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Garth Marenghi's Darkplace


I have only recently, in the year 2013, seen the most perfect 1980s television show ever made. It is frightening, beautifully written, and one of the best acted and biggest budgeted series you'll ever see (if you ever see it, and you SHOULD). Yes, I speak of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, and it is one of the true wonders of the modern world.

Garth Marenghi is a horror novelist who churned out frightening and beautiful books featuring blood, blood, vomit, entrails, and blood, and who wrote more books than he read. He is a self-taught dream weaver with abilities greater than James Joyce, Leonardo da Vinci, and Jesus Christ (but not combined). He is a one man fear factory and a master of the macabre, and together with his publisher/publicist Dean Learner, he created one of the most shockingly horrific and Earth-shattering television series that the world has ever known. It was even more genre-breaking than Quantum Leap! That show is Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, and I am telling you that you need to witness its majesty for yourself before you die, or it will FRIGHTEN you to death!

See, back in the 80s, Garth Marenghi created 50 episodes of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (a British horror-themed half-hour series based in Darkplace Hospital that's kind of a mix of St. Elsewhere, The A-Team, and Tales From the Crypt), but it was never aired (except on one small network in Peru). The film cannisters were locked up thanks to MI8 forcing BBC Channel 4 to reject the show due to its "radicality" and nightmare-inducing images. It has also been theorized that the government suppressed Garth Marenghi's Darkplace due to Garth Marenghi getting too close to "the truth." I can easily believe this. This horror/mystery/hospital series is one of the most powerful and truthy things I've ever seen.

"What is this masterpiece of morbidity about?" you ask like a puppy smelling another dog's crap for the first time, beginning to wonder about its own place in the universe. Firstly, it's about scaring the complete and utter shit out of you, the viewer. But beyond its chilling and at times gruesome visuals, it's about Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D. (Garth Marenghi himself in the lead role) — a wild card, loose canon, Vietnam and Falklands Wars vet, and former warlock — a man who works at Darkplace Hospital (which sits right above the Gates of Hell) and has to deal with evil supernatural shit and hospital bureaucrats day in and day out.

Dag's direct supervisor, Thornton Reed (played by Marenghi's publisher/publicist Dean Learner in his first ever acting role, which you'd never guess as he's the 80s Sir Lawrence Olivier), tries to keep his number one doctor out of trouble, but there's only so much he can do with people exploding, invading Scots, anti-evolving water supplies, and one-eyed demons planting their seeds in male patients. He does do his best to keep things normal and to keep the head cheese (one Mr. Won Ton) placated with his surly demeanor and his shotgun.

After those two, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace also stars the stunning Dr. Lucien Sanchez (a man almost as handsome and all around great as Dag, only with a deeper voice and maybe slightly better hair), and newly transferred to Darkplace, Dr. Liz Asher (who has low grade psychic and telekinetic powers that become deadly when she's PMSing). Together, this incredible cast puts forth a Herculean effort to splash your eyes with spine-chilling visuals created by top-of-the-line effects artists of the day!

Garth MarenghiBeyond the basic challenge of running a hospital built upon the Gates of Hell, Dagless and Reed have to deal with killer mist, ape creatures who run Darkplace better and more efficiently than their human counterparts, and extraterrestrial broccoli infections. Marenghi is such an amazing titan of terror that none of the cheezy trappings that could have befallen a production with such strange plots are evident here. The skill that not only Marenghi the writer puts on display (it's like he spilled his heart and soul onto the scripts), but also Marenghi the actor, well, it makes me shiver with appreciation like a school girl first discovering how good it feels to accidentally rub against the corner of her desk while thinking about the starting quarterback. If these brief 6 episodes that the BBC finally decided to release were allowed to be nominated for Emmys, I think Marenghi and his entire cast would sweep the ceremony!

Now let me tell you about the special effects and creatures used in this masterwork. Even though it's pretty obvious at times that Garth Marenghi's Darkplace was never given an unlimited budget, they did their damndest to make you believe the scary as fuck shit that they put up on the screen. There's one scene in the first episode where a human body EXPLODES, and it is the goriest human combustion I can remember seeing (and I've seen my fair share), and has given me nightmares since I witnessed it! Oh, and the "eye child" episode. I have never seen a fully constructed creature appear to be as alive and realistic as that demon beast. The monster effects are straight out of Rick Baker's "best-of" portfolio! Oh man, and the transformation of human to ape in the "Apes of Wrath" episode... Majestic.

There are several instances where Garth Marenghi's Darkplace does date itself — like the overtly sexist ways that Dagless, Sanchez, and Reed treat Liz Asher, and the fairly racist undertones that Dagless levels at the Scots — but that's part of its overall charm. It's like watching Magnum PI or MacGuyver now and laughing at the hair or the short shorts on the men. Just be thankful that this kind of thing is not still around in the 21st century.

So in the end, what did I think of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace? I loved the high holy hell out of it. It is one of the scariest, most dramatic, and most insane programs I've ever seen. It is not for the weak hearted though, and some of the violence and racist rants may be too much for any teens too. Watch it with the lights on, but know that I gave it 7 out of 7 Syringes Filled with Intoxicating Goodness!

The AMY One

No. I left the 80s behind for a reason. I wasn't about to bring them back to mind for the sake of a shitty horror show that the Rossman just discovered. Instead I just painted eyeballs on my eyelids and slept through all 6 episodes that he made us watch. I was actually surprised at how well that fooled them all. Makes me wonder if everybody the Rossman tries to show crap to does the same thing and he just assumes that that's how people look when watching shit with him.

I didn't see it, I won't rate it.

The Darkplace DR. DAVE

Ah, Garth Marenghi... One of my best pupils. And by "best" I really mean "worst," but his terribleness caused lots of people to want to stay away from the fields that I was working in, which meant that I had free reign to experiment on any monkeys, mutants, and PMSing crazy ladies with telekinetic powers to my heart's content and nobody would bug me with anything like "well that's not how Dr. Tannhauser did it," or "Dr. Weinsteinberg wouldn't hook up electronic shock collars to any grasshopper children that he created in his lab." No, and that's why my work is so great and so necessary. Now shut up, leave me alone, and let me force this bear cub to eat the head off this mutated monkey with 5 testicles FOR SCIENCE!

The secret to Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is that all those creatures and monsters featured in the show were really just my experiments that Garth snuck out of my lab when he quit to become a full-time writer. You want to know why Skipper the Eye Child looked so realistic? That's a real baby that I bought off some poor parents from some third-world hell-hole who I then fed 2lbs of radioactive pudding a day for 6 months. I figure now that these shows are finally airing I'm owed some royalty checks. Until then, it IS good to see my work up on the small screen like that, so I'll give it a thumbs up just for that.