The Krypton Factor

File:Krypton factor 2009 small logo.jpg



Mike Scott (non-broadcast pilot)

Gordon Burns (1977-95)

Ben Shephard (2009-10)

Ross King (Young Krypton)


Announcer: Charles Foster (1982-85, 1991-93)

Penny Smith (1995)

The various Army officers who fired the starting-pistol on the assault course race, and whose names were mentioned by Gordon Burns up to and including the 1993 series, included Major Stan Meadows, Major Jock Gardiner, Colonel Terry Hammond, Major Peter Lyons and Major Tony Carr.


Granada for ITV, 7 September 1977 to 20 November 1995 (254 episodes in 18 series + 21 specials)

ITV Productions for ITV1, 1 January 2009 to 9 March 2010 (20 episodes in 2 series)

as Young Krypton: Granada for ITV, 6 June 1988 to 11 July 1989 (21 episodes in 2 series)


Properly challenging, immensely popular and fondly remembered game show which combined quiz, puzzle, and physical challenges. Indeed, so successful was it that a revival was probably inevitable, though it was a long time coming. We'll get to the 21st century version in due course, but first let's concentrate on the classic version, in which legendary hell-raiser Gordon Burns put four contestants through "the ultimate mental and physical tests" to find out who was the UK Superperson of whichever year - and there were 18 series!

Whilst the structure of the rounds was tinkered with over the years, the main rounds were (mostly in the following strict order - but not in the 1988 series, in which the order went: Mental Agility; Response; Intelligence; Observation; Physical Ability; General Knowledge):

Mental Agility: Each contestant was given 40 seconds to answer as many questions correct as they could. What they'd have to do changed from week to week. For example, they may have to remember a certain layout of dice, in which case questions would be like "What's on the opposite side of dice which is two to the right of the Red 2". Or they'd be given a sentence and asked questions on it. You can guess the sort of thing. When the show first started it was some strange computer maze thing. In between, it was an elimination contest where the questions got harder and the points were decided by how long you stayed in the game. This was not played against the clock, strangely.

File:Krypton_factor_burns.jpgHost of the Krypton Factor, Gordon Burns

The very first series didn't have the "Mental Agility" round, but did include a "Personality" round in which the contestants were set creative tasks such as re-writing nursery rhymes as news reports or inventing limericks on a given topic, with the winner decided by having unfortunate members of the public being surveyed on whose efforts they thought were the best.

Response: This round first started in 1986. In that year's series, this consisted of the contestants competing in twos to move some cylinders from one side to another (Minnesota Manual Dexterity Tests), then placing some shapes into the correct slots (Fleischmann Flexibility Tests) and finally hitting one of four coloured buttons when the corresponding colour flashed up on a screen, up to a total of 10 correct responses. The contestant with the fastest time would be the winner. In the 1987 series, two tests alternated. In one, there was a race between the contestants to crank a handbike backwards, and some feet pedals forwards, in order to power an electric motor and propel themselves along. If and when they reached the end there was a bank of screens which would flash up different colours and the contestants had to input which colour had the most. The first one to get 10 correct won.

In the other test, balance-beams linked the Fleischmann Flexibility Tests and Minnesota Manual Dexterity Tests from the previous year, twisting around and fitting shapes into the correct slots. In both of these series, for the group and grand finals, it changed so that the contestants would each take part in a British Aerospace flight simulator and try to land a plane.

From the 1988 series onwards, the Response Test consisted purely of flight simulator tests: these included a Sea Harrier Jump Jet in the 1988 group finals, a Royal Navy helicopter in the 1988 Grand Final and all the later group finals and something special like the Space Shuttle or even a real plane in the Grand Final. They'd be marked by the instructor. This version of the round was arguably better than the 1986/7 one, since the Fleischmann Flexibility and handbike tests, although very entertaining to watch (and possibly to do as well) did not seem very consistent or comparable with the flight simulator tests. Having said that, though, a number of contestants who had done well in the flight simulator in their first round crashed or otherwise performed badly in their Group and/or Grand Finals and vice versa. For example, the 1992 champion, Andrew Craig, crashed the plane and came fourth in his first two simulator tests, yet landed the real plane in the Grand Final superbly and won the round that time - and with some impressive competition from the other three contestants, too.

The flight simulator tests often proved very entertaining, with some contestants crashing the plane, landing it in the sea by Hong Kong Airport or in Lake Tahoe and even flying up instead of down, resulting in a stall. However, there were also plenty of contestants who managed to land well, sometimes even perfectly. (See also 'Trivia', below). The real plane that the 1992 and 1993 Grand Finallists had to land was dual-controlled - surprise, surprise - but the contestants' standard of performance in both those tests was fairly high.

