Android: Anna Galvin
Voiceover: David McCallum
Julian Grant TV / 20th Century Fox for Carlton, shown on ITV, 23 July 1994 - 21 August 1995 (13 programmes in 1 series)
With a set like this show had, they could have set a film on it. Just think how the promo could have gone...
"John Leslie IS the Unconvincing Scottish Commander Bloke. Some Actress IS Random Emotionless Robot #235. THRILL! At the lovely set. GASP! At the games that aren't nearly as good as The Crystal Maze. COLLAPSE WITH LAUGHTER when the second half of the series was demoted to Monday mornings due to lack of interest/ratings."
The thing is though, although the show had its critics it was put together in such a away that if people didn't take it too seriously there was a vaguely interesting show underneath with some good - if flawed - production values. Essentially, it was ITV trying to fill the Gladiators slot during the summer months. Like Ice Warriors after it though, it didn't really work out.
Two couples attempted to use their bodies and brains in order to scavenge as much salvage (electrical circuity-type stuff) as possible in Cyclops, an abandoned and dangerous spaceship. Sadly, this being the way that it is, all the interesting and valuable salvage was put in hard to reach places and situations. Cleverly, the series was split into two halves and the winner of each half went to the final to win, erm, a Scav Badge?
A few of the games were quite small-scale affairs, such as one game where you played the Simon follow-the-lights game to win a glass type thing which was hidden inside a machine and the players having to follow the correct colour code to get it out.
Most of the others were thankfully much larger, and involved things like hanging from girders to reach the thermo-stats or something from the pool below, or a giant obstacle race through the ship to reach a certain bit of Scav. There was also an impressive Crusher where various bits of Scav were hidden amongst a metal garbage disposal crusher, which would accidentally turn itself on when it detected Scav Hunters in the area. They had to get out before everything was crushed, not to mention themselves. This sums up the problem with the show - we knew that these people weren't going to get crushed to death on ITV (on Sky maybe, but not ITV), so no matter how nice the illusion was there was no real tension.
Different pieces of scav were worth differing amounts of Scav Points, but the big points were lying in wait in the final bit of the show. Here the players had between five and seven minutes to construct a safe frame to swing across and then in the time remaining get as many barrels, fuel containers and the like across the void to the ship. The catch was that if anyone or any thing wasn't on board the ship Vulture before the time ran out (or as the robot would put it, "the spaceship was becoming too unstable, we MUST leave now") then they were left aboard the crumbling ship to be left to the mercy of the evil aliens (of which there were many) and suchlike. Either way, they would score nothing for the whole show. The two top teams in each half battled it out in the semi-final and the winners went through to the grand final, scheduled in the peaktime that is Monday morning 9:25am.
Humour was put in at various points of the show. Or least, it would have been humour if it was actually funny. John Leslie may be a reasonably accomplished presenter, but his acting skills were (by his own admission) gleaned from watching a few videos. Leslie - who worked out so hard that he put on 15 lbs of muscle - was dressed up in bubble-wrap black bondage gear, designer stubble, sported a stick-on scar, and used his carefully-honed acting skills to project "attitude". They also tried some sort of romantic interest with the unemotional robot. Sadly it wasn't that interesting.
The programme took a big credibility hit in three main areas. Firstly, many of the games had no playalong factor whatsoever. The huge wide shots had to be used to fit in all of the immense set meant we didn't see any reactions on the contestants' faces. And the ridiculous "storyline" (including the most unconvincing aliens you've ever seen) throughout each show was risible. Did anyone really care that the show was set in the dim and distant future of 3042, after some sort of pan-galactic war? Not really.
There was something watchable in the show and to its credit it did have some fans. What it lacked in structure it almost made up for in looking and sounding the part, but as such it became a show which, like Marmite, you either liked or hated.
To be completed
"Scavenge, salvage, and survive with honour"
"Commander, I insist you..."
Peter Griffiths and Ben Davis
The massive set was built from modular steel, and designed by Quentin Chases; he had already done the Gladiators arena. Amongst the special effects designers were Jim Francis (of Blake's 7 and Dr Who) and Bob Keen (creator of Jabba the Hutt).
The set was built at Pinewood Studios, using BBC facilities. It cost £2.5 million, and was used to film episodes for transmission in Spain, Italy, Japan, and Scandinavia.
The programme's working title was "Aliens: The Game Show", but Ridley Scott refused to allow his successful films to have the same name as any game show.
CarlTon TV's Press Office broke out the Random Capitals to promote the programme as "the first Virtual Fantasy show". The Times preferred "Mad Max meets Star Trek on It's a Knockout."
Creator and producer Julian Grant said before the first broadcast, "If people like it, it could go for years and years. If not, it's a lost cause. Lots of television ideas are."