Tag Archives: diana muldaur

Batman: The Animated Series – “Blind as a Bat”

Blind_as_a_Bat-Title_CardEpisode Number:  59

Original Air Date:  February 22, 1993

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Len Wein and Mike Underwood

First Appearance(s):  None

I think there’s some kind of law in art that if you have a bat-related protagonist you must make use of the phrase “blind as a bat” at some point, which brings us to today’s episode. This is another Len Wein written episode and we’ve seen a few of these in the second half of the production run on season one. It makes sense that the first chunk of the season would be left to those who created the show, with the second half drawing more directly from the artists who worked with Batman previously. This episode contains no real “firsts” for the show, but it does contain some “lasts,” which we’ll get to. It’s another Penguin episode, and interestingly, with his last appearance somewhat mirroring the events of Batman Returns this one brings to mind some events from Batman ’89.

Raven_X1-11

Wayne Tech’s new murder machine.

The episode opens at an airfield demonstration for a new helicopter being unveiled. The Raven X1-11 is a specialty stealth helicopter developed by Wayne Tech as a device best equipped for reconnaissance and rescue missions due to its quiet operation and stealth capabilities. It’s not solely designed for that though as it also features impressive offensive capabilities as well. Bruce Wayne is onhand for the demonstration as Wayne Tech is presumably looking to sell the device to the US government and various military personnel are onhand as well. Dr. Lee (Haunani Minn) is leading the demonstration as a flight crew circles the area in response. Everyone seems rather impressed, though Bruce remarks he has some misgivings about creating a weapon.

The Raven is a remarkable success at everything it demonstrates. Naturally, a weapon this fine is going to attract the attention of Gotham’s less dignified individuals, and indeed it already has. The Raven starts to fire on the crowd forcing everyone to scatter. When a group of officers check in the hangar from where the Raven presumably launched from they find the crew have been tied up and left behind. A voice soon booms from the Raven and it identifies itself as The Penguin (Paul Williams). Penguin has not only hi-jacked the Raven, he’s also apparently stolen Snoopy’s World War I flying ace costume as well. Penguin and his crew, led once again by Falcone (Walter Olkewicz), fire upon the crowd once more. Dr. Lee is directly in harm’s way forcing Bruce into action. As he knocks her out of the way he emerges to hide behind a vehicle which immediately gets lit-up by the Raven and explodes. Bruce howls in pain and is sent flying to the ground. Alfred soon approaches in the limo and ushers him inside as Bruce orders him home. When Alfred questions why they aren’t heading for a hospital, Bruce explains it’s because he doesn’t want anyone to know that he can’t see.

i cant see

A disheveled Bruce realizing he can’t see.

At Wayne Manor, Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Diana Muldaur) administers to Bruce. She thinks the blindness is temporary, caused by a flash-burn to the retina of both eyes, and orders Bruce to keep his eyes covered for at least 36 hours. Bruce is adamant that he can’t be out of commission that long insisting that Batman needs to track down the Penguin. He tries to stand up and demonstrate his fitness with his head wrapped in bandages and promptly tips over a coffee table. Making matters worse, loyal butler Alfred lets him know the Bat Signal is calling for him. Man, sometimes you need to keep your mouth shut, Al.

Commissioner Gordon is puzzled when Batman fails to show, but he can’t dwell on it much longer. He’s due for a meeting with Detective Bullock and Mayor Hill, and as the three sit around discussing their next move, the Penguin contacts them. He tells them they can have their chopper back, but it will cost them $100 million. Hill is aghast at the sum, but they’re not making much progress on their own. To show he means business, Penguin takes the Raven on a joy-ride. Some teens out doing the same notice the Raven as they cruise over a suspension bridge. The Raven opens fire and takes out the cables of the bridge causing it to collapse. The teens made it off though; we can’t have any fatalities, of course.

blind bruce

Bruce is not really in any condition to do Bat stuff.

