Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (Channel 4, 2004)
Garth Marenghi is an award-winning writer who has written several hundred books in the horror genre, insisting that each one is more gruesome and intense than the last. In the 1980s he was invited to star in a drama based on some of his incredible stories but it was never shown, until many years later when it was retrieved from the archive and we could finally see what a masterpiece it was, with Marenghi introducing each episode.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace starred Marenghi as Dr Rick Dagless, who works at Darkplace hospital. He is the hero who is always coming to the rescue as strange things begin to happen to the staff and patients around him.
Thornton Reed (Dean Learner) is Dagless’s no-nonsense boss. He is always getting annoyed by his antics, constantly thumping his desk in his office, and he often likes to wave a shotgun around if people start to get out of line.
Dr Lucien Sanchez (Todd Rivers) is a surgeon who is Dagless’s best buddy. He is a handsome young man with a lovely voice and thinks a lot of himself. He is constantly flirting with all the women in the hospital and sometimes likes to ride a motorbike around the corridors.
Inbetween scenes Marenghi, Learner and Rivers as they are now talk about their experiences on the show, including discussing things like how it wouldn’t get made today, just how intense the experience of working on the show was, and the impact that it had on the horror genre.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was a great show which featured a lot of comedy talent. As well as the regular cast of Matthew Holness, Richard Ayoade and Matt Berry there were guest appearances from Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt, Stephen Merchant and Graham Linehan.
The show was clearly a parody of TV of that era as it was rather low-budget, and with a lot of direction and production errors including characters being badly framed, some terrible special effects, irritating music, plus some ludicrous poorly-delivered dialogue. The final episode was particularly odd, with Dagless falling in love with a patient who is turning into broccoli and a bizarre musical interlude where Sanchez and Learner start to sing “One Track Lover” for no particular reason.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was shown rather late on Channel 4 and it didn’t do very well in the ratings, but it did gain a small fanbase, and it has been released on DVD with lots of great extras. It has been repeated and although there wasn’t a second series it did have a comedy chat show spin-off called Man To Man With Dean Learner. Over a decade on it’s still a show that I think is great.