So you have a hospital. Nice place, folks get healed there, their illnesses and sicknesses happily resolved, and they're sent on their way. It's, in fact, the best hospital in the state of Maine. All sorts of odd illnesses get fixed there, up to and including clinical death.
Good news: it's one of the leading research and medical centers in the state. Bad news? It's haunted.
Kingdom Hospital is a medical drama with a twist: the hospital is haunted, and its cast finds itself dealing with increasingly odd and creepy phenomena on a daily basis, punctuated by the occasional earthquake. The series opens with Peter Rickman, a helpless artist thrust into sudden dreams and paralysis by a drunk driver, being escorted to this hospital — followed by a host of oddities following in his wake, up to and including a ghostly child, an odd anteater-marsupial hybrid which seems to be something more than he appears, and an odd adversary who conspires to mark Peter for death.
And all the while, there's a hospital staff wandering around, unwilling or unable to see the drama unfolding beyond their sight, with the exception of the occasional creepy incident... such as a monitor's head turning towards a doctor and speaking, or a given artist healing unnaturally fast...
While billed as a medical drama with twists, Kingdom Hospital also happens to be a Ghost Story, written, directed, and produced by — of all people — Stephen King, whose influence shows up without doubt as soon as the first episode. However, King adapted it, with permission, from the Danish series Riget.
A tie-in prequel (which overlaps with the first episodes of the series), The Journals of Eleanor Druse: My Investigation of the Kingdom Hospital Incident, was released in January 2004.
This miniseries contains the following tropes:
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: Antubis, the anteater, is really the Egyptian god Anubis (and somewhere, an Egyptologist is crying). He looks like an anteater due to Mary's misunderstanding of his name. His form as Paul is Mary's belief that everyone has good inside of them, even Paul.
- Aborted Arc: Stephen King already had the next season storyboarded and ready to roll. There are so many loose plot threads left over that it's amazing this show is usually classified as a "mini-series" instead of "season one of a cancelled show."
- All There in the Manual:
- The prequel novel reveals that Dr. Stegman's botched surgery on Mona Klingermann isn't the first time he's made this mistake; he'd botched a similar surgery on another patient in Boston a year before, and Sally recommended to the patient's parents that they talk to a lawyer and sue him for malpractice. This is presumably why he lost his job there.
- The ghost boy Paul is haunting the hospital because he was one of Dr. Gottreich's patients at the old Kingdom, and died in the 1939 fire that destroyed the building. Dr. Gottreich died in the same fire after a young Sally Druse hit him with a fire axe in self-defense after he tried to lobotomize her.
- Almighty Janitor: Abel and Christa, two developmentally disabled orderlies who nevertheless always show up with whatever equipment or item other characters need. It's shown many times that they are both aware of everything going on in both the mundane and supernatural sides of the hospital.
- The Alleged Car: The fate of Stegman's Jaguar, which is continually damaged over the course of the series.
- Arc Words: "I do you a solid, you do me a solid."
- An Arm and a Leg: During Stegman's attempt to kill the main characters in the last episode, he's stopped when Antubis intercepts him and bites off his hand.
- Asshole Victim: People who go into Kingdom Hospital and don't check out include Dave Hoonan, the stoned man who hit Peter Rickman and later fell off his roof; Rolf Pederson, a convicted murderer who tried to commit suicide via poison; and Sheldon Fletcher, a philandering lawyer who had sex with an employee, got her pregnant and fired her when she needed time off from work to recover from an abortion he'd made her get, who suffers a heart attack in the courtroom where he's being sued over his actions.
- The Atoner: Dr. Hook turns out to be one; he once killed a homeless man by operating on him while drunk, and thereafter makes it his mission to eliminate incompetence from the hospital, which is the main reason he opposes Steg so hard.
- Author Avatar: Peter Rickman — the details of his accident are precisely those of King's own brush with death.
- Blind Without 'Em: Otto, who occasionally loses them for comedic effect. Late in the series, he mentions that he was in fact slowly going blind, until a miracle that restores his vision.
- Bloody Hilarious: Hellooooo, operating room! High-pressure blood sprays are seen at least once, typically resulting in Nurse Carrie Von Trier fainting in the background.
- Butt-Monkey: Stegman, whose car is continually trashed, gets mocked by people and has his nose injured during his "initiation" into the Keepers of the Kingdom.
- Comedic Sociopathy: Stegman. Stegman, Stegman, Stegman. The man finds himself on the receiving end of this, with people delighting in his misery, more than once — especially the random guys who hang outside the hospital and laugh whenever he discovers the latest damage to his car.
- Cranium Chase: A decapitated ghost whose body had its head severed in a morgue prank wanders around the netherworldly "Old Kingdom", fumbling blindly for its missing part. While Basement Jaxx's "Where's Your Head At?" plays on the soundtrack.
- Creepy Child: Mary, the ghost of a little girl who died in the mill that once stood on the spot, even if she is more benevolent than dangerous.
- Dark World: The Old Kingdom, a ghostly version of Egas Gottreich's hospital that had existed before the modern one, and which both living and dead characters find themselves in at times.
- Dean Bitterman: Stegman is the head neurosurgeon at the hospital, after getting removed from a hospital in Boston... which he frequently reminds people he prefers.
- Decapitation Presentation: Elmer tries this with the head of a cadaver who vaguely resembles him, as a bizarre prank on Dr. Massingale (also his way of flirting). It goes breathtakingly wrong, and he spends a large chunk of the series hunting the head down before he gets in trouble.
- Direct Line to the Author: The introduction to the prequel novel presents it as Eleanor "Sally" Druse's journals, detailing her investigation into the supernatural events at Kingdom Hospital, which she's sending to Stephen King for publication.
- Doctor's Disgraceful Demotion: Stegman, the primary human antagonist, had this trope in his backstory. He'd gotten in trouble for botching a surgery and it cost him his reputation, getting him kicked out of his cushy New York Hospital and sent to the titular one. He was so arrogant that he actually started to believe that the botched surgery was orchestrated by a conspiracy still trying to ruin his life.
- Establishing Character Moment: For Hook, when he sets a box of tissues in the bathroom of Rickman's room before he tells Mrs. Rickman her husband's prognosis, because he knows she'll go in there to cry and/or be sick and is compassionate enough to provide the means to clean herself up a bit before she returns.
- Fainting: Nurse Carrie Von Trier is prone to doing it at the sight of blood.
- Fauxlosophic Narration: The narrator for the TV advertisements for the show, while not entirely inaccurate, made the show seem like an overly dramatic, extremely intense, straight horror series. Anyone who actually watched an episode of the show knows it doesn't take itself nearly as serious as the narrator made it out to be, who exaggerates even the silly comedic or mundane moments in the series to make them sound ominous or exciting. Two examples would be "The head doctor is inducted into a secret society!" The actual "secret society" is a standard fraternity deal with ridiculous hats and silly secret hand gestures, and its hazing ritual is mostly played for laughs. Narrator: "The dead cause the Earth to tremble!" The reality: Minor earth tremors occur at Kingdom hospital occasionally, and while they are technically caused by the dead it really isn't as big a deal as the narrator made it sound.
- Foreign Remake: Of the earlier Riget, as directed by Lars von Trier. The Swedish neurosurgeon Stig Helmer becomes Dr. Stegman from Boston; Sigrid Drusse becomes Sally Druse, etc.
- Hollywood Atheist: Stegman. At one point, when asked his opinion of a local religious group who believed their pastor would rise from the dead in three days, he said they should all be sterilized and sent to the gulags of Siberia as slave labor.
- Jury Duty: Hospital maintenance man Jonathan B. Goode is never seen until the last episode, with assorted reasons for not showing up. In episode 7, it's because he's been called for jury duty — then after this is revealed, there's a cut to the courtroom where they're calling up members of the jury pool, and Mr. Goode is also a no-show. When Dr. Stegman finally meets him and asks him about it in the finale, he explains it as "Took care of it. Knew a guy."
- Likes Older Women: Elmer in regards to Lona. Unlike most Dogged Nice Guys, he makes it clear he wants a sexual relationship with her; however, it's clear he doesn't just want sex.
- Literal Genie: A lawyer asks Antubis for a new heart. Sure enough... he gets one. Too bad he didn't wish to get a new heart that would actually work, seeing as Antubis simply rips out his old one and shoves the new one, which had been carried into the room in a dog's mouth, into the gaping hole in his chest, rather than properly transplanting it so it would work.
- Mad Doctor: Klaus Gottreich and his great-grandson Egas Gottreich. Klaus is a firm believer in psychosurgery — he claims he can rewire people's brains for the purpose of altering their memories and making them no longer feel pain, by using tools that are little more than ice picks; in fact, he killed Mary Jenkins with them. Egas is just as crazy, referring to the idea of germs and sanitation as "twiddle-twaddle".
- Madness Mantra: One of the few times we see a human side to Dr. Stegman, he breaks down over the surgical screwup that made Mona Klingermann vegetative, and mutters "I used to hate myself, I like myself now," over and over.
- Meaningful Name: The so-called Old Kingdom is the hospital built in the 1930s — it was called "Gottreich Hospital" after its founder, Dr. Egas Gottreich.
- Mythology Gag:
- In the original miniseries, Stig Helmer's Catchphrase is "Danish scum!" When Dr. Stegman's car is vandalized in the remake, he yells "Maine hick scum!"
- Throughout the series the vending machines in the hospital all sell Nozza-La* but in the final episode they are replaced by Pepsi machines. This means the hospital now exists on a more stable level of the Dark Tower.
- Nice to the Waiter: Dr. Hook is friendly and respectful to everyone in the hospital, regardless of station, and exchanges favors with everyone from Housekeeping to Archives. Compare that to Stegman, who believes he shouldn't even have to share an elevator with patients.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Earl Candleton of the New England Robins in place of Bill Buckner of the Boston Red Sox.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Interestingly, two played against each other; Stegman is a classic example, trying to kick Mrs. Druse out of the hospital for malingering (which, to be fair, she is). However, he himself is obstructed by the higher ranking (and far more gullible) Jesse James.
- Once Done, Never Forgotten: The episode "Butterfingers" revolves around Earl Candleton, forever known as "Error" Candleton for the time he dropped the ball and cost the New England Robins their chance to win the World Series; years of people never letting him live it down ultimately leads to his attempting suicide and being hospitalized as a result. His mistake is ultimately undone via time travel.
- Parking Payback: The neurosurgeon Dr. Stegman loves parking where he shouldn't. Handicapped parking spot? No problem: he just covers the sign with a paper bag. There is some delight to be had in seeing his beloved Jaguar take ever more damage as the series progresses. He's such an asshole that he parks on the helipad, right when a helicopter needs to land!
- People Jars: Paul is shown in one, a large hydrotherapy tank. Mary explains he has to use it to "recharge," and when he's inside is the only time he can't come after her.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Dr. Jesse James, the administrator. His "Operation Morning Air" makes him the target of many jokes.
- Rule of Drama: The main conflict is centered around Mary's tragic backstory, as the heroes try to prevent her death in the past and enable her to move on to the afterlife peacefully.
- Rule of Funny: In the third episode, the staff breaks out into a musical number, complete with dancing in the OR, corpses sliding out in the morgue and singing along, and general freakiness. This is a Homage to The Singing Detective.
- Running Gag: The maintenance guy Johnny B. Goode is never around and always has a different substitute in for him. At the end of the series, he finally shows up to work and turns out to be played by Stephen King.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Twice, resulting in a Cosmic Retcon both times. First, when Earl Candleton goes back in time and gets a second chance to win the World Series for his team. When he succeeds, the doctors suddenly find their patient is missing — in fact, he'd never been there in the first place, and almost nobody realizes it. In the finale, this is done on a bigger scale as the time-traveling heroes stop the Gates Falls Mill from burning down, preventing many deaths and resulting in the arrests of the Gottreich brothers. When they return to the present, they find that, among other changes, Mary Jenkins is now the founder of the hospital.
- Shout-Out: Nurse Carrie von Trier is named after Danish director Lars von Trier, who directed/created the original, Danish Kingdom series.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The headless patient in the basement bumbling around, to the tune of Basement Jaxx — "Where's Your Head At."
- Talking Animal: A crow and two dogs had brief speaking parts just to make it even weirder than it already was.
- Toothy Bird: Real anteaters don't have teeth, but Antubis (who's anything but) has sharp, narrow, folding teeth.
- Elmer sees Lona as this; in the beginning, she's just annoyed and confused with how exactly to make it clear to the significantly younger man, whose father she works for, that a romantic relationship is out of the question. She tried the direct way, that didn't work, and well, Lona's a fairly direct person. Later, when the supernatural screws with them, she tells him to kiss her, treats him the same as before once they get out of the morgue (long story), and then, uses his affection for her to get him to help her with some important tests she wants to do. At the end, she seems unsure what her relationship with him is, while he still wants a romantic relationship with her.
- Dr. Abelson (Stegman's erstwhile girlfriend) is a more literal version of this. After their breakup, she takes a large gun and pegs all of Stegman's lab rats, gleefully counting them one by one. Not a bunny-boiler, but close enough, surely.
- Vomit Discretion Shot: Rickman's wife ducks into the bathroom after Hook tells her Peter's chances aren't good, and is next seen kneeling before the toilet to flush.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: Invoked and flogged like a dead horse in "On the Third Day", which recreates the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus through the same thing (including changing water into wine, the miracle of the loaves and fishes, healing of the sick of severe ailments — including Otto's near-blindness — and then the disappearance of his body, leaving only a bloodstained sheet) happening to Reverend Jimmy Criss, a "miracle worker" who works nearby. Worse yet, it was sometimes listed as "The Passion of Reverend Jimmy".