Episode Number: 25
Original Air Date: September 21, 1992
Directed by: Kevin Altieri
Written by: David Wise
First Appearance(s): The Clock King
Batman: The Animated Series largely tries to emulate the Tim Burton films from the same era in terms of setting and mood. Naturally, this being a children’s show first and foremost, it’s noticeably lighter in touch when dealing with the uglier side of Gotham City, but at no point does it strive to match the camp of Batman’s other television series, the Batman show from the 1960’s. At least that is, until now. What we have here is a villain, The Clock King, who could have easily existed in that program. Actually, he did for two episodes although that Clock King (played by Walter Slezak) did not resemble this one very much, but he sure did like time puns.
The Clock King of Batman: The Animated Series is played by Alan Rachins and is a former effciency expert for his own company. Real name Temple Fugate, a play on the Latin phrase tempus fugit which translates to “time flies,” he encounters Hamilton Hill one day on the train looking rather tense. Being a stickler for time, he’s basically always this way, but Hill remarks he should loosen up and change his routine around to keep from going mad. Fugate does so, moving his coffee break by 15 minutes and outside, but it ends up being a catalyst for a really bad day that results in him losing a court case concerning a business he runs ruining him in the process. Seven years later, Hill is mayor of Gotham and Fugate is out for revenge as The Clock King.
Fugate first starts by trying to humiliate the mayor by hacking the traffic lights of Gotham and draping a silly banner over City Hall cartoonishly depicting the mayor in an unfavorable light. It’s pretty benign, but it does draw the attention of Batman who has a surprising amount of difficulty in taking The Clock King down. Batman seems to have a way of playing down to the competition, and Clock King has also armed himself with explosive pocket watches (yes, you read that correctly) and a full complement of time puns. Batman will even join in on the word play threatening to clean his clock. This stuff practically writes itself.
Do I really need to go into much detail on this one? Batman will be able to trace the crimes back to the ruined Fugate, not that it really matters much. Fugate will also move beyond trying to humiliate Hill to straight out attempting to murder him by strapping him to the hour hand of a giant, Big Ben-like clock in Gotham. The idea is when the clock strikes 3:15, which is when Fugate took his coffee break seven years ago as Hill suggested, he’ll be crushed by the minute hand or at least horribly maimed. The Clock King will try to sell us on his acumen as a super villain by boasting that he’s studied Batman’s every move from news reels and such and thus is fully prepared to take him on, even though he’s a pretty normal looking middle-aged man. Well, normal looking for a guy with eyeglasses that resemble clocks. After displaying rather impeccable timing in everything he does, he’ll accidentally mangle the clock guts and foil his own plan.
“The Clock King” really is like a Batman episode from 1966. While that show is charming and entertaining in its own right, this episode is not. This show can’t have it both ways and expect us to take this villain seriously. He’s horribly lame, and one of the dumbest villains the show will boast. Making Batman look like a chump when confronting The Clock King doesn’t work in making us believe The Clock King is somehow good at being a villain. The numerous puns, stupid weapons, and ludicrous escapes at no point come across as believable or even really entertaining. I knew I did not like this episode and was not looking forward to re-watching it for this feature, but I tried to have an open mind, really I did. I tried to view it as an off-beat episode that utilizes the absurd for comedy. The origin of The Clock King, which opens the episode, almost pulls it off. Watching some uptight jerk’s life fall apart because he ceased to be uptight for 15 minutes has some entertainment value, but the resulting 18 minutes or whatever of the episode aren’t worthy payoff.
Sadly, I wish I could say this is the last we’ll see of The Clock King. He’ll actually return in season 2 in perhaps an even dumber episode, though as of this writing I haven’t re-watched it so I reserve the right to change my mind. Perhaps surprisingly, the villain did not originate with the Batman show of the 60’s and did come from the comics where he was more of a Green Arrow villain than a Batman one, though he would eventually end up with the Suicide Squad. His character was much more interesting there as he was actually motivated to help his invalid sister out financially before he succumbed to a terminal illness. I’m not sure why they decided to change his origins to what was presented here, but maybe they thought it would be too similar to the new backstory given to Mr. Freeze. Or maybe they did just want to make an homage to Batman. If that really was the motivation then mission failed.