The Real Ghostbusters Episode 24: Ain’t Nasa-Sarily So (1986)

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It took James Bond seventeen years before the writers resorted to sending him into outer space, a desperate measure if ever there was one. The writers of The Real Ghostbusters go interstellar a mere twenty-five episodes into their run, but luckily this is no Moonraker, although the title pun is so groan-worthy that even Roger Moore might have scrubbed it out with his marker pen on the set.

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The experimental space platform Gallelio is deep beyond the stars, its multi-cultural crew led by Russian commander Kirov, who not only sounds like Ray with a Russian accent but looks like a younger version of our most loveable ghostbuster. He’s content with the smooth efficiency of his mission but a mysterious impact upon the platform (and a rather amusing exclamation of ‘Dostoyevsky!) spoils things somewhat. One of the crew insists she saw a ghost. Er, what? Ridiculous. Another crew member insists he saw a ghost. Oh well, better get on the phone. Even in space, the line ‘who ya gonna call?’ still makes sense.

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And like that, the Ghostbusters are already on their way to space! I’d have thought some training would have been necessary – we could have had a hilarious montage focusing on Peter’s uselessness in the centrifuge, Winston’s aversion to space food, Egon’s glasses drifting away in mock zero-gravity and Ray remaining insanely enthusiastic throughout. After all, getting ready to venture into intergalactic territory is no quick fix – remember it took Tintin a whole volume (‘Destination Moon’) before he even broke the stratosphere! Oh well, this is only twenty or so minutes, so we’ve got no time for any of that, it’s up, up and away we go! And this is a government contract, so it’s big money all the way for our guys, money seems to serve no apparent influence in future episodes. The question of whether the proton packs will work in space is swiftly dealt with – Egon’s made some modifications. They may work. They may not.

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Since this is an episode that is literally out of this world, the visuals are understandably a little more spectacular, and we get some cool docking shots as the guys approach the platform. On board, the guys are greeted by the crew, and Peter makes the second reference in the episode to their job’s pay cheque. Lest we forget, the Ghostbusters, well Peter at least, are mercenaries. Oh yeah, the crew – Sulu, Uhura and Scotty – er, well…their non-copyright infringing duplicates at least. Even Ray and Winston comment on their similarities to another show. Peter then makes a reference to the crew ‘exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilisations’ and the captain even refers to himself as ‘kep-tin’. Scotty – I mean MacTavish – is aware that all this referencing is getting out of hand, so let’s move on. The ghost – a slimy ball of ooze is the technical term– is somewhere on board, but Egon’s readings suggest that it’s not really an actual ghost. Of course, it’s something, and that something is draining all the energy from the ship, turning everything a melancholy hue of deep, deep blue.

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Peter’s nod that the power-hungry ghost might have been a politician in the living years is sadly a comment that has not dated. MacTavish and the guys head towards the source of all this mischief and lo and behold, ‘the thing’s got bigger’, and when we see the ‘ghost’, it certainly rates as one of the uglier ghouls we’ve yet encountered – amorphous, orange, yellow and red eyes, at least six mouths…bleurgh! Egon’s analysis reminds MacTavish of another crew member’s equally logical parlance. So what do they do? This thing certainly resembles a ghost, despite not being made up of anything ectoplasmic, so will the modified proton packs work?

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No.

The proton beams only wind up making the thing even bigger. MacTavish is convinced Egon has met Spock. Then, the gravity controls get destroyed and we’re suddenly floating – MacTavish reports this to the ‘kep-tin’ and the chief bellows the kind of vague orders that are always welcome to us – ‘just deal with it! – er, thanks. Luckily, the ooze has changed his mind about the power coming from gravity control, preferring instead to focus on the shedload of power condensed in the proton packs. And so it advances, tentacles out-stretched, chasing the guys and MacTavish down corridors – unfortunately Winston, who’s at the rear of the fleeing party, is snatched by our friendly monster. The others run on ahead, oblivious to their friend’s fate, although Winston could have made more of an effort to scream for help. By the time he’s yelling stuff like ‘get this thing off me!’, the guys are long gone and we get a proper classy shot of the chaos in action, slightly tilted for extra effect, and we’re fading our way out of act one. Cliffhanger!

