About Fort Boyard
Fort Boyard is a French game show created by Jacques Antoine that was first broadcast in 1990, as Les Clés de Fort Boyard, and is popular to this day, being re-made across the globe.
Set and filmed on the real Fort Boyard in France, the programme appears similar to The Crystal Maze. In both programmes the contestants have to complete challenges to win prize money. However, while The Crystal Maze varies the type of games quite considerably, Fort Boyard tends to focus mainly on physical and endurance challenges. Although Fort Boyard was something of a pioneer in the area of game show fear and adventure, later programmes have pushed things even further, requiring Fort Boyard to react and adapt with new twists and games, including a couple of seasons in which the contestants spent the night in the Fort.
The presenters role were to give advice and support for the teams, commentate for the viewers, and match wits with Boyard, the "Master of the Fort".
The other characters in Fort Boyard are:
Boyard is the Master Of The Fort, who sets the challenges that the team must complete to win. He is portrayed as a selfish, commanding, and evil person who takes great pleasure in ensuring that fear and failure plague the contestants.
The Professor is an eccentric scientist who has become mad over the years as a result of being kept prisoner by Boyard in the 'Watch Tower'. His task is to ask the contestants riddles, which, if answered correctly, will give the team a key or clue word. Along with Captain Baker, he also talks to the contestants briefly before asking the riddles and to the viewers.
Captain Baker the replacement for The Professor, is an insane sea captain held captive by Boyard.
There is also the resident Fort Boyard cast, who first appeared in the French version, and were subsequently featured in most of the other international formats, including the UK version:
Jacques and Jules are two dwarves who lead the team through the Fort to the next challenge. Jacques is also responsible for locking the contestants in the cells of the Fort if they fail to get out within the time limit whilst Jules, takes contestants to the 'The Watch Tower'.
Monique turns a statue shaped as a tiger's head to release the gold or close the gate in the 'Treasure Room'. In the first UK series the unnamed Tiger Master performs this role.
La Boule bangs the gong to indicate the start and end of time and locks the contestants in cages when they fail to get out of challenge rooms in time.
Fort Boyard's format varies from country to country, but the basics are the same. A team of friends enter the Fort with the intention of winning Boyard's gold. To do this, the contestants have to successfully complete a series of challenges set by Boyard himself.
The first thing done in the game is the sounding of the Fort's gong by French character 'La Boule'. Once the gong sounds the game time begins ticking down. In the UK version the game lasted for 40 minutes.
The first set of challenges the contestants have to complete is to win a certain number of keys, that varied between 4 or 5 depending on series. These keys, once won, are used to open the gate to the Treasure Room, a central room in the Fort where the gold is held.
The challenges that are set to win the keys are located in small cells around the Fort, with small water-timers (a Clepsydre) outside to give the contestant a time limit (around 2-3 minutes, depending on the game) to complete it. If a contestant fails to leave the challenge room before the time runs out, he or she is locked in and then shortly after taken away to a cage (by La Boule) meaning they are not allowed to continue with the rest of the key games and must stay there until then end of Phase One. In the UK's 4th series, La Boule would give the contestant a large bunch of rusty keys. One of these keys would unlock the cage allowing the contestant to re-join the team.
During this phase of the game, one contestant goes up to the Watch Tower to win an additional key for the team.
Once the contestants reach the end of Phase One, there is a trip to the Treasure Room with all of the keys that they have won so far. If they have enough to unlock the Treasure Room Door then the keys are entered and the gate is unlocked. However, it does not open until later in the show.
If they are short of keys to open the gate then team members are 'sacrificed' for keys, one team member for each key short. The 'sacrificed' contestants are then placed in an underground cell and locked in. These team members remain for the rest of the game, and are therefore unable to contribute any more for the team.
If the team has more keys than necessary to unlock the gate then any extra keys gained can be swapped for free clue words to assist the team in the next phase of the game.
Once again in this part of the game the contestants have to complete a series of challenges, but instead of playing for keys they are playing for clue words. In addition, these games are more physically and mentally challenging to the contestants than those played in Phase One. Before these challenges, one contestant goes to the Watch Tower to try to win a clue word.
The objective in this phase is to try to figure out the password, which, if answered correctly, will release the gold. To do this, they must try to win clue words to help them in working out the password.
To make it even more difficult to get the clue word, a time limit is placed on each game. The clue words are usually written on pieces of paper and kept in canisters filled with gunpowder, and if the contestant fails to reach the canister in the allotted time the clue word explodes and the contestant loses the challenge. Unlike the First Phase, players are not locked in a cage if they fail to win the clue word.
In the Watch Tower of the Fort lives a usually eccentric character that sets riddles for certain contestants; if the contestants give the correct answer, they receive a key. In the case of the clue riddles, the answer to the riddle is the clue word, so even if the contestant doesn't solve it in the Watch Tower he or she can still think about it during the rest of the game. If the contestant gives an incorrect answer to a key riddle, the key is thrown in to the sea, and another contestant has to swim for it.
Since 2006, the contestants can no longer swim for the key; it is just put back where it was held. The clue word is also different and is not the same as the riddle. Therefore the riddle must be solved within the time limit to obtain the clue.
The Treasure Room is the climax to each episode of Fort Boyard. The gold is stored here, which is guarded by Boyard's tigers.
Once the Fort's gong sounds for a second time, the game time is over. When the gong is struck (by La Boule) the tigers are taken away by Monique and the gate to The Treasure Room rises and will only stay open for 2:00 minutes (UK series 1-4) or 3:00 minutes (UK series 5). The 3 minutes includes 20 seconds before the gate starts to rise (to open canisters/organise team). The gate takes 20 seconds to open and 25 seconds to close fully for every version of Fort Boyard worldwide.
If by this time the team has still not figured out the password from the clues won, they can "sacrifice" players in exchange for extra clues to help them. The sacrificed players have to reach the clue by putting their hand into one of the tiger-shaped hand traps around the Treasure Room entrance; once their hands are inside they cannot release them and participate in collecting the gold.
The contestants now have to spell out the password on the giant alphabet on the floor of the Treasure Room by standing on the corresponding letters on the grid and using cannonballs if there are not enough players. The team must also ensure the word is spelled correctly, as a mistake could cost them the prize.
Once this is done, Monique rotates the tiger's head (a statue), and the word will either be declared correct or incorrect, and the gold is released if the word is correct.
Then the contestants have the remaining time to collect as much gold as they can and place it in a bucket outside of the Treasure Room. It is only what is in this bucket that they get to keep; any that lands on the floor is not counted. When the time is nearly up in the Treasure Room, a bell rings, and the gate begins to close slowly. The contestants have to leave before the gate shuts completely because when the door shuts the tigers are released back into the Treasure Room. (the release of the tigers is delayed until the contestants are out of the Treasure Room, a portcullis is pulled in some version's to block the tigers from being released).
If, however, they declare an incorrect word, the gold is not released and instead the gate to the treasure room begins to close immediately, prompting the contestants to make a quick escape, and they complete the game with no winnings.
The won gold is then weighed and converted into currency; this makes the contestants' prize money