With Penguin showing no signs of slowing down, Batman is forced into action. Somehow, he convinces Leslie to craft a special device for him that will allow him to see. Using the same technology that Wayne Tech built into the Raven, she solders him a helmet with the device implants. Once Bruce puts it on, it gives him the ability to see, but only in red and black. It’s basically Virtual Boy. He demonstrates its effectiveness in the Batcave and deems it satisfactory. There’s catch to the device though; it’s a battery hog. Batman needs to keep it connected to his the battery in his belt or else it will run out quickly. It has advantages too though, like giving Batman glowing red eyes when he puts his cowl back on. He hops into the Batwing, because that’s the best vehicle for a legally blind man to go with, and hooks the device up to the console in that and takes off.

aviator penguin

Hey Penguin, Snoopy called, he wants his costume back!

Batman first drops in on the Mayor who is still meeting with Gordon and Bullock. When they ask this badass, red-eyed Batman what they should do he tells them to do exactly what Penguin wants. Hill then takes over Gotham’s television airwaves to tell Penguin they’ve agreed to his deal. Penguin receives and notes it could be a trap, but has full confidence that the radar capabilities of the Raven will let them know of that before anyone can get the drop on them. They head for the ransom location and Penguin and Falcone retrieve a briefcase in the spot they requested. It only contains a taunting note though and soon the Batwing appears in the sky. Interestingly, Penguin makes the connection that the Batwing must possess similar technology to the Raven for them to not detect it, but he fails to take it one step further and determine that the Batwing must come from Wayne Tech.

Penguin and Falcone flee in the Raven but Batman is right on top of them. He quickly takes out the Raven knocking it from the sky as Penguin and Falcone dangle from it via a rope ladder. Somehow, they survive the crash landing without any apparent injury and so does the rest of the crew. They flee to the immobile, but not defenseless, Raven. Falcone climbs into the laser canon and takes aim at a charging Batwing. Penguin is there to basically shake his fist at Batman and this is the part that reminds be of Batman ’89 as it’s very similar to Batman’s approach with The Joker. Falcone nails the Batwing, and it’s sent careening through the sky as Penguin unleashes his trademarked laughter first popularized by Burgess Meredith.

not good

That’s not good.

With the Batwing out of control, Batman is forced into a crash landing of his own outside some kind of metal refinery. As he jumps out of the Batwing before it explodes, he forgets to unplug his helmet from the console and the jack is ripped off. Batman escapes the exploding Batwing, but apparently without a spare cord. Without being able to plug his helmet into the battery on his belt, he’ll soon run out of power and lose his sight once again.

Batman stumbles into the refinery as Penguin insists that he and Falcone give chase. As they catch up to him they note how he’s not moving properly and they assume he must be injured. Inside the refinery, Batman stumbles around as his sight goes in and out and finds himself on some stairs as he’s forced to dodge Penguin’s umbrella gunfire. If Penguin just carried a more traditional weapon I bet he’d have better aim. Batman stumbles onto a conveyor belt and gets his foot lodged into it. Helpless, he gets lucky when Penguin runs out of ammo and apparently he failed to bring a reload. Falcone declares that he’ll take care of Batman and, armed with a chain, he hops onto the conveyor belt and starts swinging. Batman is able to finally extricate himself from the conveyor belt, but tumbles off the side. He’s now dangling a few stories up as Falcone stomps on his fingers. Batman is able to switch to the other side, and as Falcone bends down to try to figure out where he went, Batman is able to see his head and executes a flawless head-scissors takedown.

about to drop in

Blind, but not helpless.

Falcone crashes to the ground far below, though he rises momentarily to apparently demonstrate that the fall did not kill him. Penguin is irritated, but that last bit of juice in Batman’s device has apparently run out. He stumbles off the conveyor belt and Penguin takes note of his erratic movements. He starts making noises and watches as Batman tries to hit the origins of the sounds with bat-a-rangs. It’s enough to let Penguin know that Batman is indeed blind as a bat, and begins to taunt him. Batman proves to be blind, but not helpless, as he kicks a few barrels into Penguin. He’s able to flee down a walkway, but it ends abruptly with nothing but molten metal below. Batman fires his grapple gun into the ceiling to escape Penguin, but he’s left dangling above with no where to go. As Penguin taunts him, he notices some water dripping down onto his head. Assuming there’s a water pipe above him, Batman searches for the valve with his hands, and finding it, opens it up to drop a ton of water onto the metal below. A huge amount of steam goes up which sets the Penguin to coughing giving Batman an aural target which is all he needs to take him out.

