In the mid 1980s, horror writer Garth Marenghi created a television 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 straight-faced spoof of horror stories, '80s action shows and the whole concept of the Cult Classic. It's a rare example of an entire show deliberately composed of Stylistic Suck tropes, with wooden acting, many a Special Effect Failure, Anvilicious dubious morals, cheesy plots (including Attack of the Killer Whatever), poor editing and audio mixing, and corny dialogue. Along with the "original footage", each episode is accompanied by present-day interviews with the fictional Garth Marenghi and his co-stars, who generally praise the show and offer insights into its (rather warped) meaning.
The Show Within a Show focuses around Darkplace Hospital in Romford, East London, which is apparently built over the very Gates of Hell. To be 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. 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.
Many tropes that get misused get misused here, and to slightly over the top, comic effect. Tropes used include:
- 2-for-1 Show: The "show" is interspersed with interviews with the "actors".
- '80s Hair
- Actor Existence Failure: In-universe, Madeleine Wool disappeared and is presumed dead, so she is unavailable for commentary.
- A Glass in the Hand: Thornton Reed crushes a styrofoam coffee cup in anger... which is completely clean, and had also been a shovel in the previous cut.
- 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 status in relation to the United Kingdom.
- And I'm the Queen of Sheba: This exchange between Liz and Rick in the first episode:Liz: I had a vision. I'm a psychic.Rick: And I'm Bo Derek.
- Attending Your Own Funeral: During his funeral, Renwick raises from his coffin as an undead.
- 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.
- Badasses Wear Bandanas: The Temp wears his tie as a bandana after he Took a Level in Badass.
- 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 simply blurts out his lines with no understanding of what he's saying. He also frequently glances off camera at his lines or at the camera itself. There are also lots of obvious edits in his longer lines, making it clear that he couldn't get out his entire speech in one go.
- Todd has a habit of drawing out vowels and hams up every line like Tom Baker on one of his drunk days. He also has a tendency to break Lip Lock when re-dubbing his lines, also pitching his voice nearly a full octave lower in the process. He also strikes a pose whenever entering a room or turning a corner, another trait lifted from Tom Baker.
- Madeleine responds to everything with breathless 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." They often move mechanically, apparently taking great concentration to hit their marks, and take their cues much too late.
- In general, characters talk quickly, rushing through their stilted dialogue. The cook, played by Stephen Merchant, is a notable example.
- The Temp in "Hell Hath Fury" is, by comparison, a rather good actor who has simply been given bad material to work with.
- Based on a Dream: In-universe. 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-Lipped Alligator Moment: Intentionally invoked with the song "One Track Lover".
- Big "NO!": About seven per episode. Sanch's scream when he first shakes Liz's hand is so ridiculously long that even Sanch starts looking bored and glancing around.
- Black Comedy Rape: The eye-monster that rapes a man, causing him to birth another eyeball monster. The "behind the scenes" interview has Marenghi state that the giant puppet was operated by a man who the victim's actor "had previously trusted," indicating some Enforced Method Acting there.
- Blooper: In-universe. Garth's poor direction and editing leads to characters often gaining objects from nowhere or randomly losing things they had in previous shots. At one point Thornton is holding a shovel only to have it wordlessly replaced with a cup in the next shot.
- 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.
- Boomerang Bigot / Female Misogynist: Due to Garth's chauvinistic writing Liz often makes vaguely sexist comments towards herself, such as thanking the men for taking away her psychic powers and criticizing herself for basically expecting respect from them.
- 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.
- There's also Larry Renwick's funeral, in which Dagless and Reed fire over a dozen shots from a revolver and a shotgun respectively, without reloading.
- British Brevity: Darkplace ran for only one season with six episodes.
- But Not Too Foreign: The Temp from "Hell Hath Fury" is obviously played by an American, but Garth decided to write him as Bermudan for this reason.
- Butt-Monkey: Liz is the victim of Marenghi's very blatantly chauvinistic writing. In one scene she screams and Dagless punches her in the face. She reponds, "Thanks! I was hysterical!"
- The Cameo:
- 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."
- Quoth Larry Renwick as his disembodied head lies in a pool of his exploded insides, "I think I'm gonna die!"
