Gordon Burns (1977–1995)
Penny Smith (1995)
Ben Shephard (2009–2010)
Broadcast (ITV)
The Krypton Factor (1977)
The Krypton Factor (1983)
The Krypton Factor (1984)
The Krypton Factor (1986)
The Krypton Factor (1992)
The Krypton Factor (1995)
7 September 1977 – 20 November 1995
The Krypton Factor (2009)
1 January 2009 – 9 March 2010
Granada Television (1977–1995)
ITV Productions (2009)
ITV Studios (2010)

The Krypton Factor was a tournament-typed game show where contestants were tested on their mental ability and physical skill, all while trying to score points (aka The Krypton Factor). Four contestants appeared in each edition.


Original SeriesEdit

The first series of the show was shown on Wednesdays; it was presented by Gordon Burns and didn't have a studio audience. It was then on Fridays for two years before arriving on Mondays in 1980. Up to and including the 1979 series, Gordon Burns would be seen stood next to the scoreboard before being given a desk to sit behind from 1980 onwards (he would be seen sat next to the scoreboard for the 1980 and 1981 series before taking his traditional place in front of the audience and facing the contestants for the series which followed). In the first few series, there were no groups and eight heats, the winner of each advancing to a semi-final. The top two of each semi-final qualified for the Grand Final.

From 1981 to 1985, each series had twelve heats, from which each winner along with the top four runners-up progressed to the four semi-finals, the winners of which competed in the Grand Final. In 1986 and in 1987, the series was divided into four groups (A, B, C, and D). Each group consisted of three heats, with the winner of each heat and the highest scoring runner up of the heats within a group making it to the group final. The winner of each group final would qualify for the grand final. From 1988 to 1995, the series had 13 episodes, and only had three groups (A, B, and C). The highest scoring runner-up from the group finals would then go through to the Grand Final.

In 2009 and 2010, each series had seven heats and the winners of which in addition to the highest runner-up of the heats would qualify for the two semi-finals, the winners of which in addition to the top two overall runners-up advancing to the Grand Final. The overall winner of the Grand Final would receive a bronze trophy and would traditionally be titled as Superperson of the Year.

Unusually, and possibly uniquely for the time, until 1993 (like the BBC), the series had no advert break in the middle even though it was on ITV in a primetime 7pm slot. This explains why some of the elements (most notably, the time for the quiz) were shortened in later series.

In the 1991 series, for two weeks in a row, contestants Tony Hetherington and Paul Evans won all of the first five rounds in their heats, scoring 50 points; in addition, Hetherington set an all-time record of 62 points. They both later met in the same Group Final, in which Evans won and Hetherington qualified as the Highest Scoring Runner-Up, and went on to win the Grand Final.

In 1995, the show was heavily revamped, including the introduction of co-host Penny Smith. In that series, the intelligence round was dropped, first round being physical ability with the rules in each round changed dramatically, with the exception of General Knowledge. The second half of the show was a "super round" which included a 3D maze, code cracking and a race up Mount Krypton, with points accumulated being exchanged for equipment to assist the contestants with the challenge. While some liked this change, other viewers felt that getting rid of the Intelligence round was a sign of dumbing down and that changing the format so dramatically was a mistake.


Since its cancellation in 1995, there had been persistent rumours of a revival on the BBC. In April 2005, it was widely reported that the BBC would be going ahead with a revival. However, the source of this story turned out to be a misinterpretation of comments by Wayne Garvie, head of BBC's Entertainment Group (and previously the last producer on The Krypton Factor) naming it as the next "TV gem" that "should" (rather than would) be revived.

On 24 September 2008, Broadcast reported that ITV was expected to commission a new series within weeks. On 26 September 2008, the comeback of The Krypton Factor was confirmed. This was facilitated by business software provider Sage UK Ltd. As part of their wider Business Brains campaign, The Sage Group funded the return of the show to ITV primetime making it the biggest advertiser funded programme of its kind. In November it was confirmed that it would be hosted by Ben Shephard. The first episode of the new series was shown on Thursday 1 January 2009 at 7.30pm and ran for 10 consecutive weeks. The new series is based on the original five-round format of the show (rather than the revamp brought in for the 18th season in 1995), with every round being "brought bang up-to-date" and features "state-of-the-art" technology. The series was recorded at Granada Studios in Manchester from 7–10 December 2008. It was filmed in London for the 2010 series, which used a four-round format, as the Intelligence round was dropped.


