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Author. Dreamweaver. Visionary.
October 8, 2013 7:38 PM   Subscribe

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, the legendary sci-fi hospital horror romance drama from the 1980s, is now available in its entirety on Youtube. The timeless tale of hospital doctor/occasional occultist Rick Dagless and his handsome friend Lucien Sanchez, the stunning and occasionally psychic Dr. Liz Asher, and hospital director Thornton Reed (played memorably by first-time actor and occasional talk-show host Dean Learner), Darkplace spawned a number of hit singles, including the rocking ballad I'm a One-Track Lover and the heartbreaking Skipper's Song, sung from Rick Dagless to the one-eyed sexual molester that he has adopted as his new son. An episode guide follows:

Once Upon A Beginning – A talking cat foresees dark times to come; a corpse explodes and comes to life; a handsome doctor reveals a troubling secret.
Hell Hath Fury – Malevolent appliances strike fear into a hospital; a young, stalwart intern wrestles shirtlessly with a stapler.
Skipper the Eyechild – An unfortunate sexual encounter leads to the birth of a monster; Dagless recalls his long-dead half-grasshopper child.
The Apes of Wrath – Hospital denizens begin devolving into primates; shit goes BANANAS.
Scotch Mist – Remnants of a Scotland slight wreak havok upon innocent Englishmen; Dagless restores honor the only way he knows how.
The Creeping Moss From The Shores Of Shuggoth – A broccoli infection threatens the future of Darkplace, both the hospital and the series.

Bonus material with the Darkplace cast: How Not To Act, in which the surviving members of the cast explain their theories about acting; Horrificata Illuminata, an in-depth look at the nature of horror; and Darkplace Illuminatum, which goes into the making of Darkplace so that fans may repeat this masterpiece's success.



(AN: There have been other posts about Darkplace, but none for half a decade. And none with links to the series itself!)
posted by Rory Marinich (69 comments total) 101 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am of the mind that this show, with actual dramatic acting, could have some heft to it.
posted by Seafooddynamite at 7:49 PM on October 8, 2013


The cut to Richard Ayoade with the shotgun in episode 1 always makes me super happy.
posted by neuromodulator at 7:53 PM on October 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


I've never seen this, but I've heard good things about it, and oh my God, that introduction.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:55 PM on October 8, 2013


I loved this show, thanks for posting.
posted by vrakatar at 8:03 PM on October 8, 2013


I love Darkplace, but every time I try to explain it to somebody they end up looking at me like I'm a lunatic. It takes high concept to a whole new level.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:07 PM on October 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


This show is one of my favorites. I try to explain it to people but never capture the weird, layered premise. It has been a few months, so time for a rewatch!
posted by munchingzombie at 8:07 PM on October 8, 2013


Pope Guilty: Yeah, Darkplace is a 'pataphysical comedy if ever there was one.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:09 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


"If that's how you treat your friends, imagine how you treat your enemies! Worse, I expect!"
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:14 PM on October 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


As a Peruvian, this makes me extremely happy. Briefly.
posted by boo_radley at 8:15 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Understood?"

"As crystal."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:16 PM on October 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Alice Lowe deserves special kudos for her perfect delivery of her introductory line as Dr. Liz Asher: "Hi, I've come to apply for the doctor's job. I can assure you my credentials are top-notch. I've just graduated from Harvard College Yale. I aced every semester, and I got an 'A'."
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:16 PM on October 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Let's just say I'm window shopping, and right now, there's a half-price sale on weird.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:17 PM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


This served for me as a wonderful introduction to the world of Matt Berry. This is what followed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXU9Ur9QznE
posted by Seafooddynamite at 8:19 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


This show's a ballbuster!
posted by windowbr8r at 8:40 PM on October 8, 2013


The misogyny practically wafting off the screen is remarkable for working so well as a running joke at Garth Marenghi's expense. Establishing his hatred of women and his iron-fisted control over his work right at the top of the series paid off big.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:44 PM on October 8, 2013


You're right about hatred of women. In this series, Holness seems to be in on the joke (joke being that the 70s hated women). In his other work, he seems to just hate women.
posted by windowbr8r at 8:49 PM on October 8, 2013


Maaaan. That's disappointing.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:49 PM on October 8, 2013


Wait really? That sucks.

Snuff Box seemed fairly self-parodying as well, but I can totally see Holness as a Gervais type who only ever plays a version of himself. That would super suck though.

(And Holness was on The Office even! He's the tech support guy at the end of the second season.)

