Derren Brown: Trick Of The Mind, Channel 4

by | Apr 23, 2004 | All, Reviews

After Derren’s recent Russian Roulette was dismissed as a hoax by much of the media, he seemed very keen to ensure viewers as to the authenticity of the tricks on his new show.

Firstly he explained that “no actors or stooges were used in this show”. Evidence of his wish to appear genuine came as he swathed himself in a crowd on a London street to get two complete strangers to read each other’s minds. When a young woman correctly guessed the name of a man’s friend just from touching his head, the assembled throng burst into applause. If this had been his third or fourth attempt at the trick it’s unlikely the response would have been so enthusiastic, or at least that’s what we would be expected to think.

Derren, through what seemed to be autosuggestion, also managed to make a cabbie forget the route to the London Eye and even what it looked like. Afterwards the cabbie was filmed stating how perplexed he was. No stooge then. An actor did appear, though, in the trustworthy form of Stephen Fry, who was amazed by one of Derren’s card tricks.

But he saved his best illusion for when he challenged nine of Britain’s best chess players to simultaneous matches. Derren confided to the viewers though he was only average at chess, he was still confident of securing some wins. He then went and told the assembled group he was decent at chess to perhaps secure a psychological edge. Indeed from the nine games, Derren won four drew two and lost three, and also explained how he did it.

He had split eight of the players into four pairs and essentially played them off against each other in an astonishing feat of memory so he was bound to finish level with the group in those eight ties without exercising his chess skills at all. He then gambled that he could defeat the weakest player by himself with the aid of some of the moves he had remembered from his illusory matches with the eight stronger players. He succeeded.

In doing this Derren had not only revealed the secret of his success, one of the major reasons for watching the show, but also astounded through the power of his memory.

But the trick wasn’t complete. Before the experiment Derren had passed a note to one of the players. On it were his predictions how many pieces each player would have left on the chessboard at the end of the game. He got eight out of nine correct, but on this occasion wryly claimed he “couldn’t remember” how he’d done the trick.

And it’s Derren’s willingness to disclose how he performs some of the lesser illusions and then trumping them with something even better that makes this format so attractive, along with watching and listening closely to spot any hint of a hoax or even how he did the trick. And next week I’m sure I’ll be able to work out how he performs his conjuring, and if not then, the week after.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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