Warning: contains major spoilers for Inside No. 9 series 5 episode 2.
Five minutes in to Inside No. 9 episode Death Be Not Proud, a door was opened. Your reaction to who was revealed on the other side will likely have fallen into one of two categories: an electric jolt of delighted surprise, or a furrowed brow and the thought that BBC Two really needs to up its wig budget.
Those in the first category will be fans of Psychoville, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s 2009-2011 dark comedy thriller about a band of strange misfits bound together by a dark secret, which crossed over with Inside No. 9 this week. Those in the second category will either currently be searching out Psychoville on DVD, or still pondering that haircut.
Beneath Steve Pemberton’s wig was David Sowerbutts, serial killer obsessive and son of Maureen, with whom he shares an unnatural bond. Read more about them in our appreciation of Psychoville here.
Below, as heard on this week’s instalment of the BBC Sounds Inside Inside No. 9 podcast, are some of the Easter Eggs and nerdy references to be spotted in Death Be Not Proud.
1) Like a true cryptic crossword lover, Steve Pemberton teased the crossover on his Twitter account, making the first letter of his last 11 Tweets read P-S-Y-C-H-O-V-I-L-L-E backwards.
2) The title Death Be Not Proud is a clue to the Psychoville connection, as it’s the name of the John Donne poem quoted by David when his mother dies in series two episode five, and repeated in the scene recreation here, reshot from the same angle almost a decade later.
3) As spotted by Twitter user Tia Raine, there’s a clue to the crossover in the episode’s official poster (see above). Look closely at the silhouetted figure in the doorway at the bottom next to the words ‘The past never dies’ and David Sowerbutts’ distinctive haircut is hiding there in plain sight.
4) The haunted blender was intended as a deliberate reference to David’s favourite drink: the mango smoothie.
5) Listen carefully while Beattie (Jenna Coleman) is eating her smiley sausage dinner and a local radio show can be heard in the background mentioning the flat location in Wood Green, Haringey – the same location as David and Maureen’s flat. Another hint.
6) Death Be Not Proud was directed by Matt Lipsey, who directed every episode of Psychoville (and last week’s The Referee’s A W***er). “It looks and feels like Psychoville” says Shearsmith on the podcast. “Essentially, it’s another episode of Psychoville.”
7) In Inside No. 9 series one’s The Understudy, Shearsmith and Pemberton considered setting the Macbeth-inspired story in an amateur dramatics society, and making David Sowerbutts the central character, egged on to commit murder by his mother Maureen acting as Lady Macbeth. It was decided to be too soon to bring back the old characters, but, says Pemberton, “by the time you get to series five, I think you’re allowed.”
8) Look very closely and the establishing shot of the block of flats in Death Be Not Proud shows the very same exterior as used for David and Maureen’s Psychoville flat.
9) The episode, set 10 years after the end of Psychoville, is based on ideas conceived for the unmade third series, in which it was planned for David to marry Emily (Sarah Solemani) and have a baby. The idea of David being haunted by the ghost of his dead mother through her Bontempi organ is given a trial run in this 2011 YouTube clip.
10) In the opening moments of the episode, the number two – the original number of Maureen and David’s flat in Psychoville – is taken off the door and replaced with a number nine, before being repainted from red to purple.
11) Cut for time in the episode was a scene in which David found a note from his dead mother under his mat – in exactly the way he found the blackmailer’s note in Psychoville – which said ‘She’s a whore’.
12) The choice of Black Lace’s Superman as David and Maureen’s dance in Psychoville was apparently inspired by the Leopold and Loeb Chicago murder case referenced in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (which had inspired Psychoville‘s two-shot David and Maureen special in series one). Fans of Frederick Nietzsche, Leopold and Loeb considered themselves as ‘supermen’ and thus outside the law.
13) Superman is a recurring theme, with Laurie Anderson’s O Superman played by Maureen’s ghost in a 2011 YouTube clip, and in Death Be Not Proud (visible on her keyboard sheet music). It was the favourite song of serial killer Dennis Nilsen. Continuing the theme, the song Crank That by Soulja Boy was chosen for its dance moves and its mention of the word ‘superman’.
14) Baby John is named after his father, David John Sowerbutts, who was named after his own father John (but David doesn’t want to talk about that). Incidentally, if you’ve not had the pleasure, here’s David Sowerbutt’s personal YouTube channel from back in 2009. And here’s his ‘Best Murders’ website, feat. bonus dancing.
15) The poster of Rita Hayworth in The Trinidad Affair was originally intended to be a poster of The Shawshank Redemption (as a joke referencing the secret hiding behind the poster in that film), but they weren’t granted the rights to use it and so chose Hayworth as the title of Stephen King’s original story on which the film is based is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.
16) David keeping his mother’s head in a hat box bricked up inside the flat wall is a nod to serial killer Edmund Kemper, who did the same (and almost certainly worse).
17) Among many others disposed of at the end of Psychoville, the original prop for David’s Hannibal Lecter lamp had to be re-drawn for this episode, alongside his bedroom gallery of serial killer photos and drawings, all of which were in fact photos of the Psychoville production crew.
18) Continuity pedants may notice that Maureen’s corpse was left facing in the other direction in Psychoville to how it was seen in Death Be Not Proud. It was the subject of much discussion and decided that David had probably moved her body for some reason best kept to himself (perhaps another chorus of Oops Upside Your Head).
19) Next to Maureen’s decomposing corpse in that bathtub was none other than… a bottle of Matey, David’s favourite, and the very bubble bath Maureen fussed about finding while the pair planned to do a bad murder by drowning. (She couldn’t find one, so threw in a capful of Radox to help their victim relax.)
20) Pemberton and Shearsmith will reveal where to find the hidden-every-episode silver hare statue from Death Be Not Proud in next week’s podcast. If you’ve already spotted it, let us know below.