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Saturday, 29 April 2017

Batman: The Animated Series 1-38: Heart of Steel

Episode:38-39|Writer:Brynne Stephens|Air Date:16-Nov-1992

Today on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm watching both parts of Heart of Steel, from the legendary Batman: The Animated Series! It's taken me over a year but I'm finally writing about a cartoon.

The story spans episodes 38 and 39 from the show's first season, and those numbers are clearly much too big. The season actually had 65 episodes in total (the minimum needed for syndication) and that's an insane amount to air in one year. They had to outsource production to a half-dozen different animation houses to get it done, most of them anime studios in Japan. It's funny just how many Western cartoons were animated by the same folks who made things like Akira or Cowboy Bebop.

You might be wondering what a Batman cartoon is doing on a science fiction site. Well... the series is clearly an examination of how society would be affected by the presence of handheld grapnel guns. Plus have you seen his computer? I bet you could run Quake on that thing with all the settings maxed out. Also it's been a long while since I've watched this particular story, but I'm fairly sure you'll be seeing robots show up at some point.

Though the real reason I'm watching it is because it means I get to show an actual title card for once! Shame it's a bit rubbish. I can't even tell what I'm looking at here; a PC tower case with horns?

Alright I'll be recapping and screencapping both episodes in their entirety so there will be massive SPOILERS. But I won't be spoiling anything that comes after it in either Batman or the DC animated universe as a whole.



The trouble with Batman: The Animated Series' title sequence is that it's so damn iconic and memorable that I really don't need to watch it again now. I just have to close my eyes and I can see the two crooks blow the door to the bank, get chased up onto a rooftop (for some reason) and then have their asses kicked by Batman in silhouette.

It's a beautiful explosion though, and the music's fantastic. The series borrowed Danny Elfman's theme from the 1989 Batman film, which kind of implies that there's more of a connection between the film and the series than there really is. Though at this point I think the cartoon's pretty much stolen it.

Another problem with the opening titles is that they've neglected to put the title on it! The closest we get to any kind of logo is when the bat symbol is illuminated by lighting while he's posing on a rooftop. But would he really get lit up by a light source behind him or would he be silhouetted against it like on the famous Dark Knight Returns cover? I'm thinking there's enough buildings around to bounce some light back his way (he clearly hasn't chosen the tallest one to pose on) but I wouldn't want to say one way or the other until I see the Mythbusters test it out.

The episode begins just after midnight at Wayne Enterprises, and things are starting to get interesting for this pair of security guards. First a mysterious woman deliberately leaves a briefcase next to their desk and then they run into Bruce Wayne himself! You can see the one in the background reacting to her co-worker literally bumping into the owner of the company.

It'd be even more embarrassing for them if that briefcase turned out to contain a bomb, but it's fine, they looked inside already and nothing exploded. No need to bother the bomb squad over this.

But while they're gone the briefcase grows arms and legs and climbs off the desk! It scurries across the foyer, opens the door to the stairwell with its extendible arms and then fires a rocket-propelled grappling arrow to pull itself up! All to incredibly dramatic music.

I'm sure I must have seen this episode before, but I have zero memory of this thing. Which is weird because it's amazing. It's even got a laser eye that it uses to slice open the R&D lab's vault so it can suck up all the computer chips with its vacuum cleaner extension. This is a briefcase that knows what it’s doing.

But the others know what it's doing as well as they can see it on the security monitors, so the security guards lock Bruce in their office for his own safety and go off to deal with it.

This gives us a rare opportunity to hear Bruce Wayne switch to his Batman voice mid sentence (for the benefit of no one) as he says "Stay put? I don't think so," and then escapes through a hidden exit. All you've got to do is put your hand on the wall and it rotates, so it's a miracle no one's found it by accident yet. I wonder if he hires someone to sit behind the wall and make sure that the filing cabinet and message board are kept identical.

I'm also amazed at the geometry going on with this thing. It starts off as a 90 degree corner, it ends up as a 90 degree corner, so where'd all the right angles go in this screencap?

Anyway, the briefcase simply gases the two guards unconscious when they come to stop it, then it heads for the elevator with its loot...

... where it runs into ultra-shadowy Batman.

