QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig. Copyright: TalkbackThames


  • TV panel show
  • BBC Two / BBC One / BBC Four
  • 2003 - 2024
  • 312 episodes (21 series)

Panel game that contains lots of difficult questions and a large amount of quite interesting facts. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

  • Resumes at the end of March
  • Series U, Episode 9 repeated at 10:15pm on BBC2 Wales
  • JustWatch Streaming rank this week: 461

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Series Q, Episode 1 - Quirky

QI. Image shows from L to R: Jason Manford, Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig, Sarah Millican, Loyiso Gola. Copyright: TalkbackThames
With Loyiso Gola, Jason Manford and Sarah Millican. Find out who has Type Q blood, where to find the world's most dangerous cup of tea, what's even quainter than a model village, and the best type of pants to wear if you're trying for a baby.

Preview clips


- This is a "General" show in Series Q, covering a wide range of different topics beginning with "Q".


- The furthest anyone's ever gone for a brew is up a mountain in China. At the top of Mount Hua in the Qinling Mountains is a Buddhist and Daoist temple which is really dangerous to get to. One path involves crossing a section while balancing on wooden planks above a 7,000ft drop. They do offer safety harnesses for $5, but the use of it is not enforced. The tea is made from rainwater, mountain springs and snow melt. Mount Hua is one of China's five great mountains, having five peaks that form the shape of a lotus flower, and each peak has a temple on it.

- Tangent: Loyiso asks if the tea there is better than rooibos, which comes from his homeland of South Africa. Sarah is glad Loyiso brings up the subject because she didn't know how to pronounce "rooibos". It is pronounced, "roy-boos", but Sarah has been calling it "roobiboos" for years. Jason replies that when he was 33 he was still pronouncing shiitake mushrooms as "shit-ache".

- XL Tangent: During the Second World War, the UK bought up the surplus tea from every country in the world apart from Japan, because the government was so worried that a lack of tea would be bad for morale. The government's top purchases, in terms of weight, were bullets first, tea second, and then artillery shells, bombs and explosives.

- Tangent: According to legend, the first cup of tea was drunk by Chinese emperor Shennong in 2737 BC. He was sat under a tree and a servant was boiling some water, when the wind blew some tree leaves into the water. According to Buddhist tradition, tea grew from Buddha's eyelids. He tried to meditate for nine years, but he kept falling asleep, so in frustration he ripped off his eyelids, threw them to the ground, and the first tea plant grew from them.

- Tangent: Jason talks about ASMR, the modern day relaxation technique which involves watching people whispering while doing particular activities like folding towels or cutting people's hair. He suggests to Alan that this should be on his next DVD, to which Loyiso criticises Jason for bringing up such an old form of technology.

- The thing that is even quainter than a model village is to have another model village inside the first model village, and then to have another model village in side that one and so on. Bourton-on-the-Water has a model village, which in turn has a replica of the model village inside it, and that too has its own replica of the replica. It was built in the 1930s and is now Grade II listed. In 2018, the entire thing was available for sale, along with a pub, for under £600,000.

- Tangent: The oldest model villaige is in Bekonscot, which turns 90 in 2019. It has 15,000 visitors a month and miniature shops in it include greengrocer's Chris P Lettis, Ivor Cavity's sweet shop, and chemist Hakes & Paynes.

- Tangent: Babbacombe Model Village has a replica of the tent used in The Great British Bake Off, including replicas of the stars. They have let their model of Sandi to the show, where Sandi points out that her model is inaccurate as it shows her in a skirt, an item of clothing she never wears. She says: "This is not what a lesbian on television looks like!" Correction: Since the show has aired, the model of Sandi is now wearing trousers.

- The thing that has type Q blood is a horse. Humans have two kinds of antigens, but horses have seven, and thus have seven different blood groups, with type A and type Q being the most common, alongside C, D, J, P and U. Horse blood cannot be stored in a blood bank, so the Royal Veterinary College and the University of London keep four horses on site whose job is to just donate blood. These horses are called Miller, Darcy, Freddy and Sonny. (Forfeit: The Queen)

- Tangent: When Sarah asks if the correct answer to the type Q blood question is an animal, she asks if they can undo the forfeit. (Forfeit: No)

- Tangent: When Jason's daughter was born he donated the umbilical cord to the charity Anthony Nolan. He said that the people behind the charity are like vampires, waiting at the door so they can get the cord as quickly as possible.

- XL Tangent: Horseshoe crabs are used by the medical industry. They are the fourth oldest creature on Earth, and their blood has a compound in it called Limulus amebocyte lysate. This compound is used to make sure medical products are free from bacterial contamination. The blood costs up to $25,000 per quart. Horseshoe crabs have no immune system, so because they cannot develop antibodies, they contain compounds that activate bacteria, fungi, viruses to help fight off infections. Once their blood is extracted the crabs are returned to the wild.

- XL Tangent: The Royal Veterinary College runs donation sessions to collect dog and cat blood. Maybe people offer their pets for blood because they feel guilty about not donating their own blood. Meanwhile, all bird blood is entirely interchangeable. Thus a robin could donate blood to an ostrich, but you would need 6,000 robins for a successful transfusion.