In the 1988 series, a trophy in the form of a Boeing 747 was awarded for whoever had performed best in the first-round Response tests, landing that particular plane in the simulator. This was won by Yvonne Thewlis. It was a shame that this award was only given in that one series: it was a nice touch and should have been kept in.

Observation: In the early series (up until 1985), this involved the contestants watching a clip from a film and then answering questions on it, at first individually and then on the buzzers. This would be followed by an 'Identity Parade', in which 9 people looking like one character from the clip would line up and the contestants had to decide which one was the real character. (KF producer Stephen Leahy would later recycle this as the endgame in Watching the Detectives.) In some series (1986-88), the round was "Double Take" - i.e. spot the difference between the same film shown twice. Then, in 1989, it changed into the great fun "Spot the Continuity Errors". These pieces of film often starred celebs of their day such as Steve Coogan (a relative unknown back then), Andrew O'Connor and Hinge and Bracket. One of the first films was a skit involving Kenneth and Annie from Treasure Hunt:

From 1990, the Observation round turned into mini-serials. First, it was Sam Smith: Private Detective with Gwyneth Strong (aka Cassandra off of Only Fools...). In 1991, Tony Robinson was the hapless bank manager aided by Michelle Collins in heist drama Where is Don Day? In 1992, mistaken identity caper Dead Ringer starred Tony Slattery, Roger Lloyd Pack, Katie Puckrik (pre-Sunday Show) and Linda Lusardi. A two-minute section would be played each week. 1993 saw a return to two-minute single dramas, with Fred Pilkington (Roy Barraclough) recalling his greatest detective moments to Julie Webb (Annabel Giles). By 1995, the drama had been replaced by computer generated images. In the early days (up to and including 1990), contestants wrote down their answers but it later changed into a multiple choice vote-on-keypads question thing so that ties could be decided on time. Dare we suggest, though, that this was largely for the audience since we're sure the contestants would be quicker to answer than was shown on screen. For Double Take, interestingly, contestants scored a straight two points for each correct answer rather than the usual scoring system.

Physical Ability: Gordon Burns cited this as the reason why he nicknamed Krypton Factor as 'Television's Toughest Quiz'. The contestants raced over the 400m Army assault course at Holcombe Moore, Bury, Lancashire. Originally, each contestant was given a staggered start based on their age and sex. Later, age was discounted and all the female contestants were given a head start with the men chasing them. Noted for the death-slide bit near the end where everyone would get extremely wet going into the water.

Apparently, the course was so dangerous up to eight stand-by contestants were on call in case anything went wrong. When Gordon Burns tried it for himself for the experience, it took him over five minutes to complete (more than twice the usual time) and he ended up with minor injuries. In fact, that wasn't the only round that he tried for himself - on another occasion, he stated that he had tried out the flight simulator and that they were still clearing the debris resulting from his crash landing.

Intelligence: Apparently "the test many contestants have sleepness nights over", this was a 2D or 3D spatial awareness test where the contestants would be asked to construct something using the pieces given. Invariably there would only be one correct answer and Mr Burns provides a "ha, that's not quite right" commentary using a sportsman's voiceover microphone.

Up until now, points were dished out 10, 6 (8 in earlier series), 4 and 2 for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th but this changes for...

General Knowledge: The final round. Depending on the series, this was 100/90/75 seconds of quickfire questions on the buzzer with two points for a correct answer and two points deducted for a wrong one (one point in earlier series). The questions were set up so that the answer to one question would form a phonetic link with the next question, so particularly clever players may be able to work out where the question was headed.

Up to and including the 1985 series, the buzzer round had been preceded by Burns asking each contestant in turn two or three general knowledge questions, all on the same topics (e.g. in one episode, each contender answered a question on rivers, military history, and musicals.) Incorrect answers did not lose the contestants points in this case, nor were the questions offered to their opponents.

One problem with this round was that, all too often, a contestant who was considerably behind could win if he/she was exceptionally good at general knowledge, and this always seemed unfair on those contestants who had shown more all-round abilities throughout the show, only to be pipped at the last minute if their general knowledge was not so good. In many ways, it also seemed to defeat the main purpose of the programme. This was especially true once the 2-point rule was introduced in 1988. In the 2009 series, there were 70 seconds' worth of questions, still with 2 points for a correct answer, but with only 1 point deducted for a wrong answer. Very few, if any, contestants won from behind during this series, probably because Ben Shephard did not get through quite so many questions as Gordon Burns used to - and also, more thinking-time was allowed if none of the contestants buzzed in - Burns used to give the answer after only 2 or 3 seconds if the contestants failed to answer in the original version. However, the 'winning from behind' issue has reared its ugly head again on a few occasions in the 2010 series, in which there are now 90 seconds' worth of questions - why can't they go back to the 1-point rule for both correct and incorrect answers? It was so much fairer.

Before each round there'd be a lovely little introduction where the Krypton K would turn into a person or a pair of eyes or something that represents the round about to be played. This lasted from 1986 until 1993 and has been revived (well, sort of!) in the 2009 series. In the original version, the Response intro varied the most: in the 1986 series, it consisted of a person hitting flashing buttons for the heats, then a plane for the Group and Grand Finals. The following year, the former was retained for the handbike/reaction test, while the balance beam test intro consisted of a green rectangle with differently-shaped slots in it and a red block fitting into one of the slots. The flight simulator logo, meanwhile, changed to that of a plane flight indicator: this was the only logo used in that round from 1988 to 1991. The graphics changed for the next two series, but they still featured a flight indicator.

All change, please

For the final series, the show was told to be "Gladiators with brains" by totally revamping the set and changing the style of the show. In came flying with the Red Arrows, out went the Intelligence test, and the second half of the show became The Super Round. The points accumulated in first five rounds were used to buy "advantages" in the Super Round, a race that tests all their abilities to the full.

The first part of the Super Round were the Kryptic Rings - a not-quite-giant 3D maze. To find the correct exit, the players must memorize a sequence of colours and symbols which flashed up before they parachute down to the start. This sequence told them where their exit was, but each contestant had a different route to follow even though they used the same sequence for everybody. Confused?

Once they'd found the correct exit from the Kryptic Rings they had to crack a Code on the computer (an Amiga 1200, would you believe!) They would be given a word which they reproduced on the keyboard, except that each letter stood for another letter according to a given rule (e.g. type in the letter two later in the alphabet than the one shown).

Then they had to negotiate a nifty corridor of Lasers. Hitting any of the moving lasers incurred a time-penalty.

Something every game show should have, the Response Revolve, was next. It was a revolving cylindrical structure from which, as if trying to keep on your feet wasn't enough, each contestant had to pull out four batons from special rocks. However, they could only be taken out once the light on the rock flashed.

Finally, a race up Mount Krypton, building a ladder then using the handholds. Whoever was first to raise their Krypton K at the top of the mountain won the show.

The decisive Super Round of the 1995 series

The new style was cool but losing the Intelligence round was a sign of dumbing down and the whole 'Krypton Mountain' sequence was very confusing and not viewer-friendly. Also, if the general knowledge round in the original version had seemed unfair in allowing contestants to win from behind, the Krypton Mountain round seemed especially so, as contestants who had done especially well in the preceding rounds all too often fell by the wayside on the Mountain, despite the advantages that their points had (supposedly!) given them and this seemed to completely defeat the whole raison d'etre of the programme. If only they had continued to adopt the 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' rule, since the original had worked so well for many years. There was talk of a BBC revival but sadly it never happened (and you can be sure the BBC wouldn't have messed around with the format). Nevertheless, this was a remarkably successful show, and watching repeats of the later series on cable TV is still very enjoyable.

New millennium, new series

After about a squillion rumours down the years, ITV finally did get around to commissioning a new series, which made its debut on New Year's Day 2009. Thankfully there's no Mount Krypton, as they've gone back to largely the original format - and that's the 79-85 five round format, with no Response round. It's a shame we've lost the Response round, which was always very entertaining to watch - but hey, you can't have everything!

The changes are largely cosmetic: the Mental Agility round now places the contestants in an isolation chamber called "the cube" (or maybe it's "kube"?), new host Ben Shephard has to vaguely stand around because Granada haven't seen fit to provide him with a desk, apart from a temporary podium for the Observation and General Knowledge rounds (cheapskates!), and the studio lighting is all projected coloured stripes, which is either a failed attempt at looking retro, or a failed attempt at looking futuristic, we can't tell which.

