Batman: The Animated Series – “His Silicon Soul”

His_Silicon_SoulEpisode Number:  62

Original Air Date:  November 20, 1992

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Marty Isenberg and Robert N. Skir

First Appearance(s):  Batman Duplicant

Episode 62 of Batman is one where my memory has apparently betrayed me. “His Silicon Soul” first aired on Friday, November 20, 1992 and yet I swear I first saw it in prime time. If it was re-shown in prime time, I can’t confirm, as I suppose it’s possible I missed it in its first showing. Since we’re talking about 26 years in the past though, it’s also possible I created a false memory. It’s just odd to me because I definitely remember my reaction to this one as a kid as it’s a pretty memorable episode. It’s a follow-up to the two-part story “Heart of Steel” which occurred way back in episodes 38 and 39, though in relation to this episode it had aired just days prior with only two episodes airing in between. It ties up basically one loose end from that episode:  What did H.A.R.D.A.C. do with the knowledge that it gained from the Batcave?

robot guts

That’s never happened before.

The episode opens with three seedy gentlemen poking around a warehouse at night. When one questions why they’re here, the apparent leader of this operation says an old computer factory went up in flames and some of the high-end tech it contained was moved here. They come upon a crate and emblazoned on the crate is the H.A.R.D.A.C. logo. They have no idea what that logo means and begin prying at the crate. It soon shakes, and a fist punches through the top. It’s Batman, and the trio of crooks are soon shaken to their core. They attack with crowbars, and Batman remarks how pathetic their attempt is to take him out as he catches their swings. He tosses them around, but one of the crooks whips out a gun and pops off a few shots. They remarkably connect, and when Batman is still standing the crook drops the weapon and flees screaming “He’s not human!” Batman, with a look of shock on his face, looks down to find he’s been wounded and there’s nothing but circuitry spilling out of him.

hardac reflection

I know that image.

At Wayne Manor, an injured Batman ascends the stairs to Bruce Wayne’s study. He pauses at a mirror and traces his face with his finger on it and the image of H.A.R.D.A.C. appears. Alfred emerges thinking there’s a prowler and is relieved to see it’s only Batman. When Batman indicates he needs help, Alfred notices the damage and immediately makes the connection to H.A.R.D.A.C. This duplicant Batman reacts with confusion, insisting he needs help and implying bewilderment over his condition. Alfred flees into the Batcave where he’s able to activate a clever security measure that fills the Batcave with gas while he puts on a gas mask. At least, it would be clever if his assailant wasn’t a robot, so I’m not sure what Alfred expected, and the duplicant soon emerges and pulls the gas mask off of Alfred. With Alfred unconscious, the robot accesses the computer database for information relating to H.A.R.D.A.C.

Elsewhere in Gotham, the police have stumbled upon the would-be burglars who faced-off with the robot Batman. The real Batman shows up as well and Commissioner Gordon suggests he not hang the guys so high next time. They lower the bound thugs and Gordon removes a Bat-a-rang from the rope and gives it back to Batman. “Yours, I presume,” he remarks to which Batman responds with “So it would seem.”

Batman notices the guys are pretty shaken up at his presence and he pulls Gordon aside. He explains to Gordon that he didn’t apprehend these men, despite how it looks. Batman seeks information on what the crooks were going after, and finds a microchip stuck to the jacket of one of them.

farm bot

So when is this robot going to rebel and start killing people?

We’re taken to a farm that’s being attended to by various little robots. It’s the home of H.A.R.D.A.C. creator Karl Rossum (William Sanderson) who has given up on creating advanced robots in favor of a more simpler, but still quirky, lifestyle. Batman approaches him from behind, as he always does, and startles the skittish farmer. He questions if more duplicants could exist, specifically if H.A.R.D.A.C. could have created one of him. Rossum insists H.A.R.D.A.C. is no more and that the police seized everything from his old lab. Batman apologizes for bringing up the past, before taking his leave.