During the original series, the rounds were usually in the same order as below, with exception of the 1995 series (see history). However, in the earlier series, there was only five rounds, as Response had yet to be introduced; this round was also dropped for the 2009 revival.

In all rounds except the final round, 10 points were awarded to the winner, then 6 (8 in early series), 4 and 2 to the remaining contestants. In the event of a tie, all tied players would receive the score for the higher place — in an extreme case, if three contestants tied with the highest score, they would all receive 10 points, with just 2 points for the unlucky fourth contestant. In the Mental Agility and Observation rounds, the contestant who answered faster would sometimes be awarded the higher place; in other cases, a tiebreaker question was used. On rare occasions, an Observation round would have the players answer a five-part question, such as "Name the five continuity errors in the film clip," and players would receive 2 points for each correct answer.

From 1986 to 1991, each round was introduced by the distinctive K logo, which would morph into a symbol for the round. A similar version of this was used in the 2009 revival.


This round only took place in the first series, to be replaced with Mental Agility. In it, the players were tested on their creativity by having to perform a task such as re-writing a nursery rhyme as a news story. A focus group would then vote on the best effort.

Mental AgilityEdit

First played in the second series, this often took the form of a memory test (though other versions would require mental computation of time and date differences, or to add up a sequence of numbers and return the number which, when added to that sum, gave a pre-determined answer). The contestants frequently had to memorize a sequence and then answer a series of progressively more complicated questions. For instance, if the sequence to be memorized was a series of coloured blocks, the questions might start as "What is the colour of the third block from the left?" and progress to "What is the colour of the block two to the left of the block to the right of the green block?". Other forms of memory test might require contestants to remember a phrase or proverb and answer a series of questions about it (e.g. "What was the fifth letter of the fourth word?" or "Spell the last word backwards"). In the early series, the contestants were shown 9 images along with a statement read to them by Charles Foster and the contestants had to pick which 4 images were correct and they scored 2 points for each correctly identified image, with a maximum ten points for all four. In the semi-finals, this would change to showing two sequences in turn and asking each player a 3-point question about each sequence. A third sequence was then shown to all players at once and one toss-up question, worth four points, was open to all players on the buzzer. If a player jumped in with the incorrect answer, that player was not penalized and any other player could jump in. Then, until 1987, the Mental Agility round consisted of a "knock-out" format, where contestants were asked increasingly difficult questions in turn and eliminated for wrong answers. Occasionally, this alternated with a 50-second "speed test" where each player had to come up with as many correct answers as possible in 50 seconds, and could pass on any of them. Only if they answered incorrectly would they be informed of it, possibly as to discourage guesswork.

From 1988 onward, the Mental Agility round consisted entirely of 40-second speed tests, and from 1991 to 1993, ties were broken by the amount of time it took each player to achieve their score. In the 1995 series, a set of four images (such as numbers, letters, or dates) were shown to the players, who were all read a statement pertaining to one or two of the images, and the contestants had to touch the correct image(s) on their screen. The monitors were placed on a rotating turntable, in order to increase the difficulty of being the first to answer. This round lasted for two minutes, with the set of images changing every eight questions. Only the first player to provide a correct answer would score for that answer, with answering time used to break ties.

This round was originally conducted with all contestants wearing headphones to prevent the other participants from hearing their competitors' answers. However, from the 1991 series, each contestant came on individually to perform their test in front of the audience before sitting down in their respective places behind them, no headphones were worn.

In the 2009 revival, the Mental Agility round followed the 1988 format, only using the tiebreaker rules when there is a tie for first place. Contestants individually completed this round in an isolation booth referred to as "The Kube" and their heart rates were also measured while they took this test. The time each contestant had to answer as many questions correctly as possible was increased from 40 to 45 seconds for the 2010 version, and the tiebreak rule from 1991 returned.

Some of the mental agility games were clearly ridiculous.


