Episode Number: 19
Original Air Date: October 6, 1992
Directed by: Frank Paur
Written by: Dennis Marks, Seath Catherine Derek
First Appearance(s): Nostromos, Frank Clark, Lisa Clark
Happy Ground Hog Day, or as I like to call it, Bill Murray Day!
With a show like Batman: The Animated Series, it can sometimes be tempting to look ahead. The show had so many great episodes and there are certain ones I am eager to revisit. The show also has a tendency to have three or four great episodes all in a row, then a low point, before resetting itself. Today’s episode is one of those low points. “Prophecy of Doom” is another episode that does not feature a prominent villain for Batman to do battle with. This isn’t a death sentence as plenty of episodes are able to tell compelling stories without a popular villain. Last week’s episode, “Beware the Gray Ghost,” is a perfect example of such an episode. Usually these episodes need to entertain in a different manner. One way is they simply create a new villain that proves to be compelling without the name recognition. Other times they just tell a good story or explore the Batman character in a new fashion.
“Prophecy of Doom” unfortunately does not really do any of those things. It’s a story about a con artist suckering some of Gotham’s super elite. Nostromos (Michael Des Barres) is a fortune teller of sorts who seems to only see the bad things that are about to happen. He’s able to convince his followers that he does indeed possess special gifts by making sure those misfortunes actually take place. He’s going to sucker some people close to Bruce Wayne, forcing him to “go undercover” in a way as a believer himself in order to find the truth in all of it.
The episode opens on a casino ship listing in the ocean waters at night. It’s a rare example of Batman’s art looking rather cruddy as the black paper effect just makes the ship look flat. The camera pans throughout the ship’s interior giving us a look at the fun being had before resting on a wad of dynamite in the ship’s bowels that soon detonates. The rescue boats soon fill with screaming patrons and the ship eventually sinks, if anyone actually died we’re not told, but the show also doesn’t go out of its way to tell us no one was hurt which is rare for a children’s program. This whole scenario is a lead-in to a dinner date Bruce Wayne is having with Ethan Clark (William Windom) and his adult daughter Lisa (Heather Locklear). I’m assuming Ethan’s connection to Bruce, being that he’s an older gentleman, is that he was likely a friend to Bruce’s parents and he maintains a friendship with him. Ethan was apparently supposed to be on that casino ship, but he was warned not to board by Nostromos. Lisa is an apparent skeptic, but Ethan believes in Nostromos and encourages Bruce to seek him out. Bruce walks Lisa to her car after the dinner during which she reveals her dad has joined some secret brotherhood and expresses concern for him. She also even makes the observation that she thinks all of Nostromos’s predictions come true because he makes them.
Naturally, Bruce is intrigued and attends one of the demonstrations. He draws attention to himself, in a rather clever piece of story-telling, by acting sort of childishly skeptic of everything. Nostromos takes notice and singles out Bruce to make a prediction that something dire will happen! And sure enough, the very next day Bruce’s private elevator at Wayne Towers malfunctions. The accident is supposed to kill Wayne, but being Batman and all, he escapes and even finds his would-be assassin on the roof. The episode will brush this whole thing aside by simply saying Bruce stepped off the elevator, but I always found it preposterous no one makes the obvious Batman connection as a result.
Anyways, Bruce did get Nostromos’s fingerprints at that meeting and looks him up in his crime lab. Amusingly, the mug shot for Nostromos, real name Carl Fowler, features him in his costume which feels kind of lazy. Or someone thought their audience wouldn’t be smart enough to know it’s the same guy if he looked different, even if Batman is there to tell us. Batman also discovers his partner, Lucas (Aron Kincaid). The two were busted for larceny years back, so all of the pieces are starting to fit. The audience even gets a glimpse of Nostromos and Lucas fretting over Wayne’s non-demise. Wayne bails him out though by having a change of heart. Now feigning that he’s a believer, Wayne is invited to join the brotherhood where he learns of Nostromos’s ultimate plan: foretell a great economic collapse and get everyone to pool their money into a fund that he will eventually be able to control. He does a grand demonstration which includes the use of a wire to fly to sucker them all in. Lisa gets snoopy though and Lucas kidnaps her, which I suppose I should have seen coming.
Nostromos uses Lisa to get Ethan to sign over control of the fund the other “brothers” have invested in. He and Lucas then attempt to kill them off, but Batman has other ideas. The climax looks like it’s going to be a reward, of sorts, for the viewers as Batman schools these chumps, but instead Lucas gives him a fight. It looks awkward and clumsy, but the coloring is flashy as it’s all in black and white to make it look like they’re fighting in a dark room. Lisa is strapped to a ceiling model of what appears to be Mars while other planets revolve around her. Nostromos smashes the machine that controls it which is apparently enough to make the planets come out of alignment and collide with one another. Our only real suspense for the scene is will Batman stop the bad guys and save the girl in time? It’s been done.
You know how it ends so I’ll spare you the details. This episode is not only a bit on the boring side, but it also doesn’t look great. There’s an animation spot where Batman walks to the Batmobile and he looks real awkward and unnatural. The additional characters added also look cheap and drab with Lucas especially seeming incapable of making a facial expression. The few times a character tries to make a joke it falls flat. There is one neat bit of violence where Batman throws a bat-a-rang at Lucas and it lodges in the back of his knee. I don’t think we’ll see anything similar in another episode. That’s part of Batman’s first encounter with him following the failed elevator spot and it’s just not at all believable that he could escape Batman, especially after the knee injury (which is apparently fine by the time the two tangle again). Perhaps an inordinate amount of the budget of this episode was spent securing Heather Locklear for the role of Lisa, a character that you think Bruce might have some romantic interest in, but is ultimately shelved following this episode. “Prophecy of Doom” is just a dud, not unwatchable, but not an episode you’re likely to return to after seeing it once. Next week’s though? One of the best – see you then!