Citizen Joe

A Look Back At A Very Strange SG-1 Episode

This series of Stargate episode reviews starts with "Citizen Joe" an episode that could easily be considered a filler episode. Directed by Andy Mikita, this entry offers up a range of previous episode clips using a technique that is a bit different than the standard waltz-through-our-memory routine often seen in television series. Rather, it uses devices available from the mythology of the show itself to allow the clips to be shown, by constructing a situation in which an ordinary citizen – in this case, an Indiana barber named Joe Spencer – is allowed to mentally “see” many of the situations and events that SG-1 has been.

As it turns out, Joe picked up a little item – sort of resembling a beetle made out of stone - at a garage sale, which originated from a dig in Egypt. Apparently the seller’s grandfather had worked the Egyptian dig, and kept this item.

Depending on one’s viewpoint, this turns out to be the beginning of an unfortunate series of events for Joe Spencer. He begins to “see” what SG-1 does, in story-like glimpses. Joe tells Charlene his wife, and relates SG-1 events to his son as bedtime stories. Encouraged to begin writing down the stories and submitting them to publishers, Joe gives writing a thorough attempt, but is rejected by over three hundred publishers, one after another. (Hey, us SG-1 fans know that the stories are good… so it must have been Joe’s writing!)

As time goes on, Joe become obsessed with SG-1’s activities, and becomes convinced that all of what he “sees” is real. Contacting the Air Force does little for him, other than confirm that there is a Jack O’Neill (with two ‘l’s), but attempts to contact him fail. Joe’s obsession eventually drives away his wife, his barbershop customers, and his employees. Seven years go by. Joe’s house has been foreclosed on, and he’s desperate to prove to himself that he isn’t insane.

We meet Joe, driven to the point of desperation, in the opening scene at Jack’s house, pointing what appears to be a handgun directly at Jack, and claiming that Jack ruined his life.

Joe is quick to drop what turns out to be a watergun when Jack pulls a handgun out on him. As Jack starts to call the proverbial men-in-white-coats for Joe, Joe begins to rattle off about many of the significant events that happened to SG-1, as well as some personal likes and dislikes of Jack’s. Convinced that there is more to Joe than meets the eye, Jack cancels his call to the labcoats, and brings Joe to the Cheyenne Mountain instead.

Sam, Daniel, and Teal’c are equally surprised by Joe, who seems to be on extremely familiar grounds with everyone. After some discussion and investigation, it turns out that the little beetle-like stone that came from the dig in Egypt is actually a “psychic telephone”. Joe has one of the units; and apparently, SG-1 collected the matching stone when they visited P3R-233 (Episode 119, “There But For The Grace Of God”.

Jack, having the Ancient gene, unknowingly activated the device when he handled it. As it turns out, Joe also that the Ancient gene. As Jack would write his mission reports, the information flowed to Joe, who in turn, drove his family, friends and customers away with his constant telling of SG-1’s adventures. It’s not until nearly the very end that Jack admits that he’s been having visions of Joe’s life – mostly bowling on Thursday nights – and he thought it was very relaxing. Sam, Daniel and Teal’c are astounded that Jack never mentioned that he’s been having visions of someone else’s life for seven years, but Jack, being Jack, takes the round-about approach: “I thought I mentioned it… didn’t I?”

The episode ends with Joe and Charlene meeting in a park. She’s short on time; she wants a divorce, she’s had it with Joe and his outlandish fantasies. Jack O’Neill, in full dress uniform, approaches the couple, and tells Charlene “It’s all true.”

That’s the close of the episode.

In all, it’s a fun episode, if one doesn’t look too closely. However, there are some open questions left unanswered. First, what else hasn’t Jack been telling, if he didn’t bother telling anyone about his visions? And why? Was it because he didn’t feel they were real enough? Important enough? Will there be any repercussions from his with-holding of this bit of information? Was he concerned that the Air Force might think he was not quite all-straight in the head? What kinds of legal issues might be raised by Jack confirming the truth to Joe, and then to Charlene?

Will Charlene actually get back together with Joe? Will Joe, being vindicated, feel any anger that Charlene had doubted him in the first place? After having had access to all of SG-1’s adventures for seven years, is Joe ready for a break, now that he knows he isn’t insane? Or will he feel bereft, without having access to their continuing adventures? And it’s not like Joe is likely to suddenly find himself on stable financial footing; his house and business are still gone. The ending just seems a bit too simple, and the basis of the storyline, a bit contrived.

Some folks might be bothered by this episode, on one of two levels. First, ardent fans might view themselves as being portrayed by Joe, who’s own life is presented as being bland and mundane that Jack apparently didn’t think it was worth mentioning about seeing bits of Joe’s life to anyone. While some fans will undoubtedly take a tongue-in-cheek view of the episode, there may be some fans who might feel that they were made fun of, not necessarily in a warm-hearted way.

Second, it tends not to deal well with Joe in terms of mental illness. Joe’s “obsession” drove away everyone he knew, including his wife. Yet, I don’t recall the story at least mentioning any sort of medical treatment, therapy nor prescription medications, being used to help Joe with what supposedly is a mental illness, this obsession with the characters and fiction of SG-1. In this, the story fails to bring home an appropriate message about mental illness. Rather, the message given is that mental illness can be ignored, and when it becomes too much to be ignored, the response is to disassociate oneself from the ill person.

As far as adding to the overall mythology of the show, or the storyline, this episode doesn’t do much. Overall, the episode (besides being a filler episode) seems meant to be simply a fun and entertaining way to show some previous episode clips. And in that, it succeeds.

Reviewed by Stargate SG-1 fan, Harriet Laurin
February 23, 2005

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