- Celebrity Paradox: People read Garth Marenghi's books in Darkplace. This can be mainly put down to his enormous ego.
- Chairman of the Brawl During the Bar Brawl between Rick and Sanch in the last episode, Sanch breaks a bar stool on Rick's back.
- Character Shilling: It'd be easier to list the times Rick Dagless isn't being shilled to the audience. In the final episode a line from the Padre seems to suggest that he's a better person than GOD.
- Chase Scene: A chase scene on bicycles ensues in the forest between Rick and the Ape Man (and later Thornton). It features an overly shaky camera work, fake backgrounds and a ramp.
- Chase-Scene Obstacle Course: Spoofed when a chase scene ends with the Monster of the Week crashing into a huge mountain of cardboard boxes sitting in the middle of a forest for no apparent reason.
- Chekhov's Gun:Thornton Reed: Take this, Dag.
Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: What is it?
Thornton Reed: Something that might come in handy.
- China Takes Over the World: Thornton Reed's The Unseen boss "Won Ton" is presumably meant to be this trope. It could also possibly be Japan Takes Over the World despite wontons being Chinese; Garth Marenghi doesn't seem like the type to know the difference.
- Chivalrous Pervert: What Rick Dagless is supposed to be in theory. In practice, not so much (well, not the chivalrous part).
- Chroma Key: Appropriately atrocious blue screening.
- Comically Missing the Point: In "Scotch Mist"Sinister Phone Message (slowed down 26%): Och...kill...Dagless...mon.
Dr. Liz Asher: What does it mean?
Dr. Lucien Sanchez: I know "mon" means "man", but I don't think "och" means anything.
- Compliment Backfire:Dean Learner: I call Garth the Orson Welles of horror, and not just because of his weight.
- Contemplate Our Navels: Garth, and by extension Rick, does this a lot. Each episode ends with a long, rambling monologue from Rick about some vague philosophical idea relating to what happened.
- 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.
- Crazy-Prepared: The three main male characters always seem to have firearms on their person for some reason. Special mention goes to Dagless bringing a flamethrower to Renwick's funeral.
- Creator Backlash: In-universe, it's strongly hinted that Todd Rivers knows full well how terrible the show is, unlike Garth and Dean who seem to be in total denial. The DVD commentary indicates that he never bothered to actually watch the show and when he finally sees it he's obviously unimpressed.
- Creator Breakdown: In-universe, Garth lets his personal life and issues inform the scripts more than he perhaps should.
- Creator Killer: It's implied that Darkplace was this for Todd Rivers; its noted that he hasn't gotten much work since and his interview segments imply he's become an alcoholic.
- Creepy Basement: Rick, Sanchez and the Temp explore the dark basement in the hope to find the killer. They find the mummy of a long-deceased security guard and are chased by Animate Inanimate Objects.
- Creepy Twins: Garth admits in the third episode that he was scared his own twin daughters would be this. Naturally he still finds a way to make it about himself being amazing, claiming that they only avoided this trope because of his good parenting.
- Cue Card Pause: A staple of Dean Learner's depiction of the truth.
- Dawson Casting: In-Universe Thornton Reed is pretty obviously supposed to be older than the rest of the cast, but Dean Learner looks to be a bit younger than Garth and Todd. (In real life Ayoade was the youngest of the main cast, so this was probably meant to be spoofed too.)
- Death by Sex: The nurse and the patient who are about to make out in the forest in the opening of the fifth episode become Monster Munch when the Scotch Mist befalls them.
- Death Is Dramatic: The Temp's death. Sappy music plays over Rick screaming out his guts. Too bad Garth overplays the scene completely.
- Delayed Reaction: Dean Learner and the extras often miss their cues or forget lines, resulting in awkward pauses in response to events. For example, at one point Dean answers a phone but forgets to say goodbye before setting it down, causing him to sheepishly splutter out a goodbye to the already hung up phone.
- Deleted Scene: In-universe. Apparently, Garth was only willing to cut one scene from over 50 episodes of the show he had created. This one scene is a flashback/dream sequence set in a Scottish chip shop.
- 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).
- Demonic Head Shake: Renwick shakes his head uncontrollably in a flashback scene when he gets possessed by evil spirits during an occult ritual gone bad.
- 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":Dr. Liz Asher: Look! The mist is retreating!
