In the heats of Brain of Britain you always get a real mixture of contestants. Some impress you with the width of their knowledge. Some surprise you a little with some of the things they don’t know. Occasionally some contestants manage to do both. I found this to be true of Monday’s contestants – each of them produced some fine answers – and then each missed some things they might have had. That’s the way the game works.
First up was Tom Gemmill. He made good ground with his first two questions, but was unable to name the county that is home to Hetty Pegler’s Tump. Not surprised. It’s Gloucestershire. Frank Potter followed, and he too took his first two. I was a little surprised that none of the contestants could remember that the original pretext for Argentinian landings on the Falklands was to ‘collect scrap metal’. Dilys Taylor didn’t score, falling down on the recipient of Mae West’s “Sometime why don’t you come up and see me?” or something of that sort. Nobody knew it was Cary Grant – again, a sufficiently chestnutty question for me to be surprised that no one knew it. Don Young was so close to getting the 19th century American Underground Railroad, but couldn’t quite drag it out. So at the end of the round Tom and Frank led with 2 apiece. Tom didn’t know the Battle of Heligoland Blight. Frank did for a bonus – a good shout that one. He was going great guns with his own questions, dispatching his first 3 to the boundary, but he didn’t know the imaginary substance phlogiston, which was once believed to be given off by all burning matter. Dilys couldn’t name Eddystone, on which several successive lighthouses were built, and this gave Don his first point. Just as well, since he was clean bowled middle stump with his own first. Asked which 19th century presidents, sharing the same name, were distinguished by the second’s unusual middle name, he couldn’t dredge up John Quincy Adams. Frank could, and this gave him a very comfortable lead. He had 7, Tom 2, Don 1, and Dilys had yet to score.
At the start of round three Tom didn’t know that it was Donald Campbell who set a world water speed record in Australia in 1964. No bonus there either. Frank Potter Had a pointless round himself, unable to answer that Karl-Marx-Stadt was the previous name of Chemnitz. Dilys then weighed in with the best round of the whole competition. She took 4 in a row, but alas failed on a music question. She was played part of a Stabat Mater, and couldn’t name Rossini as the composer. Don once again was a faller at the first, not knowing that it was bread, never actually rationed in the world wars, that went on the ration in 1946. Dilys knew this, and it had an interesting effect on the scores. She had leapt up the board to second, being two points behind Frank, who still had 7. Tom had 2, and Don 1. At this point we paused for the Beat the Brains interval. The first question asked what you might be doing if you went out concealed with a dirty basket. The answer is playing canasta. I didn’t know, and neither did the Brains. Nor did any of us know that if you went to hell via kitchen and grave, you’d be playing the 14th hole at St. Andrews.
Tom took his first of the next round, but failed on the Arab name for Tripoli. Frank knew it. He didn’t, however, know that the 4 Noble Truths are central to Buddhism, which was his next question. Don did. Poor Don didn’t get any joy out of his starters all night, but at least he was able to make headway with some bonuses from this point. Dilys couldn’t quite get the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Nor, surprisingly, could any of the brains. Don took a stab at Odin as the father of the Valkyries in Wagner’s Ring. Well – same god, different name, I’m afraid. Dilys correctly supplied the name of Wotan. Frank now had 8, Dilys 6, Tom 3 and Don 2. Tom missed out on the year when the Reign of Terror in France began. It was Don who supplied the correct answer of 1793. Frank added his first, but then missed a tricky little number on the 1351 Statute of Labourers. It concerned pay levels, apparently. Dilys took one, but missed out on the man who introduced the rack to the Tower of London. Don took that bonus as well. He couldn’t guess, though, that the musical, often performed in schools, first staged in 1971, was Grease. No bonus for anyone. Frank still led with 9, Dilys had 7, Tom 6, and Don 4.
Going into round 6 Russell stressed that anyone could still win, and he was right. Tom’s chances looked slimmer after he missed his first. Frank knew that the animal used in testing a TB vaccine was a guinea pig. He took two of his own, but didn’t know about Endymion. Don did. Dilys was unable to identify the dulcet tones of Noddy Holder from Slade, which Frank did. He mopped up the round by taking a bonus on Don’s first for good measure as well, knowing that Orienteering originated in Norway and Sweden. One more round left, and it looked all over bar the shouting. Frank led with 14, Dilys had 7, Tom 6 and Don 5. In fact Tom, Dilys and Don all missed their first questions. Tom didn’t know the literal meaning of halal – neither did the others. Frank took his first, but didn’t know who sat in the Siege Perilous. Don did. He also knew the term legerdemain, which Dilys missed. Unfortunately he didn’t know Synovial fluid, which ended his spirited run. AT the end, Frank had won easily with 15. As for second place, well, we had a three way tie. Tom, Dilys and Don all had 7. Unfortunately I think it’s almost certain that this will not be enough to give any hope of a place in the semis. The semis, though, are exactly where Frank is heading. Well played.
Tom Gemmill – 7
Frank Potter – 15
Dilys Taylor – 7
Don Young - 7