Sadly, we’re not shown how Batman got out of that mess after he subdued Penguin. He likely would have needed some assistance getting home and presumably Alfred helped him, but how they got in touch we do not know. The next scene is simply Bruce at home with Alfred and Leslie. She’s removing the bandages she had put in place while remarking that she wishes Bruce had followed her advice which is supposed to make us a bit fearful that his eyesight is permanently damaged. When the bandages fall, Bruce flashes concern on his face which causes Alfred to recoil in fear and drop the newspaper he was holding. Bruce deftly snatches it before it can hit the floor, and lets his old friend know that his eyes are just fine. He opens the paper to see coverage of Penguin’s capture and remarks he’s never seen anything prettier.

Interestingly, “Blind as a Bat” deals with Batman losing his sight in a similar manner to another Len Wein episode, “Off-Balance.” In case you forgot, in that episode a vertigo device made it difficult for Batman to navigate a room full of traps forcing him to close his eyes. I was kind of annoyed with how well Batman was able to then dodge all of the traps without his vision, but I’m happy to say this episode doesn’t make Batman do anything particularly super human when he’s blinded. Penguin is a terrible shot, which definitely helped him survive, and the various aircraft crashes definitely go beyond the realm of plausibility. It’s also pretty ridiculous for Batman to attempt this sort of thing alone. Where’s Robin? He really doesn’t trust the Gotham PD to do anything right, apparently, for him to go out blind. This is definitely an easy episode to nit-pick, but on the whole it’s still pretty entertaining. Not really one of the best, but far from the worst.

As for those “lasts” I mentioned, this will probably surprise you, but this is the final episode in which The Penguin is a main villain. He’s going to be reduced to a few cameos for the rest of this series, but he’ll come back in a more meaningful way with The New Batman Adventures. Still voiced by Paul Williams, he’ll undergo a major redesign that sees him resemble his classic comic self. He’ll also be “reformed” in that he no longer spearheads his own criminal operations, but he’s still rather clued-in on the Gotham Underworld. Batman will drop in on him as he operates his own club to try to shake him down for information, though I’d hardly describe him as an ally to the caped crusader.

leslie helmet

This is Leslie’s final appearance in a meaningful capacity, and she even demonstrates some new skills.

This episode is also the final appearance of Batman confidant and sometimes doctor Leslie Thompkins. She’s played a pretty nice role as a link between Bruce and his parents. As one of the few people that know about Bruce’s alter-ego, she’s played a pretty important role in this show. I don’t know why they chose to not feature her in season 2. She has one, lone, cameo in The New Batman Adventures, but that’s it. She also gets a mention in the Batman Beyond film The Return of the Joker. Whatever the reason for her absence after this episode, I will say I miss the character and I enjoyed her when she showed up.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Paging the Crime Doctor”

Paging_Crime_DoctorEpisode Number:  53

Original Air Date:  September 17, 1993

Directed by:  Frank Paur

Written by:  Mike W. Barr, Laren Bright, Randy Rogel, Martin Pasko

First Appearance(s):  Matthew Thorne

 

Episode 53 brings us to a much more grounded place than the previous episode, the supernatural “Mudslide.” It’s also a much more conventional and relatable story that feels like it would have been right at home on a prime time drama as opposed to a week day afternoon children’s program. It’s an episode the takes a broader look at two people in Batman’s life who have impacted him in two very different ways:  Dr. Leslie Thompkins and the gangster Rupert Thorne. This episode is also noteworthy as it was the final aired episode of season one, even though by production order there were still a dozen left.

bruce and leslie

Batman with the only doctor he trusts.

The episode opens rather conventionally though, with the heist of an armored car. The episode immediately earns bonus points by having the heist conducted in a unique manner. An ambulance pulls up alongside it, and thinking it’s an emergency vehicle, the armored car pulls over to let it pass only for the drivers of the ambulance to pull out guns. The crooks manage to knock off the armored car fairly easily, so easily in fact that they’re positively delighted by their effort, until Batman shows up. This isn’t the type of thing one gets away with in Gotham City very easily.