The intelligence round, and those stripes

The 2009 assault course was a Go Ape-style course, which was, rather bizarrely, designed for two people, not four, which meant a lot of cutting between two races. The first episode suffered from truly abysmal editing in the Physical Ability round, destroying any sense of how the contestants were progressing. The second episode was much better and the initial problems seemed to have been sorted out, though there remained certain fundamental problems - like the assault course being surrounded by trees, making an overview of the course impossible, and that intractable two-race problem. Editing couldn't fix those issues, though a change of course for the next series did. In the Grand Final, the contestants all competed individually rather than in twos, so they did not know until the recording proper whether they had come first, second, third or fourth. It's not certain whether it was really necessary to do it that way, but it was at least different, if nothing else.

No tape at the finish line anymore, just these giant Ks.

Actually, it's hard to think of anything they've done differently this time where the change is an improvement (can anyone actually remember the new theme "tune"? Actually, it's quite a decent tune - it just doesn't really stick in the mind in the way that the 1986-1993 tune did - not yet, anyway). Fortunately, the stuff they've done differently/worse is, by and large, the stuff that doesn't really matter that much anyway. Underneath, it's still basically the same show we knew and loved in the 1980s. So hurrah for that.

The 2010 series brings some changes, with a new, four-person assault course (good), but only four rounds, the intelligence round having been dropped (are they mad?!). The four-round format (which for what it's worth is the same as the US junior version from 1990) doesn't drag as we thought it would, but it does feel like there's something missing. The new assault course is certainly a good one, with elements of both the previous ones. An A-frame net, water tank (not water jump as such) and a longer zip wire are all reminiscent of the original version, other obstacles and the presence of outward bound instructors rather than the Army are similar to the last series and there's also one very decent and novel touch: the course finishing with a pull-along raft-race. (Actually, if there is one minor issue with said raft-race, it seems by and large to favour the men, who appear to have the greater upper-body strength - that is, if Ben Shephard's words on the subject are to be believed. Having said that, though, several women came second on the course during this series and one actually won it - the first to do so since the show's revival). Overall, the course is arguably not quite as good as the original Army assault course, but still an impressive second-best and a distinct improvement on last year's effort.

One thing that feels a little "off" about the revival is the fact that it is possible (and indeed it happened in the 2010 series) for there only to be one unbeaten contestant in the final (the highest-scoring runner-up in the heats receives a place in the semis, and there are only 2 winners from the semis in the final). Still, that's no excuse for not using the magnificent title of "United Kingdom Superperson of the Year" for the overall champion anymore. Having said all that, though, it could be argued that the finals in the 1986-1995 version of the show could have easily had no unbeaten contestants, if the highest-scoring losers won all three group finals and one hitherto unbeaten contestant went through to the grand final as the highest-scoring runner-up. Either way, the last unbeaten series champion to date was Tim Richardson in 1993.

Young Krypton

Two series of Young Krypton (would you believe, a Junior Krypton Factor) were held in the late 80s, hosted by Ross King. The show had a similar structure to its adult brethren in terms of groups and finals and each show had only five rounds (the Intelligence round being saved for the group and main finals and replacing another round). The response round involved moving shapes from one box to another whilst balancing on a tilty-thing with time penalties added for letting the tilty-thing tilt too much. The physical agility round was a race around a special course constructed at the American Adventure Theme Park in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, rather than an army assault course, but otherwise it was a pretty close approximation of the format.

Key moments

In 1989, contestant Judith Stafford broke her ankle on the assault course after jumping down onto a platform, yet still managed to finish the course. Her leg was in plaster all through the studio rounds, showing that the assault course was filmed prior to the studio rounds (the Response round was filmed first). In 1987, Sue Dandy managed to complete the course with damaged ligaments after she landed badly after a jump from the concrete tubes. Another contestant, Claire Dawkins in 1989, ran the course wearing gloves after she had damaged her hands during a practice run. Another contestant, Gill Lyons in 1986, struggled to finish the course because she was afraid of heights and therefore found the six-foot zig-zag wall and thirty-foot A-frame net more frightening than most - however, she eventually succeeded. In addition, Marian Chanter's hands somehow came out of the safety loops prematurely on the aeriel slide in the 1987 grand final, so she ended up in the water rather sooner (and deeper) than normal, but it didn't stop her winning the race for the third time running. In the 1991 Group B final, Paul Evans lost his footing after flipping over the top of the A-frame net and fell almost to the bottom, but luckily managed to grab the net just in time - and he also won the race. A 1992 contestant, Jackie Harte, was penalised for not landing correctly in the water following the aerial slide. During this era, contestants were required to plant their feet into the water as soon as they landed, but Harte did not do this and finished up further up the course than he should have been, so he received a time-penalty, which meant he had to settle for second rather than first place. In 1993, Jon Johnson fell off the Burma rope ridge that led to the aeriel slide, but luckily, there was a net to catch him underneath and he finished the course in second place. The course changed design after some series in response to safety concerns.

