The Crystal Cube is a BBC1 comedy series written by Stephen Fry, starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Merchant. The programme began life as a mockumentary sketch show, hosted by John Bishop and filmed in London’s Leicester Square studios, but went on to become a full series. The series is now available to watch on DVD.
The Crystal Cubes is shaped like a cube and has several faces that can be twisted, popped or slid to open up the faces and reveal a small amount of inside information, including a title and credits. The main storyline is about a group of six-dimensional beings, who, in order to make themselves appear more realistic, have come into existence inside our bodies and caused us to go into a simulation of our lives. The six dimensions, which are each made up of three colour boxes (red, blue and yellow) are called cubes. Each cube is programmed with an event or experience – they also all have a unique personality and appearance.
The pilot episode was written by Stephen Fry, who wrote most of the series’ episodes, but also directed and produced the pilot, which featured John Bishop, James Bryant-Churchill, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Merchant. The episode was written as a way to get the show off the ground without the showrunner, Patrick Stewart, having to write or produce any episodes.
The programme first aired in June 1983 and was filmed for only three weeks, as the series was still in its infancy. Following the pilot episode, which included a brief segment where the Cube was put inside a box and a voiceover read the cube’s history, the show was renewed by BBC Two and became a regular in the autumn of 1983.
Hugh Laurie was initially chosen to play the lead role in the pilot, but eventually, it was Stephen Merchant who ended up winning the role. The merchant was known for his distinctive voice and physical comedy, and the role of the cube proved perfect for him. He also showed off his acting talent in this role, which also included being known for his love of comic timing and his ability to turn a scene around if it was playing with a different tone. or pace from the script. Merchant’s performance as the cube in the pilot proved so popular that he would make a regular guest appearance in future episodes and become a regular character in the show.
He went on to play the Cube in the second and third series of the programme, as well as the fourth series, which were also named after the cube and was also featuring Hugh Laurie. The last episode of the fourth series, entitled “A Room of One’s Own”, saw the cube taking a trip through time in order to visit different times and places in the past.