The Response round was introduced by new producer Geoff Moore for the 1986 and 1987 series. In 1987, the Response round in the initial heats was a combination of a race between the contestants using double-odometer bicycles, and a video wall which would display random numbers of coloured blocks; the contestants were required to press one of four coloured buttons corresponding to the highest number of blocks of any one colour being displayed. This alternated with a test in which the contestants had to walk a balance beam to the first challenge - placing coloured wooden blocks into frames either side of them, swinging from side to side in doing so (this was known as the Fleischmann Flexibility Tests). They then had to run across a balance beam linked to the Minnesota Manual Dexterity Test, where they had to take a shape and place it into a corresponding space. After a final balance beam, they would jump onto their respective mat to finish the race. The 1986 series consisted of the contestants competing in twos to perform first the Minnesota Manual Dexterity test (moving differently coloured cylinders from one side to the other), then running over to perform the Fleischmann Flexibility Test and then the final test, which involved hitting the relevant button whenever a colour flashed up on the screen (only one colour at a time in this case).

From the later heats in the 1986 and 1987 series, this consisted of each player taking turns on a flight simulator and being marked by an actual flight instructor. The 1987 series won the prestigious Premio Ondas - Spanish Television Award for Entertainment. (Prior to 1988, the simulator appeared in some of the episodes, but then became a permanent fixture; because of this, the round was pre-recorded with the contestants watching their own performance.) In 1988, the contestants had to land a BAe 146 in the heats, a Harrier Jump Jet in the Group Finals and a Sea King on an aircraft carrier in the Grand Final (recorded at Culdrose Navy base in Helston, Cornwall). In 1989, the heats used three different simulators. The first heat in each group required the contestants to land Concorde, the second heat required the contestants to land a Red Arrow, and the third heat required them to land a Boeing 737. The group finals required the contestants to land the Sea King on an aircraft carrier. The Grand Final of the 1989 series saw the contestants use a Space Shuttle simulator in California. In 1990, the contestants landed Concorde in the heats, the Sea King on an aircraft carrier in the group final and in the Grand Final, the contestants were in the Sea King again, but this time they used the simulator in a rescue mission. They started from an oil rig (carrying an injured passenger), and had to take off from the oil rig and land on the aircraft carrier. From 1991 to 1993, the heats and group finals were the same; Boeing 737 in the heats and the Sea King in the group finals. The 1991 Grand Final involved the contestants using a Nimrod simulator in a refuelling mission involving a Hercules aircraft. The 1992 and 1993 grand finals required the contestants to land a real plane. In 1995, all tests involved the Red Arrows flight simulator and the simulator scored each player automatically.

The 2009 revival of the show did not include this round.


This round involved watching a specially made video clip or a clip from an ITV drama series that was being broadcast at the time. In the earliest series, contestants were asked questions on the clip (first they were asked two two-point questions in turn, followed by a series of four one-point toss-up questions open to all players), this being followed by an identity parade where they each had to identify one of the actors from a lineup of nine for two points. From 1986 to 1988, contestants were shown a clip twice and asked to spot five differences between two similar clips (six differences in 1988) and in 1986 and 1987, each player earned two points for each correctly identified difference. Many of the sequences recorded for the 1988 series were written by, and featured, Andrew O'Connor. From the 1989 and 1990 series, contestants were invited to spot six continuity errors (five in 1990) contained in one single clip. Steve Coogan starred in many of the sequences featured in the 1989 series. From 1991 to 1993, contestants answered six multiple-choice questions (five in 1993) relating to the clip (e.g. "What did he say when he entered the room?" or "What was on the table?"), and the time used to provide the correct answers was used to break ties.

Sometimes, serials were used; such as 1990's Sam Smith: Private Detective (starring Gwyneth Strong), which saw the female detective investigating rather silly cases (which often featured her young chubby nephew, Wallace). Some guests in then Sam Smith stories included Derek Griffiths, Matthew Kelly and Keith Chegwin, who all appeared in the final installment of the series. The 1991 series featured the saga Where is Don Day? starring Tony Robinson and Michelle Collins, about a bank manager whose dull life is suddenly changed when he accidentally becomes involved in a robbery from his own bank. 1992 saw Dead Ringer starring Tony Slattery; a thriller about a man suffering from amnesia trying to discover who he really is, whilst being hunted down by a hitman named Preston, played by Roger Lloyd-Pack. In 1993, the round featured Roy Barraclough and Annabel Giles in a collection of investigative police stories, with Barraclough playing a retired police detective. In 1995, short computer-animated segments commissioned from Bournemouth University's Department of Media Production were used for the test, and only five questions were asked. As with Mental Agility round, answers were provided via touch screen monitors, placed on a rotating turntable with Penny walking around the turntable asking the questions.

