David Cronenberg never wrote an episode of The Real Ghostbusters, but if he did… Doctor, Doctor sees the show venture into body horror territory. You know, body horror…. for kids! In his filmed introduction for this episode on the recent DVD release, Michael J. Straczynski said that his fellow crew members regarded him to be ‘sick’ and ‘disturbed’ when he presented his ideas for this plot to them. His sickness is our salvation. The Strac can always be relied to deliver a killer episode, and this one doesn’t let us down.
To start with, we’re on a regular bust, nothing to get too scared about – the music is of the jaunty kind to suggest that acquisition of the spectre in question will be a doddle. You do get a refreshed appreciation for just how awkward and uncomfortable trying to run with a very heavy, unlicensed nuclear accelerator on your back is. Saying that, maybe the guys got these things licensed by now. It’s been a long time since the film. The ghost that’s being pursued is an ugly, ugly thing, though one with, and I quote Egon, ‘a lot of spunk’. Never gets old, that compliment. The chase ends up in a scientific research facility, and the music gets spookier – maybe this isn’t going to be a doddle. Egon does that stupid thing in telling the others – very quietly – to remain quiet, which always ends up with someone shouting loudly, ‘WHAT?’ It turns out that this research centre stinks – please note that this is not the first episode where Straczynski has made a reference to Peter’s closet being a dungeon of bad smells. The ghost, in its attempt to get away, jumps in and out of some vats containing a mystery chemical, after which the guys blow up an even bigger container of the stuff, nuking a chunk of the building and covering themselves with said gloop. After which they bust the ghost, but get this – it was a Class 3 spectre earlier, but the trap indicates it’s now a mere Class 2. You wot?
In a confrontation with some understandably annoyed scientists – their workplace has just been destroyed after all – Peter takes extended pleasure in telling them that their boss was the one who gave them the all-clear to go and do whatever they want in order to catch the thing. The scientists sheepishly back off, and Peter makes a point of this kind of belittling being the most fun you can have without breaking the law. Even Egon digs all of this, a little put out that it was actually his turn to do all of this. Anyway, that’s all irellevant. They’ve got to get rid of all of these sticky chemicals that they’re covered in, stuff that’s, and I quote Peter, ‘worse than Slimer’.
It takes an extended (off-screen) shower session and several layers of skin to get rid of the stuff. Cue choice dialogue – ‘I hurt in places I didn’t even know I had’, ‘I don’t want to be touched by anyone ever again’ – as well as a reminder that Slimer was one a living specimen when Peter threatens that he will ‘die all over again’ if the spud goes anywhere near him. So what exactly was Slimer when was ‘alive’? Such a mystery is instantly put out of our mind when Egon alerts the others to the fact that his forearm is BULGING and MOVING before our very eyes! Aaaaaggh! So alarming is this image that the show does the unprecedented thing and does a cliffhangery fade-to-black, unheard of this early into the episode. The thing is, it’s such a freaky moment that there’s nothing to do but fade-out – think of the children, after all.
Fade back in and Janine shows up at HQ only to see Slimer very freaked out at the bottom of the stairs – the guys are upstairs, and it sounds as though their condition has worsened. And how. All four are covered with an extra blobby, magenta red, gloopy layer of skin that’s taken over all of their body, except for their heads, which was probably decided upon for many reasons, some of which may include that it would have been too scary. Their hands have not been spared though, which makes the sight gag of the little tea cups next to them all the more hilarious and totally contrived. When have the guys ever drunk tea? They definitely strike me as coffee people.
Anyway, this has got too gross and horrible for it not to be given medical attention, so it’s off to the hospital we go, where the guys do that cough thing you have to do (except for Egon, who merely speaks the word ‘cough’) and their confidence in the situation falters when it’s revealed that the doctor with the stethoscope is performing the cough test with a make-shift extended stick and hiding behind what looks like the kind of super-sized, metal riot shield the police use at uprisings. What’s worse is that Peter never sorted out the guys’ insurance – probably used the money for magic beans, I reckon.