EDIT: Oops, Holness didn't write Snuff Box. My bad.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:54 PM on October 8, 2013


Where was this originally broadcast? What year? Syndication?
posted by zardoz at 8:55 PM on October 8, 2013


The misogyny practically wafting off the screen is remarkable for working so well as a running joke...

But he loves the Scots, so much see... It's lampshaded so much that it's slipped backed around into something I don't even know what. Now get out of my office you two giggling scoundrels.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:56 PM on October 8, 2013


Where was this originally broadcast? What year? Syndication?

It was made in 2003 and aired in 2004.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:57 PM on October 8, 2013


Where was this originally broadcast? What year? Syndication?

2004 on Channel Four in the UK.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:57 PM on October 8, 2013


I think "I'm a One Track Lover" is legitimately good, like you can tell it's a loving spoof of the genre. Berry's excellent at nailing a genre like that. He's released a couple of albums that are heavily 60's English folk/70's prog flavored, and they're well worth checking out. Just straight up anachronism.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:14 PM on October 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I never liked the show first time around, it seemed to be trying too hard, then one day I stumbled on the website for Marenghi's website (which is still live) and I finally got the vibe, man.
posted by Mezentian at 9:48 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ok, I totally missed that it was a U.K. show.
posted by zardoz at 9:49 PM on October 8, 2013


I shall watch this, oh yes. The intro and titles for episode 1 alone are probably the wtfest wtf I've seen in a long while, wow.
posted by Iosephus at 9:51 PM on October 8, 2013


Holy shit Matt Berry's music is really, really good. I had no idea.

I want to give Little Rory this music so he can wave it in the faces of Sufjan Stevens fans.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:00 PM on October 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I burned through the series again a few weeks ago when I found it on YouTube (we still haven't unpacked the DVDs from our move last year) and it holds up beautifully. So many perfect moments: the trampoline jump in the opening credits, Berry's craftily-shambolic line reads ("...he was your...buddy...wasn't he?"), Ayoade in the cemetery with the shotgun, the "motorcycle" chase, the introspective nighttime driving sequences, the mysterious Won-Ton...

The DVD -- still Region 2 only, unfortunately -- has what amounts to a full-length soundtrack album as an easter egg, and is worth picking up on the strength of that alone. It's the score that every composer on every no-budget '80s movie heard in his head before he sat down in front of his DX7, and it is epic.
posted by Lazlo Nibble at 10:15 PM on October 8, 2013


Love me some Darkplace. Fun fact: this was my introduction to Matt Berry and it took me two episodes to realise that his voice wasn't overdubbed. I thought it was, and attributed it (somehow) to the high concept approach.

I want my next best friend to sound and act just like Matt Berry as Douglas Reynholm because I don't get ham-handedly smooth-talked into bad ideas often enough in this life of mine.
posted by GamblingBlues at 10:44 PM on October 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


His voice isn't overdubbed? I mean, I know it's actually his voice, but I thought there was intentional bad ADR all over in Darkplace and especially with Berry's character.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:48 PM on October 8, 2013


I thought it was both overdubbed and intentionally not his voice. Maybe you're right that it is actually overdubbed. Hence, my confusion.
posted by GamblingBlues at 10:50 PM on October 8, 2013


He sounds like a smooth Brian Blessed and it is the best thing.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:03 PM on October 8, 2013


BRIAN BLESSED IS SMOOTH ENOUGH.
posted by Mezentian at 11:10 PM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


A velvet Brian Blessed, then.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:13 PM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have never touched him, but I am sure he is velvety....

But I have said too much.

GORDON'S ALIVE.

Okay, now I have said too much.
posted by Mezentian at 11:18 PM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is this show scary?
posted by Bwithh at 11:19 PM on October 8, 2013


It ”may prove “too subversive, too dangerous, too damn scary" if you are of a nervous disposition.
It has a reputation as one of the most terrifying and radical television programmes ever made.

Controversy has surrounded the show since its creation, leading to rumours that the production was cursed. When Darkplace was originally cancelled, it had already claimed several lives, caused three nervous breakdowns and been subject to at least one visitation.

Yes. It will turn your hair several shades lighter.
posted by Mezentian at 11:26 PM on October 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Mezentian: "It ”may prove “too subversive, too dangerous, too damn scary" if you are of a nervous disposition.
It has a reputation as one of the most terrifying and radical television programmes ever made.