In the 2009 revival, each contestant was asked one individual question, then four further questions were asked on the buzzer. If a player answered incorrectly, one more player could buzz in, but there were no penalties for a wrong answer. Contestants were ranked on how many correct answers, and if two or more players were tied they each received the same number of points. The exception to this was when there was a tie for the most correct answers. In this case, an extra question was asked to break the tie. In the 2010 version, each player was asked two questions in turn, and the contestants were awarded two points for a correct answer; however, like General Knowledge, one point was deducted away for a wrong answer, and the next player to jump in had a chance to steal. The point totals for this round were then used to rank each player.

Physical AbilityEdit

Probably the most memorable of the rounds, in the original series, this pre-recorded segment involved the contestants racing to complete an army assault course located at Holcombe Moor in Bury, Greater Manchester. This round typically included 20 obstacles including vertical and flat cargo nets, rope swings, water jumps, Burma rope bridges, and a rope slide into water. Gordon Burns stated in some of the episodes that the contestants trained for the assault course in the Physical Ability round for up to five weeks in advance.

In this round, female contestants were allowed a head start over their male competitors, and in early series, contestants were given staggered starts to the assault course; following practice sessions with army officers, the contestant of the weakest physical ability would set off first, followed by the contestant of the third strongest physical ability, followed by the contestant of the second strongest physical ability, leaving the contestant of the strongest physical ability to start last. The physical ability criteria were established from a simple formula derived from age of the contestant and the gender. Typically, in 1980, this meant two seconds per year of age difference and a 40-second advantage for female competitors. In the 1980 semi-final, the youngest competitor, Ted Stockton, (a taxi driver, aged 25) started 56 seconds after the only female semifinalist who was 33. The age-based calculation was later abolished. In 1995, the Physical Ability round was moved to the start of the show as the first round and all contestants started at the same time, and were ranked according to how far ahead each had come of an individual "par time" based on age and sex.

The 1990 series saw many of the metal obstacles on the course replaced by wooden substitutes, including a wooden S-bend frame contestants had to descend. One of the female contestants (Judith Stafford) in 1989 broke her ankle after landing badly on one of the obstacles (near the end of the course), but managed to complete the rest of the course and finish in third place. Another female contestant, (this time in 1987) Sue Dandy completed the course despite having torn ligaments in her leg while coming out of a narrow, upward-sloping tunnel (In 1982, a male contestant cut his forehead on this obstacle). A male contestant (Paul Evans) in 1991 who fell from the top of the A-frame net managed to not only complete the course but actually win the round despite suffering from shock as a result of his fall. Another male contestant (Jackie Harte), this time in 1992, broke the safety rules when he went down the aerial slide not placing his feet in the water. Another male contestant (Jon Johnson), this time in 1993, fell off the Burma rope ridge towards the end of the course, but luckily, he landed in the net below and was able to finish in second place. For at least some series (around 1986-88), the fastest man and fastest woman on the assault course both received a special trophy. Winners include: Barbara Murray and Stuart Worthington (1986), Marian Chanter and Ted Daszkiewicz (1987), Elizabeth Hayward and Alan Robbie (1988).

The 2009 revival used a new assault course which only had room for two contestants at a time. The time it took each contestant to complete the course was recorded, and revealed when the main part of the show was recorded. Female contestants had 45 seconds deducted from their time. The assault course was once again changed for the 2010 version, with all four contestants competing at the same time.


A two or three-dimensional puzzle where shapes had to be put together to fill a rectangular grid or make a bigger shape was the basis for this round. Most of these were devised by Dr. Gerry Wickham of the University of Manchester's School of Mathematics. As the contestants performed the task, presenter Gordon Burns provided a commentary to viewers at home on the contestant's progress and advice on how to solve the puzzle.