Dr. Lucien Sanchez: She's right! The mist is retreatinnng.
Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: You're both right. It is retreating.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: The Temp dies in Rick's arms.
- DissimileDr. Rick Dagless M.D.: 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".
- "One Track Lover", an original song from the broccoli episode, is a straight example, sung by Matt Berry.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Marenghi's narration frequently steps in to explain something that only an idiot wouldn't understand.
- Double Entendre: Quite a few start springing up once the term "Homo Erectus" gets used.Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: Sanch is regressing to Homo Neanderthalenis [sic]. Right now, Sanch, you're Homo Erectus, but who knows how long you've got.
Dr. Lucien Sanchez: I appreciate you being straight with me.
Thornton Reed: And you and I are Homo Sapiens?
Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: Correct.
Thornton Reed: But if we're all basically Homos, shouldn't we get along?
Thornton Reed: Come on, you two queers! We need to lick this problem before it turns around and slaps us in the nuts!
- Dramatic Drop: Rick drops a teddy bear in shock when seeing Sanch having mutated into an ape.
- 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." The awkwardness of the remaining cast members around the subject and the fact that they're all incredibly shady to begin with suggests that there's a pretty sordid story behind the disappearance.
- Dull Surprise: When an actor isn't being a Large Ham or outright Chewing the Scenery, they're this. Especially true of Dean Learner (who isn't even a professional actor) and the extras.
- 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.
- Empathic Environment: There is rain running down the window when Rick has a bittersweet flashback to his deceased son.
- Epigraph: There is a Title Card early on in episode one providing a quote from King Lear: This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.
- 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.
- Everybody Laughs Ending: Usually happens right before the roof scene (see below), and goes on for awkwardly long.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: "The Apes of Wrath."
- Evil Redhead: The Scottish spirits are supposed to be this in "Scotch Mist."
- Expy: In-universe. Garth claims in the DVD commentary that the actor playing the Padre was cast because he played the eponymous character in the (not actually real) Padre series of films from the 70s. Todd stubbornly contradicts this, claiming that the actor threatened him with violent reprisals should he not be cast and that this was the sole reason he was given the role.
- Faceless Eye: The Eye Monster.
- Failed a Spot Check:
- When Dagless and Reed are discussing the notion of telekinesis over the phone, Liz is literally standing right in front of Reed, using said power with various objects floating near her. Reed doesn't even mention this to Dagless, instead just mentioning that "she's got a face like the proverbial" and she's probably on her period. Reed only figures it out when she gets even more blatant about it and boxes him into the corner of the room with his own desk.
- Nobody notices that the water in all the coolers is vivid green in "Apes of Wrath."
- Fair for Its Day: Discussed In-Universe. Garth Merenghi thinks he was this when making Darkplace in the Eighties.Garth: I've always been a vocal feminist. For example, I predicted that by 2040, the world would see its first female mechanic. And who knows — she might even do a decent job.
- Fake Nationality (in-universe): Lucien Sanchez. He even wears some type of eye makeup to make him look like he might be Hispanic.
- The Temp is obviously being played by an American man, but a poorly written speech claims that he's from Bermuda.
- 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.Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: Are you alright?
- At Renwick's funeral, his corpse, which is somehow intact again, bursts out of the coffin and starts writhing around. Cue Dagless opening up on him with his Magnum with Reed supporting with his shotgun, before Dag whips out a flamethrower to finish the job.
- 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.
- Fantastic Aesop: Marenghi says, "My books always say something. Even if it's just something simple, like "don't genetically engineer crabs to be as big as men"."
- Faux Horrific: Scotland.
- Filming for Easy Dub: There's a sequence in which the camera cuts back and forth between a wall and a potted plant while Looping Lines of the off-screen cast give an Info Dump on the plot so far. It's obviously added in post to correct some serious plot problems.
- Flatline: Linda dies from the broccoli infection on a flatline sound.
- Foreshadowing: Why doesn't Madeleine appear in any of the interviews or commentaries? She went missing after the filming of the show and is presumed dead.
- Also, in Skipper the Eyechild: "You're turning into an ape! A wild ape!"
- Funny Background Event:
- Watch closely near the end of the first episode and you'll see a fake gravestone next to Rick and Thornton wobble from the wind. Shortly after, as Rick is walking away, one can see Thornton groping Liz's behind while "comforting" her.
