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Be very, very afraid.


 "I'm Garth Marenghi: author, dreamweaver, visionary, plus actor. You are about to enter the world of my imagination; you are now entering my darkplace."


In the mid 1980s, horror writer Garth Marenghi wrote a show so horrifying that it was not until 2004 that it was commissioned for general release. Even despite its rather meagre budget, the writing and ideas were so terrifying that they still retain their power to shock.

... OK, so that's not actually true. The show itself is a spoof, though presented straight, of horror stories and '80s action shows. It is intentionally So Bad It's Good, with wooden acting, many a Special Effect Failure (including a motorbike chase where they're riding pedal bikes with motorbike noises dubbed in), Anvilicious dubious morals, cheesy plots (including Attack of the Killer Whatever), poor editing and corny dialogue. The show itself is this original footage, introduced by the fictional Marenghi (who does not at all resemble a cross between British pulp horror writer Shaun Hutson and Stephen King, with a little Clive Barker, James Herbert, and Ramsey Campbell thrown in), with interviews by other cast members, praising how ground-breaking the show is, and generally offering insights into its (rather warped) meaning.

The Show Within a Show focuses around the staff of Darkplace Hospital in Romford, East London, which is apparently built over the very Gates of Hell. Or, to be slightly more accurate, it's about Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D — played by Marenghi himself — who is the best doctor in the world ever, as well as a crack shot, action hero and master warlock. Nevertheless, Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D, and (to a lesser extent) his friends and co-workers are the only hope the planet has against the various evils that rise up in Darkplace Hospital, including mutant eye-babies, infectious broccoli-women, and of course, Scotsmen.

In the UK the series ran on Channel 4. In America, the series first ran on the Sci Fi Channel, then moved to Adult Swim.

Now has a character sheet.

See also Man to Man With Dean Learner, a spin-off, and Snuff Box, on which many of the same actors have appeared.

Many tropes that get misused get misused here, and to slightly over the top, comic effect. Tropes used include:

  • Actor Existence Failure: Madeleine Wool; see Dropped a Bridge on Him below.
  • All Men Are Perverts
  • Almost-Dead Guy: Parodied with the Temp, who, as he lies dying, manages to hold on long enough to explain Bermuda's political position in the United Kingdom.
  • Analogy Backfire: "[Madeleine] was like a candle in the wind: unreliable".
  • As the Good Book Says...: There's a random Shakespeare quote in the first episode that pops up on screen for several seconds, then is never again referenced.
    • Made even more hilarious by being referenced as "King Lear, p46" as opposed to the slightly more accurate "scene 4".
  • Author Filibuster: The interviews with the (fictional) cast members sprinkled throughout sometimes act as this for ridiculous things (for instance, talking about a foundation to help underprivileged children learn psychokinesis). Also, it's occasionally mentioned that Garth Marenghi fills his novels with them. On one occasion, the show's action stalls to explain why buying non-brand-name batteries is a bad idea.
  • Badass Longcoat: Dr. Rick Dagless MD is rarely seen without his doctors cape and cowboy boots.
    • Even when he's not even wearing pants.
  • Bad Bad Acting: Impressively, every character does this in a distinctly different way.
    • Garth takes a Serious Business approach, milking every mundane line as if it's the most terrifying thing in the world.
    • Dean is, in his own words, "not an actor", and clearly has no idea what any of his lines even mean ("We're going to comfort Dag, want to come?" "No.") You can easily tell he's just blurting out his lines and where it's apparent that they've had to stop as Dean's forgotten them.
    • Todd has a habit of drawing out vowels, and hams up every line like Tom Baker on one of his drunk days. The actor does the same thing when advertising for bottled water.
    • Madeleine responds to everything with shock and admiration.
    • The "labourers" (including Graham Linehan) react to everything with blank expressions and bored voices: "Let's do it here. I'm really horny."
    • The cook (Stephen Merchant) talks reallyreallyquickly.
    • The Temp in "Hell Hath Fury" is, by comparison, a rather good actor who has simply been given bad material to work with.
    • Man to Man With Dean Learner adds Glynn Nimron to the register, an American sci-fi SF actor who talks like no human ever would, even when not acting.
  • Based on a Dream: Garth claims that he uses his dreams for inspiration for his writing... when he's not just stealing from dead authors whose work is out of copyright.
  • Big No: About seven per episode.
    • Also usually of absurd length: Sanch's scream when his first shakes Liz's hand is so ridiculously long that even Sanch starts looking bored and glancing around.
  • Body Horror: The eye-creature and its hellish spawn, as well as Dagless' half-grasshopper son, and of course the entire Planet of the Apes episode.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Explicitly Lampshaded-- in one scene Dagless states that he has five bullets remaining in his six-chamber revolver, then in the next fires nine without reloading.
  • Butt Monkey: Liz. Literally in one episode.
  • Campbell Country: The final episode ("The Creeping Moss from the Shores of Shuggoth")provides us with Marenghi's rather unique take on Lovecraftian Horror.
  • Captain Obvious:

 "I ran the only way I knew how. By placing one leg in front of the other in quick succession."

  • Cardboard Boxes: Used prominently in The Apes of Wrath - both for storing water, and in the middle of a forest where a fight scene ensues.
  • Chekhov's Gun:

 "Take this, Dag."

"What is it?"

"Something that might come in handy."

  • The Chick: Liz.
  • China Takes Over the World: Thornton Reed's unseen boss is called Won Ton, presumably in reference to this trope (a won ton is a kind of Chinese dumpling).
  • Chivalrous Pervert: What Rick Dagless is supposed to be in theory. In practice, not so much (well, not the chivalrous part).
  • Compliment Backfire: "I call Garth the Orson Welles of horror, and not just because of his weight." - Dean Learner.
  • Cool Car: Dagless' car is a weak attempt - it has flashing lights, shiny buttons and a go-fast button, but it's still a golf cart pretending to be a sports car. As such, we never actually see it move.
  • Covert Pervert: Reed is seen groping Liz's behind while supposedly comforting her at the end of the first episode.
  • Creator Breakdown: Garth lets his personal life and personal issues inform the scripts more than he perhaps should.
  • Cue Card Pause: A staple of Dean Learner's depiction of the truth.
  • Da Chief: Thornton Reed is clearly written this way, but due to Dean Learner's nil acting skills is anything but.
  • Delusions of Eloquence: Garth is quite fond of trying to sound erudite, and failing catastrophically (mostly due to explaining what any remotely exotic word means). This is probably because he's in rebelliance against convention.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D. expands to "Doctor Rick Dagless, Medicinae Doctor". Real doctors choose one or the other. Also this delightful exchange from Scotch Mist:

 Liz: "Look! The mist is retreating!"

Sanchez: "She's right! The mist is retreatinnng."

Dagless: "You're both right. It is retreating."

    • Also in "The Apes of Wrath":

 Dagless: *narrating* Reed told me everything. How the monkeys now ruled Darkplace. How they'd taken over.

Reed: They've taken over.

Dagless: Oh no. Oh Jesus. They've taken over. They've taken over!

Reed: I know!


 "The doors of Darkplace were open. Not the literal doors of the building, most of which were closed. But evil doors. Dark doors. Doors, to the beyond. Doors that were hard to shut because they were abstract and didn't have handles. They were more like portals really."

  • Do-It-Yourself Theme Tune: Spoofed as the credits list the opening tune as being "based on melodies whistled by Garth Marenghi".
    • It doesn't actually say what is based on this. But we can hope it's just the music. . .
  • Don't Explain the Joke
  • Double Entendre: Quite a few start springing up once the term "Homo Erectus" gets used.

 Dagless: Sanch is regressing to Homo Neanderthalenis [sic]. Right now, Sanch, you're Homo Erectus, but who know how long you've got.

Sanchez: I appreciate you being straight with me.

Reed: And you and I are Homo Sapiens?

Dagless: Correct.

Reed: But if we're all basically Homos, shouldn't we get along?


Reed: Come on, you two queers! We need to lick this problem before it turns around and slaps us in the nuts!

