One in this science-fiction anthology series hosted by Professor Stephen Hawking.

At the site of “Operation Landmine Clearance” on July 5th, 2077, humanoid workers called “Joes” are used to detonate unexploded land mines, sacrificing themselves in the process. Elsewhere, wealthy couple Martha and Bronson Von Vogel are given a tour of a genetic engineering facility by its CEO, Tibor Cargrew. During the tour, one of the Joes, identifying himself as “Jerry,” asks for a cigarette but is rebuffed by Cargrew and his party. Cargrew shows the Von Vogels the “hatchery” where Joes are mass-produced via cloning, often being assigned dangerous or menial jobs such as nuclear waste disposal without any regard for their safety, health, or salary. The Von Vogels recount being in their club and getting into an argument with another member about his dog, which he claims is a “plasto-biological hybrid,” custom-made to have six legs. Jealous, the Von Vogels want to get back at him by purchasing a “designer animal” more “impressive” than his, and decide that they can accomplish this with a creature made in the image of the mythological Pegasus. Instead, Cargrew produces a miniature adult elephant barely a foot high, which he has dubbed “Napoleon,” able to both read and write. However, Cargrew keeps refusing their request for a Pegasus, explaining that while he could make a horse with wings, it would be unable to fly. Cargrew laments aloud that he is wasting his talents on supplying rich people with genetically-engineered curiosities instead of curing diseases or improving the world in any meaningful way.

During the tour, Martha again sees Jerry, who silently asks her to kill him; Cargrew explains Jerry’s “batch” of Joes is scheduled to be killed in a matter of hours. Martha feels empathetic towards Jerry and tries to communicate with him and find out why he is sad, although Cargrew insists that Joes lack the capacity for abstract reasoning. Jerry was designed as a minesweeper and could not be “reprogrammed” for more domestic tasks, explaining his impending liquidation. Jerry expresses a desire to be useful, and Martha does not want him to die, offering to buy him off of Cargrew to prevent him from being turned into dog food. Martha cannot be dissuaded and works out a deal with Cargrew to “lease” Jerry to her for a year. He returns home with them and continuously eats candy before Martha cleans up after him and talks to him, although Jerry’s responses are quite limited. In spite of his simplistic speech, Martha derives a great deal of insight about her own life from talking to Jerry.

Bronson soon becomes frustrated with Jerry’s presence and wants to send him back. However, Martha plans to keep Jerry, even if she has to sue Cargrew’s company in order to do it. Martha visits her lawyer and examines her legal options; she learns that she would have to prove that the company was inhumane towards the Joes, and due to the legal status of Joes this would be difficult to achieve. Martha demonstrates that Jerry enjoys music and is learning how to sing, which her lawyer finds interesting. Soon Martha becomes a self-styled “Joe liberationist” fighting for their rights, earning her the scorn of her wealthy friends. The court case begins and Martha’s lawyer argues that it is unethical for the company to claim that Joe has no legal existence. Cargrew counters that while Joe exists and is alive, he does not constitute a “person.” Video is shown of Jerry and his fellow Joes during their minesweeping operation, as all the other Joes are systematically destroyed by land mines. Cargrew claims that Jerry and all other Joes are unconcerned with life or death and the case is nearly dismissed, but Martha’s lawyer claims that the video proves that Jerry is a man.

Martha’s lawyer calls Jerry up to the stand despite the objections of Cargrew’s lawyer. With some difficulty, Jerry takes the stand and demonstrates his capacity for singing. He also demonstrates Jerry’s willingness to lie when given the opportunity to do so. He also highlights a section of the video revealing that Jerry subtly sent another Joe to get blown up by a mine and die in his place. Jerry reveals that he saw a mine and took steps to avoid it, demonstrating a fear of death and instinct for self-preservation contrary to Cargrew’s claims. He argues that Jerry’s abilities to lie and “cheat” are ultimately what make him human, and furthermore argues that Jerry is possessed of a “spark of the divine” in the same way that humanity is. The court rules in favor of Jerry and he is declared to be a human being. The ruling has immediate consequences since Cargrew’s company can no longer execute the Joes; food and housing is required for all of them, and the “retired” workers are being let out onto the streets. Martha rebrands herself as a “Joe spirituality” expert and leaves her husband to have a relationship with Jerry. Includes commercials.


  • DATE: August 18, 2007 Saturday 10:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 0:58:09
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: B:93104
  • GENRE: Drama, fantasy/science fiction
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Drama, fantasy/science fiction
  • SERIES RUN: ABC - TV series, 2007
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    • John W. Hyde … Executive Producer
    • Brad Mendelsohn … Executive Producer
    • Andrew Deane … Executive Producer
    • Keith Addis … Executive Producer
    • Sam Egan … Co-Executive Producer
    • Lisa Richardson … Co-Executive Producer
    • Mick Garris … Co-Executive Producer
    • Grant Rosenberg … Supervising Producer
    • Ben Browning … Co-Producer
    • Adam Goldworm … Co-Producer
    • Brendan Ferguson … Co-Producer
    • Lee Wilson … Consulting Producer
    • Michael Tolkin … Director, Writer
    • Robert A. Heinlein … Based on a short story by
    • Laura Karpman … Music by
    • Edward Shearmur … Theme Music by
    • Stephen Hawking … Narrator
    • Malcolm McDowell … Cast, Tibor Cargrew
    • Anne Heche … Cast, Martha Von Vogel
    • Russell Porter … Cast, Bronson
    • Jason Diablo … Cast, Jerry
    • Bill Dow … Cast, McCoy
    • Sonja Bennett … Cast, Judge Pomfrey
    • Richard Ian Cox … Cast, Pudgy Dodge
    • Val Cole … Cast, News Anchor
    • Osmond L. Bramble … Cast, Bailiff
    • Matty Finochio … Cast, Judge #2
    • David Neale … Cast, Pyramus
    • Jeanie Cloutier … Cast, Judge #3