it bang up to date with state-of-the-art technology. We look forward to getting some brilliant contestants who viewers will really get behind, making it one of the most exciting contests on television."

United Kingdom Superperson of the Year

This is a complete list of all the winners of the show. There was no series made in 1994.

I
1977 Harry Evans (1)
II 1978 Ken Wilmhurst
III 1979 Peter Richardson
IV 1980 Philip Bradley
V 1981 John McAllister 46 Daley Thompson
VI 1982 John Webley David Puttnam
VII 1983 Chris Topham Ranulph Fiennes
VIII 1984 Paul Smith 32 Viv Richards
IX 1985 Andrew Gillam Virginia Wade
X 1986 David Kemp 36 Virginia Leng
XI 1987 Marian Chanter (2) 46 Imran Khan
XII 1988 David Lee (3) 46 John Francome
XIII 1989 Mike Berry 50 Forrest McCartney (4)
XIV 1990 Duncan Heryett 42 Barry McGuigan
XV 1991 Tony Hetherington 42 Gordon Burns
XVI 1992 Andrew Craig 44 Will Carling
XVII 1993 Tim Richardson 42 Steve Redgrave
N/A 1994 No contest 0 None
XVIII 1995 Andy Wilbur
1. Harry Evans is the first United Kingdom Superperson of the Year for the very first time.
2. Marian Chanter is the show's first and only female winner.
3. David Lee was the show's youngest winner at the time at age 21.
4. Forrest McCartney organised the trip to NASA's Space Shuttle flight simulator in California.

Trivia

The first series of the show was shown on Wednesdays. It was then on Fridays for two years before arriving on Mondays in 1980.

For the first series the programme didn't have a studio audience.

The Krypton Factor was one of the first new-style game shows to be exported to the USA.

Some of the intelligence tests went on for considerable lengths of time. The cameras were just left running and the whole thing was cut down to three minutes for the benefit of the show. At least one contestant was moved to tears by the difficulty of the puzzles. In 1990, Gordon Burns told contestants that over the years, some of the tests had taken 15 or 20 minutes to complete, but that in one (unspecified) programme, when the competitors' tables had been placed too close together for this round, two competitors accidentally picked up pieces from each other's table, making it impossible to complete the puzzle, and nearly an hour went by as they vainly attempted to finish, before the problem was realised.

For at least some series (around 1986-88), the fastest man and fastest woman on the assault course both received a special trophy. Winners include: Barbara Murray and Stuart Worthington (1986), Marian Chanter and Ted Daszkiewicz (1987), Elizabeth Hayward and Alan Robbie (1988).

Unusually, and possibly uniquely for the time, some earlier series (until 1993) had no advert break in the middle (like the BBC) even though it was on ITV in a primetime 7pm slot. This explains why some of the elements (most notably, the time for the quiz) were shortened in later series.

The points contestants earned through the game were not referred to as their score, but as their "Krypton Factor", e.g. "The winner, with a Krypton Factor of 46, is the legal secretary from Kent, Bob Jeffries".

Gordon Burns stated in some of the episodes that the contestants trained for the assault course in the Physical Ability round for up to five weeks in advance.

The contestants all had their own corresponding colour-either red, green, yellow or blue. They wore their own clothes, apart from the Physical Ability round where the contestants wore 'boiler suits' which were red, green, yellow or blue until 1989. The boiler suits changed to black with a coloured stripe. For their own clothes, the contestants either wore a shirt/blouse, tie or a neckscarf of their corresponding colour.

In the 1991 series, two weeks in a row, two contestants, Tony Hetherington and Paul Evans won all of the first five rounds in their heats, scoring 50 points, in addition, Hetherington set an all time record of 62 points, they both later met in the same Group Final, in which Evans won and Hetherington qualified as the Highest Scoring Runner Up, and went on to win the Grand Final. Hetherington's record score was equalled by Tim Richardson in the 1993 Grand Final, in which he also won the first five rounds.

In addition, 1993 Grand Finalist Eddie Jackson, who qualified for the final via the Highest Scoring Runner Up position that year, became notorious for his performance in this Grand Final, scoring only 10 points in the first five rounds, having came last in every round, he finished with 16 points.

From 1989-91 and 1995, the champions of these series all qualified for their Grand Finals with the Highest Runner up position.

The announcer on the show the man who introduced the contestants at the start of some series was Granada Television continuity announcer Charles Foster, who has taken the same role for other shows down the years.

The round where the contestants flew a Sea King were recorded at Culdrose Navy base in Helston, Cornwall.

Champion of Champions

In May 1989, there was a one-off episode on the Krypton Factor called Champion of Champions featuring four star contestants: Marian Chanter and Alison Heath (1987), David Lee (1988) and Andrew Gillam (1985). This was won by Marian Chanter. There had also been a previous Champion of Champions edition of the show around 1985, featuring the winners from the previous four years: John McAllister (1981), John Webley (1982), Chris Topham (1983) and Paul Smith (1984). This was won by John McAllister.

Granada TV planned a 1993 Champion of Champions round, but could not sell it to the ITV network, and no such programme was made.

Parodies

In 2007, the series was parodied by Weebl and Bob, when Weebl went on the programme, thinking he was appearing on The X Factor. Weebl came last, and got to keep his boiler suit.

Merchandise

The Krypton Factor had a number of clothing merchandises, including a pair of black trainers bearing the Krypton K on the sides and the tongue.

A Krypton Factor Quizbook was published in 1989.

A computer game version of The Krypton Factor was also available which was published by TV Games and was released in 1987 for the home computers of the era.

A Krypton Factor sports bag, mug and teatowel was also produced.

Although not mentioned on the air, all the contestants were given a Sports bag and some clothing with the Krypton Factor logo on them as gifts for appearing on the programme.

Other versions

The Krypton Factor also ran in the USA, and New Zealand, and there are versions of the show still currently running in Australia, Canada and Germany.

US version

Two short-lived United States versions of The Krypton Factor aired. In 1981, Dick Clark hosted a 5-week summer series on ABC. In 1990, Willie Aames hosted a syndicated version for children. A version in production by Fox TV was never shown to the public.

New Zealand version

The New Zealand version of The Krypton Factor ran from 1987 to 1991 and was hosted by veteran presenter Dougal Stevenson. There was no Response round in the New Zealand version and the video clips used for the Observation test were taken from the UK version. The Physical Ability test was done at Burnham Military Camp just south of Christchurch. The winners of the 1987 series competed against the winners of the 1987 series in the UK.

References

External links

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