Bruce didn't see the briefcase use its laser eye on the door earlier, so he doesn't realise how lucky he is the that the thing makes a run for it instead of fighting him. Or maybe it's just used up its laser batteries.

Batman doesn't much want it running off with his secret chips though and he throws a grappling line at it to reel it back.

But the thing digs its heels in and won't budge. It won't topple either; it's showing a total disregard for physics here. It weighs exactly as much as a briefcase full of microchips so there's no way it should still be upright.

Eventually the thing decides it has to fight back and slices right through his cable with its laser eye. In fact it slices right across the wall and the elevator, causing the bottom of it to fall down into the shaft.

You win this round, briefcase.

The case makes its way up to the roof, where Batman witnesses it opening up to become a missile launch platform! It sacrifices itself to fire a rocket full of stolen computer chips across the city, where it's recovered by a woman with RUR on her license plate. Probably a reference to R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), the play that first introduced the word 'robot' to science fiction.

But this is Batman's building and he's got a hand glider stashed nearby to give chase! No Batman Begins/Arkham Asylum memory fabric cape gliding here, he's doing this the old-fashioned way.

So those security guards are going to wake up to discover that the vault's been cleaned out, an elevator's been destroyed and their boss has gone missing from a locked room. Seems like they should've been more concerned about that case really.

So now Batman's trying to chase a car along the coast with a hand glider, while the mysterious thief is trying to shoot him down with an anti-aircraft flak cannon hidden in the boot! Well actually her car's self driving so it's doing all the work by itself.

He does well to last as long as he does, but one of the shots clips his glider and he finds himself diving straight towards the rocks.


ACT TWO


After the commercials we learn that Batman isn't dead! Though he is a bit damp and he's apparently carried his soaking glider all the way back home with him. Alfred's waiting for him in the cave and immediately gets him with a quip.
"I do wish you wouldn't be so rough with your toys, Master Bruce."
The trouble with dark scenes like this is that it makes all the specks of dust show up, and it's so bad right now it's like it's snowing in here. Though on the plus side it's a reminder that all of this was done by hand, with animation cels placed on top of painted backgrounds and filmed by an actual camera.

While Batman's messing around with his custom glider-holding mechanical arm apparatus, Lucius Fox calls and he immediate switches back to his Bruce Wayne voice to chat with him. So we've got Bruce talking like Batman and Batman speaking like Bruce in this episode, and it's not even halfway through.

Turns out that the stolen chips are prototype protein-silicon wafer processors designed for AI, which seems like something LexCorp should be working on instead of WayneTech. Alfred points out that these super computers would likely find the human race quite expendable... except for butlers of course.

At this point Alfred had disappeared up the lift and come back with a mop bucket, and it seems that the director was strangely fascinated by the thing as we get a close up of him wringing his mop out and Batman's reflection appearing in the water. It's some really nice animation for absolutely no reason.

Later, back at Wayne Enterprises, Commissioner Gordon himself has come by to investigate the theft. They're not sure who'd even want the chips as the only other group researching this kind of tech on this coast is Karl Rossum's team at Cybertron. Damn, references to R.U.R. and Transformers in the same sentence!

Turns out that Rossum's the one who taught Batman everything he knows about electronics, so it doesn't take the world's greatest detective to wonder if he's the one who built the briefcase. Though I'm not sure why no one's thought of asking the security guard to tell them what the owner looked like. Maybe they've even got a security camera pointing that way, they've certainly got cameras upstairs.

And then Barbara Gordon appears at the door, here to speak with her dad. It's her very first appearance in the DC animated universe!

We get super kawaii Commissioner Gordon for a moment here when Bruce asks about the stuffed toy hanging out of her bag and Barbara reveals that her dad always brings her childhood teddy bear along when he picks her up from the airport.

His embarrassment's not over yet though as he leaves the office with his daughter and makes it halfway down the corridor before realising that he forgot to take the bear back from Bruce.

This is a nice scene as it sets up their relationship without actually anyone outright saying that he still thinks of her as his little girl despite her being at college now.

So Bruce goes down to Cybertron Industries to chat with Karl Rossum, who turns out to be played by William Sanderson! I saw him recently in that Babylon 5 episode I hated (Grail), but he's perhaps more famous for playing the bloke who made the replicants in Blade Runner.

