TV Zone Main This issue's contentsReview of 2001: The TV Zone AwardsExtra feature: Farscape season reviewSelected feature: Mark Gatiss on Randall & HopkirkBuy it
This issue's contentsReview of 2001: The TV Zone AwardsExtra feature: Farscape season reviewSelected feature: Mark Gatiss on Randall & Hopkirk.

randall & hopkirk (deceased) • mark gatiss

from TV Zone Special #43

He's played one third of the inhabitants of Royston Vasey, written loads of books, and even been Doctor Who for about three minutes.

Now Mr Mark Gatiss has turned his talents to Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)

Randall & Hopkirk: Jeff and Jeannie in Two Can Play...

Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson's Two Can Play That Game wraps up Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) Season 2 on BBC1, 24 Nov. Spoilers below!

Although he hasn't appeared on television since the superb The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special last December, Mark Gatiss has had a busy year. For three months he appeared in the sell-out League stage show with fellow gentlemen Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith and Jeremy Dyson. He also found time to star in a new Horror comedy series with Steve Coogan called Dr Terrible's House of Horrible, playing the diabolical mastermind Hangman Chang. And, again with Jeremy Dyson, he has written an episode for the second series of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) starring Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.

Mark Gatiss in Randall & Hopkirk cameo guiseTV Zone asked Mark how he became involved with the series. "I appeared in the first episode last year," he recalls. "Was it only last year? I played the Inspector who comes to break the news to Jeannie about Marty's death.

"While I was filming, I spoke to the producer, Charlie Higson, and said that if they were doing another series, I'd love to write one. Years ago, Jeremy and I sent Charlie a script called `The Correctors' which was an ITC spoof. He liked it very much, so he knew that we had a feel for the original. When it was confirmed that they were doing another series, he got in touch. We had a meeting, we discussed a few ideas, most of them being proposed episodes of `The Correctors' actually, which, with a little modification, were easy to fit in.

"This one was principally based on a story where the lady Corrector was kidnapped by an old flame – like The Avengers episode The House that Jack Built. This old flame was called Denys Fisher-Price, who is going under the pseudonym MB Games. He's a mad toy manufacturer who imprisons her in a giant mousetrap. Remarkably, a large amount of that idea, if not the script, went into the episode."

Did he watch tapes of the 1960s Randall and Hopkirk to get a feel of that series, rather than the remake?

"Yes, we did. Unfortunately I've always thought that the best things about those ITC series were the title sequences. They would have some really great, strange premise to start off with – Department S had those great pre-credits teasers – but then the stories were actually rather mundane. Everything was explained away 0 it was just a man! It was always such a shame.

"We wanted to get the Sixties-ness, but more like the best example of it, which of course was The Avengers. They were genuinely strange and entertaining and they didn't let you down in the revelation. I suppose we were trying to make Randall and Hopkirk as if Brian Clemens had been in charge."

Is the new series deliberately playing the Avengers card?

"I think they made a mistake with the first series of the new one, in that it became just a bit too normal – they were just detective stories. Everyone wanted it to be more fantastical, and it certainly seems that way this series."

The new stories are positively stuffed with effects and spectacle – Mark's episode, Two Can Play at That Game, is set in an abandoned department store, but there is also a mysterious limbo – where Marty ends up – that looks like a seaside pier. Was it difficult fitting so much into the episode?

"Maybe it's too rich a brew," Gatiss admits. "I don't know. We were afraid that it wouldn't be enough but now maybe it's too much! You really want to have a main plot and a subplot, but if they're too grandiose, the storylines end up fighting each other. That may be slightly the case with ours, I'm not sure. Better that than a rather bland and basic detective story."

We couldn't agree more...

David Miller

two can play
at that game
what it's all about

Vic Mortimer as Marty Hopkirk

Jeff is recovering from an injury, while Jeannie is off on a case. One of Jeff’s old school friends, Stuart Boyle, has contacted her asking for help, after receiving a note from his supposedly dead father. The note asks Boyle for a meeting at an old derelict department store owned by the family. But when Jeannie arrives at the store she is kidnapped and drugged by an unseen assailant…

Meanwhile, Jeff and Marty have had a row, and Jeff finds that he can no longer see Marty. Jeff realizes that Jeannie has gone mssing and he too is trapped in the strange department store. In Limbo, the dejected Marty finds himself on a pier in Rhadamanthus-on-Sea where he meets other ‘double acts’ such as Dicky Klein (Roy Hudd) who have lost their partners. Marty must find a way to contact Jeff and apologize, or his friends could end up being killed…

"There isn’t anything else that has these kind of settings and characters,” says Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) producer Charlie Higson.

Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson from The League of Gentlemen sent me a script years ago. Jeremy was working in a bookshop, and I was working as a novelist. He came up to me, and it was basically Austin Powers: a group of Sixties ITC-style crime-fighters had been preserved in ice and had been thawed out in the present day, and it was about them trying to cope with the modern world.

"I said ‘it’s a great idea, and really well written but nobody will ever want to make it.’ I knew they had a love of those old series, and I know from The League of Gentlemen what they could do in terms of characters. Good strong ideas. So when we were commissioning scripts for the second series of Randall and Hopkirk, they were the first people I went to.”

More from Mark Gatiss in this 5-page photo-feature in TV Zone Special #43

Pictures © WTTV / Universal / BBC Worldwide
Feature © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction.