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Series / John Doe

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A man wakes up on an island off the coast of Seattle, unsure of who or where he is, unable to see in color, and with a strange mark on his body. But he knows everything, every single scene of every single movie, the composition of bullets from all sorts of rare guns, the full history of Jack the Ripper, etc. He makes friends and solves crimes for the police.

The series was canceled by FOX and ends on a Cliffhanger.

See Mr. Smith for the usage of placeholder names like "John Doe" in fiction.

Contains examples of:

  • Amnesiac God: John's access to almost all the world's current collected knowledge pretty much makes him this.
  • Artistic License Physics: John's science can be a little spotty at times.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: What one has to do in order to gain all of the knowledge John now has. Then you have to "fall back to earth", so to speak.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: When his memory is on the fritz do to a lightning strike, John looks at an almost-empty bottle of Jack Daniels and asks himself "How many shots in a fifth", drains the bottle, and answers himself with "That many".note 
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: He doesn't just know everything, he has the ability to apply that knowledge.
  • Bottle Episode: Episode 9; "Manifest Destiny".
  • Brain Uploading: A scientist experimenting in this field is killed (by a religious fanatic not by the experiment). At the end, it is revealed that the scientist encoded his mind onto bar codes of several ordinary-looking items.
  • Brought Down to Normal: In one episode, a lightning strike causes John Doe to regain his color sight and lose his Encyclopaedic Knowledge of nearly everything. The status quo is restored at the end of the episode by another electric shock.
  • Brown Note: The DJ in "Tone Dead" was killed by a subsonic tone played through his equipment, triggering a fatal epileptic seizure. John and Dr. Rachel even describe the Urban Legend that named the trope, but stop short of using the name outright.
  • Chewing the Scenery: John can get a little... emotional when angsting about his amnesia and special abilities.
  • Code Emergency: In "Idaho", John uses America's Most Wanted to put out a Code Adam on himself as part of his search for his identity.
  • Color Blind Confusion: The title character was completely color blind except when he saw certain clues or people related to his previous life or the case he was working on, when instead of the usual Deliberately Monochrome style the show used from his perspective the items in question would be in color. There was also an episode where a lightning strike restored his color vision but made him lose his Encyclopaedic Knowledge until another lightning strike put things back to normal.
  • Cool Car: Immediately after making a fortune picking trifectas in the pilot episode, John buys a Shelby Cobra, which he drives throughout the rest of the series.
  • Death Amnesia: With a twist! John lost the memeory of his past life and gained knowledge about every thing else. After he came back of course.
  • Encyclopaedic Knowledge: John Doe knows everything. Well, almost everything.
  • Episode on a Plane: With the tagline "How do you solve a mystery at 30,000 feet!?" The answer being, of course, by knowing everything, as usual.
  • First-Episode Resurrection The main character is the way he is because he was killed and resurrected, under the recollection theory that all knowledge is granted to a person when they die.
  • First Girl Wins: Distaff Counterpart in "Mind Games". The first of the Group Otto guys that John and Wesley visit turns out to be Wesley's real father.
  • Genre Blind: The local police seem slow at figuring out the blatantly obvious, and sometimes John himself shares their myopia. One of the more glaring examples is in "Shock to the System", when John has briefly lost his Encyclopaedic Knowledge: There's a series of murders in the Red Light District and a note signed "JTR", and only Digger is Genre Savvy enough to realize the killer is invoking Jack the Ripoff.
  • How Many Fingers?: One of the first signs of John Doe's unusual nature. He responds to the question using medical jargon to explain why the thumb is not technically considered a "finger."
  • I Am Who?: John's reaction when someone tries to con him into thinking he's this or that person.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: Occasionally John will have to talk himself through a complex process; for example, the first time he attempted to drive his Cool Car, he barely lurched 20 feet and stalled out before going over some cool sounding force/vector technobabble, after which he drove like a stunt driver.
  • Injury Bookend: The title character had his universal knowledge erased by lightning in the beginning of one episode, only to have it returned by getting an electric shock later in the episode.
  • Instant Expert
  • Jack the Ripoff: The serial killers in "Shock to the System" deliberately invoke this with a Gender Flip of Jack the Ripper, including a taunting message to John, whom they see as a modern-day analog to George Lusk.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Inverted in "Remote Control" when John finds the Group 5 patients locked up with a broken-off key in the padlock. There just happens to be an aerosol can of liquid nitrogen in a nearby cabinet, which John uses to freeze and break the lock.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: John's one of the more unique cases.
  • Mr. Smith: "John Doe" is, of course, a placeholder name.
  • Naked on Arrival: The series begins with John Doe awakening naked with an unusual physical feature on his body, in the middle of nowhere, with no memory of who he is.
  • No Name Given: His name remains unknown (up to the point that the producers of the show never made one).
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Justified by the premise.
  • Omniglot: Due to his Omniscient Hero nature.
  • Omniscient Hero:
    • The exact extent of his omniscience is a little vague. He doesn't know what his friends had for breakfast, for example, or top secret things about the president, or what tomorrow's lottery numbers will be. It seems to be: "Anything anyone could conceivably look up in a library, somewhere."
    • Given the Word of God-established reason for his omniscience, an implicit limitation would be 'things that were known when he woke up on the island' — which obviously wouldn't cover knowledge of things that hadn't happened yet (like his future friends' future breakfast, or tomorrow's lottery numbers).
      • On the other hand, this wouldn't explain why he couldn't answer Jamie's question regarding any secret government programs. It doesn't seem likely that certain knowledge that some people deem secret would be hidden from him.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown: Even with John's Encyclopedic Knowledge, occasionally the law of averages will give him a kick in the pants. Case in point in the pilot: John picks trifecta after trifecta playing the ponies, but he suffers a bit of a setback when one of his picks doesn't play out.
  • The Power of Legacy: "John Deux" ends with John telling the estranged father of a deceased vagrant that he knew him from working at the same factory, and that "he wanted you to know that he made something of his life".
  • Pun: In "Tone Dead", Lt. Avery finds some Ecstasy in the DJ/lawyer's drug screen. "That was some pretty happy pee."
  • Put on a Bus: John's girlfriend. The series was cancelled before it became clear whether or not it was a Long Bus Trip.
  • Quest for Identity: The premise of the show is that John is searching for who he was prior to his amnesia.
  • Room Full of Crazy: John covers the walls of his apartment with notes about possible clues to his identity. Karen Lampshades the crazy by asking "at what point do I start worrying about you cutting off an ear?"
  • Space Madness: A metal dome in the forest turns out to be a simulated space vessel, in which astronauts have been confined for months to test the mechanisms and psychological hazards of a manned trip to Mars. Initial investigation suggests the crew have killed each other due to Space Madness from prolonged isolation but it turns out their air-circulation system was sabotaged, causing a gas imbalance that impaired their reason.
  • Splash of Color: Whenever John sees someone or something in color instead of his usual colorblind vision, it usually means that person is significant to him or to the case he's working.
  • Stalker Shrine: The protagonist has one about himself, as he tries to find clues about who he is. Upon discovering it, Karen comments that it looks like a serial killer's shrine.
  • Worthy Opponent: The only reason Lenny "The Mourner" targets John Doe is because he sees the local police as boring, predictable, and no challenge.