The Real Ghostbusters Episode 15: Station Identification (1987)

After the apocalyptic horrors of the previous episode, we all need a little lightening up, so here we are with the first overly comedic instalment of the series. True, there’s been humour in abundance in the fourteen episodes so far, but ‘Station Identification’ does seem notably more ‘amusing’ then anything we’ve seen to date. I say ‘amusing’ – some of the TV show parodies on offer might not raise a smile let alone a chuckle, but each to their own, you know? There are also more one-liners, wry observations and sarcastic asides than in any episode to date. Saying that, there’s still a heavy-duty antagonist and spectacular finale, so fans of the show’s action-led side will not be disappointed either.

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The animation does seem quite different here too – the closest comparison so far would be ‘Slimer, Come Home’, which had a noticeably softer look than anything in the first season – it doesn’t look as striking or vivid as normal, but I don’t mind the occasional differences in look from episode to episode. The general continuity of the series does remain constant, it’s just that sometimes this episode looks a little, well…out of focus, I guess?

ImageSo, the guys are bored out of their minds, stuck for things to do – it’s been three weeks since their last bust, so Winston resorts to ping-pong to liven the mood. Peter’s well up for it, especially since it’s the only thing he majored in at University that he didn’t have to cheat at. The Ghostbusters film certainly played on the idea that Peter hustled and dodged his way through his studies, and this episode certainly advances that theory. Unfortunately Slimer eats the ping pong ball. Boo. Cue Peter wanting to kill Slimer and Ray drearily leaping to his defence. Thank goodness Janine arrives to relieve the tedium with the new television that she’s just dug up from her place (she won it on a game show years ago). It’s a tiny thing, and given that the guys already own a TV, I don’t know why this is all such a big deal, but whatever. The TV’s turned on, and we get to watch an snippet from ‘Leave it to Woodchuck’, which I’m assuming is a play on the dodgy-sounding sitcom ‘Leave it to Beaver’, which I’ve never watched, but I know it was parodied as ‘Father Loves Beaver’ in the film Scrooged, which starred Bill Murray, the original Peter Venkman! Small world. Anyway, the guys are baffled as to how there could have been an episode of this show in colour, given that the series was only ever made in monochrome. Janine’s even more baffled – this is a black and white TV!

ImageThat’s when a monster-beaver in T-shirt, jeans and cap appears on the screen, enlarging in size before erupting from the TV and becoming a very real presence in HQ – it lays waste to the walls and is generally being a real nuisance. The guys try to block the beaver’s path with a table (its teeth go straight through the wood) and like Janine says, they’re about to be killed by a re-run. Luckily, the blighter gets swiftly trapped, but the telly’s still on, and a demonic tube of toothpaste escapes from an advert! That gets trapped too, and the TV gets turned off before anything else comes out. Winston sensibly asks what TV show Janine won her demon box on, The Outer Limits? Then there’s the revelation that the TV has been set to Channel One, to which Ray asks how so given that there is no Channel One? Eh, what? Never mind, there’s lots of other ghosts escaping from other people’s tellies, so off we go and indeed, it’s chaos everywhere, with loads of spectres flying all over the place, although if you look closely, it’s just the same run of ghosts looped – good old budget animation! Slimer gets ordered to stay in the car by Peter – good, his trouble/helpful ratio has been wildly uneven to date, and not in a good way. The ghosts get trapped and then before the trademark sigh of a relief there’s the sound of a restaurant tannoy advertising ‘the biggest TV west of the Hudson’. Uh-oh. The guys get there too late to convince the big-bottomed owner that TV is Not Good for You. The box is switched on, and we get a not-at-all subtle dig at He-Man’s toy-turned-cartoon weekly escapades, except here our ghost is called Power Guy – ‘king, hero and snappy dresser’ – from the planet Peternia and looking as though he’s taken way too many steroids. Seriously, his muscles have grown muscles of their own. He also looks a little like E. Honda from Street Fighter II, though this show pre-dates that splendid video game. Anyway, he too emerges from the TV, but because he’s a ghost, this ‘hero’ turns out to be a complete tool, laying waste to the restaurant and brandishing his terrifying sword all over the place, barking exclamations like ‘SMASH!’ and ‘DESTROY!’ like he’s the Hulk or something. He’s also got a huge TV where his chest should be.