Controversy has surrounded the show since its creation, leading to rumours that the production was cursed. When Darkplace was originally cancelled, it had already claimed several lives, caused three nervous breakdowns and been subject to at least one visitation.

Yes. It will turn your hair several shades lighter.
"

Unpossible. I am silver already.
posted by Samizdata at 12:23 AM on October 9, 2013


This is a lovely show. It passed me by when it was first aired, and took a friend lending me the DVD unasked for for me to encounter it. There have been, over the last few decades, an astonishing number of excellent comedies that just completely passed me by (partially because BBC/ C4 don't advertise them very well, and put them in weird slots).
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:33 AM on October 9, 2013


Unpossible. I am silver already.

There are unpossible dues man was not meant to know about, colours from beyond the rainbow. Pigments truly terrifying.
posted by Mezentian at 12:38 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mezentian: " Unpossible. I am silver already.

There are unpossible dues man was not meant to know about, colours from beyond the rainbow. Pigments truly terrifying.
"

Sweet! Get me some mad hookups with some cute goth girlies then.

BRING IT, UNSPEAKABLE HORROR FROM BEYOND OUR WORLD! I LAUGH AT YOUR APOCALYPTIC REVELATIONS! YOUR CULTISTS HAVE SPEECH IMPEDIMENTS AND SMELL LIKE ELDERBERRIES!
posted by Samizdata at 12:53 AM on October 9, 2013


"This video contains content from Channel 4, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds." Not viewable in the UK, probably because it's on 4OD.

Such a great show. I watched it first a few years back, and my then housemates and I quickly adopted several lines from it as catchphrases and little injokes, that persist when I see them today. The quality of the acting is fantastic - the characters of Deal Learner and Garth Merenghi are so believable even in their utter ridiculousness. Very much recommended viewing.
posted by Dysk at 1:47 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


1980s? I assume the OP knows it was made in 2004 although spoofing 1980s TV.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:10 AM on October 9, 2013


This is one of the most-quoted shows in my house. It reeeeeally huuuuuurts...
posted by neushoorn at 3:01 AM on October 9, 2013


I think the OP was buying into the central conceit of the programme itself.
posted by Grangousier at 3:10 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's been mentioned already, but I'd like to put in another recommendation for Snuff Box. It's an odd one, positioned somewhere between...hm. Chris Morris and Kids in the Hall? It's hard to convey, really, there's this sort of mismatch between spooky camp, crude loutishness and Look Around You-esque 70s-referencing humor (the guitar lesson sketch, or the Old Grey Whistle Test segments with Richard Ayoade). But really, it's because Matt Berry sings. Good luck ever getting the theme song out of your head! (and if you've seen Dredd and wondered just what the hell that was, there you go...)
posted by Merzbau at 4:42 AM on October 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, and this (audio maybe NSFW for truly artful and endless swearing)
posted by Merzbau at 4:49 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


My problem with Darkplace is that it's not just insincere, it's anti-sincere. It exists to assure the viewer of his or her intellectual superiority over cornball horror, and it's so effective at doing so that seems contemptuous of anything else. It sneers at the very idea of sincerity, throwing a jocular arm over the viewer's shoulder as it chortles over how stupid this all is, and we're left to laugh nervously and wonder whether it's saying the same thing about us when our back is turned.

I instinctually recoil from anything that seems to be saying, "Hey, pal, you and me? We're way smarter than these assholes." Because what do they need from me, that they would create artifice to flatter me so?

Of course yes "it's funny", but it's the comedy analogue of an ironically-told offensive joke, where the actual punchline is "wouldn't it be crazy if I really meant that? Ha ha, I totally don't, though." It wants to elicit the laughter that a sincerely bad show would rate, but without the consequences of having made something bad.

I seem to be in a minority of fuddy-duddies who get what it's doing and still feel this way, establishing me as yet another square who just can't handle the cutting edge of British comedy. But Darkplace has always really bothered me. I do get it. It's even funny, sometimes. But it's funny in a hollow, servile, and contemptuous way, and I do not much like it.
posted by Sokka shot first at 5:00 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ye gods, I love Matt Berry and his mellifluous voice. His new album is fantastic.
posted by Kitteh at 5:31 AM on October 9, 2013


It exists to assure the viewer of his or her intellectual superiority over cornball horror, and it's so effective at doing so that seems contemptuous of anything else. It sneers at the very idea of sincerity, throwing a jocular arm over the viewer's shoulder as it chortles over how stupid this all is, and we're left to laugh nervously and wonder whether it's saying the same thing about us when our back is turned.

I feel like you're reading a lot of mean-spiritedness into the show that isn't really there. The actual parody horror show part is a silly over-the-top satire of the genre that isn't much different than any other parody ever. It pokes fun at the various tropes of the genre but I don't think that automatically makes it about intellectual superiority.

The only part of the show that feels at all more like making fun of sincerity than the usual parody are the "behind-the-scenes" segments, which I think is much more about giving comedic context to aspects of the show that might seem like non sequiturs. For example one of the episodes features a comically over-long slow motion sequence, and the behind-the-scenes dialog explains that after shooting they were several minutes short of their time for the episode and had to pad it out somehow. Almost all of the interview segments are like that, making the parody show more funny by adding context or developing the characters of the fake actors in the show. I can understand not finding the show funny or not feeling that it captures what makes "so bad it's good" shows funny, but I don't think that a parody of a something amateurish is inherently sneering at the source material.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:45 AM on October 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


My problem with Darkplace is that it's not just insincere, it's anti-sincere.

It's not anti-sincere. "Bad" is not the same thing as "sincere." Besides, Marenghi as a character is not sincere even within the universe of the show - he's lazy and meretricious. He's also arrogant, but there's no sincerity there beyond an inordinate confidence in his own abilities.

we're left to laugh nervously and wonder whether it's saying the same thing about us when our back is turned.

If and only if you're writing stuff like "Hell Hath No Fury" while their backs are turned. I absolutely love horror, 80s and otherwise, and part of that love comes from recognizing that which ain't too good.

Besides, there's much more to Holness than the wacky-make-em-ups. Check out this previous MeFi post on Holness' latest work.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:48 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Gah. Just missed the edit window. The episode is "Hell Hath Fury," not "Hell Hath No Fury."

On the bright side, that's a joke I'd earlier missed, so good job.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:55 AM on October 9, 2013


Like Black Dynamite, one of the great charms of Darkplace is its precise eye for bad camerawork. So many shots with excess headroom! So many bad match cuts!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:03 AM on October 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love this series for the same reason that I love Heat Vision and Jack. Feels like the two series are sort of kindred spirits, except that one is taking on bad horror and the other is taking on bad 70's and 80's TV.

Maybe it was just me, but I find episode 1 of Marenghi quite unfunny and the rest of the series extremely funny. Which is too bad because the first one has the exposition in it. So if anyone who hasn't seen these tries out the first one and doesn't like it, do be patient.
posted by heatvision at 6:14 AM on October 9, 2013


Berry's voice is overdubbed on the show. I think pretty much everyone's voice is.

One of my favorite subtle jokes in Darkplace is that I am fairly certain that Liz Asher is supposed to be American.

To be clear: Alice Lowe is not playing an American character. She's playing an English television actress who is playing a nurse who is supposed to be American.

I get this sense both from the fact that she went to Harvard College Yale (and got an A), and the fact that she says she fell on her fanny at one point - that's distinctly a thing an American would say and it's not a mistake that would be made "in-universe," as it were.

In other words, the joke isn't that the (fictional) bad writers of the show Darkplace forgot that fanny means something different in the US and UK - it's that they know that, but Madeleine Wool, playing Liz Asher, can't do an American accent.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:20 AM on October 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ye gods, I love Matt Berry and his mellifluous voice.

Bring on the trumpets!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:39 AM on October 9, 2013


"She was like a candle in the wind... unreliable."
posted by cottoncandybeard at 7:50 AM on October 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Rory Marinich: "I want to give Little Rory this music "

This just raises more questions.
posted by boo_radley at 7:54 AM on October 9, 2013


Ahh, I love Garth Marenghi's Darkplace.

One of my favorite parts of that first episode is the graveyard scene... it's set as a windy day and the tombstone actually sways a little bit. I was laughing so hard I had to pause it.
posted by yaymukund at 8:07 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank God I only took a tiny sip!
posted by Acey at 8:13 AM on October 9, 2013


My books always say something. Even it's just something simple, like "don't genetically engineer crabs to be as big as men." There's always a message, or a theme.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:50 AM on October 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


Thank you so much for posting this. I saw Darkplace when it was broadcast on Adult Swim a few years ago, and I have been telling unbelieving people about it ever since. Now I can send them links!
posted by vibrotronica at 9:22 AM on October 9, 2013


Wow, Sokka's "anti-sincere" reading is about as opposite to mine as you can get.

