Have you heard?? The Crystal Maze is coming back this month for a one-off celebrity special in aid of Stand Up To Cancer!
I LOVED The Crystal Maze (although I was obviously very, very young when it was on telly. Honest). Rumour has it that this exciting nostalgia extravaganza is to be hosted by David Tennant. Now it’s entirely possible the production team may take the decision to have him wear slightly more than just his pants (as per my mock up above), but I think we can all agree that this would be an editorial mistake.
What’s more I’ve got plenty of other ideas, should someone at Channel 4 be reading. The first and foremost is that one special episode is nowhere near enough! And I’ve decided to back this up with an outline of a second special episode, The Parent Maze. (Where nothing is crystal because you’re no longer allowed nice/smashable things).
Opening sequence – The Descent into Parenthood
Contestants are put into a giant centrifuge-type fairground ride, and spun round in the pitch black to a soundtrack of newborn squawking, with occasional flashes of light and booming snippets of unsolicited advice:
‘You’re going to spoil that baby if you don’t put it down’
‘Just give him a rusk and he’ll sleep through’
‘That baby needs to learn to go to sleep by itself’
‘You’ll never succeed at breastfeeding if you introduce bottles you know’.
This will go some way towards emulating the disorientation that greets all new parents, at which point they’ll be strung onto bungee ropes (fashioned to look like umbilical cords) and launched from the ceiling into an endless abyss, over a vat of mustard-seed-poop-infused bath water.
Here’s the game bit. Also dangling from the ceiling and around the walls are opened-mouthed infants screaming for food. Contestants will be split into Team Breast and Team Bottle. Team Breast can choose to fire their own boobs or wear a lactation vest, while Team Bottle will get formula holsters (opportunity for sponsorship here). They must each aim for the baby’s mouths as they bounce up and down trying not to get diluted baby shit in their hair.
(The original Crystal Maze was not played in opposing teams, but for some reason parents and parenting styles are continually pitted against each other, and Channel 4 love a bit of friction. The losing team will get vilified on Mumsnet and won’t be able to show their faces at baby groups or on the school run for the shame).
The team that gets the most milk in mouths by the time the buzzer goes off is the winner, and David Tenant will mark their scores in a little red book of doom, just like the ones used to track the weight of real-life babies. His glamorous Health Visitor assistant will stand by and occasionally tut. (Perhaps she can be the new ‘Mumsey’, who, if memory serves, was also the least maternal person in the world ever, and also spoke largely in confusing riddles).
Onto the zones!
The Baby Zone
1. Milk challenge
Thought this was over after the first game? Not on your nelly, Kelly! It’s never over. In fact someone from the team will have to come back every 40-45 minutes and do either this game or the original Descent for the entire duration of the the Baby Zone. (After a while a box set of Game of Thrones will be made available to play on a telly in the corner of each room to help alleviate the crushing monotony).
Here’s how it works. The chosen contestant walks into the room to find a massive vat of milk at one end, and a giant baby stomach at the other. In between are a series of pipes going through various chambers. You need to extract enough milk by diagnosing and solving the problem in each chamber to release the door lock. At your disposal are a number of tools – including nipple shields, lanolin, steralising equipment, cabbage leaves, hot and cold compresses and GIN. Four minutes are on the clock.
- Chamber 1: A giant pair of sore nipples. You have to soothe them enough to allow enough milk through to unlock the next chamber.
- Chamber 2: Swollen mastitis tits.
- Chamber 3: Here there’s just a crappy hand pump you have to operate single handed – causing debilitating thumb cramp.
- Chamber 4: Correct the latch on three live nursing mothers! (Apply discretionary gin).
- Chamber 5: Disassemble, wash, and stack 8 different types of bottles into a single steraliser, deploying your dexterity, speed and tessellation skills.
- Camber 6: Make up a day’s worth of bottles using both formula and frozen breast milk. Spillage will result in automatic lock-in!
Team mates are allowed to help by offering advice and encouragement from outside the room, but only through a crackly baby monitor.
It’s a physical one, so the team will have to pick their fastest player, with the strongest stomach and weakest sense of smell. Armed with a random selection of cloths and disposables, they’ve got 3 minutes on the clock to clean, cream and contain 30 wiggling bottoms. Time is deducted for hands and feet in the poo, nappy rash, and sloppy execution with the risk of containment breach.
The participant will be dressed in a white lycra bodysuit, and will lose time for each fresh splatter on their person. They’ll need to duck, dive and danger-roll their way through the room, rather like Catherine Zeta Jones the film Entrapment, but with projectile bodily waste instead of lasers.
Pelvic floor game
One for the ladies! A test of the postnatal pelvic floor strength. The contestant sits on a special sensor underneath a bucket of urine. They must lift their pelvic floor up and away from the sensor pad, and hold it. Urine trickles slowly down into the door mechanism, and the key floats up a tube where it can be reached to unlock the room. If you let go of your pelvic floor, the remaining contents of the original bucket empty onto your head.
