Before he tackles his upcoming TV adaptation of Dracula, Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss has created another horror treat: new ghost story The Dead Room, which stars Simon Callow and follows spooky goings-on in a radio studio.
Here’s everything you need to know about the one-off drama, airing this Christmas on BBC4.
What time is The Dead Room on TV?
The Dead Room will on BBC4 on Christmas Eve (that’s Monday 24th December, date fans) at 10.00pm.
The TV play, which was both written and directed by Sherlock and Doctor Who writer/actor Gatiss, is 30 minutes long, so will conclude at 10.30pm.
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“The Christmas Ghost Story is a wonderful and vital TV tradition and one which has found its natural place on BBC4,” Gatiss said in a release.
“A Merry Christmas to all of you at home. Pleasant dreams!”
What’s The Dead Room about?
Veteran actor and voiceover artist Aubrey Judd returns to an old radio studio to record the latest edition of an ongoing horror series, which he’s been narrating for decades.
However, this time there’s something strange going on: the old studio appears to be haunted by echoes of Aubrey’s troubled past, in something of an homage to the works of iconic horror writer MR James.
“It’s an original story, but Aubrey is a pompous man who lectures about how ghost stories should be told,” writer and director Mark Gatiss told RadioTimes.com.
“And what I’ve done is I’ve essentially dramatised MR James’ rules on the ghost story. And one of his rules is that the ghost has to be malevolent – there’s no such thing as a friendly ghost….”
The official synopsis for The Dead Room is below:
Set and filmed at the iconic Maida Vale studios, The Dead Room tells the story of a long-running radio horror series and its veteran presenter and national treasure Aubrey Judd.
But times are changing. Tastes are shifting. There’s a new young producer. Whatever happened to the classic ghost stories? The good old days?
Aubrey soon discovers that all is not quiet in the eerie radio studio and that elements of his own past are not as dead and buried as he perhaps hoped…
Who’s in the cast?
Veteran actor Simon Callow stars as Aubrey Judd, with Bodyguard and The Sarah Jane Adventures’ Anjli Mohindra playing his producer Tara. The Dead Room also stars Susan Penhaligon and Joshua Oakes-Rogers.
Notably, Callow and Gatiss have collaborated before on ghostly goings-on, with the former playing Charles Dickens in Gatiss’ spectral Doctor Who episode The Unquiet Dead.
Where is The Dead Room filmed?
The drama is both set and filmed at BBC Maida Vale studios, a complex of sound studios that is most often used to record BBC bands and orchestras (including the BBC Symphony Orchestra), various radio dramas and other BBC audio programmes including Radio 1’s Live Lounge.
The studios were originally built in 1909, and began to be used by the BBC in the 1930s.
In the past the studios were also known for hosting John Peel’s famous Radio 1 sessions, and over the years generations of iconic artists have recorded there including The Beatles, Bing Crosby, Radiohead, David Bowie, The Fall and Adele among many, many others.
In June 2018 the BBC announced the closure of the studio, and RadioTimes.com understands that this real-life closure may play into The Dead Room’s storyline in some way.
“I’m continuing my tradition of closing buildings that I write about,” writer and director Gatiss told RadioTimes.com. “After closing BBC Television Centre [after An Adventure in Space and Time].
“I’ve worked here for 20 years on and off, and as long as I’ve worked here it’s been about to close. Now we’ve filmed here, it is going to close.You pass that sign about the Beatles recording here and think, when this is flats, what happens to that sign? It’s obscene.”
Much of the radio content produced at Maida Vale is now planned to be made at a new facility in Stratford, East London.
What is a ‘Dead Room’?
Essentially, a ‘Dead Room’ is one that’s been completely soundproofed, protecting it from ambient noise. Such rooms are usually used for recording music, sound effects or other radio elements.
“It’s the heavily insulated room in which you can’t hear anything,” Gatiss explained. “It’s an amazing title!”
And of course, ‘The Dead Room’ also happens to be the title of the show within a show that Simon Callow is recording at the studio.
In this radio-themed ghost story, it’s unsurprising that the title will have something of a double meaning…
Interestingly, some of Gatiss’ 2013 Doctor Who biopic An Adventure in Space and Time was shot at BBC Maida Vale Studios, as it still had some of the 1960s-era equipment and design.
This is also not the first time Gatiss has created a ghost story for the BBC’s festive period: previous dramas include 2013’s The Tractate Middoth starring Sacha Dhawan and the 2008 series Crooked House.