Some Adventures in Odyssey episodes have a Bible verse tacked on at the end which may not have too much to do with the content of the story. Doing Unto Others, however, is one of the first episodes to put its Bible lesson front and center at the beginning and then it spends the rest of the show exploring what the verse actually means in greater detail. This more direct style works best when it is done sparingly, but when it does come up it’s nice to hear it done well. This episode certainly does its best to be above average. It brings creativity and entertainment to what could have been a boring, uninspired story. Matthew 7:12 says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” For such a simple verse, there’s a lot of meaning to be found there. And this episode only focuses on the first part. You could easily have another whole episode about how the Golden Rule “sums up the Law and the Prophets.” What’s great about this particular verse is that it’s so well known, but can still be easily misunderstood.
What isn’t so original about this episode is that it has to introduce another one-off kid character defined by a single characteristic. We’ve had Davey Holcomb the klutz, Craig Moorhead the funny man, Annie McNeal the spoiled girl, and now here comes a boy called Johnny Bickle. Yes, you heard that right. His name is Johnny Bickle and he knows the Bible really well. Unfortunately, his character is a bit redundant considering we’ve already met a kid just like him, Bobby Novak. Bobby would have been perfect for this role. In the episode Connie Comes to Town, Whit mentions that Bobby likes the Bible Bowl and is very good at answering all the questions. Similarly, Johnny Bickle is the best at answering questions at his Bible study. Both characters are even voiced by the same actor, David Griffin. Valuable context and character development could have been gained by keeping David Griffin’s character as Bobby instead of changing it to Johnny. But for some reason the early episodes of Odyssey need an endless supply of new kid characters who pop up out of nowhere and then disappear forever. At this rate I’m just happy Johnny’s name didn’t change to something else halfway through the episode.
Officer Harley takes a larger role in this show than his first. Lights Out at Whit’s End has Harley sharing little about himself and its series of skits gives him an opportunity to be a bit goofy without seeming out of place. But Harley has nowhere to hide when it comes to Doing Unto Others. In this episode his incompetency as a police officer is unmistakable. After he bumps into Johnny, Harley suddenly launches into a monologue, saying, “Reckless pedestrianing. Sounds like a 702. Or is that a 207? No, 207’s my address. Or is that my badge number? Well, I could always clear that up. Let’s see here. Uh, badge number 702. Great, ha! Then what’s my address? This could be trouble. Especially when I go home tonight. Wherever that is.” Someone should really help Officer Harley out with that. It can’t be that hard in a small town like Odyssey to find someone’s house. This episode is all about the Golden Rule, after all. Johnny misses his chance to “do unto others” and help Harley find his way home to his wife. But even if he had tried Harley is busy running off to give a parking ticket to his own car. Harley is a funny character, but this scene goes a little too far. He could have still been humorous without having to be so absolutely clueless.
Linda is another one-off kid character. She’s overdramatic, temperamental and likes to constantly hint she has a crush on Johnny. Which is why it’s confusing that in the remake of this episode, Isaac the Benevolent, she is replaced by Lucy. Linda is superficial and the farthest thing from Lucy, forcing Lucy to be out-of-character in that show. But in the original episode Linda does fit her role well. She is introduced as a bit theatrical and she keeps up the attitude the whole time. Linda is almost an exaggerated version of Connie Kendall, but not quite a caricature to the extent of Officer Harley. And speaking of which, with all the immaturity going on in this show Connie is surprisingly the one to bring some sense and a measure of wisdom to the situation. Despite not being a Christian, Connie gives great insight into the biblical passage Johnny is so confused by. She says you’re supposed to help others without expecting anything in return. She admits she’s not an expert in the Bible, but it’s clear that Whit is having a positive influence on her. But she’s still the Connie we all know and love, so she’s not above rushing to conclusions and incorrectly assuming that Mr. Whittaker wants a television.
Something I find interesting about this story having two versions is that it has two versions of the character of Big Ed from Big Ed’s Appliance City. I think I prefer the Big Ed in this version over the remake. Both Big Eds may have all the same lines but the one in Doing Unto Others has a smoother voice which is easier on the ears. He’s voiced by Will Ryan, the same actor playing Officer Harley, another unusual character. But Harley is definitely the more exaggerated one. He arrives on the scene again to tell us that he finally remembered his address, wrote it down on a piece of paper and put it inside his wallet. But now he’s lost his wallet. Which, funnily enough, makes his offer to buy the TV from Johnny and Connie a little hollow. He’ll pay for it all right, just as soon as he finds his wallet and wherever his house ran off to. Maybe he can get the money after he pays that parking ticket to himself. For the most part the comedy in this show is a welcome addition to Johnny’s journey to discover how to live out the Golden Rule, but at times it gets distracting, especially when Officer Harley is involved. This episode gets 4 out of 5 stars.