This week on Silver Screen Feds, we examine two federal employees who couldn’t be any more different: Dr. Edwin Jenner, the doomed researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the zombie apocalypse show “The Walking Dead,” and Ranger Smith, the hapless National Park Service ranger who can’t stop Yogi Bear from stealing them pic-a-nic baskets.
BEST FEDS: Dr. Edwin Jenner, CDC, “The Walking Dead” (Stephen Losey)
Edwin Jenner holds a unique place in the pantheon of TV and movie feds: The last civil servant on Earth.
Towards the end of the first season of “The Walking Dead,” a desperate band of survivors makes their way to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, hoping to find refuge. What they don’t know is that Jenner is the only person left at CDC. He continues to singlehandedly study the brain tissue of a zombie — dubbed TS-19 — desperately hoping to find a cure. But the exhausted Jenner knocks over a vial inside an airlocked laboratory, triggering its automatic decontamination procedures. Jenner escapes the lab, but can do nothing but watch helplessly as the laboratory engulfs all the remaining samples in flames, destroying his work and all possibility of finding a cure.
When the survivors arrive, a drunken and suicidally depressed Jenner reluctantly lets them in and explains that most of the other staff either fled or killed themselves. He continued his work, but lost contact with all other research facilities around the world and had made no progress on his own. Jenner eventually reveals that his wife was the real genius at CDC — probably, he says, the only person brilliant enough to find a cure — but she was bitten by a zombie and died. It was actually her brain that became the TS-19 samples Jenner was dissecting, and later lost.
The CDC headquarters starts its automatic, irreversible self-destruct process when its generators run out of fuel. Jenner first locks the survivors in — “It’s better this way,” he says — but soon relents and allows them to escape. The CDC explodes and incinerates Jenner, as the remaining survivors head out into an uncertain future.
Not the cheeriest story, of course, but Dr. Jenner is a tragic hero nonetheless. He was unable to stop the zombie outbreak dubbed “Wildfire,” but kept trying until he had absolutely no options left. In the face of humanity’s extinction, Jenner kept the last vestige of the federal government operating as long as he could. And even though his initial insistence that mass suicide was better than fleeing zombies day after day was misguided, he showed kindness to the survivors by sheltering and feeding them, and ultimately allowing them to decide their own fate.
Rest in peace, Dr. Jenner. You’ve done federal employees proud.
WORST FEDS: Ranger Smith, National Park Service, “Yogi Bear” (Andy Medici)
Ranger Smith — or Mr. Ranger as he is sometimes called by Yogi Bear — is not exactly a model park ranger. He harasses the wildlife, creates arbitrary rules and generally ignores the plight of actual tourists. While he wakes up early every day, he does little to help improve the park or keep it running. At various times throughout his stint on the classic cartoon “Yogi Bear,” he remarks about how much he hates his job.
But while there are always bad apples amongst a good batch of employees, Ranger Smith does one thing that makes him an especially bad park ranger. He fails to control, or eventually put down Yogi Bear. Now, hear me out: Yogi spends his days stealing food from unsuspecting campers and trying to escape the Jellystone Park grounds to continue his reign of terror against the population at large.
I know what you are thinking. Yogi is great! He is so fun and lovable and smarter than the average bear. That is what makes him so dangerous. Just pretend he doesn’t talk or wear human clothes, and picture how horrifying his actions are.
(In fact, Yogi wearing human clothing makes him all the more frightening. Who did that tie belong to, and do his kids know what happened to him? I doubt it.)
While Ranger Smith has a variety of appearances and demeanors across the series that make him difficult to predict, he is usually only upset about Yogi’s picnic basket thievery because it will create a lot of extra work for him, instead of the fact that his campers are afraid for their lives.
Yogi may be smarter than the average bear, but he is far more dangerous.
Ranger Smith has his work cut out for him.