The Interceptor: Sean O'Kane
Interceptor's pilot: Michael Malric-Smith (aka 'Mikey')
Chatsworth and Thames for ITV, 19 July 1989 to 1 January 1990 (7 episodes in 1 series + 1 special)
The general consensus at the time among "people who know these sorts of things" was that Interceptor was one of the most adventurous and successful programmes ITV had commissioned in ages - which is why it only got one series, naturally.
Interceptor was essentially an adult version of hide-and-seek hosted by former tennis player Annabel Croft. The show had one series of seven episodes on ITV during Summer 1989, and a New Year special shown at 10:30am on New Year's Day, 1990.
Back-packing for beginners
Two contestants, invariably a yuppie male-female couple kitted out in blue and yellow garb respectively, would meet Annabel before donning their backpack. There was one backpack per contestant - one contained £1,000 in prize money, the other was weighted to feel the same but contained nothing. The contestants would not know whether they had the backpack full of money, because Annabel would always have shifted the packs around out of their sight before asking them to select one. Each backpack had five infra-red sensors on the back of it, more of which in a moment.
The contestants would be taken off in helicopters and flown to locations about six miles apart, with the host positioned at a "base camp" somewhere in-between. The contestants would be blindfolded during their helicopter ride and were not allowed to take these off until the game actually started. Therefore, at the beginning of the game they wouldn't know where on earth they are. They are kept in radio contact with the host throughout the show.
The challenge for the contestants was twofold: there was the usual race-against-time element, but in addition they had to avoid being "shot" by an ever-present baddie referred to as the Interceptor.
Once the clock is started, both contestants remove their blindfold and relay observation information about where they are to the host, who would try and identify their positions on a map.
When Annabel identifies the correct location, a little cross would light up on her map which would give the location of a key. One of the subtle nuances of the format was that the key which opened the yellow backpack was situated near the start position of the blue player, and vice versa.
Following this so far? So, because of the geometry of the situation, the run of events would be for each player to collect the key to their partner's backpack (guided by Annabel all the time), then meet up, swap keys, and open their packs. They had to touch hands within 40 minutes otherwise the game was automatically lost.
He's behind you!
So where does this Interceptor bloke come into it? Played to the hilt by actor Sean O'Kane, the Interceptor was ruthless in his attempts to delay the contestants as much as possible.
While the contestants are running around on the ground, he starts in a separate, ominous black helicopter a short distance away. He is told the start positions of the contestants, although by the time he reaches either start position the corresponding contestant may have moved on.
Now remember we said something about some receptors on the back of the contestant backpacks? The Interceptor's main aim was to "shoot" these sensors using what was described as a "zapper", which worked a bit like an infra-red TV remote control. An on-target "zap" caused the backpack to lock permanently, regardless of whether the contestants had retrieved the keys or not. There would be no indication as to whether a backpack had been zapped until the contestants tried to unlock it at the end of the show.
To give the show some variety, quite often the contestants would have to "help out" a member of the public (a stooge the producers had spoken to beforehand) in order to gain their partner's key. One particularly clever location was when a key was placed in the middle of a hedge maze (and guess who was waiting for the contestant when they came out again?). On another occasion, the contestant had to traverse through a field while the Army were running a mock pitch battle.
The contestants were really up against the odds. They would only win the money if (a) they managed to touch hands within 40 minutes, and (b) the Interceptor had not managed to zap the backpack which contained the money. Pretty good going then for those who succeeded - and several couples did.
As for the show's faults? Well, there might be one or two niggles. The main flaw, if one could really call it that, was that a lot of the situations were fairly heavily rigged. Contestants would "happen across" a couple of bicycles on the ground, or bump into someone who had nothing better to do than cart a game show contestant and a film crew in their open-top jeep around the back roads of Kelso. True, Annabel does signal at the start of the programme that "transport has been laid on for you - it's up to you to find it", but this made it feel like the contestants were following a linear pre-selected course than going on a free-roaming adventure. In addition, the Interceptor would just happen to have cars, bikes and horses on stand-by at prime locations. Still, if you didn't know about all the behind-the-scenes jiggery pokery, this wouldn't have mattered one jot.
It's a shame
"If Interceptor isn't a success, I'll eat my hat", predicted one Chatsworth producer confidently. Although the ratings weren't huge for prime-time ITV, lots of people loved the show. This was primarily due to the excitement factor which was maintained throughout the programme. Chatsworth's previous programme, Treasure Hunt, was only exciting near the end because the single jeopardy was the 45-minute deadline. In Interceptor, the time pressure was combined with the additional excitement of the Interceptor alternating between the contestants and trying to zap their packs, thus making for a much more action-packed show.
Shame Marcus Plantin couldn't afford to give it air-time the following year. Even ten years on, you can still regularly bump into people in newsgroups and mailing lists who lament the programme's passing away. Thanks to public demand, Challenge TV repeated the series twelve years later.
Fans very much liked the ongoing banter between the Interceptor and his long-suffering helicopter pilot, "Mikey" (Michael Malric-Smith) who would occasionally make wry comments back.
The most legendary encounter, which is referred to by fans as "the tractor ambush", involved the Interceptor successfully fooling a contestant into being given a lift by what she thought was a "nice farmer gentleman"... guess who it was in reality?
The infamous tractor ambush
"I like it!"
"Mikey - I've got him!"
The theme tune was called Rock Revolution, and was composed by Zack Lawrence based on the Revolutionary Etude by Chopin. Unusually, the theme was released as a single (by Break-In Records). The theme tune is available from www.interceptors-lair.com (also see Web Links below).
Interceptor opening titles
Jon Iles, now known as Mike Dashwood in police drama series The Bill, was tried out for the role of Interceptor in a pilot but he was felt to be "too nice".
The Interceptor's zapper was actually technology purchased from the Army.
The contestants had no idea what the Interceptor looked like before the start of the show. They did not meet beforehand.
The Interceptor's car and motorbike had the number plates INT 1 and INT 2. These are not real DVLA licence numbers, and the producers had special permission from the police to use them on the road during filming. There was also a trial bike and a hovercraft available to the Interceptor, but these were never used.
The programme was not recorded in real time. The programme intro was filmed the day beforehand and the game itself was often interrupted by breaks in filming.
Everything you could possibly want to know about the show can be found at www.interceptors-lair.com. The site, run by Chris Hart, is highly recommended and includes in-depth episode guides, video segments, music clips, pictures and much more.
The very first episode.