Raising your eyebrows results in automatic lock-in.
8 different ‘travel systems’. 4 minutes on the clock. You have to assemble each system into buggy functionality, and then collapse it back to fit into a car. Time deducted for each time you say ‘Fuck’. Instructions are provided, but they are in Chinese and have been scribbled on in wax crayon by a four-year-old Matisse.
This is basically just a massive food fight, involving mostly carrot batons and pureed squash. Think of it like a psychedelic, perma-staining orange version of the famous ‘La Tomatina’ festival. The objective of the game is to insert some food into some babies, who are lined up along a corridor and either strenuously resisting or rather too enthusiastically participating. (The results are largely the same). Basically if you get through to the other end alive and sane you’ve won a crystal.
Sling obstacle course
Team mates must agree whether to go buckles or wrap, front or back carry, and pick their most experienced babywearing member. Once the baby (model, obvs) is in, the contestant must complete a series of obstacles designed to test balance and core strength. There’s probably a balance beam, some army-type tyres, and maybe those giant balls off of Wipeout. All of these must be negotiated while gently jigging the slingee, in a rhythm that must never fall below 70 bounces a minute. Jolting of any sort will set off the hyper-sensitive sensors.
At the end of the course contestants must successfully transfer their sleeping baby from the sling to a cot. If the baby ‘wakes’ at this point it will result in automatic lock-in, during which the contestant must endure the incessant screaming of an under-napped infant.
1. Bedtime ninjas
You’re stuck in a dark room, rigged with boobie traps, squeaky toys and even squeakier floorboards. You have to escape without waking the toddler, who has taken 4 stories, 2 nappy changes, a drink, a snack, endless cuddles, 3 hours, 23 lullabies and extravagant bribes to get to sleep in the first place. If you do make a noise you must flatten yourself to the floor or blend with the shadows to avoid line of sight. Failure will result in being locked in this hell for at least another 4 hours.
Playdate Chinese whispers
Two player game. You’re both strapped onto a giant wheel each. As these turn, you will get to exchange snippets of random conversation, during which you are required to convey key grown-up information not related to childcare, parenting or bodily functions. (!!!!!!)
You are whipped apart constantly as the wheels go round, and must solve (on the move) challenges like stopping a small child eating crap off the floor, kissing bumped body parts better, attempting to consume your own beverage, breaking up fights over toys and sharing, and explaining at length why we don’t throw and/or why we don’t ride the cat.
If player 2 can accurately recall and repeat the information from player 1 after 300 rotations, you’ll be let out of the room.
You must pack 4 bags in 4 minutes to unlock the door. A pile of crap is in the middle of the room, and there are 4 scenarios you have to pack for. The first is a park trip on a slightly rainy Autumn day, with a six month old and a toddler. The second is a summer picnic with two pre-schoolers, with the addition of possible water play. The third is a Sunday dinner at Grandma’s with a newborn and a toddler. The fourth is friend’s wedding, 200 miles away, with a baby and a travel-sick 5 year old.
Failure to remember the requisite number of nappies, costume changes, wipes, nappy bags, snacks, drinks, entertainments and specialist equipment will result in lock-in.
‘Helpful’ advice can be provided by team mates, who will stand by impotently and ask occasionally what you’re getting so stressed about – very much like your other half in daily domestic packing scenarios.
You are given instructions to retrieve a specific and previously unfavoured toy, probably from a party bag or MacDonalds meal 8 months previously, which you fear you might possibly have binned in a midnight toy-cull, from an undisclosed location, on pain of massive freaking toddler meltdown. The door unlocks to reveal a room that looks essentially like a bomb has gone off in a toy shop (or like one child has been left to play unsupervised while you take a shower for approximately 4 whole bloody minutes). 2 minutes on the clock. Good luck.
A logic (HAH!) game of trial, error and elimination. You have various ingredients at your disposal, including ham, cheese, cream cheese, jam, white and brown bread. You have 3 minutes. You must create and arrange your sandwich on the correct colour plate, with the correct crust/no crust choice, cut into the correct square/triangle/finger shape. This must be rushed to a dumb waiter and hoisted up to receive judgement. (Rumour has it the guest toddler for this game is the equally fictitious and capricious progeny of the Banker from Deal or No Deal).
From what comes back – including the screaming – you must deduce what changes you need to make. If more than half of the food is consumed and not mangled, mashed or thrown, the key to unlock the door is released, possibly to a chorus of angels hailing a miracle.
Return to work game
This one probably straddles the baby and toddler zones. The returnee is thrown into a room with 3 minutes on the clock. Here they must dig through piles of clothes to find something vaguely work-worthy. Obviously the clothes are all 1 to 2 sizes too small, require guerilla-ironing, and look shit – as undoubtedly the team mates looking on will inform them. They must then achieve some sort of actual hairstyle (messy mum-buns won’t cut it), find proper footwear (possibly even with a heel), pluck eyebrows and perform other personal deforestation exercises, locate jewellery AWOL for the last 9-18 months, apply foundation over their eye-bags – and then add layer of mascara and a bit of ancient lip gloss.