Eventually the ambulance crashes, and the crooks are forced to take Batman on the old-fashioned way where they will undoubtedly be at a disadvantage despite their numbers and weapons. That seems to be the case at first, until one of the crooks produces some kind of surgical laser gun that was in the ambulance and takes aim at Batman. He’s able to graze the cowl of the caped crusader causing Batman to tumble off a bridge and land on a cable car below. The crooks, thinking they’ve off’d the Batman, take off to see their boss, Rupert Thorne (John Vernon).

the thornes

Matt and Rupert have a complicated relationship.

Thorne is on his way to visit his doctor, a doctor that specializes in treating criminals. It turns out, that surgical laser was part of the heist and Thorne intended to give it to his doctor, Matthew (Joseph Campanella), who just so happens to be Rupert’s younger brother. Matthew appears to be dissatisfied with his lot in life. The two, apparently self-aware about their audience, somewhat clumsily rehash what got them here. Apparently years ago Matthew was a respected physician, but when he failed to report that he removed a bullet from his brother to the police he subsequently lost his license to practice medicine. As a result, he’s now an unlicensed doctor who only treats his brother and associates of his brother and, while he’s probably paid pretty well, it’s not the kind of life he envisioned for himself. Rupert, feeling he’s more than paid his debt to his brother with his finances, feels no sympathy for Matthew and the two get into an argument. The argument ends when Rupert, clutching his chest, collapses before him.

Batman also has problems of his own. That laser did a job on him, and he seeks out the only person he trusts – Leslie Thompkins (Diana Muldaur). He collapses upon reaching her, but she’s able to treat him. She diagnoses him with a concussion and prescribes rest and some medication, even though she knows he’s unlikely to follow her orders.

After having collapsed, Matthew is forced to X-Ray his brother. He discovers a tumor that he believes to be benign in his brother’s chest. However, even though he doesn’t believe it’s cancerous the tumor does appear to be pressing against Rupert’s aorta restricting the blood flow to his heart. It needs to be removed, and Matthew insists Rupert go to the hospital and have the surgery done there. Rupert, fearing what his enemies would do should they find out he’s in for surgery, refuses and insists that Matthew perform the operation. Matthew says it’s impossible for him to do it alone, so they explore other ways to pull it off.

Crime_Doctor_Thank

Matt tries to be a nice guy, but there’s no making up for his creep-like behaviour.

That night, Leslie is paid a visit at her clinic as she’s closing up shop for the night. Three sketchy looking individuals barge in, and just as she’s preparing to fight them off, one of them reveals himself to be Matthew. It turns out Leslie and Matthew attended medical school together, along with Thomas Wayne. Unfortunately for Matthew, Leslie knows all about his past and how he lost his license. He explains the situation he’s in and asks her to assist in performing the operation on his brother. He offers money, but Leslie refuses knowing it’s dirty money. She won’t do it and risk her own license, forcing the other gentlemen with Matthew to get grabby. They take her back to Thorne’s where she is forced to assist in the operation. Matthew tries to thank her, even though she’s not there willingly, but she’ll have none of it. She warns him not to trust his brother, for there’s virtually no chance he’ll be able to get his license back.

Batman has done some investigating and is able to trace a fabric sample at the crime scene from earlier back to Rupert Thorne. It’s a bit of a stretch, but we’ll go with it. Batman is confused about what Thorne would want with a medical laser, and decides to pay Leslie a visit once more, this time as Bruce Wayne and with Alfred at his side. They find the place a mess and Leslie is no where to be found. A picture of Leslie and Thomas Wayne gets their attention. It was one Matt had handled for he was the photographer. Bruce checks behind the frame to see a message Matt left for Leslie on it. He turns to a yearbook and is able to find a Matt who signed the book for his father and Bruce takes note of that tell-tale last name:  Thorne.

