The Matt Signal – Episode 42: Tyger, Tyger

Plot summary: Catwoman’s name becomes far more literal after she is kidnapped by a mad scientist.

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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: ‘Tyger, Tyger’

Original Air Date: October 30th, 1992

Directed: Frank Paur (8)

Written: Michael Reeves (6) & Randy Rogel (5) (story) and Cherie Wilkerson (1)

Among the episode’s influences are The Island of Dr. Moreau, Bride of Frankenstein and William Blake’s poem, The Tyger.

Kirk Langstrom’s line about preferring cats to people is identical to the one he uttered in the pilot, save for swapping the word bats for cats.

The episode’s final shot/title card was referenced in the video game Batman Arkham Knight

Recap

A security guard at Gotham Zoo fails to notice Selina Kyle sneaking around at night to talk to a tiger. Selina in turn fails to notice… a talking gorilla in people clothes take aim at her from a tree and shoot her with a tranquilliser dart!

The guard spots the gorilla holding Selina and assumes it’s a pair of punk teens necking after hours. Instead he finds himself knocked into the tiger enclosure! What an opening!

Over at a fancy restaurant, Bruce grows concerned that Selina has stood him up for a dinner date (to discuss an animal rights charity as she’s still not interested in him romantically). The maître d overhears and informs him Selina called to say she was meeting a friend at the zoo.

Hurrying to the scene of the crime, Bruce gathers what info he can from the guard giving his statement to the police. Wayne is of course the only one to notice the dart.

Selina awakens strapped to a table in what is essentially Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. A huge bipedal feline creature approaches her, snarling, but Emile Dorian interrupts and tells “Tygrus” to go and do his “exercises”.

Dorian info-dumps about his work with cross-species genetics, stating he created Tygrus, as well as “Garth, the ape man.” We see his two test subjects battle, with Tygrus mopping the floor with Garth. Dorian reveals he knows Kyle’s secret identity and doses her up with some kind of drug.

Batman consults with Dr. Kirk Langstrom (remember him?), as his analysis of the dart demonstrated similarities to the drug that transformed Langstrom into Man-Bat. Kirk confirms and reveals a weird little cat-monkey hybrid that Dorian worked on previously.

Following Langstrom’s directions to Dorian’s island (of cross-bred animals), Batman glides in, immediately met by a cat/bird cross. Shaking it off, he heads for the central tower and tries to observe Dorian silently through the skylight, but Garth grabs him and the two fall through to the lab below.

Batman tosses Garth aside and Dorian dismisses him, revealing Selina has been transformed into a far more literal Catwoman! Bats is naturally horrified, but furries will be thrilled.

Bruce has no time for Dorian’s explanations of her enhanced attributes, smashing the glass of her enclosure and trying to communicate with her, but she doesn’t remember him. Tygrus arrives to intervene when Bats gets physical (as well as to eye up a chaste Selina).

Garth joins in, not that Tygrus needs the help, easily overpowering Batman. Observing Selina has maintained a degree of control over her new bestial personality, Dorian has her taken away.

Dorian proposes a challenge, setting Batman loose on the island with a headstart and then releasing Tygrus. If Batman can survive and make it back to the lab he can have the antidote. Simple.

Batman takes the early advantage with a smoke bomb but Tygrus’ physical gifts turn the tide in his favour. Tying Tygrus to a tree doesn’t work for long and the pair end up taking a tumble off a rickety rope bridge, with Tygrus apparently falling to his doom, while Batman is able to climb back up.

Selina, having escaped Dorian, shows concern for Bruce. Tygrus of course returns, but she is able to reason with him, pointing out she is not a prize to be won.

Dorian beats Tygrus, scolding him for disobeying his orders. Batman arrives and gives Garth his third beatdown of the episode. When Dorian tries to shoot Selina with the final dose of his drug, Tygrus turns on his “father”.

Going a step further, Tygrus begins to destroy the lab, apparently killing himself and Dorian while Bat & Cat drag Garth to safety…

Naturally Tygrus emerges from the flames carrying Dorian, handing him over to Batman. Tygrus shoots his shot one last time, but takes rejection like a champ, handing Selina the antidote and declining to leave the island with them.

Batman quotes The Tyger to end the episode.