In the 1991 series, both Tony Hetherington and Paul Evans scored a maximum Krypton Factor of 50 in the first five rounds of their heats. Hetherington went on to set an all-time record of 62 after the general knowledge round. They were in the same group final, in which Evans managed to win most of the rounds again, but they both reached the grand final, as Hetherington was the highest scoring runner up and the latter won the series. Prior to that year, the record was probably held by Alan Morris in his first round during the 1987 series: 54, although two 1989 contestants, Mike Berry (in the Grand Final) and Phil Smith (in his first round) came close by both scoring 50.

One episode of the 1991 series saw some of the worst scoring ever in a Mental Agility round. Challenged with repeating the elements between an interval in reverse order (e.g. A to E = "D, C, B"), the contestants scored just 2, 2, 3 and 6 correct answers.

A comical moment occurred during the assault course race on a 1988 celebrity edition of the show. In one of the water jumps, Sarah Greene was descending the pyramid-like wall the wrong way and an army instructor was yelling at her not to do it that way - so she pulled him into the water with her. Nice one, Sarah! In fact, she was 'rewarded' for her actions, in that one of her opponents, 'Mad' Lizzie Webb, very generously waited for her so that the pair of them could cross the line in joint third place.

Substandard though the 1995 series was, it nevertheless threw up a few surprises, such as one of the finalists, John Reynolds, who had apparently practised for the assault course on a children's playground. It must have paid off, since he won the assault course in all three of his games. Another contestant, Mandy Wertheim, was competing in the show partly to raise money for the charity for which she worked. As she revealed to Penny Smith when she won her initial heat, she had been promised extra money if she won - so she clearly raised a goodly sum. In addition, two contestants were disqualified for failing to complete 'Krypton Mountain' correctly. One contestant, future The News Quiz host Simon Evans, did not complete the computer test correctly, and was told of his disqualification on top of the mountain, in a scene clearly recorded after the fact. The other contestant, Alison Riley, was disqualified the following week for forcing the batons out of their holders in the Response Revolve without waiting for the lights to come on - unlike Evans, she was edited out of the remainder of the round.

Pleasingly, a few former contestants have made a comeback in the new version of the show. Andy Eden, who had been a contestant in the 1988 series, reappeared in the 2009 series and Iain Mackie, who had been a contestant even longer ago (in 1983), was in the 2010 series. In both cases, Ben Shephard was only too keen to show footage of their original appearances - especially on the original assault course. In addition, one 2010 finalist, James O'Driscoll, was the son of a 1990 contestant, John O'Driscoll, who appeared in the audience during James's semi-final and Grand Final matches. Shephard insisted on asking John what he thought of his son's performance on two occasions and John made some rather critical comments - but was soon eating his words when the ever-fair Shephard showed footage of John missing the rope swing during his attempt at the original assault course.

During most of the Burns-era, the trophy was very aptly presented by sports stars. They included Viv Richards in 1984, Virginia Leng in 1986, Imran Khan in 1987, John Francombe in 1988, Barry McGuigan in 1990 and Sir Steve Redgrave in 1993. Burns himself presented the trophy to the winners of both the 'Young Krypton' series, but unfortunately did not do so during the Shephard-era.


Gordon Burns:

"All the points won in that round go immediately into the scoreboard".

Mental Agility round (from 1991 onwards): "And reminding you that it's ten points, six, four and two for first, second, third and fourth place - and that where two contestants got the same number of correct answers, then the position is decided by the clock - we go to the scoreboard".

Observation round, 1986-1990: "Right contestants - turn quickly to your screens and concentrate hard as we join (whoever, wherever)..." and, at the end of the round, "That's the lot - turn to the front, please, contestants, and will you now start writing down what you thought the six changes were".

Intelligence round: "Are you all ready, contestants? The test starts... now."

General knowledge round: "Ready on the buzzers, contestants - the clock starts... now." (The first part was occasionally varied, such as, "Good luck, Group Finallists..."). And at the end, "That's it - the end of the round, the end of the contest - and the winner tonight with a Krypton Factor of (whatever) is ....." Also, in the event of a tiebreaker, Burns would say, "That's the end of the round, but not the end of the contest....!"

At the end of the show, "....Until then, from all the contestants here and from me - goodnight!"

Ben Shephard: "(Whoever)'s in place - activate the cube!"

