The Batman 66 Episode Guide 1×26: Batman Sets The Pace
The 1966 Batman television show was one of the most successful and influential adaptations of comic books to mass media of all time. Over the course of three seasons and 120 episodes, the series became a cultural force with its unique combination of tongue-in-cheek humor, thrilling superhero adventure and celebrity guest stars, and shaped the way the public would view the Caped Crusader for the next five decades. Now, in the midst of a well-deserved renaissance of the show, ComicsAlliance is proud to present The Batman ’66 Episode Guide, an in-depth examination of every single adventure, arch-criminal and deathtrap cliffhanger of the series.
This week, the Caped Crusaders discover the shocking secret of the Maharaja of Nimpah... and all is not what it seems!
Episode 1x26: Batman Sets The Pace
Script: Francis and Marian Cockrell
Director: Richard C. Sarafian
Original Air Date: April 7, 1966
Special Guest Villain: Cesar Romero as The Joker
When we last left the Dynamic Duo, they were in one of the best deathtraps of the series so far, largely because of the great way that the Joker sets it up. After asking the heroes if they were good enough swimmers to stay afloat for an hour without drowning, he locked them up in a forty-foot smokestack that began filling with deadly gas --- because while you might not be able to swim in deadly gas, "you can drown in it!"
As we pick up for today's adventure, set to the tune of a very atmospheric theremin, the Joker is thoroughly delighted with himself. His moll, Jill, however, is visibly upset, shedding actual tears for the sad fate of our heroes and their bravery in the face of certain death, even as the Joker attempts to casually console her by reminding her that crime will most certainly pay now that Batman and Robin aren't around to stop them.
She shouldn't have been too worried, though. As always, the power of righteousness gives Batman and Robin the ability to triumph over even the most dire circumstances. Although they go under the surface of the gas, they soon rise up with their arms linked, braced against each other to walk up the walls with no ill effects...
...although to be honest, it sure does look like the Boy Wonder aged about ten years there. Don't worry, though, he's back to normal by the next shot.
Looking back on it from today, one of the most striking things about this scene is that the once the gas reaches twenty feet, the Joker tells his henchmen to "shut off the poisonous gas and pump it out! Some passer-by might get killed!" He might be a murderous clown with designs on defeating the very idea of law and order, but he still has a bit of restraint. If this story was happening now, he probably would've shut off the gas only once it had filled both the chimney and the Orphanage for Children with Extremely Cute Puppies that would probably be constructed next door.
When the Joker attempts to retrieve their bodies, he sees the Dynamic Duo climbing out, and the bad guys beat feet away from the Katz, Katz & Katz refinery, presumably to attend to the kidnapped Maharaja of Nimpah. Batman and Robin attempt to give chase, but since their utility belts are still suffering from the effects of the Joker's contrivance-inducing "funny ray," they have to zipline down to the Batmobile in a stunt that's actually pretty awesome:
Alas, they're too late to follow the Joker's laundry truck, so it's back to the Batcave and the computerized Metal Analyzer, analyzing the stolen golf course hole and the hairpin, used as the trigger for the gas bomb that knocked out the Maharaja. It's the gas itself, though, that provides the clue, once they've run it through the Pattern Identification Manual.
The gas is so rare that it's only available from a single outlet in the city, the Ferguson Novelty and Magician Supply Company, and while he's momentarily distracted by a stray thought wondering why they haven't heard from the government of Nimpah --- hmmmmm --- they decide to check it out. But not as Batman and Robin!
Obviously, if the Joker really is using the novelty shop as a front, then an appearance by the Caped Crusaders would certainly alert him. The city's most famous millionaire philanthropist, on the other hand, can pass completely unnoticed in virtually any small retail establishment.
The scene of Bruce and Dick trying to act casual while shopping for goofy novelties is fantastic, but I will admit that when I went back to watch it for the column, I found myself distracted by wondering why the Gotham City Chamber of Commerce even allows novelty shops to have business licenses. You'd think they would've just shut 'em all down by now, especially the ones that stock knockout gas, but then, I imagine they'd probably also have to close down all the umbrella shops, candlemakers, bookstores, pet stores, flower shops, haberdasheries, and any establishment that sold eggs of any kind. When you get right down to it, Gotham's economy is entirely based around thematic crime.
Anyway, under the cover of finding "some amusing favors for a small dinner party," the squarest sentence ever spoken, Bruce finds himself interested in a One-Way Glass Reversing Refractor, a prism that allows its bearer to look through a false mirror from the wrong side. And, conveniently enough, the shop just happens to have its own false mirror that opens directly on the Joker's headquarters.