- At several points you can see extras in the background moving or standing in amusingly stiff ways in order to hit their marks.
- Fun with Subtitles:
- If you have closed captioning turned on, when the intro music starts the subtitles display "CHEESY 80S SYNTHESISER MUSIC".
- The Scotsmen have all their lines subtitled despite not being very difficult to understand.
- Gaussian Girl: Used in most shots of Liz.
- Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Rather than slapping Liz whenever she's "hysterical", Dagless punches her in the face. It's obvious Garth has "issues" with the fair sex. The fact that Madeleine's Dull Surprise acting means she looks as hysterical as someone on valium doesn't help much.Dr. Liz Asher: Thanks, Rick. I needed that.
- A Glass in the Hand: Thornton crushes a styrofoam cup in his hand, the same hand that was holding a shovel two seconds ago in a previous shot.
- Goshdang It To Heck: Any of Thornton Reed's rants are this. Especially his "You're a flipping fool!" rants from "The Apes Of Wrath".
- Gothic Punk
- Go Through Me: At Renwick's funeral, his mother jumps in the way when Rick tries to shoot the undead corpse. Rick doesn't hesitate to gun her down in order to get to Renwick.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Garth is fond of peppering his speech with foreign words, mostly French, (which he then translates) in an effort to make him sound more intelligent.
- Gratuitous Spanish: The Padre. "Dios Mio!"
- Hall of Mirrors: Clearly the budget wouldn't stretch to an entire hall, but we do get the tense shoot-out in the "water and mirror storage room." Well, where do you think hospitals store their water and mirrors?
- Happy Flashback: Rick has fond memories of playing with his dead boy in the front yard of his house.
- Heir Club for Men: Parodied. Garth complains during the third episode about only having daughters and his wife going through menopause, robbing him of a male "heir". His bizarre obsession with having a son bleeds through into that episode's obvious wish fulfillment regarding sons.
- He's Got a Weapon!:
- At Renwick's funeral, Sanchez shouts "Look out, he's got a gun!" when Rick pulls out his revolver.
- Some obviously dubbed-in dialogue has Thornton yell, "He's got a stick!" to explain why Dagless is suddenly holding a stick in the next scene. To make the situation even more absurd, the "stick" in question is a thick branch which is completely out of place in a hospital.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Won Ton, ballbusting boss of the hospital is never seen, only spoken of.
- Hollywood Darkness
- Hurricane of Euphemisms: The more tasteful (ie: purple) words to use in a sex scene.
- I Cannot Self-Terminate: As spoken by Larry Renwick, now a bloodied, dismembered head after his body spontaneously explodes in "Once Upon a Beginning".Larry Renwick: Rick, I beg ya, kill me! It really hurts!
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Darkplace. Dagless explains that it's really dark, hence the name.
- I Have to Wash My Hair: When Sanch asks Liz out on a date, she replies with this line.
- IKEA Erotica:
- Episode 6 opens with a hilariously bad sex scene from a Marenghi novel.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 Learner later goes on a rant against IKEA Erotica, which instead veers towards Purple Prose.
- Episode 6 opens with a hilariously bad sex scene from a Marenghi novel.
- I Love Nuclear Power: The eye monster is apparently the result of a sex offender's eyeball falling into an experimental gamma ray treatment for a cancer patient.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It
- Info Dump: Played for comedy in "The Apes of Wrath" where the plot was so badly written that by the end of the show Garth has to talk non-stop for nearly a minute in order to explain what the hell has been happening. Made even more hilarious when it becomes obvious that this scene was never filmed, as we hear Garth delivering a voiceover at breakneck speed whilst the screen displays stills of inanimate objects from Thornton's office.
- Insistent Terminology: Rick/Garth continually refer to the Scottish as "Scotch" rather than "Scots".
- Kill It with Fire: Dag's solution to dealing with Renwick's reanimated corpse. This after shooting it several times with both his revolver and Reed's shotgun.
- Let Me Get This Straight...: Sanchez drops this line before summarizing what he learned from Liz about the vision she conceived from shaking his hand.
- Lip Lock: The actors frequently lose lip sync in their poorly looped dialogue. A good amount of dialogue seems to have been added or rewritten after filming.
- Littlest Cancer Patient: About Once an Episode, made all the more hilarious in one instance where the kid is a heroin addict.
- Living Prop: An extra with noticeable red muttonchops serves a number of different bit roles throughout the show.
- Lobotomy: Apparently, Sanch gave one to Liz to heal her from her out-of-control telekinesis. This has no lasting effect on her faculties or even her other psychic abilities, as she's still able to read Dag's mind in a later episode.
- Looping Lines: Often featured and played for comedy. The looped lines are much louder than the normal dialogue and stuck in regardless of whether they match the actor's lips or if his mouth is even moving at all. Most of the additional dialogue seems to be added to add exposition or address continuity errors.
- Love Triangle: Sanchez likes Liz, but she's clearly enamoured with Rick. Unfortunately, Rick is already in love with himself.
- Magic Bullets
- Major Injury Underreaction:
- Mercy Kill Arrangement: Sanch asks Rick to kill him if his transformation into an ape goes too far.
- Miniature Effects: The hospital is one of these. It's an awful one with model railway trees, shot with a lens that makes it extra unconvincing.
- Missing Episode: After Channel 4 cancelled the series, Garth Marenghi stated that he may have taped over one of the 44 or so remaining in-universe episodes with one of The Thornbirds.
- Missing Trailer Scene: Invoked. The exploding ambulance from the opening credits is conspicuously absent from any episodes in the series. The commentary track lampshades and handwaves this by claiming that it cost so much to blow the ambulance up in the first place that it took up the entire budget for the episode it was supposed to feature in.
- Mr. Seahorse: "Look at that poor man, he's been screwed by a giant eyeball and now he's giving birth."
- Mood Whiplash: Hilariously frequent due to terrible acting and editing.
- Motherly Scientist: Rick develops feelings for the Giant Eye baby and protects it from being dissected. His behavior is explained by his Dark and Troubled Past with his deceased son.
- Music Video: "One Track Lover" in episode 6.
- My God, What Have I Done?: When affectionately stroking Skipper the Eyechild, it Bites Dagless. In response he goes crazy and beats the creature to death only; afterwards going all These Hands Have Killed and breaking down.
- Mysterious Mist: The "Scotch Mist".
- Narm: All of the dramatic moments deliberately invoke this.
- Narrating the Obvious:Sanchez: Look, it's Jim! He's been hit by the mist, though he's still alive, unbelievable as that seems!
- Narration Echo: In "The Apes of Wrath":Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: [narrating] Reed told me everything. How the monkeys now ruled Darkplace. How they'd taken over.
Thornton Reed: [flatly] They've taken over.
Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: Oh no. Oh Jesus. They've taken over. They've taken over!
Thornton Reed: I know!
- National Stereotypes: A deliberately bad one of Scotland; their ghosts all wear kilts and string vests, have killer bagpipes in tow (which rip off your trousers, make your legs glow orange and dye your hair ginger), talk in "indecipherable" accents and are placated with shortbread. His description of non-phantasmic Scottish people is even LESS complimentary. At his most charitable, Garth seems to view the Scottish as some sort of Noble Savage.
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: Garth and Dean both play heroic characters, and Dean always looks so out of his depth as an actor that he can come across as adorkable. However, in the behind-the-scenes retrospective, it's clear that they're both extremely shady and creepy guys.
- Nightmare Retardant: Pretty much the whole point of the series.
- Nightmare Sequence: Rick has one after getting knocked out with a club by ape Sanch. He dreams of himself getting chased in the woods by apes. He wakes up noting that he must have been out for a month.
- No Animals Were Harmed: "I believe that no living thing, be it human, animal or plant, should be hurt in the making of a TV show. So I personally feel very bad about that cat we killed."
- No Budget: In-universe.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.
- No Kill Like Overkill: Combined with One-Woman Wail and a Big "NO!". After Renwick's (somehow reintact) corpse reanimates, Dag shoots it several times with his revolver, while Reed opens up with his shotgun, before taking a flamethrower to the body.Sanchez: ...That'll stop him.
- 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.
- No OSHA Compliance: Dean Learner notes that two techies died making the fifth episode because the initial mist effect used produced mist that turned out to be poisonous. Garth and Dean also admit that the cat used in the first episode was accidentally killed during filming.
- Oh, Cisco!:Liz Asher: Just as long as it's not a screwdriver!
Thornton Reed: Yes, I'd prefer a beer! Dear me... oh dear...
- Ominous Pipe Organ: The theme music features a chilling organ sound.
- One-Handed Shotgun Pump: Thornton does it at Renwick's funeral.
- One Steve Limit: Amusingly averted; Rick names both his biological son "Skipper" then later names the eyeball monster baby the same thing, having to note which one he's referring to a few times. The end of the episode reveals that both were named after Garth's deceased dog, Skipper.
- One-Word Title: Darkplace. Also most of Marenghi's novels including Slicer, Aftermath, Juggers, Slasher and R.I.P.P.E.R.
- Out of Order: In episode five, Thornton Reed mentions that Dagless opened the gates of hell "last week", meaning the episode was either supposed to be the second one broadcast, or the previous three episodes happened in just seven days.
- 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.
- Overly Long Scream:
- Sanch when shaking hands with Liz in the opener.
- Rick and the Temp when the latter gets pierced in the torso with screwdrivers.
- Padding: In-universe. Dean Learner states that so much slow-motion footage was used because the episodes often ran several minutes short and had to be padded out somehow, so "any scene without dialogue was considered for slow-mo". The fact that most of the dialogue is delivered in a rushed garble probably explains why each episode winds up short.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Very little doctoring is seen.
- 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..."
- Place Worse Than Death: Scotland, according to Garth Marenghi.
- Plant Hair: Linda sports broccoli hair during the final stage of her infection.
- Please Kill Me If It Satisfies You: Rick offers his life to the three Scotsmen by kneeling down and baring his chest. This act impressed the Scotsmen enough to abstain from further revenge.
- Plot Hole: The entire show is something of a gaping plot chasm, but even Garth seems aware of his lack of scope.
- Police are Useless: 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.
- Power Floats: Liz, at the height of her anger induced telekinetic tantrum. This meant Dag could see up her skirt, and when he tells her to 'hide her shame' he gets an extinguisher in the face for it.
- 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 didn't like this kind of thing at all.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: As befitting an obvious Gary Stu, the story bends over backwards to make Rick Dagless be in the right. The Chef is an Asshole Victim for making misogynistic comments to Liz and slapping her tray out of her hand, but Dagless does the exact same thing seconds beforehand and is depicted as being entirely in the right.
- Pstandard Psychic Pstance: Liz.
- Psychometry: Liz has a vision of Renwick's demise in room 213 when shaking hands with Sanchez.
- "Psycho" Strings: They play when Liz uses her telekinesis powers on the chef.
- Purple Prose: The passages read at the beginning of each episode.
- Putting on the Reich: When Dag awakens from his coma, he looks outside Reed's office to see two jackbooted apes wearing Stahlhelms and carrying MP40s.
- Putting the "Medic" in Comedic: The TV show is a downplayed example. Although the show isn't a comedy about doctors, the situations that the doctors get into (such as monster invasion) are strange enough to be hilarious.
- Rapid-Fire Typing: An episode showed Liz looking up data on a computer, with the typical rapid clicking sounds, but they clearly show her fingers which are barely moving.
- Red Shirt: Clive the temp, who wears a red cardigan.
- Repeating so the Audience Can Hear: Happens during a phone conversation regarding the broccoli infection between Rick and Gavin, the hospital's gas expert. First, the trope seems to be averted as there is a long pause of Rick listening to the other side but then it turns out nothing was said during that time. Played straight afterward when Rick repeats what the expert has to say on the subject.
- Retraux: The feel of an 80s tv series is replicated, from synthesizers to audio pitch artifacting, to many of the effects, right down to an old iteration of the Channel 4 logo.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: Rick's Hand Cannon, which he carries at all times.
- Riddle for the Ages: In one episode, a man gets pregnant. No answer ever comes about how it happened, but Dagless (and thus Marenghi) makes a long Breaking the Fourth Wall diatribe about how it never will, so the audience better stop bothering.
- 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").
- Running Gag: Rick and Sanch play a prank on Thornton in episode four with the result that the latter is constantly pestered by phone calls from clients asking for a massage.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When Dag pulls out a flamethrower at Renwick's funeral, the Padré, quite understandably, flees the scene.
- Shameless Self-Promotion: Parodied when Dagless picks up a Marenghi novel and spouts off several lines of dialogue concerning how he had "misjudged the genre".
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: All three of the main male cast are given backstories of being veterans of war. Bonus points for Dag and Sanchez's backstories not even making sense; Rick claims they fought in Vietnam, but they're British and Britain wasn't involved in the Vietnam War.
- Short Runner: Only one series of six episodes was made, and it wasn't renewed due to low ratings, though it did receive a spinoff in Man to Man with Dean Learner.
- Short Run in Peru: Serendipitously the Trope Namer, but only in-story.
- Garth's showdown with the Scots is an homage to the finale in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The soundtrack is a bagpipe cover of the films climactic score, "The Trio."
- At the end of the same episode, Dag plays the theme from Airwolf on the bagpipes.
- One storyline involves an eye-monster getting born from the eye of a sex-offender getting caught up in an experimental gamma-ray surgery procedure. This sounds awfully familiar to the backstory of The Fly (1958).
- The green ooze in "The Apes of Wrath" that devolves people into hairy apes is lifted straight from the Doctor Who serial "Inferno".
- Shovel Strike: Renwick implores Dagless to end his misery, and closes his eyes in anticipation. He opens them just in time to register that Rick has chosen a shovel to do the job.Thornton Reed: You used this to treat him? Where did you train?
- Shown Their Work: Parodied, when Rick cradles a dying minor character in his arms and it's obvious that the only dialogue Garth could think of was a very skimpy rework of the research he'd done to explain the character's accent:Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: [tenderly] What's your name, son?
Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: That's a strange name for an American.
Clive: I'm from Bermuda.
Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: Oh, that explains it. British principality.
Clive: It's actually a dependent territory.
Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: What's that?
Clive: The Queen appoints a Governor General in charge of internal security and external defence but she's still the de facto sovereign.
Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: We had so much to teach each other.
- Significant Anagram: The name "Garth Marenghi" came from rearranging the letters in the phrase ARGH NIGHTMARE.
- Sitting on the Roof: Every episode ends with Dagless navel-gazing on the roof at sunrise.
- Sniff Sniff Nom: Rick tastes the substance that was left behind at the crime scene in the forest. It turns out to be porridge pointing Rick into the direction of the Scotch Mist.
- So Unfunny, It's Funny: The characters often spout what are supposed to be witticisms, and there are a few moments of friendly playfulness between the doctors that are intended as comic relief. They're all so cliched or poorly executed that it's funny.
- 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."
- Special Effect Failure: Intentional, and honed to an art form.
- Spiking the Camera: Happens from time to time with untrained cast members like the kids or Dean Learner.
- 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.
- The short film "A Gun For George", written/directed by and starring Matthew Holness, is a much Darker and Edgier take on the "conceited hack writer creates idealized Author Avatar" concept.
- Darkplace itself bears something of a resemblance to the Gelliant Gutfright sketches from A Bit of Fry and Laurie such as "The Red Hat of Pat Ferrick".
- The Spoils of Babylon, the Transatlantic Equivalent that's also about a Vanity Project TV series made by a narcissistic author, has actors playing actors playing characters and takes a similar Stylistic Suck approach.
- 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.
- Stalling the Sip: How Rick and Thornton gets spared from the ape mutation. Rick is about to drink the contaminated water but gets interrupted in the last moment. Thornton is overly preparing his glass of water and, Thank god he only took a tiny sip!
- Stand Your Ground: "I can't hold these plates off much longer, Liz!"
- Stay in the Kitchen: Despite Garth's claims to the contrary, clear he doesn't think very highly of women, and this leaks into Dagless's character as well, like hiring Liz on as a doctor and telling her to scrub his coffee mug in the same breath."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 show runs on this.
- Styrofoam Rocks: A fire extinguisher thrown at Liz bounces about a foot in the air when it hits the ground.
- 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: Parodied. The episodes of the show are intercut with In-Universe interviews of the cast and crew. For the most part, the information they provide paints them all as truly horrible human beings on top of making clear that the production was an unmitigated disaster.
- Tap on the Head: Rick Dagless wins most fights with a single punch.