Later on, Rossum is alone in his green house when Batman shows up once again. Rossum is agitated, but then realizes this isn’t the same Batman. It’s the robot Batman, and he’s there for help. He insists something has been done to him, that his mind was taken from his body and implanted in a robot. He needs help getting his body restored, or getting into a new robot one. Rossum explains that he’s not and has never been human but is in fact a robot. When the duplicant reacts angrily insisting it has memories, Rossum reveals that it’s all data driven. When he asks it to recall its first kiss or favorite song it’s unable to, because it’s never had that information. Rossum also reveals its body has been damaged beyond repair and its circuits will likely cease all functions within a few hours. This enrages the cyborg, and it looks like it’s about to inflict some pain on Rossum until the real Batman ambushes it from behind.

green house rumble

It’s time for a rumble in a green house, and this isn’t even a Poison Ivy episode!

The two fight and Batman is at a disadvantage. The robot copy of him fights like him, but with enhanced strength. He takes cover and uses a hose, of all things, to subdue the robot when he blasts the damaged area and exposed wires with water. Rossum runs up ready to destroy the robot with a hoe, but Batman stops him claiming they need this machine to lead them to whatever remains of H.A.R.D.A.C. The robot then “wakes up,” and now has sinister glowing red eyes instead of white. The fight resumes, and the main casualty is Rossum’s green house. The robot tosses Batman through the side of it, but when the green house starts to cave in, the robot Batman goes back to save Rossum. With Rossum tossed out of the falling structure, the whole thing comes down on the robot. Batman walks over to scour the remains, but the robot appears to have vanished. He jumps into the Batmobile and searches on his computer for where the confiscated material from Rossum’s lab ended up and it brings up a Gotham PD impound lot.

repair sequence

Repair sequence initiated. It’s oddly satisfying to watch.

Somehow, the duplicant Batman is already there despite apparently not lifting a Batcycle or Batwing from the Batcave. It enters the warehouse and finds some components. Once one in particular is identified, some latent programming takes over. The duplicant is clearly fighting it, but cannot resist. It pulls off the outer skin covering its mechanical head and inserts a chip into a slot on the forehead. Once done, the voice of H.A.R.D.A.C. (Jeff Bennett) starts telling the robot what is happening. All of H.A.R.D.A.C.’s data files are being downloaded and integrated with the duplicant Batman. It details the robot’s creation and also its new objective. Duplicant Batman is now essentially both a Batman clone and H.A.R.D.A.C. in one and it is to resume the operation to replace humanity with robots. Better yet, that chip activated a repair function that has undone the damage from earlier. The duplicant puts its “face” back on and moves to a window to see the Batmobile has just arrived. It declares it will replace all of humanity, starting with Batman.

Batman enters the warehouse and finds it quiet at first. The duplicant then attacks from behind and it’s Batman vs Batman once more. The only way to tell the two apart now is by the glowing, red, eyes of the robot version. The confrontation is brief as the robot slams Batman through a wall to plunge into the waters below.

robot eyes

When the eyes go red you know you’re in trouble.

The Batmobile arrives back at the Batcave and Alfred is at first relieved to see Batman emerge. He soon realizes, partly based on the more robotic speech pattern of the repaired duplicant, that this is not Batman. The robot declares there is only one Batman now, but it will let Alfred live and continue on as caretaker of the mansion until a replacement is constructed. It also reveals that it intends to use the Batcomputer (Richard Moll) to upload H.A.R.D.A.C.’s directive to all connected devices across the globe. From there it will take over defense systems and hold the world hostage forcing humanity to help build the era of robotics.

more swords

You just knew its face would end up like this at some point.

The real Batman shows up to declare this won’t happen. His cape was apparently torn in the last fight, and he has a comically small cape dangling from his back. The duplicant has activated its program though and a classic countdown has initiated with 5 minutes to go. Alfred tries to cancel it but gets electrocuted for his efforts. Seeing no alternative, Batman once more does battle with his imposter. As the two fight throughout the Batcave, Batman taunts the fake declaring it’s been made too well. Since it’s based on him, it won’t take a life. That’s why it didn’t finish him off earlier and it’s why it won’t kill him now. The robot denies this as the two fight, and Batman flings some acid in its face which was basically required as it burns off half of the robot’s face giving us a classic Terminator half-human half-robot look.

batman v batman

More sword fighting!

