Field Report & Review:
Gillian the Mastermind, the UK


Gillian F. Taylor

I guess I didn't tell you about taking part in Mastermind. You may have seen it in NZ (or their local version) or on BBC America. It's a fairly highbrow quiz show — no prizes except for the engraved glass bowl given to the winner of the series final. Each contender walks out to the Black Chair and has two minutes of questions on a specialist subject in the first round, then two minutes of general knowledge in the second round.

I did a first round heat at the end of March with The Romney Marsh Novels of Monica Edwards as my specialized subject. I did really well, answered every question correctly immediately, and scored 18, which is about the max possible per round. 15 or 16 is normally considered a very good score, and 12 to 13 is average.

It was just as well, as I didn't do so well on general knowledge, and at the end of the second round, three of the four contenders all had 27 points. One bloke had passed on one question, so he was out as me and another bloke had no passes. We did a tie break — I went out of the studio while he answered five questions, then I came in and answered the same five. I scored two out of five, but he'd only got one. So I won the heat !

The semi—final is early in July — don't have a definite date yet. My next specialist subject is Blakes 7. I've got 52 50min episodes to study, plus a couple of radion shows and spin off books to be safe. And am working on the general knowledge. It was the capital cities of Europe the last couple of days, and will be sporting trophies next.

It keeps me busy :)

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I'm in the semi—final of Mastermind next — haven't got as far as the final yet but I'm hoping for the best. It's likely that the show will be available online, from the BBC's iplayer, but I'm not expecting it to be broadcast until the autumn anyway.

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When the contenders come back to the chair for the second (general knowledge) round, the question master talks to them, either about their specialist subject, or their work. The question master, John Humphrys, is a respected journalist and newsreader, the kind that can be fierce with politicians. I was rather amused when a member of the production team referred to this talk as 'John's little chats'.

The contender on before me is a teacher, and John was talking to him about the government's attitude to schools and teaching, and seemed to lapse into 'hardnosed journalist' mode, rather than 'hard but fair' question master. We felt quite sorry for the poor teacher, trying to defend himself.

I was asked about my westerns — why I choose to write them and are people still interested. It was harder work than answering the quiz questions. I guess that next time, as my writing has been covered, the 'little talk' will be about my subject, so I'll have to be ready to talk about Blakes 7 (the subject of the talk is discussed beforehand with the production team, so you have time to think about what you want to say).

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Monday past was my second appearence on Mastermind — this time recording the semi-final, with the specialized subject of Blakes 7. I didn't win this one, so no more this season. I came third on a score of 23, and the winner had 27. I did get 15 on Blakes 7, which is a pretty good score, and was joint first after the first round. My friends, and the winner, all said I had the toughest set of questions in the General Knowledge round, which is some consolation.

My chat with the host before the General Knowledge round (second round), was about Blakes 7. He asked mostly about fan fic, and we discussed that, and the westerns I've written with characters based on Blakes 7 characters. My friend Ven, who was watching, says she was wondering if he was going to ask about slash fic. I don't think the host's briefing covered that :) .


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