[Darkplace !Man to Man ]
This is a wonderful parody of UK horror novels and TV shows, possibly inspired by the works of Shaun Hutson .
The show is basically a Medical drama set in a hospital in Romford. However, it is a nexus of supernatural activity. The result is a mix of Twilight Zone and X-Files - with 1980s fashions and 1970s SPFX!
Of course, to make it clear that this is a parody, the stars - writer Garth Marenghi (Matthew Holness) and publisher Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade - The Watch ) - give their input in a series of interviews.
Marenghi plays Doctor Rick Dagless, the ultimate Marty Stu. Dagless' sidekick is Dr Lucien Sanchez, played by scenery-chewing theatrical performer Todd Rivers (Matt Berry - Snow White And The Huntsman ). Dean Lerner plays Thornton Reed, head of the Hospital, while Madeline Woole ( Alice Lowe ) plays Doctor Liz, the token female doctor.
This week, the show's backstory is explained. Dagless and a friend once accidentally opened a gateway to Hell in the hospital cafeteria. As a result, now every one of the male doctors carries a pistol. Except for Thornton Reed, who has a pump-action shotgun.
Celebrity cameo of the week is Stephen Merchant, best known as the tall skinny sidekick of Ricky Gervase. He is the hospital's chef, which means he has to wear a tall hat.
In the interviews, Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade - The Watch ) points out that pretty much every scene without dialogue was shot in slow motion. Most action movies, especially those of John Woo , use slo-mo as a way of emphasising the action. Nowhere is this technique more evident than in the comic-book adaption 300 . However, in the case of Darkplace it was only done to pad out the scripts, which were as much as eight pages under-length (for each twenty-two minute episode)!
Dr Rick Dagless (Garth Marenghi AKA Matthew Holness) and the security guard (Graham Linehan, creator of Father Ted) discover a patient being sodomised by a mutant. The rape victim, a male, gives birth to a baby. Unfortunately the mutant rapist was a giant eyeball, and the rape-baby looks just like its father.
Dagless takes the baby giant eyeball as a substitute son. Unfortunately Thornton Reed (Dean Learner AKA Richard Ayoade - The Watch ) decides the creature should be hunted down and dissected. The security guard is nowhere to be seen, but there are a lot of other doctors about the place to help Reed chase Dag and the baby.
Doctor Liz (Madeline Woole AKA Alice Lowe ), the token female, may have lost her telekinesis but she can still read minds. Dagless tries to mask his thoughts by reading a book. Luckily, someone has left a Gareth Marenghi novel lying around.
The hospital's drinking water has turned bright green, but nobody seems to realise this until the plot demands it. Dr Sanchez (Matt Berry - Snow White And The Huntsman ) turns into an ape. Soon, everyone in the hospital is following suit. Does Padre the chaplain (Julian Barratt - A Field In England ) have anything to do with it?
The other celebrity cameo this episode is Noel Fielding, Barratt's co-star from anarchic BBC comedy show The Mighty Boosh. He appears, heavily disguised in make-up, as the unnatural man-beast responsible for the epidemic.
This is a piss-take on the best UK TV show never made. The deliberate over-use of narration, a poor story-telling technique even at the best of times, is just one example of how well this parodies its target.
We finally discover why Madeline Woole ( Alice Lowe ), the actress who plays Doctor Liz, has not done a piece de camera. Some time in the previous decade she went missing, and is now believed to be dead. She gets further mention in the next Season, Man to Man: An Evening with Dean Learner , when Garth Marenghi aludes to her disappearance while being interviewed by Dean.
The supernatural mist being Scottish, this might be taken as being anti-Scottish. Marenghi, in the interview, states that he intended the message to be one of anti-racism. Compared to the racist propaganda of Braveheart , this is mild stuff indeed. And while the statements made about Glasgow are inaccurate and misleading, they are a perfect fit for Dundee!
The Scotch Mist ghosts are after Rick Dagless in particular. They curse him by making his hair turn ginger. He confronts them, and manages to understand them even though they need subtitles. Well, they HAVE subtitles although (unlike Rab C Nesbitt) they do not really NEED them.
The security guard (Graham Linehan, creator of Father Ted) is now covering for the hospital porter, and spends his time wheeling the patients about. He leaves one beside an air vent, and she turns green.
The infected patient becomes the love interest of Dr Sanchez (Matt Berry - Snow White And The Huntsman ). Unfortunately she turns into Alien broccoli. Rick seeks advice from Padre the chaplain (Julian Barratt - A Field In England ).
The alien infection turns out to be sexually transmitted. This is intended to be a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Rick and Reed must save Sanchez ... by amputating his infected genitals.
Like most TV shows in the 1980s (and Baywatch in the 1990s!) this ep contains a music video! Later on, a section of missing footage is replaced with photographic stills and a voice-over narration, a reference to the video release format of the missing episodes of Doctor Who .
Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade - The Watch ), publisher and actor, now has his own chat show.
Special Guest this week is Garth Marenghi (Matthew Holness), Dean's co-star from Darkplace.
We get a clip of Marenghi's new film - he and Sanchez (Matt Berry - Snow White And The Huntsman ) save Romford from giant wasps from outer space.
This week the guest is race-car driver The Accellerator (Matthew Holness) - the antithesis of Holness' usual character, Gareth Marenghi. This is a wonderful encounter between two ludicrous characters who both take themselves very seriously.
The video insert, Pising in the Driving Seat, is excellent too. There is a second insert, The Learner - a hilarious Office-style take on The Apprentice!
This week the guest is Glynn Nimrod (Matthew Holness), an actor in Scientifical Fiction for the Home Video market. He is quite a bizarre figure, really, and the interview takes a strange turn for the worse.
We get to see some great clips of Glynn's movie, his autobiographical DVD and documentary footage of him at a Media Convention in Uxbridge. There is also a clip from Dean's previous show.
This week the guest is Merriman Weir (Matthew Holness), an English Folk -music singer.
Dean is the same as ever, a sort of watered-down Borat-type inept interviewer. The ep's real revelation is Matthew Holness. He is always been associated with Marenghi-type characters, but here he gets a chance to actually act. And he can play the guitar, too!
The music video to Weir's new album is hilarious, and features the co-stars from Darkplace.
This week the guest is a Uri Geller-style showman. He is, of course, played by (Matthew Holness).
This week the guest is an actor who starred in Bitch Killer, a horror film Dean produced. Unfortunately he is dead - so Dean calls in the film's writer, Gareth Marenghi (Matthew Holness)!
Dean shows a documentary that the actor appeared in. Typically, things went from bad to worse for poor old Randolph. His fellow actor, Glynn Nimron, is interviewed by satellite video-link. Even Steve The Accellerator Pising, Randolph's former neighbour. Amir Chanan takes time to appear and use his supernatural powers to communicate with Randolph's spirit.