Hey that's the thing from the title card behind them! You can't tell very well from this angle but it looks like a train with Batman ears. Rossum introduces it as a prototype AI called H.A.R.D.A.C. and his assistant explains that it stands for 'Holographic Analytical Reciprocating DigitAl Computer'. Uh, sure, if you're just going to pick any letters you want from each word.

Speaking of awkward names, she's called Randa Duane which is just going to get confusing when people start calling them Mr. Wayne and Miss. Duane. He invites her to dinner at his house to charm her into giving up more information and she agrees.

But when he's gone she takes a lift up to speak directly to H.A.R.D.A.C.'s glowing red HAL 9000 eye. Turns out that she's the one who stole the chips from Wayne Enterprises earlier and he's a bit annoyed that she hasn't got the design specs yet so they can't make more.

Though they did get enough CPUs to get another terminator replicant duplicant built and she's to see to its placement.

This aired the year after Terminator 2 came out by the way, just to put it in context.

Oh damn, it turns out that the robot replica is replacing Commissioner Gordon!

Nice hat by the way, very noir. Though it might actually be a subtle reference to another story where someone pays Gordon and Barbara a visit at his home: The Killing Joke.


ACT THREE


Barbara hears the sound of someone being Tasered and goes over to investigate, but her dad's actually fine. That's all he'll say to her in fact, "I'm fine," and his hands have turned ice cold.

I love that they've animated Barbara climbing all over her dad's couch here by the way. They didn't have a whole lot of runtime to work with so even this shot of her leaving the room is being used to establish her personality. Or maybe they just thought it'd be cool.

Anyway, her dad comes back in and makes room on the couch by smacking her teddy bear to the floor. Then he sits down to read his newspaper again.

Dramatic panning shot showing her reaction to Woobie lying on the floor!

I also have to give the animators props for rewriting all this text for every single frame that the newspaper tilts and bends. They even kept the 'buglarized-micro' typo consistent each time!

And yes, of course theft of the rich would be news. No one cares about theft of the poor.


Now that she's finished replacing Gordon, Randa comes by Wayne's office to secretly hack his computers with her makeup kit. I love his expression here by the way, though he's actually looking at Lucius Fox, not the camera.

I also like his low-tech computer terminal that looks at least a decade out of place. The series was inspired by the Fleischer Superman cartoons from the 40s, and it's deliberately designed to have that same kind of timelessness to it, where it somehow takes place midway between the past and the future without straying anywhere near the present.

So Wayne and Duane go back to his mansion for their interrogation date, but before he can find out what Rossum's up to he gets a phone call from work about her latest theft and has to rush out again.

Which gives the animators another opportunity to show off with this camera turn! She's apparently meant to look like Marilyn Monroe and I can kind of see it.

I can also see that maybe leaving your suspect's assistant alone in your house is maybe a bad idea. Though I suppose Alfred's still there.

Holy shit, she zapped Alfred when he came to offer her tea! This is the meanest thing that any human has ever done.

Well I'm assuming that she is human. Bruce remarked on her cold hands and Commissioner Gordon's hands were cold too, so that's a clue, but she was around before the theft of the special AI chips. Plus she's having to use special goggles to see through the walls of the mansion to find his computer. She couldn't find the design specs at Wayne Enterprises with her makeup kit hack because Bruce had the sense to move them, so now she's looking for them here.

Though what she finds is a secret passage behind a bookcase, accessible by simply pulling out a book. It seems that Batman never imagined the possibility that a visitor might ever try take that book from his library, like it never occurred to him that someone might lean on the wall in Wayne Enterprises' security office.

Well she's just gone and broken into the Batcave. I think this is the first time a villain discovers Bruce's sanctuary in the series and it does not happen often, so this still feels like a big deal. Though H.A.R.D.A.C. doesn't seem that wowed by it when Randa calls him up to tell him. He'd like her to get on with setting up an interface with his computer to get him the specs, which she does.

Personally I'm amazed by the discovery that the Batcomputer isn't up against a wall, like I always remembered it being. In fact this looks nothing like my mental image of the Batcave in this series. I expected to see the giant penny and the robot dinosaur back there for one thing.