Confined to bed, the guys are greeted by Janine, who brings them some gifts to cheer them up. Egon foolishly assumes Janine’s brought him all of his hi-tech gear like the Ecto-Difustriton, the Spectrometer and the Plasmometer, but all he’s ended up with is chicken soup with mushrooms, which looks more like tomato soup from here. Ray’s happier with his secret stash of doughnuts, while Winston, clearly the only one of the four with a literary persuasion, is given some Melville and Dickens to read, not to mention some Alan Parsons to listen to. Get in! Peter, hilariously, gets nothing. Janine simply reveals that she’s going to let him live, if only so that he can enjoy the hospital treatment he’s due to get. Even more hilariously, Peter says ‘kiss me, you fool!’ and we would have got a scene of Janine slapping him before the episode’s real cliffhanger arrives. Ray screams, and he has his bed sheets grasped over him. What’s the problem? Promise me you won’t freak out, he says. Off comes the bed sheets. His blobby body, his stomach to be precise, has grown an eye. A big, fat, single eye. Everybody freaks out. Fade to black.
Fade back in and it’s obvious the doctors don’t have a blinking clue as to what to do. The guys agree. So therefore, the ‘eyes’ have it. Bad joke, but if you Peter, you wouldn’t be able to resist it either. Janine wants to know what the docs have in store for her employers. The chief doc says that it should take about 5-6 years to get this sorted. He also has a total aversion to Slimer, so he has to stay out of the way. Why? Because he’s ‘gross’. The guys meanwhile have to endure lots of tests, including urinating into a jar – don’t worry, we don’t get to see this, though Egon’s attempt to pass off nearby drinking water as pee-pee is met with a stern ‘I know karate’ from the clearly annoyed nurse. The other three, fed up with what has been an endless run of injections, go bonkers and chase the doc down the corridors in their wheelchairs, shouting nautical terms and temporarily dragging the episode down a bit. Still, at least you get to see Winston brandish what must be the biggest syringe known to man.
Ray undergoes a test which involves a blowtorch. He goes insane as a result. Time passes, and Peter has grown an ear on his stomach. Yuck.
Egon grows a third ear on his belly. Yuck, yuck.
Winston gets a mouth, a huge, fanged mouth! This episode is ‘orrible.
Peter does get to enjoy scaring the hospital staff though, one of which makes a passing reference to the guys needing to be kept apart from everybody else, but really, the whole quarantine thing is pretty slackly enforced, it must be said. The guys, covered in this disgusting stuff, all of whom have sprouted extra body parts, are going about freely in their wheelchairs throughout the hospital like it’s no big deal. Egon has figured that the original chemical, which absorbed the ghost when it jumped in the vat, has been sparked into life thanks to the proton blasts, but how to get it off? Well, the solution may involve Slimer – he just happens to be hanging around when the blob that’s covering Ray’s hand flies off in an attempt to attack the green spud. The guys decide to let Slimer hang around a little longer and yep, all of their blobby exterior goes bananas trying to get near him. Thr only problem is, the blob stuff is practically suffocating the guys in an attempt to get away. This stuff’s quite freaky, but the plan works – the guys are free of their second skin! However, the runaway blob matter has come together to form a distinctly freakier, bigger, uglier version of the ghost they caught at the start of the episode, and it wants Slimer’s ecto-energy. Who wouldn’t? Chaos predictably ensues. The chief doc laments the good old days when the hospital was nice and quiet, before all the sick people showed up.
Weakened and exhausted by their former malady, the guys struggle to get it together to save the day, but Peter insists they do so for the sake of the patients. Besides, Ray says, they’ve got to save Slimer. This makes Peter reconsider their plan of action. That’s what I love about the show, no sentiment. Actually, that’s not true, but come on, you’ve never get one of the Thundercats who’d be happy to throw Snarf to the lions would you? Actually, Snarf and some lions would probably get on, given they’re all feline. You get what I’m trying to say though. The guys tool up, paraphrase the ‘smoking!’ chemistry of the film’s ending, and chase down the blob-monster only to suss out that it can’t be trapped because it’s not really a ghost. The proton beams don’t work either because it’s already absorbed proton energy and kind of likes it. So they just do the expected thing and just blast it and blast it and blast it until the thing just EXPLODES! This explosion takes out some of the hospital too, and the guys get covered – again – in gloop, but a week’s extra stay proves they’re entirely cured. Of course there’s the hospital bills to pay, but these match up to the guys’ service charge for taking care of the blob-monster. The same blob-monster that they themselves brought into the hospital. Which they also blew up a part of. Peter tears up the hospital bill right there in front of the doc – a nice touch, Egon adds – so he’s a litterbug as well as well as a mercenary.
I love to hate these guys sometimes.
PS: The song ‘Doctor, Doctor’ by Robert Palmer doesn’t appear in this episode.
PSS: Okay, the song’s called ‘Bad Case of Loving You’, but you get what I mean.