The Real Ghostbusters Episode 11: ‘Citizen Ghost’ (1986)

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Oh yes, this one’s a peach. ‘Citizen Ghost’ is the classic episode set directly after the events of the Ghostbusters film, so it’s the perfect entry point for newcomers. I’m surprised that this wasn’t selected as the first episode, as it obviously forms a great link between the film and the series – maybe the writers didn’t want the ghost of the film hanging too obviously over their heads right from the start. By the time of this eleventh episode, we’ve already got to know and love the animated versions of our guys, so now we can have fun and really play around with the relationship between film and cartoon. We already had the wild ending of the previous episode, where we even got to see a fragment of the actual Ghostbusters film, but ‘Citizen Ghost’ is the one that we were all waiting for, and remains one of the most loved and entertaining stories of the entire series.

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Actually, for continuity’s sake, obviously this episode isn’t just set after the film as we’ve already had ten episodes– all of the post-Gozer stuff, which is more or less the whole episode, is regaled in flashback thanks to an interview between Peter and reporter Cynthia Crawford, who we first saw at the beginning of ‘When Halloween Was Forever’. Par for the course, Peter’s ego is in overdrive and he’s well chuffed to be interviewed. The focus on the interview is how the Ghostbusters came around to live with a ghost. It’s a good question – in the film Slimer, whilst small fry compared to the big bad ghosts, was nevertheless not painted as a good guy, and as you’ll remember, the very last shot of the film continue to enjoy his freedom from the Ecto-Containment Unit, flying directly into the camera just to rub it in. So how did become one of the good guys? Let’s find out….

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So Crawford arrives and essentially she’s got a serious lack of humour. Janine tries to be all self-deprecating by admitting that she is Janine but she’d much rather be Meryl Streep and it completely falls on deaf ears. So Janine gets her revenge by immediately contradicting herself by saying that Crawford can’t go upstairs the second she’s directed her towards the place where Peter is. Why can’t she go up there? Janine’s not listening, she’s just counting downwards. 3…2…1….BOOM! Now she can go up. We never do find out what lethal device it is that the guys are working on, which is frustrating for Winston – as he says, if he’s going to be disintegrated, he’d at least like to know by what. Now, I must say that after Peter’s below-par dialogue in the previous episode, he really gets to shine here. He doesn’t seem to give two hoots about Egon’s device potentially destroying the Bronx, especially since Ray grew up there. He tries to be self-deprecating to Crawford in exactly the same way as Janine did, but Crawford rebuffs this with a genuinely hilarious ‘if you don’t mind, I’ve driven off that bridge already’ rejoinder.  Even Slimer tries the same gag in the next scene, but that’s not so easy to discern as his grasp of the English language is rudimentary to say the least.

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Peter’s assumes the interview warm-up is all about him, so he’s go off on some anecdote about fighting some trout-brained bloke called Rick, but Crawford gets him back on track by asking him about the strange, weird, eccentric and sick reasons as to how Slimer came to live with them….cue flashback! We go back to directly after the showdown with Gozer, where the HQ is a complete wreck and not even Ray’s optimism can cheer them up. Egon makes a point of redesigning the Containment Unit, which explains why it looks so different in the cartoon than it did in the film. Oh, and they have to destroy their uniforms – you know, those boring uniformly uniforms that the guys had to wear in the film (and somewhat disrespectfully in Ghostbusters II, go back to wearing). The uniforms absorbed loads of Gozer’s ectoplasmic energy and are essentially ticking time bombs. In a moment of delightful convenience – Janine reveals, strangely amusingly, that the new uniforms ‘came in just before you went to fight Gozer’, making their battle with the Gozerian sound like the equivalent of going round the shops to get a pint of milk. Also, there’s the strange decision to make Egon jump in shock at Janine’s pronouncement. Except, he doesn’t jump. Or move his lips. But he definitely makes a startled sound. I love it.

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We jump to a great bit when Egon and Peter run a safety checklist on the Containment Unit and this scene essentially explains why it’s always weird to see these two paired up because it rarely happens. Peter’s very, very tired, and clearly is just saying ‘check’ to whatever Egon’s listing. Cue this delightful exchange.

Egon: ‘Plasmatic refractor? Anti-ectoplasm destruct meachanism? Bipolar adjuster?’

Peter: ‘Check, check and….check’

Egon: ‘Trans-warp drive?’

Peter [half-asleep]: ‘Check…’

Egon: ‘A-HA! Caught you! We don’t have a trans-warp drive!’

Peter: ‘If we don’t have one, then it can’t malfunction. If it’s not malfunctioning, then nothing’s wrong, and if nothing’s wrong, then it checks, right?’

Egon: ‘I’m not going to talk to you for at least a week. It’s not good for me.’

Brilliant. Although why Egon has left to it Peter to take care of the all-important task of burning their old uniforms is a total mystery, as unsurprisingly, he completely neglects his duty, leaving their clothes to absorb the leakings of an unchecked crack in the Containment Unit….meanwhile, the HQ gets fully refurbished, and to celebrate the dawn of a new era, the guys and Janine have a celebratory dinner, which of course is swiped by a mystery visitor….Peter instantly recognises him as the little spud who slimed him at the Sedgewick Hotel and in a retrospectively amusing moment of outright hostility, the whole team try and blast him into oblivion. They fail, but Egon does pick up on the interesting mystery as to why Slimer has decided to stick around, while Ray is certain he will return. Egon is the first to see him, and welcomes him graciously, asking him if he would be willing to be studied so as to advance the team’s knowledge of the supernatural.  It all starts off very badly though as Egon’s request for Slimer to say ‘ahh’ results in a full-on descent into his mouth. And it turns out that Slimer has very, very, very bad breath. Winston is the next to see him, but he doesn’t bother to tell Ray, who’s busy working underneath the Ecto-1, and instead goes off to make some tea. When Ray does see him, he’s very welcoming and not a little patronising, saying that Slimer could make a first-rate mechanic. Right…. Still, he does bless Slimer with his name, which is worth something. Peter’s still on the warpath though, but Ray’s pretending not to have seen him. Poor Peter – like he says, ‘that thing’s a menace’.

