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Moments in Cult: When Scooby Doo found The Red Room

Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated has a sense of purpose and significance that sets it apart from the rest of the franchise, but thankfully, it also possesses a sense of humour about itself. It’s smart and satirical and overflowing with meta, self-referential jokes riffing endlessly on Scooby-Doo’s well-worn mythology, with its meddling’ kids, traps, ascots, Scrappy Doo and villains that turn out to be all too human. There’s even an episode-length tribute to Nico, Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground.

But the show is also serious in depicting the Scooby Gang’s hometown of Crystal Cove as an animated version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Sunnydale or Xfilesvania, where the supernatural television program X-Files takes place. Crystal Cove isn’t just the setting. To recycle the hokey old cliché, it’s a character in itself. Crystal Cove is a town where evil seems to have an almost physical presence. It’s a haunted realm of ghosts, conspiracies and dark secrets. Remind you of anywhere else?

The Doo is not what it seems.

Parodies of Twin Peaks in so-called kids’ TV shows are nothing new, The Simpsons did it way back in series 7 episode 1 ‘Who Shot Mr. Burns: Part 2, Darkwing Duck, and even Sesame Street had a go (Twin Beaks, anyone?) there is Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, especially episodes 20 ‘Stand and Deliver’ and 22 ‘Nightmare in Red’ that lift the Twin Peaks’ love to a whole new level.

As Scooby-Doo falls asleep, he enters the Red Room in ‘Stand and Deliver’, there is a blend of woozy ambient synthesizers and shuffling jazz beats, reflecting the legendry soundtrack composed by Angelo Badalamenti and the iconic musical motifs, low-key lighting and colours, ‘strange’ camera movements generate a tense and eerie feel. Then there are the red drapes and patterned floor to reproduce the Red Room from Twin Peaks. And who’s that in the corner? It’s Michael J. Anderson as a virtually identical copy (Doppelganger?) to his Twin Peaks character The Man from Another Place.

Unlike other caricatures of Twin Peaks which rely solely on visual comparisons, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated shows a deeper appreciation for David Lynch’s masterpiece. They do not use it in passing; it is actively contributing to the series’ long narrative arc. Scooby-Doo!’s use of Twin Peaks as pivotal to the series long plot creates a serious relationship between the two franchises, one which could be read as an ‘admiring attitude’ opposed to the ridiculing nature of The Simpsons which somewhat off handled mocked the tropes of Twin Peaks. Whilst it is possible for those who recognize Twin Peaks’ red room in ‘Nightmare in Red’ to find the scene hilarious, the events that unfold in themselves are not so humorous.

Beyond the replication of the Red Room and the Man from Another Place, Scooby-Doo! embodies the thematic motifs of Twin Peaks, for example, the multiplicity of good and evil. In Scooby-Doo! Fred finds the ‘good part’ of his dad in the Red Room explaining why Fred’s dad posed as a monster in Series 1 Episode 26. This is reminiscent of Bob (an apparition of evil) taking over Leland Palmer, as well as Cooper’s evil double, which appears in Twin Peaks finale of series 2, and developed further in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (Lynch, 1992).

Just as the ‘good part’ of Fred’s dad appears in a frozen status, a pastiche of Leland Palmer similarly trapped within the Red Room. There are lots of people in a floating stasis in the red room. Each person is someone the Mystery Inc gang have defeated in a previous mystery. All the people in the real world have been evil versions of these good people (the good versions now trapped in the Red Room). Whilst explained within the contexts of the show, this is only a reference understood if one has watched Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (Lynch, 1992).

Over the course a several ‘mysteries’ in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated series 2, Scooby and the gang find many artefacts which they understand to be the key; however, they are clueless as to what it might unlock. The Red Room plays a key function, acting as a pivotal moment within the series long narrative arc where the curse of Crystal Cove is finally revealed to the gang.

Of course, true Twin Peaks aficionados realised long ago that all of the representations of the red room (animated or otherwise) are bona fide. They are in fact the same room -spanning dimensions–inside the black lodge where Good Dale Cooper was trapped for all those years… (okay, that’s enough – ed).

 

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Stephen Pryde-Jarman is a Cult TV and Film journalist, award winning short story writer, playwright and screenwriter. A natural hoarder, second hand shopping fulfils his basic human need for hunter-gathering; but rummaging through a charity shop’s bric-a-brac shelf also brought him the inspiration for his novel Rubble Girl having seen a picture of a Blitz survivor sat amongst the rubble of her house with a cup and saucer. Rubble Girl has been described as " thought-provoking" and "fast paced ... with plenty of twists and turns." Amazon.

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