- Tangent: Australian James Harrison, aka the Man with the Golden Arm, saved 2.4 million babies by giving blood every week for 60 years. Harrison's blood contained disease-fighting antibodies which fight Rhesus disease, which is when the blood of pregnant women attacks their unborn babies. In 1999, Harrison was awarded the Order of Australia, the country's highest honour. He made over a thousand separate blood donations.

- XL Tangent: Sarah asks is Harrison went to different blood banks every time to get a wider variety of biscuits to eat, because you are given biscuits depending on where you donate. In Scotland, you are given Tunnock's tea cakes when you donate blood.

- The worst thing about being held in a queue is dead air while on hold. Hold music was discovered by accident by Alfred Levy in the 1960s, when his factory's phone lines developed a fault. A loose wire touched a metal girder on the building, turning it into a giant receiver. Audio being broadcast from a radio station next door was being transmitted through the wire and could be heard on the calls which had been put on hold. Levy thus patented the Telephone Hold Programme System.

- Tangent: Loyiso was in Australia last year and a friend of his suggested that they go for some dim sum. When they got to the place there was a queue, but a pregnant woman arrived and everyone let her go to the front. Loyiso however objected to this on the grounds that they were only queuing for dim sum. He asks is this makes him a bad person, to which the majority of people in the studio say it does.

- Tangent: When Alan used to ring up the Odeon cinema and was asked which cinema he would be interested in going to, he would say: "Holloway", to which the automated reply was always: "Did you say Manchester?" Jason, who used to work for Odeon, jokingly claims that it was actually a real person on the line playing a gag.

- XL Tangent: When he was younger, whenever Loyiso was on hold they would play Kenny G, to the point he thought that it was actually Kenny G on the line.

- XL Tangent: A company called Avaya did a study in 2001 about bad examples of hold music. They found a clothing firm specialising in larger sizes played "Fat Bottomed Girls" by Queen, a mail order company played "Hanging on the Telephone" by Blondie, and a hospital played Chopin's "Funeral March".

- XL Tangent: Loyiso asks if in Britain they get companies calling up people to sell them stuff. Alan talks about people calling him about an accident that wasn't his fault, to which he replies: "How did you hear about that?" Jason suggests that Alan has wet himself and has just had an accident. Sandi suggests an alternative method of dealing with these people, which is to start weeping and exclaim that the accident was their fault. Jason says that the strangest calls are from banks when they say that they need to identify them, even though they are the ones who rang. Sarah had an agreement with her bank that they should contact her only by e-mail because it was easier for her when she was touring, and they once rang her to ask if she still didn't wanted to be contacted via phone.

- XL: Sandi holds up some lengths of knotted string and asks the panel what they are. These are quipu - as evidenced by the fact that the strings are on a piece of card which has a label reading: "Quipu". Originating from the Inca Empire, we don't know what they are for, but it is possible that it is an example of a written language. Despite that the fact that the Incas were the largest empire in the Americas in the 15th century, we are unaware of any written language they used. A Spanish poet, Garcilaso de la Vega, wrote in 1609 that the Incas counted everything in the kingdom, including all taxes and tributes, both paid and due, using knots in strings of different colours. New research suggests that the quipu might actually be a form of writing as well as recording numbers. Annoyingly, the Spanish destroyed many quipus declaring them to be Satanic messages. However, a professor of anthropology at St. Andrews University, Sabine Hyland, has studied them, noted that the quipu come in 14 colours and allow for 95 unique patterns, which is within the range of a writing system, and some quipus have as many as 1,500 strings. One Harvard University anthropologist discovered a Spanish census document from the 1670s containing six quipus that he had in his database, that the document referred to 132 people, and there were 132 cords on the quipu, so the two may correlate.

- The panel are shown a photo of a woman, Frances Lockett of Hyde, and are asked what she is queen of. She was queen of cotton, because between the 1920s and 1980s there was a tradition of crowning queens of industry, with these women representing British industries and Lockett working as a weaver. Queens of industry came out of the May Queen tradition, and as well as promoting the industry it was hoped with would give workers something to celebrate. In the 1920s they crowned the first railway queens and then the idea spread to other industries. These industry queens had nothing to do with beauty contests, and Lockett got her job by answering technical questions. The idea was picked up by American companies, such as the Zion Meat Company, who named Geene Courtney their Sausage Queen during National Hot Dog Week in 1955.

- Tangent: The panel have been given their own crowns promoting industries. Alan has a sausage crown, but his sausages are vegetarian. The other crowns represent industries from where the panellists come from. Thus Jason gets cotton for Manchester, Sarah gets glassware for South Shields, and Loyiso gets a centrifuge because 1.6% of all of South Africa's exports are centrifuges. Sandi meanwhile, because she has a passion for model railways, has a hat with a model train running around the brim of it.

- XL Tangent: In South Africa, a makarapa is a painted helmet people wear to football matches.

