Dr Rick Dagless MD -
Dr Liz Asher -
Dr Lucien Sanchez -
Thornton Reed -
OTHER SCI FI COMEDIES
OTHER SCARY HOSPITAL SHOWS
Garth Marenghi, for those of us that don't know, writes horror books. In the 80s, he penned and starred in a horror show that was so shocking, so ahead of its time and so daring that the studios swore never to show it. Twenty years later, that series has been dusted off and the show that they tried to ban can now be seen.
GARTH MARENGHI'S DARKPLACE is a spoof. Riffing on ideas from Lars von Trier's The Kingdom and certainly undermining the following year's Kingdom Hospital it makes fun of the low budgets, dodgy acting and poor editing of 70s and 80s homegrown fantasy shows where budgets were low, stock footage priceless and mistakes not always spotted.
The spoofing is clever enough, but the addition of continually interrupting interview spots withs Marenghi and partner Dean Lerner spoil the flow of the idea, bringing the audience out of the story to remind them of the spoof.
The series was only six episodes long, but to be fair that was probably long enough. The idea could barely sustain the six episodes and would have suffered had it gone on much longer. With better plots and less of the interviewing they may have been able to sustain the show longer, but at this length GARTH MARENGHI'S DARKPLACE remains a mainly successful, but always minor, entry into the science fiction comedy genre.
Dr Asher, the attractive new doctor at Darkplace Hospital faints in the reception area, overwhelmed by images of evil within the hospital. She is introduced to Dr Dagless, war veteran, master of the occult and paedeatrician. Dagless thinks that the evil might emanate from the room where an old friend is recovering, an old friend with whom he once tried to open the gates of Hell.
Making a spoof is easy. Making a funny spoof, however, is hard. It's difficult to say which way GARTH MARENGHI'S DARKPLACE is going to go. It's full of ideas and energy and there are laughs to be had, but perhaps fewer than we would have wanted in the opening episode. The suddenly exploding man is very funny, but a lot of the rest raises a knowing smile, but that's all. Yes we get the joke, but we're not so sure that it's actually funny.
The mock bad acting (it's easy to pretend to be acting badly) and editing 'goofs' are clever enough, but the talking heads that pop up throughout giving interview snippets are intrusive and annoying. They interrupt the flow of the false show, which is really why we're here in the first place.
When the chicken takes far too long in the canteen, Liz becomes agitated. As the unthinking insensitivity of the men around her builds up, her psychokinetic powers run amok and common implements become deadly weapons. Can the doctors figure out what's causing it all and find a way to stop it before they are all beaten to death by egg whisks.
Political correctness seems only to be present in order to be punctured by this show, which is great. The flow of jokes about women may reflect the times in which the show was made, but does actually make the point about what cannot be said these days and how comedy has suffered because of all the sacred cows that can't be joked about any more. The explanation of why there is so much slow motion in the series is a very funny moment.
A giant eye rapes a man who then gives birth to an eyechild. Dagless, whose own son was born half-grasshopper, knows something about raising children that are a little different and so takes the giant eye under his wing, but this is a story that can only end it tears (and blood).
This is a very silly idea that then turns into a very silly story. To start with, a giant eye that rapes a man? I mean how exactly? The sudden appearance of a musical number in the middle of the show is another fine comic moment. The giant eye is also terribly realised, but somehow does manage to convey cuteness.
Something in the water is regressing the staff of Darkplace hospital back to a more primal nature. Dr Sanchez can no longer operate because he has the fingers of an ape and Liz has entered the poo-throwing phase. Can Dr Dagless figure out that it all has something to do the bright green water that everyone's been drinking in time to save the day?
Apart from the witty title, this episode doesn't actually bring anything new to the table that hasn't already been seen in the previous three. The ape makeup is deliberately pants and the obviousness of the source of the problem makes the episode all the more juvenile. The discussion into what has become of the actress playing Liz almost redeems it.
A fog has descended on Darkplace hospital, a fog filled with ancient warriors in kilts, killer bagpipes and small mounds of porridge oats. Dagless suspects the Scots may have something to do with it and it may be some dark secret in his own past that will save them all.
After gleefully taking the mickey out of women in Hell Hath Fury, the show turns its sights on the Scots. Once again political correctness is thrown out the window (the interview sections consistently trying to prove that the show isn't really racist) and every joke that can be dredged up about the Scots is dusted off and paraded around the place. It's blatant and it's very funny and probably even the Scots will be able to laugh at it.
A woman in the halls of the hospital is subjected to a gas full of alien spores that start turning her into broccoli. Dr Sanchez falls for her in a big way, but Dagless is concerned that, due to the condition's infectious nature, if Sanchez gets physical with the patient then half of Romford won't be safe.
Another very silly story to round off the series and another musical number actually steals the show. This time it's Todd Rivers' stupendously pompous-voiced Lucien Sanchez who gets the honours, but it is really the woman in the bed turning into a green vegetable that makes it.
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