The Matt Signal – Episode 25: The Clock King

Plot summary: When a man obsessed with time’s life falls apart after following some advice to chill the heck out, he begins working on an elaborate revenge scheme.

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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: ‘The Clock King’

Original Air Date: September 21st, 1992

Directed: Kevin Altieri (8)

Written: David Wise (1)

Every Batman appearance in this episode occurs during daytime. There are many versions of the character that NEVER appear in daylight.

Temple Fugate of course eludes to tempus fugit, meaning time flies. What do you mean you don’t speak Latin? Sort your life out. (I can’t decide if it’s better than William Tockman)

The episode contains multiple references to DC writers/artists such as Norm Breyfogle, Jack Schiff, Jerry Robinson and Sheldon Moldoff.

Recap

The incredibly distinct and ‘tightly wound’ Temple Fugit boards the subway and irritates “Councilman” Hamilton Hill with his obsession with precise timing. But how pedantic is he? So much so that he has scheduled brushing his teeth for 3.02pm and checking the weather for 3.05pm.

Fugit has an important court hearing later that the future of his company depends on, with Hill advising that his uptight nature will likely torpedo his chances, suggesting he loosen up by breaking from his routine a little.

Fugit reluctantly complies, having his coffee break in the park fifteen(!) minutes later than planned. Hijinks ensue, his legal documents are ruined and he arrives late for the hearing, automatically incurring a $20 million fine, destroying his company.

Seven years later at precisely 8.57am traffic signals begin to malfunction on the street that Bruce Wayne and Hamilton Hill, now the Mayor, are driving down.

Accidents of course follow and fingers are pointed at Hill just in time for a huge banner is unfurled with his face covered in graffiti. Everybody laughs at him. Move over, Joker.

Eagle-eyed Bruce spotted a figure atop the roof before the stunt and races to confront the perpetrator, who is of course Temple Fugit, who now wields a giant clock handle as a cane and tosses an explosive pocket watch at Batman.

Royally ticked off – pun intended – Bats tries to grab Fugit, who boldly leaps off the roof, safe in the knowledge the 09.15 train is always six minutes early. Sure enough, he lands safely on top of said train. It would have been cool if they’d timed this scene out to match the twelve in-episode minutes that passed, but I GUESS this is a children’s cartoon. I am 31 years old.

Batman heads to the traffic control centre, finding a $6,000 pocket watch as the trigger mechanism for the bomb that took out the equipment. Correctly postulating that a jeweller would maintain a record of sales by serial number, Bruce identifies Fugit in record time.

The registered address leads to a seemingly abandoned watchmaker’s shop, with a cacophony of ticking and pendulums providing the unsettling (in a good way) soundtrack as Batman makes note of some city blueprints, including a particular tower…

Racing to a bank on a block experiencing a power failure, Batman finds the inhabitants gassed and the time-release vault open with what looks like a bomb inside.

Entering to investigate, the door of course slams shut behind him, with Fugit announcing that the box is instead a vacuum pump that will suck all of the oxygen out of the vault.

The box is of course rigged to explode if tampered with, but Bruce calmly dismantles the tape recorder that played Fugit’s sinister message, unspooling the tape to MacGyver together a little pulley system to move the box towards the door without touching it (though he’d of course have had to have done so to hook it up, sooooo….) He tosses a Batarang to detonate it, blowing the door open, while taking cover behind a wall of money bags.

Elsewhere, Hill officially opens Gotham Central Station to intended fanfare, only for the inaugural train to arrive late, once again humiliating the mayor.

But wait, it gets worse! Two trains going in opposite directions collide as everybody runs for their lives. How embarrassing!

Kidnaping Hill during the chaos, Fugit ties the Mayor to the hour hand of a clown tower, planning for the minute hand to squish him at precisely 3.15pm, the time Hill advised him to take his fateful coffee break seven years earlier. Oh damn.

Batman arrives, having followed the blueprints from before and we get a little battle throughout the tower, with lots of giant cog-based chicanery. It’s clever and fun. Bats eventually tricks Fugit into crippling the clock mechanism, saving Hill…

Or so it seems! The tower starts to crumble under the strain, with Fugit escaping and Batman barely getting to Hill before he falls to his death.

