Episode Number: 42
Original Air Date: October 30, 1992
Directed by: Frank Paur
Written by: Michael Reaves, Randy Rogel, and Cherie Wilkerson
First Appearance(s): Emile Dorian, Tygrus
A 65 episode order must feel like both a blessing and an unbearable burden. On one hand, that’s a big pay day. Plus 65 episodes also means syndication which is a pathway to even more riches. On the other hand, that’s suddenly 65 stories to be developed, 65 screen plays to be written, 65 story boards to be parsed through, not to mention the actual production. All of this is following what was likely months of work on a pilot and series bible so that everything was good to go for a successful pitch to the network. In the case of a property like Batman, at least there’s over 50 years worth of comic books to go through for ideas and few characters are created from scratch. No one wants to just adapt other people’s work though, so the bulk of the stories are mostly original. And they come with deadlines.
Such a daunting task is probably how you end up with an adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau in a Batman cartoon. Batman has always been one of the more grounded super heroes. His villains usually don’t possess actual super powers and instead are just mentally deranged individuals with wrestling gimmicks and henchmen. This series did establish right from the first episode that there can at least be room for some science fiction via mad scientist quackery. “Tyger, Tyger” doubles-down on that with Dr. Emile Dorian (Joseph Maher) who is basically a stand-in for old Dr. M. He’s a genetic scientist driven away from society because of his crazy ideas and crimes against nature. He’s also a big-time cat enthusiast, proving you really can’t trust those crazy cat folks (I say this as someone who has only ever had cats as pets). And since he’s a cat person, well obviously we’re going to need to bring in our old friend Catwoman, Selina Kyle (Adrienne Barbeau), to assist with this story.
The episode opens with Ms. Kyle visiting a zoo at night. It seems an odd thing to do, but she’s kind of an odd person. She’s looking mournfully at a tiger, a rather odd looking tiger at that, when someone from the trees behind her takes aim at her with a rifle and fires. The weapon is armed with some sort of dart, and after striking her the assailant bounds from the trees to claim his prey. He’s an ape man (voiced by Jim Cummings), and Selina tries putting up a fight, but is no match for the brute. A security guard comes to her aid, but he winds up in the tiger pen as a result while the ape-man makes off with Selina.
Bruce Wayne is shown waiting at a restaurant and his date is obviously late since he’s checking his watch. He phones home to see if his date, Selina, called Alfred to cancel (apparently Bruce can’t afford a 1992 cell phone). A member of the waitstaff lets him know that Selina called to say she was stopping by the zoo and would be late. He heads over there to find the crime scene. The cops are interviewing the guard who is obsessing over the ape man, and has really nothing to offer about Selina. Bruce finds a spent dart near the tiger pen (once again, the Gotham PD proves its incompetence) and brings it home for analysis.
Selina is shown a prisoner of a mad scientist – Dr. Emile Dorian. He’s all about cats and wants to experiment on her and turn her into some cat-lady. He thinks she’ll like it, but Selina seems less than thrilled.
Batman discovers the chemical compound contained in the dart is similar to the serum that turned Kirk Langstrom (Marc Singer) into the Man-Bat way back in episode number one, “On Leather Wings.” He brings a sample to Langstrom for confirmation, and the good doctor lets him know he’s correct. He hypothesizes that it’s the work of disgraced geneticist Dr. Emile Dorian and even shows Batman one of Dorian’s early experiments he just so happens to keep right there in the lab – a half cat, half monkey creature. He gives Batman a tip on where to find him, and Batman wastes no time in heading off to Dorian’s island.
Once there, Batman finds a huge citadel-like structure and scales the wall 60s style. He’s met on the roof by Garth, the ape-man from earlier, and the two crash through the ceiling into the lab. It’s there he sees Selina, now in an enclosure. He’s horrified to see that she’s been transformed into a human-cat hybrid. Her entire body is covered in a mustard colored fur and she has claws and cat ears to match. She seems content, but Batman reacts violently and starts smashing the place to get at her. This attracts the attention of Dorian’s prized creation – Tygrus (Cummings). Unlike Selina, Tygrus was created “from scratch” and is a massive cat-man creature with sleek features and a barrel chest. He overpowers Batman, while Selina indicates she still has some humanity within her and reacts to the presence of her old crush.
Dorian informs Batman that Selina’s transformation is not yet complete. It can still be undone, but if Batman wants to do that he’ll have to defeat Tygrus. He sets the two loose, with Batman getting a head start, on his island. Tygrus is instructed by Dorian to kill Batman, and it looks like he has no issues obeying his father. Meanwhile, Dorian and Garth set out to administer the final component of the transformation formula to Selina, Dorian obviously having no intention of playing by his own rules.
Batman is forced to duke it out with Tygrus who is a more than formidable foe. He is able to incapacitate the creature long enough to find out it can talk. Since it can talk, it can also be reasoned with. Batman is able to convince the rather dim creature that he’s not his enemy just because his father says he is, and the two return to the lab. By now, Selina has decided she doesn’t want to remain a cat and has broken away from Dorian. This sets up a confrontation where Tygrus is caught in between Dorian and the others. He wants Selina to stay and remain a cat (and he apparently intends to mate with her), but he’s apparently learned enough about consent and he isn’t going to force it upon her. This puts him into direct conflict with his father, and he ends up destroying the lab in a fiery explosion.
Batman, Selina, and Garth escape, but there’s no sign of Tygrus or Dorian. At first. Tygrus soon emerges from the burning wreckage with Dorian in his arms. He lays him down at Batman’s feet with the hope that Batman will see to him. He makes one last play for Selina, and when she rejects a life as a cat, he quietly slips the antidote into her hands. She implores him to come with them, but he turns and remarks he doesn’t belong with them, or anywhere, and our episode ends on a somber note with Batman reciting a portion of the William Blake poem “The Tyger” as the episode fades out.
Even with the call back to the Man-Bat, there’s no shaking that this is a weird episode. It’s not an all together bad episode, it’s just not a favorite of mine. The story is kind of rushed, and Tygrus is easily persuaded into a noble role. I also don’t particularly care for his design, though the episode looks fine as a whole. Dorian is a simple villain with no redeeming qualities so the episode doesn’t have to work hard to get us to hate him. I would have liked to see more of his creations, but since what we did see was so visually uninteresting then maybe it’s fine we didn’t. Selina is again kind of mishandled by the show. She’s lost all touch with her Catwoman persona at this point and is in need of some serious rehabilitation. Worse, she’s been pushed into this damsel in distress role which is borderline insulting. Her cat look is kind of stupid, and I have no idea why they went with the color that they chose for her fur. I guess it helps to make her pop against the dark and drab backgrounds and it’s a similar shade to her hair color. It’s also fun to have veteran voice actor Jim Cummings play a large role in an episode, though he isn’t given a whole lot to work with.
What we’re left with is not a particularly good episode of Batman: The Animated Series, and it’s in an odd place as three out of four episodes will feature a genetic engineering subplot. It’s an odd obsession for the show to settle on, but it’s also something that the show leaves behind. We won’t hear from Dorian or Tygrus again, and I’m not particularly broken up about that. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle will finally get to go back to being Catwoman in a few weeks, though once again in more of an anti-hero role as opposed to true foil. It will be awhile before we see her do anything remotely villainous again.