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Ah, cosy times – but don’t forget the uniforms! Peter sadly did, and by now they’ve absorbed enough ectoplasmic energy to, as Egon later puts it, literally woke up and walk away. Except, they don’t quite walk away, they assume the form of their previous hosts (albeit in scary green versions), grow all-new proton packs, and give the guys a very unpleasant wake-up call by aiming their weapons right at them…. These ghost versions of the guys do look fantastically creepy, with misty dead eyes and scary grins. Like the possessed Peter in ‘Mrs. Rogers Neighborhood’, there’s always something off and disturbing about the familiar and the friendly turned twisted.

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This all makes for a brilliant act-break, and when we cut back, the accompanying score stands out because it appears to have never been used before or since in the series. Ah, but that’s because it’s not the score, it’s Tahiti with their ‘funk-ay’ foot-stomper ‘Charge You Up’, the title of which appears to fit well with the ‘charged up’ ghost versions of the Ghostbusters. I think. Anyway, the fear of the previous act’s cliff-hanger is somewhat diluted by all this pop music, but at least the ghosts themselves are reliably brutal, preferring to speak with proton blasts rather than timewasting banter. Of course, no one dies, though Janine comes close, though Egon saves her, which only serves to intensify her adoration for him, and as per usual, Egon’s not interested. Story of her life. Some blasting shenanigans ensue, and disappointingly, the ghosts make a run for it all too quickly. We know who they are, but the guys don’t, but Egon works it out pretty quickly, and by now everyone knows Peter is all to blame. Peter’s interview commentary however states that ‘naturally we all agreed that it was no one’s fault… it was just one of those things!’ What a bounder.

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The ghosts stay away for a few days, so the guys go back to their regular busting duties complete with cool pink-sky background, but out of the blue Peter is almost zapped into oblivion by his ghoulish counterpart….and this is when he hear them speak. They do sound cool, like they’ve been put through an electronic processor. and this exchange between both Peters is splendid.

‘Hey! Who’s the wise guy?’

‘My name is Dr. Peter Venkman.’

‘No way! I’m Dr. Peter Venkman, got that? This town’s only big enough for one Peter Venkman!’

‘I agree. So one of us must go.’

Cue a full-on proton blast from Evil Peter. Ha ha! Peter walked right into that one, I must say. There’s something a bit odd about the shot where Peter falls out of the way of the proton blast. There are two suspicious looking brown ‘things’ near him, which could be poo, I’m not sure.

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Ghost Winston and Ghost Egon also get a line each, but disappointingly we hear nothing from Ghost Ray, and since he’s the nicest and sweetest of the four, it would have been extra cool to hear something from his evil version. Oh well, can’t win them all.

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So, back at the house, the guys try to work out how to resolve the dilemma of dealing with Ghost Guys want to replace the Good Guys with themselves!  Additionally, how do our heroes win the day when their enemies have their same strength and same thought-processes?  In other words, the bad guys are going to work out the good guys own plan as soon as it’s been thought of. Cue immediate entrance of bad guys, who steal Ecto-1, which happens to have all of the guys’ proton packs! Ouch!

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As they desperately evade the ghosts proton fire, the guys work out that the more the ghosts fire their proton packs, the more they use up their own lifeforce, so the trick is to get them to fire blindly enough so that they become nothing. The only problem is that the only nearby proton pack for the guys to use is a half-charged spare that’s unlikely to last that long. So, the only other option is for someone to sacrifice themselves by drawing the bad guys fire. In a spoken-aloud question of quite outrageous brutality, Winston asks ‘who can we afford to lose?’ Peter suggests Janine. Janine throws a lamp at Peter. Janine’s cry of ‘Oh no! They’re coming in!’ is so brilliantly sassy, so delightfully delivered that it baffles me that she was voted the least popular character in the series (and as such paved the way for her horrendous ‘make-over’ for Season 3) – I love Janine, she’s one feisty lady. Ray earnestly volunteers to sacrifice himself, but Slimer does so instead, ducking and diving in-between the evil proton rays long enough to weaken them to the point of being trappable and for the guys to retrieve their packs. Slimer does get hit once when he drops his guard to show off, but he deserved that for being so cocky. The ghosts get trapped, and Slimer has shown himself to be such a team player that he instantly qualifies as new resident. I guess it also makes up for the colossal screw-ups he makes in the episodes to follow and that we’ve already seen. So Peter thinks the interview went amazingly well, and his ego is all set to burst in the build-up to Crawford’s special, but surprise, surprise, her feature is all about Slimer, and to rub salt in the wound, the picture they use of the lil’ green spud is of him performing the most hilariously camp pose ever. Peter is utterly disgusted by this act of betrayal (though Slimer’s hardly the one to blame), and the petulant git snatches Slimer’s popcorn away from him. Immediately realising he’s acting like a complete tool, he takes it all back and gives his love/hate buddy some food back. So we’re all good.

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I love ‘Citizen Ghost’. It’s got one of the best scripts of the series, it’s sharply performed, great-looking and bloody funny. Plus, the evil Ghostbusters are four of the coolest looking nemeses we’ve seen. Ten out of ten, easily.

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