The only way to pull off this kind of parody is by paying an incredible amount of attention to the source material, enough to capture all of its subtle quirks. Who pays that much attention to a genre, any genre? Someone who loves it, that's who.

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is as loving a parody as any I've seen. The people who made it were clearly having a blast, and that's half of why it cracks me up. (The other half is all the deliberate filmmaking glitches: continuity errors, bad ADR, bizarre acting choices... it's like watching a TV show made by kittens.)
posted by otherthings_ at 4:43 AM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


One of my favorite little jokes from Darkplace: Garth Marenghi's car.

I forget which episode it's in, but basically, he's doing this long internal monologue, and this monologue continues as he drives home at night in the rain.

Only very briefly do we see his car. It might show up in other episodes, but never for very long. The thing is a triumph of production design. It's like Knight Rider meets the Batmobile, except on a $20 budget.

I haven't seen attention to detail like that in a comedy since Brass Eye before it and Scott Pilgrim after it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:13 AM on October 10, 2013


I get this sense both from the fact that she went to Harvard College Yale (and got an A), and the fact that she says she fell on her fanny at one point - that's distinctly a thing an American would say and it's not a mistake that would be made "in-universe," as it were.

I get the fanny part, but I'm a little confused about Harvard College Yale (and getting an A). Isn't the joke here that Marenghi is vaguely aware that Americans use the word "college" differently, and Americans talk about grades differently, and that "Harvard" and "Yale" are vaunted names in American higher education, but he never bothered to get any of this right?

Or am I just misunderstanding you?

...

Either way, another great little joke from Darkplace is recapped in the opening credits. They're all in Director Reed's office, and Dr. Asher is just casually looking out the window. Like, her face is maybe six inches from the window, while everyone else is talking. It's just so effortlessly asinine, as far as intentionally bad blocking goes. Hilarious stuff.

...

Matt Berry's album Witchazel is excellent, by the way. Check out the video for Take My Hand.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:22 AM on October 10, 2013


I get the fanny part, but I'm a little confused about Harvard College Yale (and getting an A). Isn't the joke here that Marenghi is vaguely aware that Americans use the word "college" differently, and Americans talk about grades differently, and that "Harvard" and "Yale" are vaunted names in American higher education, but he never bothered to get any of this right?

Yeah, that's what I take to be the joke.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:16 AM on October 10, 2013


How did I miss this!?

Anyway, in the dark recesses of my hard I found a Works document, no less, of a scene so good that back in the day before your IMDBs quotes I transcribed the fucker:

SANCHEZ: Have you ever been to Scotland, Dag?

RICK: Once.

SANCHEZ: What was it like?

RICK: I remember it much as one recalls a dream. Or a nightmare. I was on a budget flight to Norway, when a storm hit and forced us to ditch in Glasgow, Prestwick. I was stranded. And it's so hilly up there that you can't get any signal on your carphone. It looked bad. It looked like I was going to have to spend the night in Glasgow.

SANCHEZ: Jesus Christ.

RICK: The cabin crew suggested we all go out and club it. I had no option, it was that or one of their B&Bs. I figured it would be safer on the streets.

For the first time ever, I saw the Scotch in their natural habitat, and it weren't pretty. I'd see them huddling in stations before, being loud, but this time I was surrounded. Everywhere I went it felt like they were watching me. Fish-white flesh puckered by the Highland breeze, tight eyes peering out for fresh meat, screeching, booze-soaked voices hollering out for a taxi to take them halfway up the road to the next all-night watering-hole. A shatter of glass. A round of applause. A sixteen-year-old mother of three vomiting in an open sewer, bairns looking on chewing on potato-cakes.

I ain't never going back. Not never.

SANCHEZ: My aunt lives in Scotland. She says it's quite nice.

RICK: Well, she's wrong.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:32 PM on October 10, 2013


Oh and if you want more Alice Lowe check her out in the blacker than black comedy Sightseers that she also co-wrote
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:34 PM on October 10, 2013


This show has a few good cameos as well if you like slightly insidery British comedy, Comedian (and Ricky Gervais' comedy partner) Stephen Merchant as an irate cook ("Hell Hath Fury)." Graham Linehan, the creator of the excellent comedies "Father Ted" and the late "The IT Crowd," plays a recurring security guard. Noel Fielding, host of "Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and half of the duo "The Mighty Boosh" is a Monkey Man ("Apes of Wrath"). The other half, Julian Barratt, recurs here as Padre, the hospital chaplain.

Those are just the faces I recognized as an anglophilic American.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:37 AM on October 11, 2013


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