- Techno Babble: Used frequently to justify the insane 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.
- This Is Going to Be Huge: Dean Learner, Garth's publisher, believed that Darkplace would become a bigger cultural phenomenon than Quantum Leap.
- This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Rick decides to take on the Scotch Mist by himself because It's Personal.
- Took the Bad Film Seriously: Garth's obviously trying his best with his acting, playing everything as dramatically as he can. It doesn't work. Also, the guy playing the Temp is a pretty good actor who is clearly struggling to make his terrible dialogue sound good.
- Too Stupid To Live: In "Hell Hath Fury", Sanchez fights off the items coming to life with his pistol, which then comes to life. He then wrestles it to the ground. Only to pull out another pistol and shoot his pistol, and then that one comes to life as well and chases him down the hall.
- Trailers Always Lie: The exploding ambulance from the opening credits doesn't appear inshow. We can only speculate as to why Dag was running away from it clutching a baby. On the commentary track we learn this is because they sank the budget for an entire episode just filming that single scene. Which would explain why the explosion of the ambulance truck is shown as a Repeat Cut.
- Troperiffic: Almost every trope the show invokes is done so deliberately in order to parody it.
- Troubled Production: The interviews with Garth, Todd and Dean in the DVD extras reveal details about problems on set.
- TV Telephone Etiquette: Parodied in "Hell Hath Fury", among others;Thornton Reed: [picks up phone] Uh huh. Bye. [hangs up] Good gravy. A small bunch of objects are flying of their own accord in E Wing! [picks up non-ringing phone, then hangs up without saying anything] And apparently more objects are heading this way! [hesitantly, in the direction of the telephone] Good...bye...
- Two Words: I Can't Count: Character splits "telekinesis" into two words.I've got two words for you, Sanch. Tele. Kinesis.
- Understatement: 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.
- Unreliable Narrator: Garth states that the show was rejected by Channel 4 due to it being too intense and put it on due to an "artistic drought". Once you see Darkplace, it's implied that Channel 4 rejected the show due to quality, or lack thereof and they aired it as either filler or as a lark.
- Unusual Euphemism: Thornton Reed is prone to making a lot of these. "My ass is grass and he's got a lawnmower dig?"
- Vanity Project: In-Universe, the whole show is a Garth Marenghi vehicle.
- Viewer-Friendly Interface: The main characters will often hand each other meaningless charts and graphs, usually with the conclusion simply written out on the page in giant letters.
- Viewers Are Morons: In-Universe. 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.
- Viral Transformation: The ape regression mutation and the contagious infection with broccoli spores.
- Water Source Tampering The epidemic in episode 4 was caused by a scientist who contaminated the water supplies with a serum to turn men into monkeys. Luckily, Rick was able to develop an antidote.
- We Have Reserves: Dean Learner mentions that the fog in "Scotch Mist" was poisonous enough to kill two techies, but he is unrepentant, as he believes that you can always hire more, and one is very much like the last.
- Weirdness Censor: No one seems to notice that the water dispensers at the hospital hold green water.
- What If?: Garth states that exploring "what if" scenarios was a central theme in the show.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer...: The doctors rarely seem to solve problems with anything other than guns, fistfights, or fire. Any actual cures or science are done totally off-screen.
- When Props Attack: "Hell Hath Fury", in which the characters are fighting Animate Inanimate Objects. Including Sanchez struggling with his own gun, then battling a kitchen whisk trying to stab him in the neck, and then wrestling a garbage can.
- A Wild Rapper Appears! / Gratuitous Rap: Thornton Reed's brief stint as a rapper in the so-Eighties-it-hurts music video "One Track Lover."Thornton Reed: She's smooth, like ice
Cold to the touch and isn't very nice
When you left (cold to the touch) alone
You let them treat you badly, leaves you hanging on the phone
Take off (hot enough) shove your loving to the wheel
Put the pedal to the floor, cos you're heading for the hills (we should be making love)
got to get away, can't take it no more,
man you don't need this leave it at the door (we should be making love)
- Writer on Board: In-Universe. Marenghi's opinions on various subjects are very obvious in his writing.
- Your Makeup Is Running: Liz bursts into (offscreen) tears every time Rick says something remotely hurtful. Cut to panda eyes.