Gordon and Batman swap case notes in the wreckage, confirming they found no trace of ‘Clock King’, but Batman is sure they’ll see him again because “it’s only a matter of time.” Urgh.

Best Performance

I’m somewhat conflicted, but I suppose it’s impossible not to give the nod to Alan Rachins as he dominates the episode so wholly. I find the voice a little annoying, but I think that’s on purpose, as he’s meant to be incredibly unlikeable before he turns into a super-villain.

It’s different to the typical villain voices we get, which are either gravelly or manic (mobsters excluded). Instead his superiority complex comes through in every line, and it has a definite detached, sociopathic twinge.

But I don’t find it an enjoyable voice. I’d love to give Kevin Conroy or Efrem Zimbalist Jr. or even Lloyd Bochner who are all putting in good work, but I feel I must go with the obvious choice.

Ranking

Much like ‘Prophecy of Doom’ this is a campier affair than the grim dark style we usually get, and I will reiterate that I think there is plenty of room for that to break up the self-seriousness. I think this is a better episode than Prophecy thanks to the villain being cut more from the Joker/Two-Face/Mr. Freeze cloth, rather than being pure comic relief. It manages to be a little bit silly without losing the sense of peril.

That being said I do think they’re trying a little too hard in places, particularly Batman’s escape from the vault trap. I admire what they were going for, highlighting Bruce’s quick thinking and escapology skills, but it was a touch too elaborate. They also seem to imply that the hands on a clock pass through each other (thus putting Hill at risk of being crushed to death) which is… not exactly true.

Still, there’s a clear-cut theme that’s followed consistently and was set up neatly in the opening, which plays into the giant death traps era of The Caped Crusader, so I can see why people have a fond memory of it. I’m not willing to go toooo crazy so will plant it firmly in the middle for now.

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

Villain Watch

The Clock King (Alan Rachins) (first appearance)

While the character was by no means an original creation for the show, they certainly put their own distinct spin on him, and for many this is the only version.

Many of Batman’s villains are defined by their idiosyncrasies, most famously Two-Face, and much like how the writers opted to portray Harvey as suffering from multiple personality disorder before his accident, Temple Fugit’s obsession with time is established before his life falls apart. This compulsion is then exaggerated by his Very Bad Day, eventually transforming him into an over the top costumed villain who commits themed crimes. You can do a LOT worse for a character blueprint than Two-Face.

But where Harvey Dent is a supremely violent, up close and personal foe, Clock King leans more towards elaborately crafted set-pieces. The vault trap in particular is excellent, with Fugit correctly anticipating Batman would bring a gas mask, so instead removing all the air from the room so he suffocates instead. Some have even compared him to Bane because of his line about studying Batman’s behaviour. This feels overgenerous as Bane deduced Bruce’s identity, broke his spine and conquered Gotham, and Clock King did none of those things.

That’s not to dismiss Clock King’s accomplishments, as he did come close to achieving his aim, putting up a larger fight than you might expect in a direct confrontation with Batman and then escaping when things go south. I commend all of that to the tune of giving him a top 10 ranking. I just can’t put him over some of the more charismatic performances.

  1. Joker
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Two-Face
  4. Clayface
  5. Poison Ivy
  6. Catwoman
  7. Clock King
  8. Killer Croc
  9. Rupert Thorne
  10. Lloyd Ventrix
  11. Scarecrow
  12. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  13. Red Claw
  14. Arnold Stromwell
  15. Mad Bomber
  16. Man-Bat
  17. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  18. Harley Quinn
  19. Penguin
  20. Sewer King
  21. Boss Biggis

Plugs

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 on Monday with Arrival.

Kevin Ford’s Flooping the Pig, our Adventure Time podcast, is at last coming to a temporary end this coming Thursday. Another milestone achieved!

Jerome & Brian’s Pantheon Plus begins its Apocalyptic Autumn with Escape from New York this Tuesday.

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

Published by

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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