  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: The (fictional) actress, Madeleine Wool, who played Liz disappeared without a trace after the filming of Darkplace. She is (emphatically) presumed dead by her fellow cast members. Dean Learner speculates that she's "buried somewhere in the Eastern bloc. If she got a burial."
    • It's hinted more than once that they KNOW she's dead and that Dean had more than a little to do with her demise. Todd at one point says that he "Has to be careful what he says here" in the commentary when discussing Madeleine and, when Garth brings up Madeleine's street theatre act where she would take things from people Dean says he would "beat the hell out of her" if she tried that with him. The uncomfortable silence that follows from the three is more than a little suggestive.
      • The implication is less that Dean had something to do with it than Wool was involved in things even Dean found beyond the pale, and they are not comfortable even mentioning her in passing as a result. The anecdotes they do reluctantly air suggest she was a very odd woman indeed- although granted Todd Rivers' idea of odd is that she refused to sit on his knee.
  • Dull Surprise: When an actor isn't being a Large Ham or outright Chewing the Scenery, they're this. Especially true of the extras.
  • Dumb Blonde: Liz, though not extreme, is quite ditzy.
  • DVD Commentary: Done by Garth, Dean and Todd. It quickly becomes evident that Todd has never actually watched the show and only vaguely remembers filming his scenes. He's not impressed by it. They also (loudly) eat toffees and drink beer during the commentary.
  • Eighties Hair
  • Eureka Moment: Spoofed in "The Apes of Wrath" when people start devolving into monkeys due to obviously green contaminated water. Dr Dagless suddenly puts all the pieces together — the fact that his friends turned into monkeys after drinking a cup of water, the only two people who haven't turned into monkeys aren't drinking the water, and that the water's a sickly green color — and concludes that he's thirsty.
    • Now some people may complain that Dean did drink the green water, but he only took a tiny sip, and it doesn't work if you only take a tiny sip. That's why that line of dialogue was there, "Thank god I only took a tiny sip." So it would make sense.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: "The Apes of Wrath."
  • Evil Redhead: The Scottish spirits are supposed to be this in "Scotch Mist."
  • Faceless Eye
  • Fake Nationality: Lucien Sanchez. He even wears some type of eye makeup to make him look like he might be Hispanic.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Such as when Dagless' old college room-mate explodes in the first episode, covering his hospital room in as much gore as the budget would allow. Fortunately, his head survives long enough to implore Dagless to finish him off with a shovel.

 "Are you alright?"


 My books always say something. Even if it's just something simple, like "don't genetically engineer crabs to be as big as men".


 "Thanks, Rick. I needed that."


 "Rick, I beg ya, kill me! It really hurts!"


 Mary felt her body burning, even though the room was properly air-conditioned. They tried all the positions: on top, doggy and normal. Then, a hell-beast ate them.


 Dean: No one was more surprised than me when you pulled through (shifty eyes)


 Dean Learner: He had a very ambitious script. I said, "Garth, this is a very ambitious script for the money we've got. Seeing as we've got no money, it's extremely ambitious". We were filming it in my garage. I had a big garage, but still it was ambitious to film a TV show in a garage.

  • Noodle Incident: The "drink-related mishap in Fulham" which resulted in the footage for the climax of The Creeping Moss from the Shores of Shuggoth being lost for all time.
  • Oh, Cisco: "Just as long as it's not a screwdriver!"
    • "Yes, I'd prefer a beer!...Dear me...oh dear..."
  • Overcrank: Lampshaded when it was explained that the excessive use of slow-motion in one episode was because they hadn't shot enough footage for a half-hour episode and needed to pad it out.
  • Pixellation: The Eye Rape scene. Parodied when Dean then goes into a long rant about it: "I think it's disgusting that we had to pixellate out an erection. I mean we've all got one. I could have one right now and you wouldn't know. I mean, I don't, but..."
  • Product Placement: During one episode, the characters go into a lonnnnnng tangent about the superiority of name-brand batteries such as Duracell or Eveready over cheap "£1 bags" of batteries. Note that Ofcom doesn't like this kind of thing at all.
    • Parodied again when Dagless picks up a Marenghi novel, and spouts off several lines of dialogue concerning how he had "misjudged the genre".
  • Parody Sue: Rick Dagless. He is more specifically a parody of a real Sue: Peter Rickman of Kingdom Hospital. Aptly, Garth Marenghi is not a small bit reminiscent of Stephen King himself.
  • Pstandard Psychic Pstance: Liz.
  • Purple Prose: The passages read at the beginning of each episode.
  • Red Shirt: Clive the temp, who wears a red cardigan.
  • Refuge in Audacity: "The cosmic [broccoli] spores, of course, represented AIDS."
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Rick's Hand Cannon, which he carries at all times.
  • Ridiculous Procrastinator: Thornton preparing his glass of water. Thank god he only took a tiny sip!
  • Rule of Cool: Sometimes merely otherwise inexplicable (why are doctors carrying around guns?), sometimes clearly a product of Marenghi's fanboyish replication of US media (the English Dag having fought in Vietnam "for [his] country").
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Thornton Reed's weapon of choice for any situation, even those that don't require any firearms. Especially those that don't require any firearms.
  • Short Run in Peru: Serendipitously the Trope Namer, but only in-story.
  • Shout-Out: Garth's showdown with the Scots is an obvious Shout-Out to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
    • The broccoli disease is quite probably a reference to "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" section of Creepshow wherein Stephen King touches a meteorite and is overtaken by an aggressive space fungus.
  • Sitting on the Roof: Every episode ends with Dagless navel-gazing on the roof.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Garth, an in verse example.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Liz.
  • Soul Brotha: Thornton Reed is probably intended by Marenghi to be played as a Soul Brotha; he says in the first episode that if Dagless doesn't pull through, "My ass is grass! And he (Won Ton)'s got a lawn mower, ya dig?". Dean Learner cannot quite pull this off.
  • So Unfunny It's Funny: The material is so ridiculous and presented in such a straightlaced fashion that it all becomes rather hilarious.
    • Especially true of Garth's attempts at actually being funny. His jokes are so bad and the execution is so poor that you can't help but laugh at them.
  • Space Whale Aesop: "I know writers who use subtext and they're all cowards. OK? What I was asking in that scene is: what if politicians continue to pay doctors peanuts, could they literally turn into monkeys? And no-one's asked that before."
  • Spiritual Successor: Man to Man With Dean Learner, a chat show using many of the same characters. Also, Snuff Box, which starred Matt Berry, had Alice Loewe in a cameo (as David Bowie, of all people), and had Dean Learner show up a few times.
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: Rick Dagless's old college buddy spontaneously explodes (though his head survives long enough to ask Rick to finish him off); in the commentary, Dean Learner mentions that while filming the scene it was clear to everyone that "someone close to Garth had exploded" in real life.
  • Stand Your Ground: "Hurry up Liz, I can't hold these plates off forever!"
  • Status Quo Is God: The authorities seem to have absolutely no interest in exploding patients, ape outbreaks, cosmic killer broccoli and murderous Scottish ghosts, leaving our heroes to get on with fighting the next Monster of the Week.
  • Stay in the Kitchen:

 "You're a woman!"

"I portended that by the year 2040, the world would see its first female mechanic. And who knows, she might even do a decent job."

  • Stealth Parody: What? You thought this was supposed to be serious? Shame on you!
  • Stunt Double: Garth uses a stunt double for Rick for the arduous task of... running through some undergrowth. It's heavily implied that this is due to Garth having body odour problems.
  • Stylistic Suck: The entire series, but particularly the actors.
  • Talking Animal: "That's strange. That cat just told me to leave."
    • The cat is obviously voiced by Matt Berry. Of all the cast, he has the funniest voice.
  • Talking Heads: "I think I'm gonna die."
  • Tap on the Head: Rick Dagless wins most fights with a single punch.
  • Techno Babble: Used frequently to justify the atrocious plots; most egregiously with Gavin, the hospital gas expert, and in the Apes of Wrath to explain how a scientist was able to turn people into monkeys.
  • Ted Baxter: Garth Marenghi.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Very little doctoring is seen.
  • Troperiffic: Almost every trope the show invokes is done so deliberately in order to parody it.
  • Two Words: Obvious Trope: Tele Kinesis.
  • Understatement: It's probably a given, as the show is British, after all.
    • Renwick's recently disembodied head telling Dagless, "It really hurts."
    • Sanchez stating, "That'll stop him" after Dagless has just fired eleven rounds from his Hand Cannon and used a flamethrower on Renwick's re-animated, and somehow once again intact, body.
  • Viewers are Morons: Garth has a very low opinion of pretty much everyone that isn't him, and treats the audience and many of the people he works with like they have single-digit IQs.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Dagless goes on a long, horrifying, pretty racist rant about the night his plane had to make a lay-over in Glasgow.

 Dagless: 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.