Matthew and Leslie were able to successfully remove the tumor. As they clean up and prepare to part, they soon find out Rupert left his thugs with instructions to kill Leslie once the job was done. Batman shows up, but still reeling from the earlier concussion, finds it tough going against one of the orderlies. Matthew, meanwhile, is not onboard with murdering his old classmate and he and Leslie make a break for it. He first tricks one of the men by saying he’ll give Leslie an injection that will kill her, quick and painlessly. Instead he uses it on the goon which knocks him out. Leslie acts surprised, but Matthew insists he’d never stoop so low as to murder someone just to get his license back.

Matt_saves_Leslie

Because we need to see Matt do something heroic.

Another thug takes note of them, forcing Matthew and Leslie to flee to the roof of the building. Matthew jumps to an adjacent rooftop, but Leslie is less confident in her ability to do the same. She eventually does, but comes up short. She still manages to grab the ledge of the next building and Matthew springs into action. Unfortunately, this leaves them wide open for one of Rupert’s thugs to take them out. Fortunately, Batman makes it to the rooftop in time to prevent the thug from doing the worst, but Matthew loses his grip and Leslie falls. Batman is able to shake off the concussion-like symptoms to make the save and the police are able to take care of the rest.

bruce sad

“Tell me about my father.”

The episode shifts to prison where Matthew is led into a meeting room. Bruce Wayne is here for a visit, and Matthew doesn’t seem thrilled to see him. Bruce offers legal help, but implies it’s in exchange for a favor. Matthew, agitated and smelling a blackmail, insists he’s done doing that sort of thing and prepares to leave. Bruce stops him though and insists he’s not asking for anything illegal, and in a heartbreaking moment, he simply asks Matthew to tell him about his father. Matthew immediately softens, puts an arm around Bruce, and leads him back to the table for what was likely a long and pleasant discussion.

“Paging the Crime Doctor” is another Batman melodrama where a good person is caught between two opposing forces, crime and justice, with their family being on the side of crime. Matthew, largely due to partaking in the scheme to abduct Leslie, doesn’t come across as entirely in the right. He’s clearly made bad choices, and even though it’s understandable he’d want to help his brother, it’s not exactly an excuse. Like all good melodramas, he eventually is forced to choose between right and wrong and ultimately makes the right call. It feels like a small stakes episode as far as the main plot is concerned, but it does lead to that very poignant moment at the episode’s conclusion with Bruce and Matthew. That scene is done perfectly. The voice acting, the mannerisms of the characters within the animation, the setup making it seem like Bruce is indeed after something Matthew might not be interested in, and then the cut to Bruce’s grief-stricken face. It’s simple, but it’s perhaps the most touching scene in the show’s history.

Crime_Doctor_Talk

What can I say? The sweet ending worked on me.

As far as lasting implications, there are virtually none. Rupert Thorne will be back to a life of crime in no time, strong as an ox. Meanwhile, Matthew is never heard from again. He presumably did some time, but probably not a lot, especially if he ratted on his brother. He likely never got his license back, but at least he saved his soul. We’ll also see Leslie again fairly soon, but it will be her final appearance of the show.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Appointment in Crime Alley”

Appointment_In_Crime_Alley-Title_CardEpisode Number:  26

Original Air Date:  September 17, 1992

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Gerry Conway

First Appearance(s): Leslie Thompkins

 

After last week’s entry I’m feeling pretty eager to get the taste of The Clock King out of my mouth. This week, season one heavyweight Boyd Kirkland returns to direct “Appointment in Crime Alley.” Writing this one is famed Amazing Spider-Man writer Gerry Conway, he who killed Gwen Stacy. I’m not sure what about this episode appealed to Conway in order to bring him in, but the results speak for themselves. Batman is first and foremost a super hero cartoon. He may be the hero without powers, but his stories still pack a healthy amount of the fantastic. After all, even a man in peek physical condition couldn’t do what Batman does, such as falling off a building and utilizing an amazing grappling gun to save himself, without ripping his own arms off. Even so, since Batman’s rogues gallery is light on ultra-powerful comic book villains, he’s able to branch out and do more real world styled stories, and “Appointment in Crime Alley” is one of those stories.

30-2

Thompkins consoling Bruce after his parents’ murder.

