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The Crystal Cube
Genre Mockumentary
Created by Stephen Fry
Hugh Laurie
Directed by John Kilby
Starring Stephen Fry
Hugh Laurie
Emma Thompson
Robbie Coltrane
John Savident
Arthur Bostrom
Roy Heather
Paul Shearer
Fanny Carby
Country of origin United Kingdom United Kingdom
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 1
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel BBC Two
First shown in 7 July 1983
Related shows Alfresco
A Bit of Fry and Laurie

The Crystal Cube was a mockumentary television pilot written by and starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, broadcast on 7 July 1983 on BBC Two at 22:10.[1] The pilot was one of Fry and Laurie's first television appearances and the first show they had written themselves. However, the BBC chose not to take it to a full series, and Fry and Laurie did not get a chance to make their own programme for the BBC until 1987, when they created the pilot for A Bit of Fry and Laurie.[2]



The Crystal Cube is a science programme, based on shows such as Tomorrow's World. The show is hosted by Jackie Meld (Emma Thompson). In each episode, a different topic of science was to be discussed. In the pilot, it was genetics. Two guest scientists discussed the issue of genetics to a live studio audience and viewers at home. The scientists were Dr. Adrian Cowlacey (Fry), a practicing clinician at St. Thomas' Hospital, London, and Max Belhaven (Laurie) of the Bastard Institute in California. Cowlacey and Belhaven comment positively on the prospects that in the future, society will be divided into a genetic caste system, with people divided into "Alphas", "Betas" and "Gammas" based on their genetic background (terminology used in Huxley's Brave New World). They also show an example of a genetically engineered human, Gareth Gamma 0001 (Arthur Bostrom), who is designed to carry out menial tasks without complaint. The show later goes into a debate between a member of clergy, The Bishop of Horley, The Very Reverend Previous Lockhort (John Savident) and Martin Bealey (Robbie Coltrane), an anti-communist journalist who claims the Soviets are using genetics to invade Britain. However, Gareth interrupts the conversations and causes a riot. Cowlacey therefore ends the show.[3]



The Crystal Cube was designed by the BBC to provide a pilot for Fry and Laurie, who after working in the ITV comedy series Alfresco were beginning to be seen as a double act. The show involves several members of the Alfresco cast, such as Thompson and Coltrane.


The BBC were not expecting the show Fry and Laurie would make to combine elements of science-fiction and mockumentary, and as a result, it was not given a full series.[2] Fry and Laurie did make appearances in other BBC comedy shows such as The Young Ones and Blackadder. However, the BBC later gave Fry and Laurie a second chance. This resulted in A Bit of Fry and Laurie, first broadcast in 1987.[4]

One joke from The Crystal Cube is reused in A Bit of Fry and Laurie. In it, Harris Edgley-Woad, a fictional early genetics pioneer was said to have been born in a working class home that his parents had built for him in the grounds of their Gloucestershire estate.[3] This joke appears in the last episode of the second series of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, but instead it is Laurie who was born in such a house.[5]


  1. ^ Lewisohn, Mark. Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy. Wood Lane, London: BBC Worldwide. pp. 198. ISBN 9905634875509.  
  2. ^ a b "A Bit of Fry and Laurie". Comedy Connections. 2005-04-04. No. 7, season 3.
  3. ^ a b "The Crystal Cube". The Crystal Cube. 1983-07-07.
  4. ^ "Pilot". A Bit of Fry and Laurie. 1986-12-26.
  5. ^ "Series 2, Episode 6". A Bit of Fry and Laurie. 1990-04-13.

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