It is reputed that some of the intelligence tests featured took contestants hours to solve, with edited highlights of their performance in the round shown on the programme. At least one contestant was moved to tears by the difficulty of the puzzles. In 1990, Gordon Burns told contestants that over the years, some of the tests had taken 15 or 20 minutes to complete, but that in one programme in the 1980 series, when the competitors' tables had been placed too close together for this round, two competitors accidentally picked up pieces from each other's table, making it impossible to complete the puzzle, and nearly an hour went by as they vainly attempted to finish, before the problem was realised. This round was eliminated from the 1995 series.

The 2009 revival placed a time limit for completion, and after the time ran out, the contestants who had not finished were ranked according to the progress they had made on the puzzle. This round was removed (again) in the 2010 series.

General KnowledgeEdit

A quick-fire question round with a varied time limit (which depended on the year). This final round was conducted using a side shot of the four contestants lit in profile. A feature of this round was that, as each question was answered, the next question contained either the answer to the last question, a word from the last answer, or a word that sounded like it. Until 1986, the General Knowledge round was in two stages: the first stage had the contestants answering three general knowledge questions each from the same set of categories with 2 points for each correct answer, then it was on to stage 2 which was the quick-fire stage, which lasted 90 seconds, with one point added for a correct answer and one point deducted for an incorrect response or none at all, and only one player could answer each question. In 1986 and 1987, the round lasted 100 seconds and each correct answer was worth one point, while each answer cost a point. In 1988 the values changed to +/- 2 points, and the time was reduced to 90 seconds (100 in 1989, and 75 in 1993 and 1995). In 2009, the round lasted 70 seconds, and a correct answer was worth two points while an incorrect answer cost one point. The player with the highest Krypton Factor won the game, and in the event of a tie, the tied players were asked further questions until the tie was broken. In the 2010 series, time was increased from 70 seconds to 90 seconds.

Super RoundEdit

In 1995, the game was decided by a "Super Round," a race that encompassed all abilities from the previous rounds. At the start of the round, players were shown five coloured circles, each with a letter or number (and each colour representing which order the contestant of that corresponding colour had to follow it in), and the players had to memorize the sequence before making a parachute jump down 50 feet to the floor. They then entered the Kryptic Rings, a three-dimensional maze of interlocking rings with numbered and lettered junctions where following and correctly interpreting the sequence would lead each player to their correct exit. Each exit was marked with a letter, which they would memorize on their way to the next part of the race, the Laser Matrix, preceded by a computer where each player had to log in by hitting the letter key matching their exit. Each player then had to type in four words with a common thread, however each key corresponded to a different letter according to a code (such as each key giving the preceding letter). After cracking the code and typing in the four words, each player had to cross a corridor of shifting laser beams, where breaking each beam resulted in a seven-second penalty. Once out, the players entered the Response Revolve, a rotating cylinder where each player had to collect six batons of their colour from their holds, however, each baton could only be removed when a light by the baton flashed, and all lights flashed according to a sequence. Once all six batons were out and placed in the player's pedestal, each player had to run to the Krypton Mountain, where they first had to build a four-piece ladder, which they ascended before making a vertical climb up the Krypton Mountain, completing the race by grabbing a letter K of their colour at the top of the Krypton Mountain.

The players started at the same time and place, and used their points from the first five rounds to buy advantages, such as directional arrows in the Rings, completed words at the computer (in Heat 2 of Group C, an easier path through the Laser Matrix), batons already removed from the Response Revolve, or ladder pieces already built. The value of each advantage varied with each show. The player who won the Super Round won the game, and completion time was used to determine who held the wild card spot.

The Super Round was also notable for the occurrence of cheating; in Group B, two contestants (both wearing yellow) were disqualified for breaking the rules of the Super Round. Heat 1 contestant Simon Evans was disqualified as he had not completely finished all four words at the Laser Matrix computer (having produced a "j" instead of an "h" in the third word) yet continuing through the rest of the round regardless (Penny told him about his disqualification at the top of the Krypton Mountain) and in Heat 2 the following week, contestant Alison Riley was disqualified as she had forcibly pulled out batons from the Response Revolve when their adjacent lights weren't flashing and unlike Evans, she was edited out of the remainder of the round after she had begun her ascent on the ladder and a replay was shown of her illegal move. As a result of this, Simon Evans and Alison Riley were the only two contestants in the Krypton Factor's history to be disqualified.


Jeremy Fox

See AlsoEdit

Young Krypton

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