A source within the BBC has confirmed that the corporation has fought back at Channel 4 after the network poached the Great British Bake Off by purchasing the rights to hit TV game show The Crystal Maze. In a shock twist, he has revealed that the Beeb will be using OTTERS instead of human contestants. 

He said: ‘In the 24 hours following the Bake Off deal, the highest-level BBC executives were so upset that they ended up doing what can only be described as an ‘impulse buy.’ They speedily signed a multi-million deal for The Crystal Maze, without realising that Channel 4 were within their rights to exercise the ‘human contestant exemption’ of the original contract.’

‘There were a number of focus groups who concluded that using cats, penguins or hedgehogs simply wouldn’t be right in the current market place, and more than 75% of all participants said that otters would provide the perfect combination of comedy, action and emotional engagement.’

Our Chief Reporter managed to gain exclusive access to a pilot recording of The Crystal Maze Otter Edition this week in Barnsley, and the show’s producer is confident that there will be ‘no issues whatsoever’ with adapting the game show for the land and sea-dwelling mammals.

Ferenc Wiskas of CP Productions said: ‘Initial test recordings have gone incredibly well so far. The only minor teething issue we are having is that they all keep diving into the water around The Crystal Dome and frolicking with their life partners – our crew is draining the moat as we speak.’

‘Although Richard O’Brien has ruled himself out of any possible comeback, we are talking to the other one with the floppy hair, and we are also open to the idea of trying to poach Ant and Dec from ITV – as we say though it is all early days at the moment.’

Some analysts feel that the new series will be ‘a remake too far’ for one of the most popular British TV shows in history, and one critic in particular issued a strong warning that the BBC would be going ‘beyond the point of no return.’

Showbiz writer Dom Tickitts said: ‘It’s shocking that BBC hasn’t learnt the lessons of the recent Deal Or No Deal Cats pilot. It took eleven episodes before anyone realised that you cannot tear off a strip of sticky tape without any thumbs.’