The Adventure Game

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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)

The Adventure Game was 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 opening and closing music is "Duo in G Major, Op. 34: Rondo" by Ferdinando Carulli, performed by Julian Bream and John Williams from the album Together.

Programme origins[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.[citation needed] Most people did not guess the answer, or they would just happen to get it right by accident.
Gnoard demonstrates the Vortex task.
  • 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[edit]

Series 1[edit]

It was originally broadcast in 1980 on BBC1 on Saturday mornings. Four of five episodes are available on the DVD box set.

It was repeated in 1980 on BBC2 on Saturday mid-afternoons.

Episode Broadcast date Repeat date Duration (minutes) Participants Notes
1 24 May 1980 27 September 1980 26 Elizabeth Estensen, Fred Harris, Mark Dugdale
2 31 May 1980 4 October 1980 37 Liza Goddard, Michael Rodd, Stephen Cox This episode is believed lost. It is missing from the BBC archives, and was not available as part of the BBC Store season one package or the DVD release. One off-air recording is currently known to exist, though the owner is unwilling to allow a copy to be made available to the BBC archives.
3 7 June 1980 11 October 1980 37 Pat Cater, Maggie Philbin, James Burke
4 14 June 1980 18 October 1980 29 Denise Coffey, Dr. Garry Hunt, Toby Freeman
5 21 June 1980 25 October 1980 45 Lesley Judd, Robert Malos, Paul Darrow The original recording of this episode was wiped from the BBC archives, though a lower quality off-air recording recording was available to buy as part of the BBC Store package and is also included on the DVD.

Series 2[edit]

It was originally broadcast in 1981 on BBC2 on Monday early-evenings, following Doctor Who. Four of five episodes are available on the DVD box set.

It was repeated in 1982 on BBC1 on Friday late-afternoons.

Episode Broadcast date Repeat date Duration (minutes) Participants Notes
1 2 November 1981 28 May 1982 45 Graeme Garden, Carol Chell, Nicolas Hammond
2 9 November 1981 4 June 1982 45 Madeline Smith, David Yip, Derek Gale This episode is officially missing from the BBC archives, though it is known to exist in private collections. A lower quality off-air recording appears on the DVD.
3 16 November 1981 11 June 1982 45 David Singmaster, Sue Cook, Philip Sheppard
4 23 November 1981 18 June 1982 44 Tessa Hamp, Nerys Hughes, Derek Griffiths This episode is officially missing from the BBC archives, and is not currently known to exist on off air recordings.
5 30 November 1981 25 June 1982 45 John Craven, Bill Green, Kirsty Miller

Series 3[edit]

It was originally broadcast in 1984 on BBC2 on Thursday early-evenings. It is available on the DVD box set.

It was repeated in 1985 on BBC2 on Thursday early-evenings.

Episode Broadcast date Repeat date Duration (minutes) Participants
1 2 February 1984 5 September 1985 39 Sarah Greene, Anne Miller, Richard Stilgoe
2 9 February 1984 12 September 1985 38 Sue Nicholls, Duncan Goodhew, Emma Disley
3 16 February 1984 19 September 1985 40 Adam Tandy, Sandra Dickinson, Chris Serle
4 23 February 1984 26 September 1985 39 Paul McDowell, Bonnie Langford, Christopher Hughes
5 1 March 1984 3 October 1985 39 Janet Fielding, Nigel Crocket, Neil Adams
6 8 March 1984 10 October 1985 45 Fern Britton, Noel Edmonds, Ray Virr

Series 4[edit]

It was originally broadcast in 1986 on BBC2 on Tuesday early-evenings. It is available on the DVD box set.

It was repeated in 2002, 2003 & 2004 on the digital TV channel Challenge.

Episode Broadcast date Duration (minutes) Participants Notes
1 7 January 1986 39 Sheelagh Gilbey, Roy Kane, Ian McNaught-Davis
2 14 January 1986 39 Johnny Ball, Barbara Lott, Liz Hobbs
3 21 January 1986 39 David Sandeman, Fiona Kennedy, Ian McCaskill
4 4 February 1986 38 Prof. Heinz Wolff, Deborah Leigh Hall, Ruth Madoc
5 11 February 1986 38 Joanna Monro, Val Prince, George Layton The broadcast of this episode was postponed from 28 January 1986 due to coverage of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
6 18 February 1986 39 Heather Couper, Keith Chegwin, Adam Gilbey

The four missing episodes disappeared in a mass wiping of children's television programmes in the early 1990s.[6]

Signature tune[edit]

Commercial release[edit]

A six DVD box set of the series was released on 12 June 2017, rated U.[7] The U rated DVD is region 2 encoded, with a running time of 665 minutes. The artwork on each disc represents five different colours and shapes of Drogna. Each disc's number can be identified by very small writing around the outer rim of the disc. Series one and series two are presented with four episodes on one disc per series, each missing one episode. Series' three and four are complete and split across four discs.

Before the DVD release, seven episodes from the first two seasons were made available to buy digitally from the BBC Store until it ceased trading on 25 May 2017.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jones, Ian (August 2004). ""I Was Deaded by the Rangdo!" : Off The Telly". www.offthetelly.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2010-01-13. Retrieved 2017-10-13.
  2. ^ "The Adventure Game S01E04 part 1 of 3, 14 June 1980 , Denise Coffey , Dr. Garry Hunt , Toby Freeman - YouTube". 2009-12-24. Retrieved 2016-06-24.
  3. ^ "HP Computer Museum: Technical Desktops: 9845". Retrieved 2016-06-24.
  4. ^ "The Adventure Game S02E02 part 4 , 9 Nov. 1981 Madeline Smith , David Yip , Derek Gale - YouTube". 2010-01-04. Retrieved 2016-06-23.
  5. ^ "The Adventure Game S03E03 , Part 3 , Adam Tandy , Sandra Dickinson , Chris Serle - YouTube". 2010-06-11. Retrieved 2016-06-24.
  6. ^ Of Finger Mice and Mr Men - The Story of Watch With Mother Archived 6 December 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ The Adventure Game, Simply Media, 2017-06-12, retrieved 2017-08-21
  8. ^ http://metro.co.uk/2016/10/21/forget-the-crystal-maze-bbc-cult-classic-the-adventure-game-is-back-6202612/

External links[edit]