As the two fight, they end up in an armory where Batman grabs a sword. The robot counters by doing the same, and for the second consecutive episode we get a sword fight. This one is brief though, and results in Batman falling into a chasm in the Batcave. The robot reacts in horror thinking it has taken a life. As it stands before the computer, it goes berserk and with only 2 seconds left it smashes everything in sight. An explosion results that tosses the robot back to smash against the Batmobile. The sprinkler system kicks on and the glowing eyes of the now badly damaged robot flicker out.

duplicant smash

Smashing a computer solves every problem.

Alfred heads back to where Batman fell and shines a light down below. A light is returned and Batman is shown hanging from some lighting affixed to the Batcave wall. He climbs back up and both he and Alfred go take a look at the deactivated robot. Batman ponders if, in the end, the duplicant possessed a soul hearkening back to the inspiration for all three of these robot episodes, the Phillip K. Dick story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” which was the inspiration for the film Blade Runner. The camera lingers on the face of the android, now mask-less, to ponder Batman’s question a moment before the credits take over.

“His Silicon Soul” is a fun follow-up to “Heart of Steel.” It was surprising that Batman never had to take on a Batman copy in that two-part episode, but it makes sense that the staff saved that confrontation for its own episode. I mentioned how, despite getting the air date wrong in my memory, that I did actually remember the first time I saw this episode and that’s because of the impact it made. I had somehow missed the first-run of “Heart of Steel” so I had no idea what that logo on duplicant Batman’s box was when I first saw this. Seeing Batman fight some guys and turn out to be a robot was shocking and confusing to me. I had no idea what was going on and it actually made the experience more exciting. It makes me wish that logo wasn’t present because it kind of deprives the audience of that initial shock at seeing Batman’s exposed robot parts.

dead eyed stare

A some-what unsettling image to end the episode on.

For the robot Batman and the fights between it and the real Batman, the episode obviously borrows from The Terminator franchise, which was incredibly popular at the time. It was noted for “Heart of Steel” how the duplicants resemble the Terminators from those films, and this episode even brings in that half-robot look. H.A.R.D.A.C.’s ambitions are essentially the same as Skynet’s and the only thing missing is time travel. Even if it is obvious, it’s still a lot of fun and taking a more Blade Runner approach towards the actual robots injects a little philosophy into the episode which The Terminator lacks. It’s not nearly as heavy-handed as Blade Runner, and the question raised by Batman is almost ridiculous regarding a silicon soul, though it’s also the type of thing that felt really impactful to me as a kid, so considering the audience, mission accomplished. The duplicant Batman would end up as a fan-favorite character and he was even brought back for a 2014 Batman Beyond short where he leads an army of Batmen into the Batcave. It’s nothing special, but it’s kind of fun since all of the other Batmen are costumed differently reflecting a Batman from a prior period in the real world. Aside from that, H.A.R.D.A.C. and its many duplicants will not be heard from again.

Dong Yang animated this episode and does a pretty good job with it. It’s worth noting since it had to follow the TMS episodes, but the robots and the robot Batman are all quite fun to look at. The whole removing of the robot’s face could have probably been embellished more, but they also likely didn’t want it to be too unsettling. I like the sound design for that sequence as it has a peeling sound that is a bit gross, even if the visual is rather tame. Early in the episode I did think the darker sequences did not hold up too well. The blue accents of Batman’s costume have an almost fluorescent quality to them and there are a few shots where Batman has a hook nose when shown from the side, and I always disliked hook-nosed Batman.

“His Silicon Soul” is overall a really fun and engaging episode of the show and it’s a good one to take a break on. It’s now post Thanksgiving and The Nostalgia Spot will soon morph into The Christmas Spot. In some sense it feels like poor timing since we only have three episodes left of season one. It also kind of stinks because our re-entry episode following Christmas is going to be one of the worst episodes of the season so far. I don’t control time though. If you come to this blog just to read about Batman:  The Animated Series then I hope you don’t mind the three-week break in programming here. And hopefully you return on December 28 for our next episode. Until then, I encourage you to indulge in the Christmas programming as the next 25 days will feature a new post about a holiday-inspired episode of television, or something similar, and I promise to even fit a super hero story or two in there.

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