Review by Ernest Lilley
Directed by Mimi Leder / Writing credits
Brandon Camp (writer) Mike Thompson (IV) (writer)
"He's got all of the answers, except the most important one... who he is."
I didn't expect John Doe to be the best new SF show this season. Of course, you may not lump it in with SF anyway, considering its premise involves a man with amnesia, mostly black and white vision, and an encyclopedic...no make that internet-ic...knowledge of everything known to man, except of course, who he was before he woke up on an island off the coast of Seattle.
Frankly, I'd been hoping that FireFly would be Space Opera to die for, but as good as Buffy is, FireFly isn't, despite sharing it's creator.
But John Doe has a lot of cool stuff going on, not the least of which is the chemistry between Doe and the cast around him, from the chief of police, to his unofficial police partner, to the folks at the bar where he plays piano. Oh, and let's not forget the sinister folks in white shirts and narrow ties burying the evidence of who Dow might be just about as fast as he can dig it up.
Having a hard time keeping up? OK. A man wakes up in the middle of a circle of trees with no knowledge of who he is or where he is. Where happens to be a deserted island somewhere off the coast of Washington, near Seattle. We find this out because after he stumbles over a cliff and into the ocean he swims most of the way (we assume) there, finally to be pulled out of the water by a boat of fishermen who speak a Cambodian(?) dialect. Doe (only he's not named that yet) is as surprised as the fishermen that he speaks it too. He's full of surprises in fact, and one of the best bits is when he walks into the public library to test the limits of his knowledge and finds out that it only ends where the big metaphysical questions (When will I die, What's the meaning of life?) pick up.
Though, frankly, I think he's selling himself short, because a lot of that is as straightforward as betting on the horses, or playing the stock market...both of which he discovers he's a whiz at...though not without risk.
Something weird is going on with his vision. Most everything appears in black and white, but once in a while something with prescient importance shows up in color. In the pilot episode it was a girl by a green body of water, which later turned out to be "Emerald Cove", where he "saved" her from her kidnapper. This is one of the more confusing clues we're given to Doe's back-story. Since the things he sees in color hadn't happened before he lost his memory, if indeed he actually had one, we have to assume that he is either putting things together subconsciously from the sea of data he's got sloshing around in his head plus whatever he's picked up since he came too, or that he's psychic. Either way it's going to be interesting finding out.
The bad news about a show like this is that it's only interesting until you find out, so you can be sure that his self-discovery will take a freaking-long-time.
So what's Doe doing to kill time while he unravels his own mystery? Unraveling other peoples, of course. With a brain like Spock, a budget like Bill Gates (well, a small Bill Gates) and a personal crime lab set up in his fashionable loft that Batman would envy, he's a one man CSI Seattle, and incidentally he gets along really well with the folks on the police force, both his pseudo-partner and the real CSI type.
The only question that you have to ask is whether or not finding out who he was, if he actually was anybody (I'm holding out for a lab-vat grown clone) is such a good idea. Some things may be better left unknown, John. But I guess which they are is something only hindsight can tell.