ImageNearly every line during this sequence is a joke or some kind of rejoinder: Egon’s not impressed with Power Guy (‘he doesn’t look so tough to me’) to which Peter suggests that he get his prescription checked. Winston claims he hates this show (aka Power Guy himself), to which Ray declares ‘everyone’s a critic’. Egon states they’re in trouble; Winston sarcastically asks him if he’s only just figured that out. Peter wonders aloud ‘why they never listen’ when Power Guy responds to Winston’s order to ‘hold it’ with a lashing out of his sword. The guys almost seem jaded during this bit, so it’s up to Power Guy to turn up the heat, or in this case, wind, changing his TV chest into a huge vacuum, threatening to suck Peter inside. Luckily Slimer saves the day by sliming Peter directly to the wall, securing him. Unfortunately Slimer himself gets sucked into the TV! End of Act One! I might as well say it now, but I’m just assuming Slimer is male. He’s not really one or the other is he? I guess I’ve always assumed he was male, and I’m sticking with it. If evidence appears proving the contrary, I will happily amend my reviews.

ImageAct 2 begins with Power Guy vanishing (for some reason he seems happy with merely enslaving Slimer) and the guys remove Peter from all that slime. Now in some episodes, the fact that Slimer had been kidnapped would have sent Peter over the moon, but not today. This time he’s going to get him back. Slimer has temporarily won Peter’s respect, and all he had to do was save his life. So, let’s cancel some shows! The guys suss out that the presence of this ghost pirate station is the reason there’s been so little spectral activity lately – it’s all been a build-up to this. Also, given that nearly everyone has a TV, the pirate station acts as the easiest gateway into anyone and everyone’s house. A bit like the Boogieman’s scheme involving closets in an earlier episode, but on a greater scale. The PKE meter leads the guys to Central Park, where Peter states the likes-of-which-we’ll-never-hear-again “On foot, on camel on dog sled, for Slimer, Peter Venkman goes anywhere!”

ImageThen, out of nowhere an absolutely huge (and terrifying) TV station tower emerges, complete with huge screens on the top, which start to transmit a welcoming message from this episode’s chief bad guy, The Big Boo! Well I think that’s his name. It’s probably the name of the station, but I like it, so I’m sticking with it. Anyway, the BB is a monstrous purple clown given to delirious fits of laughter, which would be infectious if he wasn’t so evil. Oh wait, a minute – I love this guy! It looks as though the guys have until midnight before the evil TV transmissions go national, so in the tower they go… for the second episode in the row, the poor blokes have to walk through a mouth-shaped door, and this one goes even further by having a big tongue slop out as though it were a red carpet. Eeek. The door closes, darkness falls. Oh, if only there was a light switch. A not-at-all-suspicious light switch drifts down to Ray, who pulls it, and everything goes wrong. All the TVs turn on, the guys appear to be standing on film stock, and the BB gives a more personal greeting with the delightful ‘welcome studio guests…or soon to be GHOSTS [crazy laughter]!’ The film stock goes all swirly-slidey and the guys are sent downwards through a crazy downward spiral into the CHASMS OF DOOM! For the second episode in a row, they’re all hopelessly separated. Winston ends up trapped with a TV screening Star Trek-parody Star Patrol, featuring a golden version of the Enterprise that beams down ghostly versions of Kirk, Spock and Bones, turning into a bird straight after. Following a great ‘we’re dead, Jim’ revelation from Bones, Spock turns up the tension with the following: ‘logic seems to dictate we should SCREEEEEAAAAAAMMMM!!!’, after which all three turn into pretty frightening monsters that tower over poor Winston, who blasts them. Ray encounters Gumbo, a ‘clay hero’ based on Rambo, who tries to obliterate him with an arsenal’s worth of bullets. We never find out who Peter and Egon bumped into as all guys are reunited, and the smell of food leads them directly to Slimer, who’s enraptured by a commercial for cake (‘rots your teeth, but who cares!’), except this pudding has a scary, fire-breathing mouth. There’s also a demon taco and killer sweets (the latter of which are introduced with a filthy-sounding ‘how would you like to wrap your gums around a nice, juicy…’ which makes me wonder about the thinking going on inside the writers minds at the time. Peter saves the day though, and I guess this makes him and Slimer even now.