- Tangent: One railway queen, Audrey Mosson, was sent to Russia in 1936 on a peace trip to meet Stalin, and was the second celebrity to switch on the Blackpool illuminations. When Jason went to see the Blackpool illuminations, the person turning them on was the singer Chesney Hawkes. He turned on the lights, sang his song "The One and Only", thanked everyone, asked if they wanted another song, to which everyone watching appeared to ask if Hawkes actually had another song.

- Goods are more likely to be priced at 99p rather than £1 for a number of reasons. The main reason was that it meant that the staff had to give customers change, because if the figure was a round number there was a danger of dishonest staff pocketing money that didn't need to go into the till. In the 1870s, American James Ritty, who ran a saloon in Dayton, Ohio, spotted that some staff were pocketing money. In 1878, he was travelling to Europe, and he spotted that the ship had a mechanism which counted the number of rotations made by the propellers. Together with his brother, who worked as mechanic, they built a counting machine which could track the number of transactions. The machine was called Ritty's Incorruptible Cashier, and they sold it to what became the National Cash Register Company, who added the cash drawer and bell, and every transaction had to be rung through the till, so if you charged 0.99 for something, you had to give them a penny. The other reason items are normally priced at 99p is because they look a lot cheaper in comparison to items that cost £1.

- XL Tangent: In 2014, the Evening Standard reported that Sam's 99p shop in Barking, Essex, which was trying to undercut local pound shops, was itself undercut by a another shop: 97p Knockout, which opened next door, and promoted themselves with a sale where everything was 95p or less.

General Ignorance

- XL: The scar on Harry Potter's head looks like the International Organisation of Standardisation's (ISO's) symbol for risk of electric shock. It does not look like a lightning bolt, because lightning bolts are not that shape. Lightning strikes so quickly that the brain can't take it in, and even artists struggle to depict it accurately. On 2nd September 1882, Philadelphia photographer William Nicholson Jennings was the first to take a photo of lightning, and demonstrated that lightning did not look like the way it is shown in pictures and drawings. Some bolts have as many as 51 forks, while on average paintings only show two forks, and Harry's scar only has one. (Forfeit: Lightning bolt)

- XL: ISO stands for International Organisation for Standardisation. The panel still get this wrong even though Sandi just told them what it really did stand for. ISO is not an acronym, but a reference to the Greek word "isos", meaning equal. It was chosen because the acronym would be different in every language (IOS in English, OIN in French etc.) and the entire point of the organisation is to keep things standardised. (Forfeit: International Standards Organisation)

- If you drank your pint through a straw you would not get drunk quicker. It is just that anyone who is drinking alcohol through a straw is already in the mood to drink a lot. Some people thought that you could create a vacuum inside the straw that causes the alcohol to evaporate, or that because you are so busy sucking the drink the lack of oxygen can make you feel giddy, but there is no evidence to support these claims. (Forfeit: You'd get drunk more quickly)

- Tangent: Jason says he likes how the klaxon caption shows how to say the phrase: "You'd get drunk more quickly", correctly. (Forfeit: You're welcome)

- There is no particular difference when it comes to which kind of pants are best to wear if you want to have a baby. People thought that tight underpants might be bad for fertility, because warming up the testicles would lower the quality of the sperm, but the difference in temperature between tight and loose pants is about one degree centigrade, which is not enough to do any damage. (Forfeit: Loose ones; Tight ones)

- XL Tangent: Myths about conception include the idea that the strongest sperm will be the one to reach the egg first, but it is closer to just being random. Also, having a higher sperm count does not help conception.


- Loyiso Gola: -8 points
- Sarah Millican: -18 points
- Alan Davies: -20 points
- Jason Manford: -26 points


For the correction regarding the model of Sandi, see the QI Twitter account.

Broadcast details

Friday 6th September 2019
30 minutes
  • Wednesday 27th March 2019, 15:30 at BBC Television Centre (Loyiso Gola, Jason Manford, Sarah Millican)


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Saturday 21st September 2019 9:00pm
45 minute version
Monday 12th October 2020 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 13th October 2020 2:25am
50 minute version
Monday 21st December 2020 2:00am
65 minute version
Monday 21st December 2020 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 25th May 2021 1:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 25th May 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 26th May 2021 1:20am
60 minute version
Tuesday 12th October 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 13th October 2021 6:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 13th December 2021 1:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 13th December 2021 6:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 24th March 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Saturday 4th June 2022 9:45pm
45 minute version

Cast & crew

Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Sarah Millican Guest
Jason Manford Guest
Loyiso Gola Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Anna Ptaszynski Script Editor
Sandi Toksvig Script Editor
Mat Coward Researcher
Will Bowen Researcher
Anne Miller Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Researcher
Ed Brooke-Hitching Researcher
Mike Turner Researcher
Jack Chambers Researcher
Emily Jupitus Researcher
James Rawson Researcher
Production team
Ben Hardy Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Justin Pollard Associate Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Nick Collier Lighting Designer
Howard Goodall Composer
Sarah Clay Commissioning Editor


Alan Davies on model villages

Alan Davies talks about how his father used to film model villages instead of his family.

Featuring: Sandi Toksvig & Alan Davies.

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