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


BBC Two and BBC One panel show about quite interesting facts. 266 episodes (pilot + 18 series), 2003 - 2020. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

Returns Wednesday 23rd December at 9pm. Episode Guide
Series P, Episode 4 is repeated on Dave today at 9pm.

Series I - Ice

A Christmas special with Ross Noble, Sean Lock and Brian Blessed.

Further details


- The country which takes the most days off work and has the most expensive Big Macs in the world is Iceland. They take 367 days off per year per 1,000 people, compared to about 20 in Britain and 1 in Switzerland. Their Big Mac was twice as expensive as the British one. It was so expensive that McDonald's has since withdrawn from the country. Iceland also has more Nobel Prize winners per capita than any other country, despite the fact there has only been one Icelandic Nobel Prize winner: Halldor Laxness, winner of the 1955 prize for literature. This is because their population is so small, at only 320,000 people (roughly the same as Croydon). It also uses three times more electricity than any other country, but as it is all green (geothermal and hydro-electric) it is the cleanest electric country in the world. It is also the youngest country in the world geologically speaking, and has the world's oldest parliament. It began in 947AD.

- Iceland's youngest volcano is similar to Genghis Khan because they both helped the environment. The Eyjafjallajökull volcano poured out between 150,000 and 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, but because it stopped so much air traffic it saved three million tonnes. Genghis Khan killed about 40 million people, and because farming was reduced by such a huge amount the forests grew back. "Eyjafjallajökull" is pronounced "EY-ya-fyat-lah-YOH-kuhtl".

- XL: The thing you should not do with the Icelandic phone book is look people up by the surname. Icelandic surnames come form the name of the father, so it would be "son of" or "daughter of", thus there are lots of people with the same surname. When women marry they do not take their husband's name, but keep their father's name. As a result people are listed alphabetically by their forename, and often by their title as well. If the panel were named the Icelandic way, their names would be Stephen Alanson, Brian Williamson, Sean Sidneyson, Alan Royson and Ross Malcolmson.

- The panel are shown what at first look like a normal pair of trousers and are asked what they actually are. It is in fact the bottom half of some male human skin, complete with testicles, known as a "nabrok". This is an example of Icelandic witchcraft which is on display in the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft. You first ask a friend if you can have their skin after they die. If they give permission you then flay the skin below the waist in one piece, then you wear them as tights. You then have to steal a coin from a widow, and place the coin in the scrotal sack, with a written incantation, and then it is believed that the sack will fill up with money.

- Stephen then gives the panel some phone books, in which the pages of one has been interleafed with the pages of the other. The panel then try to pull the two apart but they cannot do it because of the friction. You need 8,000lb of force in order to pull them apart. Alan does manage to do it, but only by trashing the books so much that the pages are ripped out of the book.

- The panel recreate some of the events in the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, which have been held annually since 1961. One involves lubricated wooded rods. Each competitor grabs hold of the rod, and they have to force it out of their opponents grasp without twisting or jerking. The other involves a piece of knotted string which is attached to an ear of each opponent, and the two opponents pull the string with their ears. The object is to endure the pain the longest.

- XL Tangent: Brian went to an expedition to the magnetic North Pole in 2004. Because it is so cold you only have 25 seconds to urinate because if you take any longer your penis will fall off. When Briain got to the Pole he could feel the magnetism. His hair stood on end, and he thought he could feel an earthquake. Then out from the ice came a Russian Typhoon submarine. When the men got off they called Brian "Father Christmas", because he was covered in ice. Brian then sang opera to them.

- Nobody Knows: No-one knows why in 1845 Sir John Franklin led an expedition of 128 men to the Arctic to discover the Northwest Passage, carrying a sled-load of button polish, handkerchiefs, curtain rods and a writing desk. We do know that 35 rescue parties over several decades were sent out to discover what had happened. Eventually, in the 1980s they discovered that they were eating canned food, but the cans used lead-solder. They thus suffered from mass delusions caused by lead poisoning. We do not know why they did it, but we know they did, and no-one from the expedition came back alive. Alan gets the bonus.

- XL: In order to keep his lads entertained, Scott of the Antarctic took a pianola (playing piano) with him during two of his expeditions. On his first expedition he took a normal piano, but he later discovered that no-one could play it. On the second expedition a company gave him twenty roles of music to play. On the fatal third expedition another company gave them 250 roles. They took the pianola to their first base camp.

- XL Tangent: Scott went along the known route which was very tough because he had to go up along glaciers. Amundsen went a different route which luckily for him was easier. When Amundsen returned to Norway he was in the bath when his wife burst in and exclaimed that Scott had died on the way back. Amundsen responded by shouting: "He's beaten me!" because he knew that people would remember Scott's heroic failure more than his triumph.

