The Matt Signal – Episode 19: Prophecy of Doom

Plot summary: Bruce tries to stop a con-man prophet from swindling his girlfriend’s father, while trying to defy his own supposed mark of death.

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Each Saturday and Sunday Matt Waters recaps an episode of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

Notes

Episode Title: ‘Prophecy of Doom’

Original Air Date: October 6th, 1992

Directed: Frank Paur (4)

Written: Dennis Marks (1) (story) & Sean Catherine Derek (6)

Yet another episode where Bruce Timm threw an animation studio under the bus. Both he and Frank Paur disliked how the big planetarium sequence came back, with Paur going as far as to say “how hard is it to animate circles?” Damn.

The soundtrack to said sequence is vaguely similar to Holt’s Planets Suite, specifically Mars. But you all knew that.

There’s a moment where Batman impales a henchman with a batarang but your friends and mine at standards and practices insisted he not bleed.

Recap

We start with some very cool music as one of those luxury casino yachts cruises along while the wealthy gamble and dance and… fail to realise there’s a bomb below deck!!!

It goes off and we have a full blown Titanic situation on our hands as everyone scrambles over each other to get on the lifeboats. The ship goes fully under with zero confirmation if everybody got off in time. Grim.

Elsewhere Bruce is out for dinner with his latest beau Lisa and her father Ethan, who chats Bruce up about ‘Nostromos’ a colourful individual whose predictions saved him a fortune, including advising against being on the ship that just sank.

Curious, Bruce attends an event and trashes Nostromos’ ramblings to Ethan and everyone around him. Rude. Bruce’s smile fades when Nostromos predicts he has been marked for death! Plus his drinking glass shatters seemingly at random.

He offers the sarcastic explanation “psychic vibrations” when Alfred polls him on how it was done, but can’t commit to his own joke and suggests high frequency sonic waves instead.

Having lifted Nostromos’ fingerprints at some point during the event, Batman determines the would-be prophet is in fact Carl Fowler, an actor arrested for larceny. Likewise his partner in crime has a background in special effects before being arrested for fraud.

Bruce heads to Wayne Enterprises and learns his personal elevator has just been repaired despite nothing being wrong with it…

Sure enough an unseen individual sabotages the elevator cable with acid and Wayne begins to plummet, but emerges from the ceiling hatch as Batman and grapple-hooks his way to safety. Giving chase to the assailant, Bruce takes him down but still loses him after liberal use of a chemical concoction that releases a cloud of smoke.

Per the rules of Scooby-Doo, said assailant is indeed Nostromos’ partner, Lucas, who reports his incredulity that Batman would spot him. Nostromos scolds Lucas for being an idiot for failing to realise Wayne got off the elevator before it fell, but is clearly an idiot himself as this makes it mind-numbingly obvious that Bruce is Batman.

The con-man laments their failure to make good on the prediction of Bruce’s death as it would have helped him milk his cult for more money. Speaking of the cult, Ethan telephones to excitedly tell Nostromos that Bruce has seen the light…

Wayne emotionally pleads for forgiveness for ridiculing Nostromos following his brush with death. And just that easily he’s welcomed into The Brotherhood, smirking to himself while obscuring his face… but Lisa overhears the whole thing and breaks up with him. I guess you CAN’T have it all.

Ethan later tells Bruce about an impending economic crash dubbed “The Great Fall” that The Brotherhood are protecting themselves against by pooling their funds in a safe place. These people deserve to be ripped off. Nostromos allegedly can’t touch the money without written approval, but still.

At Bruce’s inauguration at Gotham Planentarium, Nostromos warns The Great Fall is nearing, illustrating his vision with some holograms and even some levitation! Lisa sneaks in and witnesses Lucas controlling these effects from backstage but he grabs her before she can snitch.

Bruce, having donated $10million to “keep up appearances” (while I frequently second guess how much I spend on grocery shopping), predicts Ethan will befall some tragedy that will allow Nostromos to access the pooled $300m.

Speaking of which, Ethan quizzes Nostromos about Lisa’s disappearance, but he downplays it and instead insists they convert the funds into gold. Ethan questions doing so without the consent of the others (implying they all signed over control of the funds to Ethan, rather than each donor having to sign over to Nostromos individually, which really just enforces the idea they deserve to be ripped off).

Having reached the limits of his powers of persuasion, Nostromos says screw it and reveals the captured Lisa and demands Ethan sign the paperwork or else. With the bag secured, Nostromos suggests Ethan leave quickly as Lucas has rigged the place with explosives.

Suddenly Nostromos takes to the air and starts jerking about in a most unplanned fashion, with Batman having sabotaged his harness from the control room.