Next, they must run the gauntlet of sticky hands, toothpaste and snot hurled at them randomly on their way to the exit. All stains must be 80% removed with a baby wipe before David can open the door. The whole game is played to a soundtrack of separation-anxiety howling.
1. Craft/Baking challenge
Yep, it’s time to have creative, interactive and theoretically educational sensory ‘fun’ with small children! David spins the Pinterest Wheel of Misfortune, and picks you out a craft project and a novelty cupcake design. You are also issued with four random children aged between 3 and 5, some of whom are related to each other – or to you – for the purposes of extra bickering.
You will be supplied with completely spurious aprons (crusted together from last time for added reality), plus a myriad of ingredients including toilet rolls, wooden spoons, sequins, scales, pom poms, googly eyes, eggs, flour, cotton wool and butter. It’s your job to sort the frosting from the playdoh, the edible glitter from the glitter glitter, and the PVA glue from the milk.
Points will be deducted for:
- Failure to enforce turn taking
- Egg shell/snot in the bowl
- Glitter in orifices/glue in hair
- Removed aprons
- Flour explosions
- Sloppy mixing/painting
- Consumption of raw egg/craft materials
- Colouring outside the lines
- First degree burns
- Double dipping
- Misuse of scissors
- Pipe cleaner sword fights/stabbings
- Inedible cakes
- Unidentifiable craft sheep/bears/parrots/snowmen
- Consumption of alcohol to numb the pain
- Doing it all yourself because the kids are shit at everything.
The final offerings will be judged by public vote, and/or new Channel 4 signing Paul Hollywood.
Not only do you have to follow the instructions to complete a spurious lego model, the pieces you require can only be retrieved one at a time, across a 10 metre tray of raw lego. Contestants are, obviously, bare footed. A generous 5 minutes for this one.
Here you get to choose your own fate, by picking your own category of imaginative play. Options include Mums and Dads, Doctors and Nurses, Princesses, Octonauts, Paw Patrol, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, or Scooby Doo.
There is no time limit on this one, in fact part of the challenge is that you have to repeat the same scenario – under strict directions – for at least three hours. Deviation from the script you are provided will result in extra time being added ONTO the clock. Attempts at ad-lib, creative direction, diversion or escape, will result in five minutes of Level 2 tantruming, and having to go back to the start of the game. Again.
You must also do all of the voices, on national telly. With David Tennant listening. ***Shudder***
Welcome to childcare! In the infestation challenge room contestants have to eradicate nits and worms, armed with Q tips, a nit comb, a massive bottle of conditioner, and an even bigger bottle of disinfectant. Getting locked in here will result in personal contamination, and you won’t ever be allowed to rejoin the game. Or the real world without a lengthy quarantine.
Soft play challenge
This door basically opens into your average soft play centre on a rainy Saturday morning. You have 4 minutes, and a pair of white socks. You have to rescue a screaming child from an undisclosed location in the maze, which has obviously been designed for someone of around a fifth of your age and body mass. Both of you must reach the door WITH NO TEARS before the time runs out. Your socks will then be swabbed for bacteria, and anything over three trillion microbes will result in automatic lock-in.
(Top tip: Choose your route wisely and avoid the ball pool at all costs).
Potty training game
One that probably sits between the toddler and pre-school zones. Look, I think by this point in proceedings you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen in this room – as have the contestants.
Suffice to say it’s a game of mind-boggling frustration and teeth-gritting endurance, involving gusset scrubbing, mysterious wet patches, mad toilet dashes, pull-up negotiations, bum sniffing and potty-emptying splash-back.
Most of the team are completely broken, and are no longer motivated even by a scantily clad and coyly charming David Tennant. Several are rocking gently in a corner. Others are trying desperately to climb back up the umbilical ropes from the original Descent, which the producers have now coated with real birth mucus to prevent traction. Some of the men are seriously considering letting Channel 4 take them away for live vasectomies for the next series of Embarrassing Bodies – or the new-look, revamped Bake Off. Whatever. They don’t give a shit, anymore.
The Crystal Dome
For those that DO make it to the end, there’s the final challenge – the legendary Crystal Dome! I’m sure this is still somewhere in the props department, and for the purposes of the Parent Maze it will be obscured up to 2 feet high by sticky handprints and miscellaneous smears. Here the £9k university fees for each contestant’s offspring is blown around the dome in £50 notes, for an added frisson of reality and drama. When the buzzer goes, David Tennant tucks wads of notes into his own pants as he counts it out. (Hopefully).
It occurs to me looking back over the games that The Parent Maze appears to be somewhat messier and grosser than the original Crystal Maze. That pretty much reflects life post-children though, doesn’t it? Anyhoo – I think it’s very clear that once they read this Channel 4 will be calling for applications very shortly. I for one am IN.
Who’s with me?????