Mastermind, since its inception in 1972, has been acknowledged as British television’s toughest test of general and specialist knowledge. As Stephen was the 1991 Mastermind champion answering questions over three programmes on The Life and Reign of Henry VII, Dartmoor and its Environs and The Life and Voyages of Sir Francis Drake. His winning scores were respectively 32, 34 & 35.
Invited to take part in a BBC2 TV special Mastermind Champion of Champions series in 2010, chaired by John Humphries. Stephen answered questions on the life and poetry of Edward Thomas*. He finished in overall 3rd place out of 16 former champions contending in the heats, scoring a total 29 points under the original 2′ per round rules. Being runner up in that qualifying round meant he did not go through to the final, despite his relatively high score.
” Mastermind helped give me an unexpected new direction in life. Since childhood I’ve always had an insatiable curiosity in everything interesting there is to know about life and learning and consequently have always enjoyed quizzing as a social activity – either as participant or setter. ‘Mastermind’ is a game where you need to know a little about a lot in terms of general knowledge and a lot about a little regarding the specialist round. Looking back to 1991 I guess I proved myself a ‘winner’ in the traditional sense of the word which was good for boosting self confidence and gaining a sense of genuine achievement. It didn’t make my fortune but it certainly made me fortunate. Twenty years later I reluctantly put myself back in the black chair in a spirit of sportsmanship for the champions challenge and in retrospect was pleased (and relieved) that I managed to do so well against such formidable opposition”.
* Stephen took part in Mastermind under his given/family name of Stephen Allen. Tomlin is his professional or Equity name. He toured nationally in Vanessa Rosenthal’s play about Edward Thomas ‘Out in the Dark’ which was recommissioned by the BBC as a radio drama in 1999, with Stephen reprising the lead role.