Meanwhile Bruce tried phoning home and got no response, so now he's racing back to the mansion. Again. It's amazing how many times he can get from that skyscraper to his house and back again in just one 20 minute episode.

Man Bruce has got some big windows. I don't remember his mansion being this absurdly massive. He's got a staircase in his living room! Sucks to be the guy who has to clean the place single-handedly.

Oh Alfred's alive by the way, though he's a little bit out of it. He doesn't remember being attacked and assumes that Randa has left, but Bruce is assuming nothing at this point. So he gets his costume on off-screen then goes down to the Batcave and asks the computer to scan for...

Though we never find out what he was going to say, because the Batcomputer suddenly goes crazy on him. Then he's grabbed by his custom glider-holding mechanical arm apparatus, which lifts him up the the air. End of part 1!

Hey I've spotted a mistake! The side of his nose is coloured wrong for like two frames when he turns his head. In fact it's coloured wrong for a moment when he turns to look right and when he turns back again, even though it's not reusing the same frames. So that's weird.





BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES 1-39: HEART OF STEEL, PART II


After the 'previously on' clips, Batman very quickly gets out of the device's grasp by slipping one arm free, flipping on top and then pulling the wires out. Which gives Alfred a chance to follow up on his last quip in the first part with "I do wish your toys wouldn't play so roughly with you, sir." The guy's a pro.

Batman finds that there's another computer uplinked to the Batcomputer so he starts tracing the signal back to its source. C'mon Batman it's 1992, please don't start using your hacking skills to locate the bad guy, I get enough of this from Arrow.

H.A.R.D.A.C. just disconnects though, so that gets them nowhere. Though Batman's pretty laid back about the whole thing. Someone just broke into his lair and hacked all his secrets, a villain knows his identity! But it's fine; he's just going to search the house, see if there's any clues he can use, it's not the end of the world.

Over at Gotham PD, Robo-Gordon's still being all creepy and obviously a robot and it's really starting to bother Barbara now. He's also making sinister plans, ordering Lieutenant Bullock to go to Cybertron and telling Bruce to come to the Gotham Club.

Meanwhile Rossum’s not happy when he finds out that H.A.R.D.A.C.'s been using the duplicant processor without his authorisation and decides to tweak his free will.

Holy shit, what did I just watch happen? I was still trying to process the fact that his electric ears suddenly burst into flame and formed an energy beam, and then he went and incinerated Rossum with it! Why did Rossum even build this feature into his computer? Also who does he think he's fooling with that smiley face he's drawn onto its eye?

Randa comes back to see that Rossum's still breathing and states "You have immobilised the maker" just to make absolutely clear that a: he's not dead, b: he's not a robot and c: she absolutely is a robot. Then she effortlessly picks him up and carries him away just to confirm it.

Then a duplicant goes and Tasers the mayor, so now he's been replaced too.


ACT TWO


Act two begins with the Batsignal shining in the sky, and I totally knew it was going to be Barbara who turned it on. I mean who else was it going to be? Robo-Gordon knows that Bruce is Batman and has already invited him to the Gotham Club.

Barbara turned the signal on because she suspects that her dad's been replaced by someone impersonating him. She doesn't mention anything about his personality changing completely after answering the door though, which seems like it's worth bringing up. In fact she can't put her finger on what's different about him, despite the fact that he's obviously a robot!

Suddenly Harvey Bullock arrives to interrupt their meeting and throws his toothpick at Batman! Which is totally a Bullock thing to do; the duplicant playing him should give Robo-Gordon lessons.

Though picking Batman up is kind of out of character. Plus it gives away that he has inhuman robot strength!

Batman drops his grapple during the fight so Bullock's got him here; he could just throw him off the building and kill him. But it seems like the robots don't want to kill anyone, they just want to knock them out and replace them. So Bullock throws him at a wall instead.

Barbara picks up the grapple though and with a bit of teamwork they're able to get the upper hand on the robot, leading to...

Oh man, they dropped Bullock into the Batsignal and electrocuted him so hard his skin burned away and a Terminator came out! They didn't know he wasn't actually Bullock! For all they know he'd been drugged with Venom or something that's given him super strength and a murderous rage.

