Review: Inside Alton Towers, Channel 4

Wicker Man rollercoaster, Alton Towers
2.5 star review

Alton Towers and its opening of the Wicker Man rollercoaster was covered in a one-off documentary for Channel 4 last night.

Inside Alton Towers began with the backstory of 2015 Smiler ride accident, in which two cars collided and five people were seriously injured.

The Staffordshire resort’s general manager Ian Crabbe was interviewed and described how he felt personally responsible for 16 people that were injured in total on the Smiler.

Crabbe spoke about how the park has been special to him since his first visits as a boy in the 1950s. He appears to have a genuine emotional attachment to the park, and it is a welcome insight into a relatively obscure key player at Alton Towers.

The programme soon moves on to the construction of the new Wicker Man ride, oddly describing it as the moment the park decided to try and attract people back.

We meet the ride’s creative lead, Bradley Wynne – who came up with the ride’s concept and artistic design – as well a number of others involved in the ride’s development and promotion.

The programme links the rollercoaster to the 1973 cult British horror film The Wicker Man, although the park has not – and does not in the programme – confirm any direct inspiration from film.


A highlight is the input from the American constructors Great Coasters International, who talk about the ride’s design and explain the unique lively nature of wooden rollercoasters.

There is a strange moment where the construction team exclaim of teething problems in testing “it’s fucked, we’re fucked” in a coming-up-after-the-break-style snippet, with nothing on the matter following in the next segment.

The ride’s failure to open on its original launch date due to cold weather is also omitted, and the programme seemingly cuts straight to the official public launch a week later.

We meet a number of theme park enthusiasts, including some touching moments relating to their battles with depression and family health problems, and how the escapism of Alton Towers has helped them through their challenges.

Even the most hardcore of rollercoaster fanatic is not presented in a fair way, and there are no elements of ridiculing their passion.

While the programme covers some interesting areas and does indeed offer several behind-the-scenes moments, it comes across as more of a promotional creation aimed at boosting the profile of a new ride.

Inside Alton Towers was screened on Channel 4 on 23 August, and is available on the channel’s All 4 catch-up service until late September.