The ghost of Casey Jones, an old train engineer who died in one of the worst train crashes in history, comes back to try and commandeer a modern train. Unable to use the modern controls he kidnaps Peter Venkman, who is as it turns out a closet train enthusiast, and forces him to shovel coal on an antique train that looks set to crash into an express train on the mainline. However it is Peter who works out that Casey Jones’ ghost cannot rest until he prevents a train crash like the one that killed him in the first place (even if it means creating the situation himself).
“The Last Train to Oblivion” was one of the show’s second season episodes first airing in 1987. It would probably have disappeared into obscurity had it not been for the ghost that was the main antagonist. Casey Jones is an example of a spirit with unfinished business which in this case is to nearly cause another train crash like the one that killed him so he can avert it from happening again. This plot point is one of the weakest parts of this episode for me. If Casey Jones really wants to make amends I am sure there have been plenty of opportunities from him to avert the many naturally occurring disasters that have happened over the previous 80 years. What has Casey been doing all this time? One can argue that the modern train Casey tried to board first was going to crash in to the Amtrak train we see later (which was early thus causing a collision) but if that was the case then by scaring the people off it he had effectively prevented the crash and therefore he should have passed on at that point.
More than any one of the other Ghostbusters this is Peter’s episode. We learn a great deal about his love of trains and it was fun to see. The line that really made me laugh was that originally he studied engineering for two years thinking it would be about trains only to find out it wasn’t and so he switched to parapsychology. While it may seem unbelievable at first if we think about it at least one of the Ghostbusters having an engineering background makes sense considering they devised all their own equipment.
As we saw repeatedly throughout the animated series Ecto-1 is capable of stunts that would put the Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee to shame and this episode was no exception. We see the car leaping on to the back of the train landing perfectly on to one of the trucks. You can’t help but smile as you try to imagine this happening in real life with the real Ecto-1.
This episode poses several questions about the world of the Ghostbusters mainly are all ghosts evil? Casey Jones is really open to debate on this one. He wanted to prevent a crash but whether it was entirely for his own benefit or for the people he may have saved aboard the train he tried to hijack first we will never know. This was also one of the only times where we see a ghost “pass over” rather than get busted and this additionally poses the question; should every ghost get busted? These are metaphorical questions that can’t really be addressed in a TV show intended for children. Certainly the franchise makes an effort to demonize nearly all the ghosts we see so that we support our heroes but you have to wonder if the jogging ghost in Ghostbusters II was evil or just an innocent soul with some unfinished business of his own.
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