Try as I might, I do not always keep up with the times. I missed the Pokémon and Tamagotchi craze. I never had a MySpace account. I still make mix CDs. It’s no surprise that my discovery of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace happened about six years after the show ended.
For those of you who are still in the dark (heh) about this British 2004 gem, let me give you the run down. Garth Marenghi (aka Dr. Rick Dagless, aka Matthew Holness) is a self-proclaimed master of the horror genre. He introduces himself before each episode in the same manner: “I’m Garth Marenghi. Author. Dreamweaver. Visionary. Plus actor. You’re about to enter the world of my imagination. You are entering my Darkplace.”
Darkplace, as it turns out, is the name of the mysterious hospital where Dr. Dagless and his colleagues–Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade), Dr. Lucien Sanchez (Matt Berry), and Liz Asher (Alice Lowe)–save lives and combat obscure supernatural phenomena. Patients turn into broccoli, spontaneously combust, and generally torment the hospital staff who almost always revert to the most violent means of problem solving available.
Between Dagless’ overwrought narration, the show’s poor production value, and the characters’ hilariously awful dialogue, Darkplace could easily pass as an earnest attempt at a 1980s hospital drama. (Think 21 Jump Street, only with doctors instead of undercover cops.) Yet, it brilliantly succeeds as a satire. So many programs take themselves too seriously without ever considering they could be interpreted as a joke. In Darkplace, being overly serious is the joke. It’s such a novel concept executed so pitch-perfectly, I find it baffling that Darkplace does not have a larger stateside following. Even if that following is half a decade late.
Note: If you are interested in checking out Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, it is available on DVD from various online retailers. The episodes also can be found, in parts, via your friendly neighborhood YouTube.