I'm Garth Marenghi, horror writer. But I prefer the term, dream weaver.
Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is a comedy TV show made in the United Kingdom. It's first episode was broadcast on the 29th January 2004. As of this writing, 3 episodes have been broadcast, in what I presume will be a series with about 6 episodes.
The premise of the show is that in the 1980s*, well known horror writer Garth Marenghi wrote, directed, and starred in a TV series set in Darkplace hospital, Romford where various mysterious, alien, demonic, and paranormal activities went on. It was going to be shown in Channel 4 (for those who don't know, Channel 4 is arguably the best commercial terrestrial channel in the UK), but according to Garth, the "powers that be" decided not to air the show. Garth claims in the intro to the first episode that this was because he was "too close to the truth" in his visions. As the show progresses though, viewers see that this is probably not exactly the truth. Anyway, the first episode begins with Garth standing in a Auntie's Bloomers style vault stacked with film reels, saying he's proud to present Darkplace, interspersed with interviews with himself, and Dean Learner, the producer of the show.
And then the chaos begins.
Darkplace is probably the funniest thing I've seen on TV since Little Britain and definitely ranks up with Teachers, Phoenix Nights, The Office and others as modern genius. The idea is that, like every other comedy great, Garth is incapable of seeing the huge faults in his show. The episodes of Darkplace shown have terrible acting, directing, special effects, terrible continuity. Of course, it's all a spoof, but I can't help being reminded of things that I've seen which were almost as bad, but actually not a joke.
Garth plays, in the show, Dr. Rick Dagless MD, a "maverick doctor haunted by demons of his past". He is joined by Dean Learner playing Thornton Reed, the head of Darkplace hospital, and two other main characters, Lucian Sanchez (played by Todd Rivers) and Liz Asher (Madeleine Wool), who arrives in the first episode as a new recruit. The dialogue between these people often brings us some of the most quotable quotes around. The clips of Dean and Garth talking in between the scenes are truly hilarious in that they are incapable of seeing how terrible the show they have made is, and naturally they have hugely inflated opinions of themselves.
Dean: When I saw Garth's script, I said "Garth, this is going to be the most significant televisual event since Quantum Leap. And I do not say that lightly"
The first episode centres on Liz entering the hospital as a new recruit, and, a warning from a talking cat and some wooden dialogue later, she has a "vision" with some shoestring-budget special effects thrown in. She is, naturally, a psychic, which none of her fellow doctors find odd in any way. Once she tells Rick the room number of the bad thing she saw happening in her vision, Rick heads up to check on it, only to find a patient who has a fit before his eyes, and then explodes in a not too realistic way. Which means, you see a shop mannequin strapped with some blood sacks exploding. It's almost definitely the worst special effect I'd seen.. up until then. Worse was yet to come.
After Rick has a chat with the decapitated head of his patient on the floor, who requests that he be "finished off", Rick dutifully picks up a shovel and shows off his magnificent golf swing on the head. Naturally enough, the room is covered in strewn about blood and gore by now, so Sanchez pops his head round the door, before delivering the line of the episode, in his incredibly bad dramatic voice.
Sanchez: I'll get a mop.
Rick explains how the patient had previously been another doctor, in fact, a friend of his. They had been fighting off some denizens of hell, when Rick was distracted for a minute. Rick's friend was overpowered by the demon, and went insane. Next up is the funeral, in which (obviously) the dead ex-doctor comes back to life just as his coffin is about to be buried. For anyone who's spotted that someone who just exploded is now fully formed again and running around, well done. But that's the point.
Rick pulls out an enormous Dirty Harry style magnum, and takes aim at the errant zombie. Everything goes slow motion, and the ex doctor's mother runs in front of Rick, pleading with him. For no apparent reason, he shoots her as well, before proceeding to pop some proverbial caps in some proverbial zombie ass. There is also some footage of Reed, who for no apparent reason now has a shotgun and fires it randomly into the air. He does this a lot over the episodes. The episode ends with Rick on the roof of Darkplace, musing about the horror that he was sure was to come.
Rick: A door had opened in Darkplace. Not a literal door, because most of those ones in the building were actually closed and locked, but a door to hell. This door would be hard to close, on account of it being abstract and having no doorframe or handle.
If that sounds like the worst TV series you've ever heard, and you think the plot is absolutely appaling, then you're right. But that, along with the truly diabolical acting and general feel of the show, is what makes it excellent. The vision of totally incompetent actors struggling with an appaling script is genius.. I highly recommend anyone who hasn't been watching the show so far turns on Channel 4 at 10:30 next Thursday.
I don't to completely go through the other two episodes which have been broadcast up to now, but be reassured that they are both excellent. The third, Skipper the Eyechild was great, but the second one, involving Telekinesis, was truly amazing. Until you have seen people run in slow motion away from filing cabinets you haven't lived.
There are too many excellent elements of the show to list, but some of them are as follows:
All shots in between the scenes show an exterior view of the hospital, which is clearly a very crude cardboard model.
All the special effects seem to involve things on strings, in an attempt to show things are being levitated. The Telekinesis episode involved a lot of floating staplers, desk equipment, and a cordless iron floating around causing havoc.
Dean: Someone who is very eagle eyed might spot the strings. Maybe. But that's not the point. You don't go to a puppet show and go "Oh, look, I can see that they're puppets! They aren't real!"
Some of the dialogue deserves special mention. Scenes like this are not uncommon:
< Rick is standing alone on the roof of Darkplace. Liz approaches. >
< pause >
< Sanch approaches >
< pause >
Rick: Don't you think it's odd that the temp arrives and all this odd stuff starts happening?
Sanch: What do you think? Android?
Rick: It's likely.
Rick, on finding a dead security guard in the basement, which is clearly a shop mannequin painted black: He obviously came down here, got lost, went mad, and then ate his own hands. There's nothing we can do for him now.
Sanch, Rick, and the temp sneak up to a doorway in the basement. Sanch pops his head round to check in anything is in the room. There is a hissing sound. Sanch reappears with a large dark triangular shaped mark on his face.
Rick: What was it?
Sanch: Cordless steam Iron. The bastard.
Garth: After I impregnated my wife, I was afraid she'd give birth to something non human. She gave birth to twin girls, thankfully, but I've never been able to get rid of my suspicion that one of them might eat the other. This hasn't happened so far, which I put down to good parenting.
Garth: This episode is about my desire to have a son. I have four daughters, and while I wouldn't go as far as saying they're a disappointment to me, I don't really think they're on my side.
Dean, commenting on the "Scotch Mist" episode, which involves malicious scottish fog: Yes, okay, we did discover the fog was poisonous when two techies died. But, to be honest, if someone had to die, I'd prefer it to be a techy. I mean when you get the next one, it's the same hammer, it's in the same toolbelt, you can barely tell the difference.
There is too much of this stuff to mention. All I can do is recommend that you check out this show while it's still on, and if you live outside the UK, then pray that one of your TV channels buys the show. There are currently no videos or DVDs to buy of Darkplace, but I have no doubt that when the series finishes, these will appear. Although the quotes above may not seem that hilarious when read, I guarantee that in the context of the show anyone who likes any remotely off the wall comedy will love it. As an aside, www.garthmarenghi.com is a truly excellent website which has been set up entirely to perpetrate the back story of the series. It's binary humour in a truly excellent form.
Watching the first 3 episodes of the show.
Some quotes from above site, others from own memory.
* - Cheers to SgtP for reminding me that the show was in the 80s, not the 70s.
Please msg me with any corrections.