(For the Observation Round): "Right contestants, turn and face your screens - the test".

"70 (or 90) seconds on the clock, please."


Devised by Jeremy Fox.

Theme music

One of the early signature tunes was by Mike Moran.

The title sequence from 1984

One of the more modern and memorable versions of the theme music was composed by The Art of Noise from 1986-1993, which was subtly altered between each series. It was loosely based on their tune "Beat Box". It finally got a release (all 53 seconds of it!) on their Influence retrospective in 2010. The music was revised a few times during its use on air - most notably, a softer version was introduced in 1990.

The 1995 version featured much heavier title music, now credited to Anne Dudley, who had been a third of The Art of Noise. Incidental music, composed by Mike Woolmans, ran for most of the programme.

The 2009-2010 version composed by Paul Farrer is called "Lock Down".


Mike Scott hosted the pilot programme, but withdrew from the main series because he wanted to continue as a serious journalist and not be pigeon-holed as "that bloke off the quiz show". His Granada Reports co-host, Gordon Burns, was friends with producer Jeremy Fox, and agreed to host the first series. The rest is history.

The Krypton Factor was one of the first new-style game shows to be exported to the USA, though it was a bit of a flop - there was one short series in 1981 (the winner and runner-up went on to compete against that year's UK winner and runner-up in a special Krypton Factor International), and a junior version in 1990. Gordon Burns complained that the American version was changed into something more akin to It's a Knockout. Fox announced a Krypton Factor revival in summer 2000, offering $500,000 to the winner of some mind-bending tasks; there was no physical ability segment, and the programme never got past an unbroadcast pilot.

The New Zealand version, introduced by veteran newsreader Dougal Stevenson, proved more successful - infact, it featured the same titles and theme from the UK original as well as some of the sketches from the Observation rounds. The Response round was omitted - presumably to incorporate the two commercial breaks per show.

Many of the intelligence tests went on for hours. 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. Darren Stalybridge recalls: "I once went to Granada Studios to watch The Krypton Factor being produced. You know that manual dexterity game, where the contestants have a challenging puzzle to solve? Usually in around two minutes? NINETY! YES! Ninety minutes of boredom watching the most incompetent attempt at a puzzle solving ever! Condensed down to two minutes for the telly broadcast of course!" This changed during the Shephard-era, whereby there was a set time-limit and the contestants' scores would be decided on how far they'd progressed up until that point. In fact, one intelligence test involved all four of the contestants having to complete one puzzle, then the last to do so had to return to his/her seat, while the other three did another test, and, once again, the slowest contestant had to retire, while the final pair completed a final and deciding test.

The original assault course was at Holcombe Moor, near Bury in Greater Manchester. The 2009 assault course is at "Adrenalin", an activity centre near Richmond in North Yorkshire.

The Krypton Factor was one of those shows which came to be associated with a very definite spot in the schedules, in this case Monday nights at 7pm. This wasn't always the case, though: the first series went out on Wednesdays, and the second and third on Fridays. Bonus scheduling trivia (and this really is trivial): the grand final of the first series was shunted way past the watershed to allow for coverage of crucial World Cup Football qualifiers... except in Scotland, whose team weren't playing that night, and which therefore got to see the final at its usual time, hours before the rest of the country. Viewers were left on tenterhooks for eleven weeks in the middle of the third series: the second semi-final and grand final, originally scheduled for 10 and 17 August 1979, were delayed until 4 and 11 November due to an ITV technicians' strike.

For at least some series (around 1986-8), the fastest man and fastest woman on the assault course both received a special trophy. That was a nice touch that should have been kept in. Winners include: Barbara Murray and Stuart Worthington (1986), Marian Chanter and Ted Daskerwicz (1987), Elizabeth Hayward and Alan Robbie (1988).

During the show's original run, history was made two years running. In 1987, Marian Chanter became the first - and only - female champion. In fact, 1987 really was ladies' year on the programme (except in terms of the highest individual score of the series - see 'Key Moments', above), because the Grand Final featured three female contestants - the other two being Alison Heath, who finished runner-up, and Cecilia Edge. (The sole male finalist was Dr Hamish Meldrum, who would later become Chairman of the British Medical Association.) No other final, before or after, featured more than one female contestant - and many finals were all-male, including both of the revival's finals. In 1988, David Lee became, at 21 years old, the youngest-ever champion - a record that he also still holds to this day.

