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Mastermind Experiences

By Jon Preddle

I have been asked by Andrew to talk about my experiences of appearing on Mastermind. So without boring you...

Being Doctor Who's anniversary year, I thought I would do something special to promote the show. When the advertisement for Mastermind 1988 appeared on TV in January, I sent off for an application form. I had previously thought about going on the show but had never taken it any further.

The application arrived and asked various things. One interesting question asked what reference books related to my subject I was currently reading. A-ha, I thought, they want sources for questions, so I put down A Celebration and then set out to learn the book off by heart.

My audition was arranged for 1 March at the TVNZ house in Grey Lynn. Here Jacqui Blacklock asked me ten Doctor Who questions and ten General Knowledge (GK).

I can't remember the GK questions but the Doctor Who ones were:
1) What does TARDIS stand for? - yeap, seriously!!
2) Who played the second Doctor?
3) What planet did the Hand of Eldrad come from? (Kastria)
4) Where did the TARDIS land in The Enemy of the World? (An Australian beach)
5) Why did the giant spiders seek the Doctor? (He had stolen their blue crystal)
6) What did Susan call the Doctor? (Grandfather)
7) Who created the Daleks? (Terry Nation)
8) What was special about the Autons' hands? (They concealed guns)
9) At what battle did the Doctor meet Jamie? (Culloden)
10) Where did Cliff and Jo go for their wedding? (To the Amazon)

I scored 10/10 on Doctor Who but only 1/10 for GK! I left feeling that I had done my best and it was all a matter of waiting.

Another letter arrived 18 March congratulating me on being one of the 32 contestants for the series. A month later on 14 April I received my call to the Shortland street studios to record Heat 7 on 5 May. The day finally arrived, with the time in between spent watching and reading practically every Doctor Who item I could find.

I was to report at 12 noon. There I sat with the other three contestants in a waiting room. On a monitor we could see the previous heat being recorded in the studio. (They record three heats per day). One contestant, Hugh Amunsden, got 28 points and I wondered what I gotten myself in for!!

It was into make-up at 12-45 and then into the studio at 1pm. The audience was already seated, most of them remaining from the morning recordings. The studio itself was a huge concrete room, with hundreds of lights suspended from the roof. The `stage' was set up in the middle with Peter Sinclair's desk, the audience seats and the four contestants' seats. The Chair was also waiting... The order in which we were to appear had already been selected. I was third. We rehearsed how to stand and sit in the Chair without knocking over the microphone at our feet. A run through of introductions was made to test that the cameras and sound were all working properly. Surprisingly, the Chair was quite comfortable! We each had a glass of water. By the time my turn had come, my glass was empty!

The credits were filmed first, then the introductions, followed by the contestants specialist questions - all in one continuous run! Then it was my turn in the chair. It is amazing how quickly two minutes passes. (See TSV 8 for my questions).

After the first round (the specialist topics), there was a break for fifteen minutes. This gave the camera a chance to realign, make-up to be retouched, our water glasses to be refilled, and for any discrepancies in the questions/answers to be settled.

I was in the lead at this point with 17 points, with Andy Vaughn close behind with 15. The next round was GK - and boy was it hard! It was my turn again, and the two minutes went quickly. Andy had a final score of 22, so I had to answer 5 to equal him and 6 to win. The buzzer sounded during my last question, so I could answer: "What day of the week was named after Mercury?" Err? Um? Guess... "Wednesday???" "Correct!" I did it!!

It was unbelievable to get this far, but to win the heat, wow!

There was another break after the GK to settle any disputes. Then the final scores were run and the goodbyes said. After 'cut' we each received a silver Parker pen, and that was it.

It had taken just under two hours to record a 25-minute programme.

I was approached by the floor manager at the end. He told me he had once worked with Louise Jameson in England on a terrible horror film directed, produced and co-written by New Zealander Tom Parkinson. Remembering how she was too embarrassed to name the horror film, as she had once done in DWM, I asked him what it was called. Strangely enough he remembered - Disciple of Death. (The monthly has yet to print the letter I sent them saying this - but TSV9 did. Nice one guys!)

A few weeks later I received a congratulatory letter from TVNZ, informing me that I was in the second semi-final to be recorded on 6 July. But before then, my heat was to go on air Sunday 26 June. It was more nerve-wracking watching this than actually filming it! And I knew the outcome...

6 July came around and it was back to the studios at 12 noon. As before, I met my opponents in the waiting room. It was then into make-up and into the studio. I was third again, after Judith Medlicott (who, incidentally, went on to win the 1988 title). She went on to score an impressive 18.

Then I was back in the Chair. (Did you notice she swung it around as she got out? How embarrassing.) Anyway, I was pretty nervous and then the first question came - "What was the Doctor's normal body temperature?" I answered 750 degrees, but immediately knew that was wrong. I was too late to Pass and Sinclair wanted a more-detailed answer. My time was going fast and my concentration just broke. I was a wreck after the round. I knew that I had done badly.

My final score was 15 against Judith's 30 odd. I came last in the heat, but at least I had done my best and gotten that far.

It was an experience I shall never forget, and one of these years I may try my luck in the chair again.

Soon afterwards I was approached by North and South magazine who were doing an article on the Mastermind programme. They were talking to all eight finalists. The staff photographer took me to a red telephone box and photographed me inside, outside, beside, in front of, on top of, and nearby the box. Out of 40 or so pictures taken, they chose two that appeared in the August issue of the magazine.

The Listener also spoke to me about the show for their 19-25 November issue which had a Doctor Who cover. Mastermind was great to do and maybe next time...

As a side-line a couple of the questions asked in the quiz were incorrect. Although they didn't affect my answers, whoever researched them didn't check them out. (Malcolm Sternerson - are you out there somewhere?) The Daleks' Master Plan is not the longest story if you count The Trial of a Time Lord. The Master is not the Meddling Monk. The Doctor went to Global Chemicals, not Panorama (Malcolm Hulke changed the name in his novelisation of The Green Death). UNIT wasn't disbanded, it was still active in 1983 (according to The Five Doctors) and I never did find out what the Doctor's normal body temperature was - it was never revealed in the programme to my knowledge at least...

Questions asked in Jon's heat - Questions asked in Jon's semi-final

This item appeared in TSV 10 (December 1988).