The film Batman touched upon the lasting impact of the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne and how Bruce marks that anniversary. Pretty much ever since, just about every new iteration of Batman includes this aspect of his character and this episode touches on it. When it opens, we’re given a brief overview of Crime Alley, a rundown part of Gotham that I guess the real world would just refer to as “The Projects.” There’s a lot of empty buildings and a lot of crime, but it’s also a home for many of Gotham’s less fortunate. It’s also the setting for the murder of the Waynes, but the episode never explicitly tells us this. Early in the episode, Alfred remarks to Batman to not be late for an appointment, which he responds with “I never am,” and we’re left to speculate what the appointment is for, but the episode isn’t going to make it hard for us to guess.

LeslieThompkins

Leslie is a unique ally for Batman as she’s one of the select few who know his identity.

This episode also brings in Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Diana Muldaur). She’s introduced onscreen and via a scrapbook later in the episode which includes clippings relating to the Wayne murder and a touching image of her comforting young Bruce. We’ll learn in a later episode that she was close friends with the Waynes, in particular Thomas, and she’s been a constant in Bruce’s life ever since. She also lives in Crime Alley, and that miserable rat Roland Daggett is scheming to illegally level Crime Alley so he can rebuild it and make more money off of it. He coordinates with some hired goons, Nitro (David L. Lander) and Crocker (Jeffrey Tambor) – one being an explosives expert, to plant explosives all over the neighborhood to accomplish his stated plan. He’s at least not totally evil, since he tries to get the few residents of the area out, though he does it by sending hired muscle to intimidate people into leaving (and he’s not changing his plans for anyone who does stick around). One such attempt gets Batman’s attention while he’s heading for his appointment, clueing him into something nefarious going on.

AiCA_45_-_Batman_confronts_Daggett

Daggett is such a scumbag, an easy villain to root against.

Meanwhile, Thompkins has taken note of the bombers trespassing on a condemned building. She decides to check it out and gets their attention, resulting in them kidnapping her. Now Batman can’t find his friend, and a homeless man who saw the abduction just so happened to pick up a blasting cap he found, and everything starts to come together for Batman. Unfortunately for him, people keep needing his help, like a suicidal man who’s taken a hostage, and it diverts his attention from finding Thompkins, who is tied up with the explosives. He will eventually locate her, but he can’t stop Daggett’s bombs from going off. There are no known fatalities, since this is a kid’s show after all, and Batman gets to confront Daggett at the end only to watch him drive away without arrest. It’s a bit depressing and it’s easy to see the frustration on Batman’s face even with so much of it being obscured by his cowl. Thompkins is there to comfort him, as she was so many years ago, and the two head to their appointment to lay flowers. The episode fades out on the newspaper clipping of Thompkins consoling young Bruce, and it’s probably the most touching ending we’ve had thus far.

Appointment_In_Crime_Alley_Mourn

Promises to keep.

Gerry Conway will return in season 2 to pen another episode, and wouldn’t you know it’s another good one. “Appointment in Crime Alley” is one of those episodes of Batman that few will list as being among their favorites when prodded, but upon watching it they’ll be reminded of just how good it is. It’s kind of a day in the life piece, and if not for the special occasion of Batman’s appointment, that’s what it would be. It doesn’t contain an over the top villain, but a made for TV one in Daggett, who is quickly becoming one of the easiest villains to truly despise. This episode also has the distinction of being adapted from a comic story, in this case “There Is No Hope in Crime Alley” from 1976 which was written by Dennis O’Neil. Thompkins is also a nice addition to the show, though surprisingly she’ll only have a handful of appearances. It feels like she was in more than five episodes, but that’s it. And if IMDB is to be trusted, this was basically the last role for actress Diana Muldaur, which is kind of neat I suppose. Good news, she isn’t dead, just retired. This also continues a nice string of episodes for director Boyd Kirkland. After manning some of my least favorites early on, he’s in a nice groove and is probably the show’s top director. I try not to look ahead too much, but Kirkland has some good ones coming later on in the first season. It also seems like he gets some of the more grounded tales, since he also directed “It’s Never Too Late” and will also helm “I Am The Night.” He’s a featured director in season 2 as well so hopefully you’re enjoying his work as much as I am because he’s not going away.


<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: