The Trap Door is a claymation-style animated television series, originally shown in the United Kingdom in 1984. The plot revolves around both the daily lives and the misadventures of a group of monsters living in a castle. Although the emphasis was on humour and the show was marketed as a children’s programme but also for family entertainment, the show drew much from the genres of horror and dark fantasy.
The show has since become a cult favourite and remains one of the most widely recognised kids’ shows of the 1980s. Digital children’s channel Pop started re-running the show in 2010.
There were a total of 40 episodes of the show produced and, despite the show’s success, no more episodes were made. Character voices were provided by Willie Rushton, an English cartoonist, satirist, comedian, actor and performer who co-founded Private Eye, the satirical magazine. He died a decade after the show was halted.
The world of The Trap Door is completely inhabited by monsters, and almost all action takes place in the monsters’ castle, and especially the pantry or cellar where lives Berk, the castle’s servant and central character of the show. Beneath the castle are a series of dark and mysterious caverns inhabited by all manner of “horrible things”, accessible by the eponymous trap door.
The master of the castle, “The Thing Upstairs”, resides in the attic of the castle and remains an unseen character throughout the entire show, shouting orders to Berk when hungry or annoyed – “BERK!! Where’s my dinner”. Berk has two companions, Boni and Drutt. In most episodes, Berk accidentally leaves the trap door open, admitting a more troublesome monster than himself.
The television series spawned a video game in the mid-80s called The Trap Door and a sequel called Through The Trap Door. These games were available for the ZX Spectrum, the Amstrad CPC and the Commodore 64. In addition, a board game was released entitled Berk’s Trapdoor Game which involved going around the board while trying to knock one’s opponent off the edge with a die hidden behind a trapdoor in the game board.
The introduction of The Trap Door was a parody of many of Vincent Price’s horror film introductions:
“Somewhere in the dark and nasty regions, where nobody goes, stands an ancient castle. Deep within this dank and uninviting place, lives Berk (Allo!), overworked servant of “the thing upstairs” (Berk! Feed Me!) But that’s nothing compared to the horrors that lurk beneath the trap door, for there is always something down there, in the dark, waiting to come out…
The outro went:
“Creepy, crawly, slimy things, that stick on to your skin… Horrid beasts with tentacles, that want to pull you in… Squirmy worms, slugs and snails, that lie there in a goo… They’ll wait down there forever, ’till they get their hands on you… Stay away from that trapdoor, ‘Cos there’s something down there….