Mark Gatiss spins the dial to spooky with new Christmas chiller The Dead Room
Whatever happened to classic ghost stories? It’s the question posed by chilling new bbc Four drama The Dead Room – and one that’s close to the heart of mark gatiss, the haunted tale’s writer and director.
“i did an mr James documentary and adaptation [The Tractate Middoth] five years ago,” the Sherlock and League Of Gentlemen star tells red alert, “and i’ve been lobbying to do another christmas ghost story ever since. it’s an obsession of mine that there should be one at christmas.
“it’s hard to get the money for anything that’s half an hour long and isn’t part of a larger package. So it’s taken a while. i even thought about doing something that was simply someone in a chair, telling a story like dave allen!”
named after impregnably soundproofed rooms in radio studios, the one-off, half-hour drama stars Simon callow as aubrey Judd, veteran presenter of a horror anthology series called The Dead Room. “he’s a pompous old actor who thinks he knows everything about what makes a ghost story tick and then, as the story develops, elements from his guilty past start to intrude onto his broadcast…”
also starring anjli mohindra, Susan penhaligon and Joshua oakes-rogers, The Dead Room is set and filmed in the legendary maida Vale studios, soon to be closed as the bbc relocates its live music base to east london.
“it’s such a shame, because that place is like a big wendy house,” says gatiss. “it has fossils of broadcasting dotted around it, just lingering. we went to the store room, which is like a magic junk shop, full of bits. all the original bbc sound effects records and piles of baSF tape. the only one labelled, right in the middle, said ‘the dead room’. no joke. we didn’t play it. it was probably sound effects from a play called The Dead Room but i said, ‘if we put it on it’ll be a tape of us finding this tape! and we’ll know we’re dead!’”
gatiss’s william hartnell drama An Adventure In Space And Time was filmed in bbc television centre shortly before it shuttered. “it’s me, isn’t it?” he laughs. “is there anywhere you want closed? i’ll make a drama in it. number 10, maybe. nigel Farage’s house!” NS
The Dead Room is on BBC Four over Christmas. Read Mark Gatiss’s Heroes & Inspirations on p72.
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Introducing Grandad to Gogglebox was interesting.