ImageSlimer leads them to the main power source of the station, and Winston’s so keen to get there he almost eliminates the spud to get there. The hub of all the nastiness is a spectacular room dominated by a dynamo that powers the TV transmission – so it’s merely a matter of getting to it, right? Oh yeah, the Big Boo. He demands a quick ‘break time out’ in the spirit of all things television, but then he reveals it might just be the guys who are going to break – cue more crazy laughter!!!!! The BB then proceeds to absorb every single TV set, car and electrical good in the immediate area and becomes a huge metal monster! Oh no! Oh wait, it’s not that scary. He looks like a cuddlier, purple version of the Marshmallow Man. The animation doesn’t really emphasise the metallic element much. Oh well, to distract us from that there are some good lines that read awful in typed-out form but can’t help but raise a giggle when actually heard. ‘Now there’s a guy who’s really attached to his possessions’ is pretty good. ‘DIE NOW, PAY LATER!’ is bordering on genius. Now even though the BB’s makeover looks ridiculous, he’s actually become a more formidable foe, being able to hurl his many TV sets and automobiles directly at the guys.

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Two pathetic attempts to succeed follow. Ray bravely steps out and insists that he’s had enough of the BB. The BB hurls more stuff at him. Slimer bravely tries to take the BB on all by himself. The BB blows out a potent gust of air, knocking Slimer out of the way, wrapping him round a pole in the process. Slimer actually ends up seeing tweetie-birds, that’s how knocked out he gets. Thankfully, before more cannon-fodder can be immediately dispensed with, a magical pendulum with eyes and teeth appears out of nowhere (quite mad this bit) and heralds the call of midnight. The BB heads off to the dynamo and it’s essentially a case of now or never. Cue a strangely choreographed bit of animation as the guys line-up with impressive precision. Cue third pathetic attempt to succeed, with the guys blasting the hell out of the BB to absolutely no effect. Oh wait, there is some effect. The proton blasts must tickle the BB something silly, because there he goes breaking into hysterics again. Then Egon has a plan, clearly remembering episode #2 ‘Killerwatt’ with its similar episode structure, underwhelming face-lift for its erstwhile scary villain and ‘don’t kill the bad guy, kill the power source’ twist. That’s right, aim for the dynamo! The BB goes nuts, and run right towards the guys, which would be scary if it didn’t look so funny. After one brief eruption of ‘to hell with it’ laughter, the BB goes all beggy-pleady and asks the guys to stop. You know, ‘25% off’. Make that ‘50%’. Not even 90%? Now the way the BB says ‘ninety’ almost makes you feel sorry for him, it’s such a pathetic whimper, as his metal shield falls away and he disappears (yet also seems to leave a small pile of dust, so has he vanished/escaped? Disintegrated?). In classic James Bond style, the villain’s lair starts to collapse, so the guys scarper – how they manage to escape given that they must be deep, deep, deep underground (and they got to that point by sliding down slippery film stock that, needless to say, went one way only), but the writers solve that by cutting them to instantly fleeing the tower. Ah, never mind, the episode only had less than a minute to go so they had to cut corners. Oh wow, does this episode end abruptly. Mere seconds after the tower goes, Slimer high-fives Peter, leaving him with slimy hands, and yeah, everything’s back to normal. Job done. Fun episode this – no classic, but I like it a lot.

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Oh yeah, these are the evil Star Trek crew members.

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