Sci Fi Finds a Darkplace

Garth Marenghi's Dark PlacesLast week the Sci Fi Channel started airing Garth Marenghi’s “Darkplace”, a TV show with a history of flying under the radar. If you believe Garth Marenghi himself, the show was made in the mid to late Eighties in the UK and was only aired in Poland because it was just too groundbreaking, too radical.

Six episodes aired in the UK for the first time in 2004, intercut with some new interviews put together specially for the short run, and it’s these same productions that the Sci Fi Channel is now running, interviews and all.

The show sadly aired with little impact in the UK, and it’s unlikely that any of the other remaining shows from the original run of 50 or so will ever be shown. Perhaps even in 2004 the show was just too radical.

This of course gives us a neat excuse for having not picked up on it before now, one episode into the run.

If you believe award-winning horror author, director, and actor Garth Marenghi, it’s all the fault of the British government: “MI8, which is actually three levels above MI6, pulled the plug. And they did it because I knew the truth. They had files on everyone. But mainly on me.”

Garth Marenghi's Dark Places“Darkplace” tells the story of a hospital situated above a portal to hell and follows the exploits of Dr Rick Dagless (played by Garth Marenghi himself), Dr Lucien Sanchez (played by Todd Rivers), and Dr Liz Asher (played by Madeleine Wool) as well as their administrator, Thornton Reed (played by publisher of Garth’s books and producer of the show, Dean Learner).

If you’re wondering who any of these people are, then it’s time to let you in on a little secret. “Darkplace” was not made in the Eighties, and Garth Marenghi is the comic creation of writers Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade, who play Garth Marenghi and Dean Learner, respectively.

What the show is, is a razor-sharp spoof of self-serving writing as well as bad Eighties television. The segments of the show are awfully made with horrible acting, poor continuity, and terrible makeup, lighting, and camera work. The special effects often consist of badly made models or things hanging from wires (or badly made models hanging from wires).

It’s as much a spoof of modern-day retrospectives as it is latter day tat. I’m sure we’ve all sat through commentaries and making-of documentaries where the actors and crew involved in making some atrocious show talk about how amazing and deep and cutting edge it was.

Garth Marenghi's Dark PlacesThe show doesn’t hold back on the gore, though obviously you can’t expect much from it, but all the same any horror fan familiar with the lesser works of our genre and the previously mentioned eulogizing that they’re often given on their DVD releases needs to tune in to Garth Marenghi’s “Darkplace” on the Sci Fi Channel this Thursday at 10pm EDT after “Who Wants to Be a Superhero”.

While it’s unlikely that there’ll ever be a second series, Richard Ayoade’s character of Dean Lerner is about to get his own spoof talk show in the UK, and Garth Marenghi is due to show up as one of the guests.

Don’t worry about being late to the party. So were we.

Those looking for a little taste of Garth Marenghi could do a lot worse than visiting his website. In the meantime we’re going to see about tracking down the man himself for an interview…


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Jon Condit