Sunday, 10 February 2013

Angel Interceptor

When it comes to iconic and criminally short lived TV adventure programmes, there is one that stands head and shoulders above them all. Brimmed with action, suspense and screeching out from high above some fine English countryside, it’s Interceptor. Created by Jacques Antoine (the brainchild of Treasure Hunt, Fort Boyard and The Crystal Maze) the eight episode series aired on ITV during summer 1989 (with a single episode being held back for January 1st 1990).

There are some splendid fansites and forums if you want to take your interest in Interceptor even further and they all lead back to Chris Hart - who lives in Nottingham and runs Interceptors Lair. The site is filled with behind the scene footage and episode guides plus you can even download some of the famous incidents like the great tractor ambush or the Interceptor’s catchphrase “I like it!”.

With the contestants dropped off 10 miles apart from each other, they were radio guided by retired British tennis player Annabel Croft and had to use all modes of transport to try and find their hidden key.

This key would open the other contestant's backpack and could only be accessed after completion of a series of mental and physical challenges as it might be found at the top of a boats mast or in the middle of a maze. The contestants, strapped up with cumbersome early radio tech to their chest and what looked like a white oven hob on their back (their infrared packs), reminded me of a pair of alternative Ghostbusters. Contestants had just 40 minutes of TV time (it was actually filmed over an entire day and had a few local stooges on hand to help out with various modes of transport) to find the keys, find each other and open their packs to hopefully reveal the cash prize of £1,000 whilst avoiding, surviving, hiding from and out manoeuvring the mighty Interceptor. 

Dressed all in black, complete with a leather trench coat, the Interceptor (played by former model and Hollywood stuntman Sean O’Kane) delivered a mesmeric performance that instilled fear and sweat into contestants with his fish eagle screams, incredible gate jumping agility and the constant menace of his hovering helicopter patrolling the skies piloted by his loyal manservant and former Royal Navy pilot Mikey. The Interceptor (with his infrared technology purchased from the Army) had only 20 shots to aim and try to zap the contestants back packs thereby locking them and making sure that the prize money could not be accessed.

Fans were crushed when the series was cancelled and the last word has to go to Steven Howlett who wrote this poem and sent it to ITV’s teletext service, Oracle:

Annabel Croft is sorely missed
and so is Mike the pilot,
Racing ‘round the countryside
once was a weekly highlight
Clad in black
With packs on backs
There simply was none better
So come on ITV,
Bring back the Interceptor

Kudos goes to Challenge TV as they have responded to public demand and have re-run the series several times over the past 13 years bringing Sean O'Kane, Annabel Croft and the entire Interceptor crew back into our front rooms and lives, which is exactly where they belong.