A remarkable coincidence in terms of the contestants' jobs occurred in the 1993 Group C Final, since three of them were accountants (two chartered and one trainee), while the other contestant was a policeman. Two of the accountants, Tim Richardson (chartered) and Eddie Jackson (trainee), went through to the following week's Grand Final as winner and highest-scoring runner-up respectively and Richardson won the series. It's also notable the other chartered accountant, Philip Shaw, had been a strong rival to the other two throughout much of the contest, but he was ultimately defeated in the General Knowledge round.

In an interview on the BBC's daytime chat/phone in show 'Open Air' in 1987, Gordon Burns revealed that, whenever a woman did not win on the assault course, the programme would be inundated with letters complaining that women were not given enough of a head-start in this round, but if a woman won, there would be a flood of letters claiming that they had too much head-start. A definite case of 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'!

Burns also appeared on Noel's House Party in 1995, talking to Noel Edmonds about the forthcoming new 'Krypton Factor' series (the substandard 'Krypton Mountain' version). Edmonds' response was to put Burns in the ghost train-style gunge tank vehicle - and guess what? Burns ended up completely covered in the sticky stuff.

While competing in the 1987 series, Ibrar ul-Haq showed a great aptitude in his flight simulator round. After finishing his degree, he retrained to become a commercial pilot. Another two 1987 contestants also received special mention from the flight instructors: following Marian Chanter's superb performance in the Grand Final, the instructor stated that she should have his job, while he should have hers, namely baking Cornish pasties. The other contestant, George Bryden, performed so well in the Group B Final that the instructor believed that he (Bryden) could, with more practice and training, become a very competent pilot. In addition, a 1991 contestant, Catherine Collins, performed such an excellent flight and landing in the simulator that the flight instructor was later to show the graph of her performance to trainee pilots as the standard that they needed to aim for. Furthermore, Yvonne Thewlis won a trophy for performing the best landing in the Boeing 747 simulator in 1988 - see under the main 'Response' section.

Unusually, and possibly uniquely for the time (This Is Your Life being the only other show we can think of), the show up until 1992 had no advert break in the middle even though it was in a primetime 7pm slot. This happened because The Krypton Factor had been commissioned as an "educational" programme, and education shows weren't allowed to have internal breaks. Rules were relaxed in 1993, which explains why some of the elements (most notably, the time for the quiz) were shortened in the last two series.

The 2009 revival had a "fake break" - there were no real adverts except for the sponsorship bumpers and a couple of ITV trailers. Two reasons for this: first, the entire series was paid for by the sponsor, and so the break primarily existed to provide Sage with a couple more flashes of its logo. Secondly, ITV was limited to 35 minutes of adverts in total between 6pm and 11pm, and could sell more profitable adverts later in the evening.

Image:Krypton factor original logo.jpgThe original Krypton "K"...

The familiar "red dot" Krypton Factor logo wasn't introduced until as late as 1986. Before that, the logo was a big block capital K with the title in that ever-so-early-80s handwriting-style typeface. For the first three series the programme did not have a logo or proper title sequence; the opening titles were simply the programme title appearing over a shot of the studio in white lettering. It was in 1980 that the original 'K' logo was introduced and the programme gained a proper title sequence which featured the 'K' being surrounded by water, followed by a green line forming a box around the 'K'. Then the picture would zoom into the box over the 'K' which would then disappear underwater before the contestant introductions.

...and the one we're all familiar with.

We noticed watching repeats on Challenge that the contestants wore clothes representing the colour they've been assigned. Cunning, no? It seemed that, until 1993, they were allowed to wear what they liked, provided that it fitted in with the colour system, but in 1993, they were all given polo shirts of the appropriate colour to wear.

In the 1989 series, the Response results for flying a plane were sometimes given with a section of Left to My Own Devices by Pet Shop Boys playing in the background. Oddly, this 1989 series dispensed with the graphics showing contestants' lines of descent (we were instead shown some stock footage of real aeroplanes as Gordon told us the results), though the graphics would return for the 1990 series.

Splendidly, the points players earned through the game weren't referred to as their score, but as their "Krypton Factor", as in, "The winner, with a Krypton Factor of 46, is the legal secretary from Kent, Bob Jeffries".

Although not publicised on-air, all contestants were given KF-branded clothes and a sports bag as prizes.

Special editions

At least four Krypton Factor International programmes were aired: the first was tagged on to the end of the 1981 series and had the top two contestants from the UK series competing against the top two from that year's short-lived US version. Another, featuring contestants from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK, aired on 3 January 1983. There were also international editions in 1984 and 1988.