RIP goofy Robo-Bullock and his extra-large sized endoskeleton.

I did some severe editing to the video to get the length down by the way, trimming out the bit where his smoking hand twitches and Barbara starts crying. It might seem a bit wrong to have a female hero cry about beating her opponent instead of coming out with a cool one-liner, but from her perspective she just pulled Bullock to his gruesome death and then watched him fry. That's going to mess someone up.

But she's over it the moment she learns he's a robot and then figures out that her dad must be a robot too. In fact she grabs hold of Batman's cape and tells him that she's coming with him, which leads to the perfect deadpan delivery of the line "Please let go of my cape." He can't take her though, and he can't tell her why either, as he's going to go to the Gotham Club as Bruce Wayne.

Wait, he's doing what?

Wow, it turns out that walking straight into their trap at the Gotham Club might have been a bad move, as six robots ambush him inside a pitch black room, their eyes glowing red in the darkness. Randa's eyes glow red too so her robot status is 100% confirmed now.

For some reason they're all acting like they don't know that he knows that they know who he is. In fact Robo-Mayor Hill was doing a pretty good job at faking a personality, making a dumb quip about this being a very exclusive club but "everyone will belong very soon," when he was leading Bruce in. So it turns out that the robots can imitate people pretty well, Robo-Gordon is just a crap actor.

But now it's time for Bruce to put his plan into action! He slips out of his jacket... and runs away into an elevator.

Well nice work Bruce, now you're trapped in a broken elevator with six super-strong sharply dressed robots outside.

This is possibly the stupidest thing Batman's ever done, I’m very disappointed in him. I know that heroes deliberately walk into obvious traps so often that it's a cliché, but I'm sure there must have been a better way to identify who'd been replaced by duplicants.

The robots break inside and find the elevator empty, so this guy leaps through the hatch and starts going all spider-bot, with his head turning around 180 degrees to get a good look up the shaft.

There he notices something a bit troubling: Batman cutting the cable with a blow torch.

This is the third time this story that Bruce has gone into an elevator and Batman's come out! The guy's got this down to an art. Well okay we didn't see for sure he was dressed as Bruce before going in the first two times, but shut up don't ruin this observation for me.

The cable snaps and the elevator comes crashing down so hard that the robots lost all their clothes and skin somewhere along the way. I take back everything I said about this being a dumb plan, as Batman clearly knew what he was doing here. He turned their trap into a trap of his own and took out four Terminators in one move!

Though it did cost the life of another elevator. They're the real victim in this war between man and duplicant.

Meanwhile Barbara has been carrying out her own investigation at Cybertron, as she overhead Robo-Gordon tell Bullock to head over there earlier. She managed to break inside by using face powder on the keypad scanner to reveal fingerprints on four of the keys and then typing in every possible combination until she got to one which worked. Which just happened to be the first one she tried.

And yet this is still better security than Bruce has on the Batcave door.

Unfortunately she gets captured while doing her Metal Gear Solid infiltration thing when the tiny bin trailing her turns into a giant robot. It's pretty strong for something entirely hollow.

Hey I just realised that part one had a human catching a robot breaking into the R&D labs at Wayne Enterprises and part two has a robot catching a human breaking into the R&D labs at Cybertron. And the robots won both times.


ACT THREE


Then Batman drops by from his repaired hand glider and bullseyes two robots in the eye with batarangs, destroying them instantly! Funny how they never use gas or laser eyes on him any more. But he stops wrecking robots for a second so that H.A.R.D.A.C. can explain his entire plan for no reason.

It started off as Karl Rossum's plan actually, as when his daughter died in a car accident he went mad with grief. Sorry I mean she was 'deactivated'; I don't think they're allowed to say 'dead' in this. Rossum wanted to replace humans whose decisions can cost other human lives, but H.A.R.D.A.C. felt that wasn't enough and has decided to replace everyone. So hang on, was Rossum only going to replace people who own a car then?

This would be the point where Captain Kirk would start arguing with the computer, pointing out that knocking people out and sticking them in a tank of water isn't really saving them. Especially as they'll have to eat and pee eventually. Well okay the second one's probably already happened.

Batman on the other hand...