- XL Tangent: Scott's last words in his diary were: "We took risks, we knew we were taking them, and things have come up against us, therefore we have no reason to complain. For God's sake, look after our people."

- XL: When a penguin steps on a landmine, nothing happens because it is not heavy enough to trigger it. In the Falkland Islands, the Argentineans planted landmines, but the penguins can walk over them without being harmed. As a result the once dwindling penguin population has now increased again. The penguin population fell originally because of whaling. Whalers burned whales to collect whale oil, but as there were so few trees on the Falklands they burned penguins, and used penguin oil to burn the whales. The population fell from ten million to a very small number indeed.

- No-one is sure where the best place to look for a yeti is. Brian is a believer of the yeti and knows much about them. In Canada it is known as Sasquatch or Bigfoot; in Russia it is the Almas Giant, yeti, Sukpa, or Meh-Teh-Ma; in China they also call them Yeti, Sukpa and Meh-Teh-Ma; in Sumatra it is called the Orang Pendek, which means "Upright man". Brian went to Mongolia where the locals claimed they migrate in late autumn. There are two centres studying yetis, one in Siberia and the other in Bhutan.

- XL: Queen Victoria got her ice from Lake Wenham, outside Boston, Massachusetts. This lake provided the rich and the Royal Houses of Europe with ice until refrigeration was developed. A man called Tudor had the idea of chopping up the frozen lake water into blocks. One shop in The Strand had a huge block of ice in it. Newspaper was placed behind it to show just how clear the ice was, because you could still read the paper through the block.

- XL: The Spanish Duke of Alba ordered 7,000 pairs of ice skates so he could take on the Dutch in battle. The Pope had sentenced the entire population of the Netherlands to death for heresy after converting from Catholicism to Protestantism. Thus the Catholic Spanish were at war with the Protestant Dutch. During one very cold battle the Dutch fought on ice skates and defeated the Spaniards. Thus the Duke decided to buy ice skates to make sure such a defeat never occurred again, but they were never used.

- XL: The panel are each given some ice cream and are asked what flavour it is. It is a Turkish ice cream made from "fox testicles", which is actually a type of orchid known in Turkish as "salepi dondurma", which is Turkish for "fox testicle". "Salep" is Turkish for orchid. The ice cream is made from the early purple orchid, which is now endangered and illegal to export.

General Ignorance

- Igloos are usually made from the hides of caribou. (Forfeit: Ice)

- You no longer say "mush" to a husky to make it go. The commands change from time to time, and for now it is "hike". "Mush" comes from the French "marche", meaning "go". They are so strong that a team of 73 huskies once pulled a 10 tonne truck.

- Tangent: When Brian went to Mongolia he learnt that the locals tend to keep huskies and wolves instead of normal dogs. Brian slept in a tent next to a wolf, and climbed a 14,000 feet ledge alongside it.

- XL: The panel are shown a photo of what appears to be something with a long neck coming out of Loch Ness and are asked what it is. It is actually a hoax committed by journalist Marmaduke Wetherell. He was a big game hunter and there was a competition held by the Daily Mail to prove that the Loch Ness Monster existed. He was fooled by some artificial footprints made by some using severed hippo legs. The Mail published them but the Natural History Museum proved Wetherell wrong. Because of this he was fired by the Mail. He was so angry that he put together the famous hoax photo of Nessie along with another man called Christian Spurling.

- To finish off the show the panel are given bells and a musical score. Stephen conducts them as they play, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".


- Alan Davies: 9 points (Alan's 14th victory)
- Brian Blessed: -2 points
- Ross Noble: -3 points
- Sean Lock: -8 points

Broadcast details

Thursday 29th December 2011
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Sean Lock Guest
Ross Noble Guest
Brian Blessed Guest
Writing team
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Justin Pollard Question Writer
James Harkin Question Writer
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
David Morley (as Dave Morley) Executive Producer
Ruby Kuraishe Executive Producer


A Christmas Party Trick

Stephen Fry shows the panel a Christmas party trick using two phone books and some string.

Featuring: Alan Davies, Stephen Fry, Sean Lock, Ross Noble, Brian Blessed.


Supporters and subscribers get more

Additional content and tools are available across the site for Supporters and BCG Pro subscribers. On this page you can:

  • See 2 press clippings related to this episode
  • Broadcast details of 42 further repeats of this episode
  • This episode's inital overnight ratings
  • BCG Pro business users can see additional crew credits  
    If you join BCG Pro business, you can see composer, editor, production designer & researcher credits for this episode.

Donate (for fans) BCG Pro

Already a donor or Pro user?