Some shenanigans with model planets smashing into each other ensue with Batman taking down both con-men and saving Lisa with seconds to spare. I made sure to go back and track how many planets get destroyed and against all odds they kept it under nine. Kudos!

An embarrassed Ethan sighs as he reads a newspaper article that predicts Nostromos will get a life sentence. I mean… can you get life for fraud, kidnapping and attempted murder? Asking for a friend.

Lisa points out Bruce fell for it too, so I guess they worked things out even though we will most assuredly never see her again. He closes the episode with the quote “The fault lies not in the stars but in ourselves.” Cute.

Best Performance

I enjoyed Michael Des Barres’ work as the campy, over-the-top Nostromos, as well as the more cynical Carl Fowler. By themselves each voice is decent, but it’s the switching between the two that I respect.

That being said Kevin Conroy was on the top of his game with a decidedly more light-hearted Bruce Wayne in this episode. He dunks on the obvious con-man to his fellow socialites in the manner of a kid talking at the back of a classroom. He dryly undercuts Nostromos to Alfred in his Batman voice. He lays it on thick while pretending to see the light. He smarmily indulges Ethan about the pyramid scheme. It’s all good fun stuff and gives Conroy some variety to work with.

Also it’s neat that they convinced Heather Locklear to lend her voice to a character, and her celebrity status is likely what kept Lisa in the episode past the opening, but it was nothing tremendously special.

Ranking

I would call this much better than the abjectly bad episodes, but nothing to write home about. I was entertained throughout, and there is a legitimate need for episodes like this to mix things up every once in a while. Bruce spending so much of the caper with a smile on his face is no bad thing either.

The highlight for me was an all too brief catwalk fight wherein Batman blinded Lucas with a spotlight. The two of them being drawn in shadow against such a bright background was superb and I wish it had lasted longer.

They also get a lot of chaotic mileage out of the model planets smashing into each other with Lisa strapped to one of them, seemingly moments away from death. Nostromos getting rolled over by a runaway Earth really caps the sequence off. I didn’t think the animation was that bad, personally.

I don’t feel much more needs to be said about it really, as it was a light comedic filler episode.

  1. Heart of Ice
  2. Two-Face Part I
  3. Beware the Gray Ghost
  4. On Leather Wings
  5. Pretty Poison
  6. Two-Face Part II
  7. It’s Never Too Late
  8. See No Evil
  9. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  10. P.O.V.
  11. Christmas with the Joker
  12. Be a Clown
  13. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  14. Nothing to Fear
  15. Prophecy of Doom
  16. The Last Laugh
  17. The Under-Dwellers
  18. The Forgotten
  19. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Nostromos (Michael Des Barres) (first appearance)

There is no universe in which this one-off character cracks the top ten, but he was an undeniably entertaining little low-stakes foe after so many life and death antagonists. I mean we were dealing with a terrorist ring trying to unleash a killwe plague capable of wiping out a 10 mile radius not that long ago. Even the nerd seeking more toys was enacting a series of bombings that took some time to stop.

No real attempt is made to make this a mystery, with Bruce distrusting him from the start, but the fun was in Carl and Lucas laughing it up behind closed doors. I particularly enjoyed when Ethan showed up unexpectedly and Nostromos had to quickly fix his costume and put on his hammy prophet voice. This character would have been right at home in Batman ’66 and that’s more than okay with me as an occasional buffer between the more grim-dark villains.

Heck, I’m not going to rank him, but Lucas put up a pretty solid fight, eluding Batman in their first encounter and lasting longer than expected in a prolonged fist fight during the climax. I’ll tell you what, we’ll put him in brackets.

  1. Mr. Freeze
  2. Joker
  3. Two-Face
  4. Poison Ivy
  5. Catwoman
  6. Rupert Thorne
  7. Lloyd Ventrix
  8. Scarecrow
  9. Red Claw
  10. Arnold Stromwell
  11. Mad Bomber
  12. Man-Bat
  13. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  14. Penguin
  15. Sewer King
  16. Boss Biggis

Plugs

While the movie may only be about 30% complete that didn’t stop me from posting a list of 10 Hopes and Fears for The Batman.

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie and delved a tiny bit into the animated series.

Speaking of my podcasts, There Will Be Movies continues Monday with Boyhood.

Kevin Ford’s Flooping the Pig, our Adventure Time podcast, uploads new episodes every Thursday.

Jerome & Brian’s Pantheon Plus continues its run of road trip movies with Midnight Run

Speaking of Jerome, he will be bringing you his 100 favourite movies of all time, posting between 3 and 4 per week.

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Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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