... just kicks Robo-Gordon in the head. I've never wanted to see a Batman vs. Terminator movie more than I do right now.

Robo-Rossum comes over and tries to wrestle with him, so he flips him right over into the tank, shattering it.

Hang on... where are the other guys whose duplicants got dropped down a lift shaft earlier? Did he run out of space in this tank and start filling up another one? Has he worked out where he's going to put the 7 billion other humans or is he only going to keep a few to study and then kill the rest?

Anyway the water spills out and the captives spill out along with it. And it all washes over poor Barbara who was still picking herself up off the floor. Eww.

It takes more than a bit of water to kill Robo-Rossum though and he leaps over at Batman... who dodges out of the way and lets him fly right into Randa's Taser.

And then he explodes. That leaves just Randa and Robo-Gordon in here. Plus H.A.R.D.A.C., though it seems that he's forgotten he can do that ear laser thing so he's just being useless.

Batman takes down Robo-Gordon while he's scuttering around like a spider by playing fetch with a grenade, and manages to blow up a chunk of H.A.R.D.A.C.'s hardware as well.

H.A.R.D.A.C. starts freaking out after this, yelling "Emergency, emergency, stop the one called Batman." You know, I think it's actually embarrassed that it has to call him Batman. Though it's good that it doesn't call him Bruce Wayne, as that'd be pretty awkward for him considering he's in a room with the police commissioner and the mayor.

Actually I reckon Batman would've taken it in his stride, as nothing seems to faze the guy this episode.

Well, almost nothing.

I love that the creators could get away with this kind of violence for a change because the villains are all robots and I'm sure that they did too.

Meanwhile Barbara's leading the others out, which makes sense as she knows the way now and Rossum's busy carrying her dad. H.A.R.D.A.C. tries to convince them that "Resistance is useless," but that works about as well as it does for the Borg in Star Trek, so he sends a tiny robot to zap Gordon in the face instead. It was probably just a stun laser though, I'm sure he's okay.

Barbara uses her faster than light reflexes to reflect the beam with a compact mirror and give Rossum a chance to flip the off switch and that solves that problem. Interesting how the writers have chosen to have her solving all her problems with her makeup kit.

But when they get out to the car park, she turns around and goes back in to help Batman, and absolutely no one tries to talk her out of it. I can understand Mayor Hill and Rossum leaving the competent stranger to do what she wants, and her dad's still out of it, but I'd have thought Bullock would've tried to stop her. If only because he doesn't want to know what Gordon would do to him if anything happened to her.

Batman's actually doing fine by himself though, as Randa's taken down by the rule of three when a third elevator related mishap happens, this time with her getting flattened underneath. There was originally going to be another fight here against a Batman duplicant but I'm glad it never got past the storyboard stage as this episode's busy enough.

But Batman's a bit tired now after taking on three Terminators in hand to hand combat and he's out of breath, so it's a good thing Barbara shows up to get him out before the whole place explodes for no reason. Turns out that she was the one with the heart of steel all along! I mean I'm not seeing any robot blood around.

Damn, one grenade and H.A.R.D.A.C. goes up like a fireworks factory! They said Rossum was mad to build a six storey super computer out of TNT, but he sure showed them.

I usually get annoyed when another character shows up in the nick of time to save the star from certain death because it seems incredibly convenient that they're around at the one time in a million that the hero can't save themselves, but Barbara coming to save Batman works for me. Maybe it's because she arrives after he's won the fight, or maybe it's because he's already saved her once and she's returning the favour, I'm not sure.

Hey, nice reflection of the smoke in the car window.

So they both get out alive, Barbara gets a hug, Batman doesn't, and Mayor Hill assures Rossum that the investigation will probably prove that he didn't plan to wipe out the entire human race and replace them with identical robots that'd then presumably then go on to live out their exact same lives forever as they wouldn't be able to age or have kids. Though all the robot doctors, farmers, butchers etc. would be out of work pretty quickly.

Hang on, what about the other three who were replaced? Did they get blown up in the explosion? Also what about the real Randa? Or was she designed as a Marilyn Monroe duplicant and no one ever caught the resemblance?


CONCLUSION

It's been a while since I watched Batman: The Animated Series so I can't compare Heart of Steel to a typical episode, but this was the best kind of crazy. Plus Sunrise did a really good job animating it, considering it was apparently filmed in a snowstorm. The art deco film noir style is timeless, the animation... not so much, as there's noticeable dirt all over the cels. But the episode looks so good in motion that I forgot to be distracted. It makes Teen Titans Go! seem kind of cheap and basic, that's for sure.

There's some really great imagery for children here too, with a recurring character getting electrocuted so hard that his skin crumbles off his smoking corpse to reveal a Terminator underneath, a man turning into a spider-bot and then joining his friends in a crumpled naked mess when his lift crashes, and Randa getting half her face blown off before being crushed by another lift. And that poor briefcase at the start incinerated itself! It was on a tragic suicide mission the whole time.

I usually prefer Batman stories to be a little more down to earth, as fighting robots is more Superman's thing, but I was sold on these episodes the second I saw that briefcase come to life. His adventure's like its own mini movie, inside a bigger mini movie. But even though the story is about a computer replacing people with robots constructed with stolen AI CPUs giving them free will, there's very little discussion about artificial intelligence here. It's more about Batman dealing with the fact that his security is crap over and over again until he eventually just flies over with his hand-glider and blows the thieves up with a grenade. Self-aware robots apparently don't qualify for his no-kill rule.

Bruce sees nothing wrong with making AI chips though and doesn't have any issue with H.A.R.D.A.C. at all until he becomes a git. The only real examination of the subject of AI comes from Alfred who points out that making a new life form with the same will as a human but far more brainpower might not be the smartest idea, as they'd have no need of us. Soon you'd end up with robots making robots and whoops you've created SkyNET. Though for some reason Rossum and H.A.R.D.A.C. only managed to make the one humanoid robot on their own before they had to send her out to steal someone else's microchips... not sure what happened there. It's not like Randa was any less human than the others (especially Robo-Gordon).

Rossum's not much of a character in this but he's got the proper Batman villain trait of being a dark mirror for the Dark Knight, as he also suffered tragedy and reacted to it by going a bit nuts and building a massive bat computer in his lair. It's just a shame that he chose to replace people with robots instead of dressing up like a rodent, swinging between buildings and punching criminals like a sensible person. On a completely unrelated subject, I thought that the episode did a good job of establishing Barbara Gordon and having her act heroically without rushing into giving her some kind of costume or secret identity. She was plausibly competent yet understandably out of her depth here, so she did the sensible thing of letting Batman solve the evil robot crisis with skills developed through years of training, while making sure that everyone (including him) made it out alive. They should bring that character back I reckon... maybe give her a big budget Joss Whedon movie.

It'd be fair to say I enjoyed this one, which is good because if Batman: TAS hadn't lived up to my fuzzy memories then my childhood would've been ruined! Well okay I was probably an adult by the time I watched through it all, but I'm still very fond of the cartoon and I appreciate this episode not turning out to be crap. The soundtrack and the voice acting in particular are just as great as I remembered from the series (explosions too). It wasn't so good at depicting a revolving secret door though, so I guess nothing's perfect.



COMING SOON
I won't be watching another Batman cartoon for a long while I'm afraid as I'm trying to add some variety to my site and that won't happen if I keep watching the same series. But coming up next on Sci-Fi Adventures: yet another part of Doctor Who's The Face of Evil! Then after that it'll probably be more Babylon 5.

Leave a comment if you feel like it!

4 comments:

  1. Sunrise went on to make The Big O, in which a rich playboy and his butler help their friend the chief of police fight all manner of strange criminals in a noirish art deco city.

    Hmmm...

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    1. Thanks for reminding me that exists, I kept forgetting to check it out.

      I'm watching the first episode now and five minutes in I've already seen an android replica and a briefcase with rockets trying to escape.

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  2. Take it from Batman, kids: If you're in a thunderstorm, make sure you don't pose on the roof of the tallest building in the vicinity.

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  3. Okay, it took awhile, but I do remember watching this episode now. Which is good, because I definitely remembered the briefcase, so I either watched the episode, or I'm confusing Batman with Johnny Quest or something. Four decades of watching cartoons can do that to a guy.

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