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Fade back in and Peter’s realised that they’re one guy down, so everyone backtracks and Ray shouts for Winston to slip out of his pack – after all, that’s really what it’s after. Winston gets his second painful landing onto a hard surface for the second episode in a row, and after all that, ‘kep-tin’ still has a go at everybody for making everything worse which, to be fair, is true. Oh well, at least the lights are still on. Cue their imminent failure. More importantly though, life support is also being drained, and there’s only four hours left before terminal mission failure. A spare proton pack has been conveniently brought along for the ride, but there’s the case of the ooze being too big for the trap. They resort to the desperate plan of trying to communicate with it, which is never, ever a good idea in Ghostbusters Universe. Winston offers his services – not very well, it must be said. He asks the ooze how it’s going, which was never going to work. At least we don’t get an apocalyptic re-write of the Zuul incident in the film. The ooze’s tentacles work their way around a clearly nervous Winston – talk of informing Winston’s next-of-kin are resorted to in case of his imminent death (Winston: ‘I don’t have a next-of-kin’/Peter: ‘Too bad. I’ll sell you mine!’) but luckily the ooze is not remotely interested in devouring him as he offers no energy. The kep-tin demands a progress report, and it’s during moments like this that I always flashback to Darth Vader’s incessant demands for info during The Empire Strikes Back, which usually resulted in the poor sap delivering the bad news being murdered. Luckily, our kep-tin is not homicidal, only slightly irritable, so the guys have more time to come up with a new plan. This time it’s Ray’s turn to turn on the brain waves.

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Here’s the plan: MacTavish will shut off the flow to the energy converter (he has to go out into deep space for this, but that’s no big deal, apparently), and during this period the guys will lure the ooze to centre of the platform by using themselves and their proton packs as bait. Well, more specifically – Winston. Except that Winston’s not interested (‘I don’t want to play with you guys anymore’). Ray finds Winston’s lack of faith disturbing, but Egon agrees with Winston. Surely the originator of the plan would be the best one to carry out its execution direct and first-hand, he says. If only all wars were played out this way. So Ray will be the one to act as bait, even though, as he says, it’s not fair. Power is shut off, everybody’s floating and Ray does his best to float to the source of all this horror, which proves to be trickier than he thought (it’s the equivalent of swimming in air, according to him). Ray gets to the ooze and zaps him right in the face, which definitely awakes it from its torpor and sets him in hot pursuit of all this lovely energy, during which we get an cool-looking, atmospheric slow-motion backwards chase (the thrust of the energy blasts are moving Ray back in the direction of the platform’s centre). What’s weird that it’s only near the end of this extended lure that Ray suddenly exclaims ‘hokey smokes…it’s coming!’ in total shock (the soundtrack emphasises this shock) like he only just realised what the hell is going on.

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Anyway, Ray and ooze have arrived at the centre of the platform, which forms a convenient hole for the ooze to fall into. The others are waiting – Egon and Winston block the path into the so as to stop Ray from floating off into the ether and the stage is set for the final move – the ooze hovers over the hole, the traps are thrown just below it and all are opened so that the whole of this monster is captured in all four separate traps, which clearly includes some kind of horrific spectral dismemberment, but as chronological viewers of the series we should be used to this, as Stay Puft was captured in more or less the same way in ‘Cry Uncle’. The thing is, that using all available proton packs to keep this thing at bay could have resulted in what we saw earlier – the ooze growing to even bigger proportions. Since it’s the end of the episode, the beams merely keep it suspended and ready for the traps. Oh well – after all of that, this non-ghost is trapped in exactly the same way as a regular ghost. The guys – still floating – congratulate Ray on a job well done. The kep-tin wants another progress report – hopefully this latest one will shut him up. Peter reminds the kep-tin to give Houston a bell to get that cheque ready- government contracts are the best, and it seems like the guys are only just beginning to tap the finanical resources of ‘our great nation’ – what did I say earlier? Total mercenaries. Luckily this certainty that the guys can only go up is rudely interrupted when MacTavish turns the power back on, resulting in the guys overly self-satisfied ring-a-ring-a-roses dance falling flat on its arse.

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Everything about this moment – music included – suggest the very end of the episode, but we have an extra bit where the Star Trek references are hammered home one final time as we discover that the Gallelio are on a ‘five-year mission’ and that yes, Egon IS Spock. Oh well, back to Earth for the guys, I suppose.

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PS: We find out in this episode that Ray played the clarinet when he was at school. That could have come in handy during their band face-off in the earlier jazz episode. Or maybe it wouldn’t have.

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