Again, far be it from me to critique the business models of Gotham City's many specialty retailers, but if I'm the Joker and I'm in a hideout where one of the main features is a fake mirror that I can use to see who's checking out the store, I'm probably not going to leave the exact thing that lets those same investigators see directly into my secret lair just laying around on the counter.
But to be fair, the Joker doesn't actually seem to be present, having left the Maharaja in the care of Jill and the rest of his gang.
Batman's crystal-assisted peeping reveals not only that the façade of the novelty company hides a veritable bunker set into a hill behind the shop, providing the bad guys with an extremely defensible position. Fortunately, there's also that there's an air shaft that might be their only means of entry, and to that end, Batman employs the fine art of trigonometry to discover where it comes out.
Let this be a lesson to any of you out there in school who may be wondering, "When are we going to use this in real life."
Sure enough, the Bat-math checks out, and the heroes descend into the secret lair, ambushing the Joker. But, as always, that harlequin of hate remains one step ahead of the heroes, having prepared his hideout for just such an occasion:
Mysteriously enough, the Maharaja doesn't seem to be stowed away in the hideout when they arrive (hmmm), which is especially odd since the entire gang seems to be here, leaving no one to guard their kidnapped monarch (hmmmm). Instead, when the Joker activates the Surprise Attack Defense Panel, everyone barrels out into a pretty fantastically busy fight scene, complete with streamers, confetti and fireworks:
Two things of note about this fight scene:
1) This is another example of a "POW!!" being interrupted - the big yellow one is only onscreen for about a dozen frames before being suddenly replaced by the "ZAP!!!," much like what happened in a previous episode.
2) Considering that there are Catherine wheels shooting out sparks while what appears to be a metric ton of highly flammable material drops from the sky, this is the most I have ever worried about the possibility of something that was likely demolished fifty years ago catching on fire.
In all the fire code-violating confusion, the Joker and Jill manage to escape into the mountain, leaving no sign of the Maharaja. At police headquarters, Gordon takes a call from Batman, informing him that if the Maharaja isn't found soon, they'll have to notify Washington, creating an international incident. Batman notes that there have yet to be any ransom demands, but no sooner have those words been spoken than the Joker himself radios in on the police band, issuing an ultimatum at last. Also, once again, we get some choice O'Hara Face:
It seems that the Joker and the Maharaja have come to an arrangement. The Maharaja will provide "bandit Joker" with $500,000 in ransom, but he has requested that Batman be present to endorse the check as part of the price, cashing it at the Gotham City State Bank the next day, with Batman himself hand over the money to be given to the Joker. Batman will sign his own name to a criminal payoff, forever tarnishing his reputation. It is, and I mean this in all sincerity, an amazing plan.
Batman refuses, of course, but when the Joker reveals that if Batman doesn't cooperate, the deal's off and the Maharaja will be back in danger, he finally capitulates. Sure enough, the next day finds the Maharaja, sans the Joker (HMMMMM) arriving at the bank. As he writes the check out to Batman --- "One T." --- he launches into a speech about how the Joker is an "honorable bandit" who keeps his part of the bargain and the history of banditry in Nimpah, and while that's happening, Batman is stabbing him with a giant needle.
It seems that Batman has finally put the clues together and realized exactly why it is that the Nimpahnese government hasn't contacted Gotham about their missing monarch: there is no Maharaja in Gotham City. It's just the Joker in an extremely convincing mask and a padded suit --- one so padded that he doesn't even feel the needle until Batman just rams it right in there.
With that, the ruse has been exposed, and Batman and Robin make short work of the "Maharaja" and his "guards."
The plan was never about kidnapping, it was all about Batman providing "my signature on a worthless check for half a million dollars!" A cunning web of lies that, fortunately for the forces of good, was able to be easily undone when Batman made exactly one (1) phone call to ask whether the Maharaja was actually supposed to be in Gotham City.
With that done, evil has been defeated, although there's still one more weird bit left to close out the episode: an urgent call from Commissioner Gordon checking in on "a most alarming rumor that you've been asked to go to California and run for governor!" He hasn't of course --- there's still work to be done in Gotham --- but if he had, one assumes that he would've easily trounced his opponent, Ronald Reagan.
Index of Episode 1x26:
- Metal Analyzer
- Hyper Spectrographic Analyzer
- Pattern Identification Manual
- One-Way Glass Reversing Refractor
- "Holy impregnability!"
- "Holy molehill!"