The Adventure Game

The Adventure Game

Infobox Television
show_name = The Adventure Game

caption =
format = Children's Game Show
picture_format = 4:3
runtime = 25-45 minutes
creator =
starring = Moira Stuart (Darong - Series 1) Ian Messiter (The Rangdo of Arg ("Uncle") - Series 1) Chairman Gradwell (Gnoard - Series 1, 2 & 3) Christopher Leaver (Gandor the Butler - all series) Bill Homewood (Rongad (Dagnor) - Series 3 & 4) Sarah Lam (Dorgan - Series 4)
channel = BBC1 (Original broadcasts - Series 1) (Repeat broadcasts - Series 2) BBC2 (Repeat broadcasts - Series 1 & 3) (Original broadcasts - Series 2 - 4)
first_aired = 24 May, 1980
last_aired = 18 February, 1986
num_series = 4
num_episodes = 22
country = UK
producer =
related =
imdb_id =

"The Adventure Game" was a game show, aimed at children but with an adult following, which was originally broadcast on UK television channels BBC1 and BBC2 between 24 May, 1980 and 18 February, 1986. The story in each show was that the two celebrity contestants and a member of the public had travelled by space ship to the planet Arg. Their overall task varied with each series. For example, the team might be charged with finding a crystal needed to power their ship to return to Earth. The programme is often considered to have been a forerunner of "The Crystal Maze".

The programme came about because Patrick Dowling (who also introduced episodes of series 2) had an interest in Dungeons and Dragons and wanted to televise a show that would capture the mood. The programme shares a similar sci-fi feel to the work of Douglas Adams. Patrick asked Douglas Adams to write the show but Douglas had already agreed to write a TV series of his own radio show "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". The first two series were written and produced by Patrick Dowling and directed by Ian Oliver. The final two series were written and produced by Ian Oliver after Patrick had retired from the BBC.

The characters

Arg was inhabited by shapeshifting dragons known as Argonds. As a reference to this, most proper nouns in the programme, including "Argond", were anagrams of the word "dragon". All Argonds shifted shape within the first few minutes before the contestants arrived, most to human form to avoid scaring them.

Notable characters within the game included:
* The "Rangdo", who was the ruler of planet Arg and referred to as 'Uncle' by the other Argonds. In the first series, his human form was played by Ian Messiter, who appeared as an old professor in a velvet jacket, but in later series he became the only one of the Argonds not to appear as a dragon. In series 2 and 3, he became an aspidistra atop an elegant plant stand; he could move around the room and roared and shook when he was angry (the Rangdo was controlled by Kenny Baker, who was also responsible for R2-D2). Any human meeting the Rangdo had immediately to placate him with a bow or curtsey while uttering the phrase "Gronda!, Gronda!". In the last series, the Rangdo changed into a teapot instead, spouting steam when displeased.
* "Darong" (series 1, played by actress Moira Stuart, who later became a BBC newsreader).
* "Gnoard" (series 1 - 3, played by Charmian Gradwell), whose job it was to explain the initial stages of the game to the contestants.
* "Dorgan" (series 4, played by Sarah Lam), who took over from Gnoard in the final season.
* "Gandor" (series 1 - 4, played by Chris Lever), an ancient, half-deaf butler who took the contestants through most of the puzzles and refereed the Vortex and Drogna games. He could only hear when he was wearing his glasses, which he continually (and conveniently) misplaced.
* "Rongad" (series 3 & 4, played by Bill Homewood), because he was Australian, spoke English backwards and could only understand the contestants if they did the same. His Australian accent was a mild clue to help the contestants realise he was speaking backwards. Noted for habitually singing "Waltzing Matilda" in reverse, and exclamations of "Doog yrev!" when the contestants did well.
* Lesley Judd, known as "the Mole" (series 2), who pretended to be one of the regular contestants but was actually working against them. She had been a genuine contestant in the first series.

The look of the characters in Argond form was quite different in each of the series:

* Series 1: they looked like dragons, and each was rather distinct
* Series 2: they didn't look much like dragons, but were furry, with no tails and mask-like faces, and primarily differed in colour
* Series 3 & 4: they returned to looking like dragons, with ruffs, and were almost identical to each other

Notable contestants included Keith Chegwin, Sue Cook, astronomer Heather Couper, John Craven, Paul Darrow, Noel Edmonds, Sarah Greene, Bonnie Langford and Richard Stilgoe.

The credits for the series listed the human characters as being played by Argonds, rather than the other way round.

Common tasks

The contestants had to complete a number of tasks in order to achieve their overall goal (e.g. regain their crystal and return to their ship). Many tasks involved the "drogna", a small transparent plastic disc containing a solid geometric figure, which was the currency of Arg. The value of a drogna was its numbered position in the visible spectrum multiplied by the number of sides of the figure. For example, a red circle is worth one unit, an orange circle is worth two units, a red triangle and a yellow circle are both worth three, and so on.

Tasks which often appeared included:

* A simple computer game where "Dogran" the 'dog' had to be guided around a maze.

* Belts around the contestants' waists attached to cords tying them to the wall; there was a predictable function governing the maximum distances of all the cords, which had to be discovered by induction.

* The Drogna Game, which came in the middle of the programme, giving the contestants their opportunity to regain the crystal. The game is played by two players: one would be a contestant and the other would be a creature known as the Red Salamander of Zardil. This game became so popular that Acornsoft released a version for the BBC Micro home computer.
** The floor is marked out with symbols similar to those described above on drognas; the players stand at opposite sides of the board, and the crystal is placed in the centre.
** There is a rule determining whether a user is allowed to move from a particular drogna to another drogna. (One common example is: A player may move to any drogna with the same colour or shape as the one on which they started the turn. For example, you may move from a red triangle to any red shape or a triangle of any colour.)
** A player may only move to an adjacent drogna. However, a player may move across multiple drognas in one turn provided they "all" meet the given criteria. Hence, the drogna on which the player started the turn is not necessarily the drogna they have immediately left.
** If a player breaks the movement rule, the crystal retracts such that it cannot be taken.
** If a player becomes adjacent to the crystal and it is not taken or retracted, the player may take the crystal.
** If, during the move of the player not carrying the crystal, that player can legally step onto a drogna currently occupied by the player holding the crystal, they may take the crystal from their opponent. This is known as the Hargreaves Rule.
** A player wins by reaching the edge of the board while carrying the crystal.

* How many Argons around the pond. This was a game played just before the Vortex (possibly a time filler, if the contestants completed the whole game too fast, as it was not always played every show) The winner(s) (everyone had a chance to win) received a "Green Cheese roll" to triumphant fanfare. This "Green cheese roll" was of use when playing the Vortex (see below). "Gandor" would compere the game, it would start on a table with a number of "drogna" inside a velvet bag with draw strings. He would shake the bag and withdraw some drogna and place them on the table, then asking the first contestant "How many Argons are around the pond?" The contestants would start by adding the sides or points of the solid geometric figure that the drogna's had and fail to guess the right number. The key was that Gandor would place his fingers on the table top as he said "How many Argons are around the pond?" The number of fingers he would place down on the table would be the correct answer. Most people did not guess the answer or they would just happen to get it right by mistake.

* The Vortex (series 2 - 4). This was the last task in the programme. To return to their ship, the players had to jump between a grid of points, taking turns with the Vortex, another "player" (shown by a video effect generated pulsating column in series 2, and a computer-generated flashing column in series 3 & 4). If the human player jumped into the Vortex (which they could not see), it would explode and the human, who would lose the game, was said to have been "evaporated", meaning a long trip back home which had to be walked by foot along the interplanetary highway (Earth is a long way from Arg!). The important difficulty was that the human player could not see the position of the Vortex on the grid. Players would sometimes be permitted to buy "Green cheese rolls" or food with their leftover drognas, and this food could be thrown onto suspect squares to test for the presence of the Vortex. Players would sometimes put their Arg Crystal down to test the suspect square, except the Arg Crystal was never evaporated and not a good indicator of the vortex's position. Milk used in this way would, of course, become evaporated milk.


Where known, and applicable, the contestants are listed below in the order in which they played the Vortex game: [E] = evaporated, [S] = survived, [n/a] = didn't play.

"Note": The final game of series 1 was not the Vortex - The travellers had to recross a grid of different coloured shapes in a particular path or they would be "vaporised". Where known, the contestants are listed in order in which they crossed and if they were Vaporised [V] or Survived [S] .

eries 1

Originally broadcast in 1980 on BBC1 on Saturday mornings. Repeated in 1980 on BBC2 on Saturday mid-afternoons.

*Episode 1: 24 May 1980, 9:29am-9:55am (repeated 27 September 1980, 3:12pm-3:38pm); 26 minutes; Elizabeth Estensen [S] , Fred Harris [S] , Mark Dugdale [S]
*Episode 2: 31 May 1980, 9:32am-10:09am (repeated 4 October 1980, 4:30pm-5:07pm); 37 minutes; Liza Goddard, Michael Rodd, Stephen Cox
*Episode 3: 7 June 1980, 9:46am-10:23am (repeated 11 October 1980, 4:42pm-5:19pm); 37 minutes; Pat Cater [V] , Maggie Philbin [V] , James Burke [V]
*Episode 4: 14 June 1980, 9:35am-10:04am (repeated 18 October 1980, 4:00pm-4:29pm); 29 minutes; Denise Coffey, Dr. Garry Hunt, Toby Freeman [final game not played]
*Episode 5: 21 June 1980, 9:09am-9:54am (repeated 25 October 1980, 3:40pm-4:25pm); 45 minutes; Lesley Judd [V] , Robert Malos [V] , Paul Darrow [V]

eries 2

Originally broadcast in 1981 on BBC2 on Monday early-evenings. Repeated in 1982 on BBC1 on Friday late-afternoons.

*Episode 1: 2 November 1981, 6:04pm-6:49pm (repeated 28 May 1982, 4:53pm-5:38pm); 45 minutes; Graeme Garden [n/a] , Carol Chell [E] , Nicolas Hammond [E]
*Episode 2: 9 November 1981, 6:04pm-6:49pm (repeated 4 June 1982, 4:52pm-5:37pm); 45 minutes; Madeline Smith [E] , David Yip [E] , Derek Gale [n/a]
*Episode 3: 16 November 1981, 6:05pm-6:50pm (repeated 11 June 1982, 5:52pm-6:37pm); 45 minutes; David Singmaster [S] , Sue Cook [E] , Philip Sheppard [S]
*Episode 4: 23 November 1981, 6:05pm-6:49pm (repeated 18 June 1982, 4:54pm-5:38pm); 44 minutes; Tessa Hamp, Nerys Hughes, Derek Griffiths
*Episode 5: 30 November 1981, 6:08pm-6:53pm (repeated 25 June 1982, 4:53pm-5:38pm); 45 minutes; John Craven, Bill Green, Kirsty Miller

eries 3

Originally broadcast in 1984 on BBC2 on Thursday early-evenings. Repeated in 1985 on BBC2 on Thursday early-evenings.

*Episode 1: 2 February 1984, 5:39pm-6:18pm (repeated 5 September 1985, 6:49pm-7:28pm); 39 minutes; Sarah Greene, Anne Miller, Richard Stilgoe
*Episode 2: 9 February 1984, 5:40pm-6:18pm (repeated 12 September 1985, 6:50pm-7:28pm); 38 minutes; Sue Nicholls, Duncan Goodhew, Emma Disley.
*Episode 3: 16 February 1984, 5:39pm-6:19pm (repeated 19 September 1985, 6:49pm-7:29pm); 40 minutes; Adam Tandy [E] , Sandra Dickinson [E] , Chris Serle [n/a - was evaporated earlier for displeasing the Rangdo by singing a ballad]
*Episode 4: 23 February 1984, 5:40pm-6:19pm (repeated 26 September 1985, 6:50pm-7:29pm); 39 minutes; Paul McDowell, Bonnie Langford [E] , Christopher Hughes [n/a - was evaporated earlier by the Rangdo when he presented His Royal Highness with an arm band.]
*Episode 5: 1 March 1984, 5:39pm-6:18pm (repeated 3 October 1985, 6:49pm-7:28pm); 39 minutes; Janet Fielding [E] , Nigel Crocket [S] , Neil Adams [n/a - was evaporated earlier by the Rangdo when he presented His Royal Highness with salt, which annoyed him.]
*Episode 6: 8 March 1984, 5:40pm-6:25pm (repeated 10 October 1985, 6:49pm-7:34pm); 45 minutes; Fern Britton [E] , Noel Edmonds, Ray Virr

eries 4

Originally broadcast in 1986 on BBC2 on Tuesday early-evenings. Repeated in recent years on the digital TV channel Challenge.

*Episode 1: 7 January 1986, 6:49pm-7:28pm; 39 minutes; Sheelagh Gilbey [S] , Roy Kane [E] , Ian McNaught-Davis [S]
*Episode 2: 14 January 1986, 6:50pm-7:29pm; 39 minutes; Johnny Ball [E] , Barbara Lott [E] , Liz Hobbs [E]
*Episode 3: 21 January 1986, 6:49pm-7:28pm; 39 minutes; David Sandeman [E] , Fiona Kennedy [E] , Ian McCaskill [S]
*Episode 4: 4 February 1986, 6:52pm-7:30pm; 38 minutes; Prof. Heinz Wolff [S] , Deborah Leigh Hall [E] , Ruth Madoc [S]
*Episode 5: 11 February 1986, 6:50pm-7:28pm; 38 minutes; Joanna Munro [S] , Val Prince [S] , George Layton [S]
*Episode 6: 18 February 1986, 6:49pm-7:28pm; 39 minutes; Heather Couper [E] , Keith Chegwin [E] , Adam Gilbey [E] (The broadcast of this episode was postponed from 28 January 1986 due to coverage of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.)

ignature tune

*Series 1, 3 & 4: Duo In G Opus 34, composed by Ferdinando Carulli and performed by Julian Bream and John Williams
*Series 2: Norwegian Dance Opus 35, composed by Edvard Grieg and performed by a brass band

Missing episodes

Following a mass wiping of children's television programmes in the early 1990s [ [ Of Finger Mice and Mr Men - The Story of Watch With Mother] ] no copies of the following episodes were present in the BBC's archives:

*Series 1, Episode 2 - Saturday 31 May 1980. Liza Goddard, Michael Rodd, Stephen Cox.
*Series 1, Episode 5* - Saturday 21 June 1980. Paul Darrow, Lesley Judd, Robert Malos.
*Series 2, Episode 2* - Monday 9 November 1981. Madeline Smith, David Yip, Derek Gale.
*Series 2, Episode 4 - Monday 23 November 1981. Tessa Hamp, Nerys Hughes, Derek Griffiths.

*Off air recordings of these episodes have been returned to the BBC (they would still be interested in obtaining better quality versions).


External links

* [ "The Adventure Game"] at
*imdb title|0283701
* [ "The Adventure Game"] at
* [ Interview with the show's creators]
* [ "The Adventure Game"] at []
* [ The Vortex] an Internet Explorer only Javascript version of the Vortex game where you can play as Keith Chegwin.
* [ Drogna game on the BBC Micro]

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