There were Champion of Champions episodes in 1980 (22 December, if you really want to know), 1985 and 1989. The 1985 show featured the winners from the previous four years: John McAllister (1981), John Webley (1982), Chris Topham (1983) and Paul Smith (1984) and was won by John McAllister. The 1980 contest was won by Philip Bradley.

In May 1989, the Champion of Champions special featured four star contestants: Marian Chanter and Alison Heath from 1987, David Lee from 1988 and Andrew Gillam from 1985 - surprisingly, David Kemp from 1986 did not appear and no explanation was given for his absence. The contest was won by Marian Chanter. Gillam came fourth in the Response round, but it could be argued that the other three had an unfair advantage there, as Gillam had never had to carry out such a test during the series that he won.

Explorers and action people were the subject of specials in 1978, 1982 and 1983; Ranulph Fiennes entered in 1978, and his companion on the first polar circumnavigation of the globe, Charles R. Burton, competed in 1982. The 1983 edition included future Survival Challenge host Richard Crane.

There had already been a sports stars specials in 1980 and 1981, won by yachtswoman Clare Francis, and by canoeist and Paddles Up favourite Richard Fox. In 1984, an "Olympic Celebrity Special" featured Tessa Sanderson, Neil Adams, Andy Holmes and June Croft. Other sports stars featured the following year, and ITV's coverage of the 1988 Seoul Olympics was marked by a pair of 'Presenters Versus Competitors' editions. This was won by the presenters, all of whom were, or would become, quiz hosts, namely Dickie Davies, Alison Holloway, Nick Owen and Elton Welsby.

There was also another sporting edition in 1989, between athlete Steve Ovett, cricketer Wasim Akram, jockey Bob Champion and sports journalist & Real Tennis player Sally Jones. For some bizarre reason, although all four contestants tackled the Mental Agility and General Knowledge rounds, they each had to miss out one of the other rounds - Akram the Response Round, Jones the Observation Round, Champion the Physical Ability Round and Ovett the Intelligence Test. Sally Jones was the eventual winner. She would reappear on Mastermind some 19 years later.

A 1988 celebrity edition featured Sarah Greene, Chris Quinten from Coronation Street, Ross Davidson from EastEnders and 'Mad' Lizzie Webb. This was won by Chris Quinten. (See also "Key Moments" above). A celebrity edition at the start of 1989 had Willie Carson, Suzanne Dando, and Gilly Coman all being beaten by Henry Kelly.

In addition to appearing in an observation round in the 1989 series, Kenneth Kendall appeared in a 1990 celebrity 'Television Versus Radio' version of the programme and therefore must have been one of the oldest contestants ever to tackle the assault course.


Winners of the title "United Kingdom Superperson of the Year" (from 2009 onwards, plain old "Krypton Factor Champion") were as follows:

1977  Harry Evans
1978 Ken Wilmhurst
1979 Peter Richardson
1980 Philip Bradley
1981 John McAllister
1982 John Webley
1983 Chris Topham
1984 Paul Smith
1985 Dr Andrew Gillam
1986 David Kemp
1987 Marian Chanter
1988 David Lee
1989 Mike Berry
1990 Duncan Heryett*
1991 Tony Hetherington
1992 Andrew Craig
1993 Tim Richardson
1994 no contest
1995 Andy Wilbur
2009 Aaron Bell
2010 Pete Thompson
  • Heryett's win is notable for a few reasons. He only got into the Final via a tie-break question in his heat, a highest scoring loser position after the Group Final and an off-screen playoff. He came last in the first two rounds of the Final, and was understandably ecstatic when told of his win. As he told Gordon Burns afterwards, the news of his victory came as a considerable (albeit happy) shock - he'd assumed that it was yet another dead heat.

Several other champions had also been highest scoring losers in at least one of their heats - these included David Lee, Mike Berry, Tony Hetherington, Andy Wilbur, Aaron Bell and Pete Thompson. This also occurred a number of times on Mastermind.

Young Krypton

1988Simon Horner
1989Ross McClelland


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.

There was a board game based on 'Young Krypton' in 1989.

A computer game was released for the main home computers of the day in 1987.

There were also two Krypton Factor Quizbooks.

File:Krypton factor book.jpg

Web links

Wikipedia entry

Review of the computer game, reproduced from Your Sinclair, May 1988.

See also

Britain's Best Brain

Britain's Brightest

Weaver's Week reviews: the 2009, the 1995, 1984, and 1977 versions; of the New Zealand remount; and of the 1990 and 1981 US editions.


The Super Round Grand Final from 1995 (and the end of the Gordon Burns era)


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