Coke Floats and the Gateway to Perdition
But they're ignoring the show that comes between them. A triumph of television.
What is it? A British import from Channel Four, yes. But it is more. It is the mind-blowingest show in the annals of blown minds. The zenith of the television arts.
Or perhaps not.
It is...Garth Marenghi's Darkplace.
To explain the show, a quote from Garth himself:
This week Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, my hospital-based horror medical drama set in pre-apocalyptic Romford, debuts on Channel 4. "Garth Marenghi," a lone voice cries, "who be he be?" "Fool!" the crowd retorts. "Why, he's the chillmaster célèbre, whose extensive cannon o' chillers include The Ooze (can water die?), The Ague (dare you sneeze?) and Afterbirth (a placenta wants payback)." Still, a woman, eyes bedewed with tears, laments: "Hast then our humble fabulist deserted his loyal readerhood [50 million sales worldwide and counting] in favour of televisual terrors [scary TV]?"
Darkplace was a project conceived, written and filmed in the 1980s. My aim was a simple one: to change the evolutionary course of Man over a series of half-hour episodes. I would write, direct and star. My publisher Dean Learner would produce. I would exec produce. I set about composing my visionary scripts. Blessed with innate foresight from birth (one of my first words was "sooth"), I've always been a portender, having the knack of knowing what road mankind is heading down and, more important, whether or not there's a services on the way (often there's not - so evacuate what needs evacuating before setting off).
The show is a manufactured "lost series" by a fictional horror novelist. Metafiction abounds. Oh my. The show, Marenghi's "vision," synthesizes cheesy eighties hospital dramas, even cheesier horror, and low-budget ineptitude, all done with the breathtaking confidence of the man too dumb to know he's dumb. Bracketing the "Darkplace" segments are "interviews" with Garth and his publisher/co-star, Dean Lerner.
Marenghi stars as "Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D.," the hotshot surgeon, occult expert, and embittered tough guy of Darkplace Hospital. Each episode is a tribute to Dag's courage, fortitude, and really bad hair.
Damn, it's mighty. Below is from the first episode, "Once Upon a Beginning:"
Sanchez: So what happened between you and this Renwick customer?
cut to: HOSPITAL CANTEEN. DAY.
(The trio are sat a table in the canteen, Dagless is smoking a cigarette)
Dagless: Larry was a colleague of mine when I first started here at Darkplace. God he was brainy. And brave. He saved my life once. I saved his twice so I was one up. We made a pact to push each other's minds to the limit. And beyond. Naturally, we both became fascinated with the occult. One night, Larry suggested we try and open the gates of Hell right here in the canteen. I pleaded with him, I said "no, don't", but he insisted.
(cuts to a flashback of the event in question, with voiceover by Dagless)
Dagless (v/o): That night, we performed the rite and opened the gate. Halfway through, I went to the kitchen to fix us both a coke float, and by the time I got back, he'd gone insane. (Renwick is shaking violently and shouting, Dag screams, holding the two coke floats) Plus he'd left the gate open and there was evil everywhere. (Liz looks frightened) ...I need to grab a shower.
As a comic book fan, Garth himself felt terribly familiar, as did the stories. Snotty humor abounds. Plus it has flamethrowers, unsynchronized sound, Skipper the Eye Boy, and an episode called "The Apes of Wrath." Sweeeeeet.
Thursdays at 10PM, SciFi Channel. Harvey Jerkwater says check it out.