Best Performance

Kevin Conroy is a legend in his own right, but Jim Cummings is a titan of voice acting. Despite having this incredibly low rumble that keeps him constantly employed as generic tough dudes, he’s actually most famous for his work as Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger and Taz. THAT is range.

He’s mostly leaning on the gravelly pipes for Tygrus, who starts out as little more than a snarling beast, but ultimately reveals emotional intelligence and possibly even a tortured soul! Cummings makes all of that work because he’s a g-darn professional. He also voiced Garth and the security guard and made both sound different.

Conroy and Barbeau are on form as ever, and I guess Joseph Maher does a good job of making Dorian creepy, but this is a no-contest for me.

Ranking

I feel that some people have a selective memory of this show, pretending it skews vaguely realistic (albeit less-so than Nolan’s trilogy), overlooking the plethora of episodes like this one. For the record, I have no objection to Batman tangling with big sci-fi monster men, so long as the writing is good. If the more supernatural stuff breaks the show for you… fair enough, I guess?

But is the writing good? Ehhh. It’s an incredibly simple plot with a Dr. Moreau rip-off kidnapping Catwoman to turn her into a… well, Cat-Woman to serve as a mate for his giant Cat-Man (not to be confused with Cat Man). Batman duels the monster, who has more humanity than his creator, and Selina is saved. They end up handling the humanity of the monster stuff pretty well, but everything else is middling at best.

Actually scratch that, it’s not that what is here is bad, it’s just there isn’t much here to begin with. We learn Dorian is a mad scientist who thinks cats are better than people thanks to bringing back Kirk Langstrom from the pilot in a cute bit of continuity. We don’t really go any deeper than that. Garth is an afterthought. If you felt generous you could say the caper enriches Bruce and Selina’s relationship.

The action is certainly pretty solid, with the always interesting dynamic of Batman vs a physically superior opponent given a fun twist due to Tygrus’ mobility, able to leap tall bounds and easily outrun Batman (and Garth). In fact, the exhibition of what he can do against Garth is more effective to look at than any exposition Dorian could deliver. It’s the kind of thing that would make for a fun one-shot comic, letting a good artist run wild with the jungle hunt (as in the poster at the end), but it’s relatively forgettable television.

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Heart of Ice
  3. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  4. Perchance to Dream
  5. Two-Face Part I
  6. Joker’s Favor
  7. Feat of Clay Part II
  8. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  9. Beware the Gray Ghost
  10. Mad as a Hatter
  11. Heart of Steel Part II
  12. Vendetta
  13. Appointment In Crime Alley
  14. Two-Face Part II
  15. Heart of Steel Part I
  16. On Leather Wings
  17. Pretty Poison
  18. Feat of Clay Part I
  19. It’s Never Too Late
  20. See No Evil
  21. The Clock King
  22. Joker’s Wild
  23. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  24. Eternal Youth
  25. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  26. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  27. P.O.V.
  28. Christmas with the Joker
  29. Fear of Victory
  30. Be a Clown
  31. Night of the Ninja
  32. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  33. Nothing to Fear
  34. Prophecy of Doom
  35. Tyger, Tyger
  36. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  37. Dreams In Darkness
  38. The Last Laugh
  39. Cat Scratch Fever
  40. The Under-Dwellers
  41. The Forgotten
  42. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Tygrus (Jim Cummings) (first appearance)

What seems like just a decent monster design (a huge humanoid cat creature) turned out to be the best part of the episode. He’s an interesting blend of strong, fast and smart and all of his fight scenes were fun to watch. He’s even got that “why won’t you die?” element down pat. His fast lesson in morality and realising his creator is a bad person but caring for him anyway was shockingly good stuff. We even leave the door open for a return, with him deciding to live alone on Dorian’s island of horrors. Unfortunately he will not be back to make good on the promise established here.

Dr. Emile Dorian (Joseph Maher) (first appearance)

There’s literally nothing to Dorian beyond having a thing for cats and trying to cross-breed them with other things. It’s a mad scientist, and one that’s blatantly plagiarising a more famous one. Being fractionally more interesting than Professor Milo is not a compliment.

I’ll package Garth in with him to justify thinking anything about him at all. Garth is a talking gorilla servant who gets his ass kicked. That’s fun.

Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau) (fourth appearance)

Yet another episode where Selina is definitely not a villain. This doesn’t really do a great deal for her development, beyond the hint that she may have been trying to pull a jailbreak for the tiger in the zoo. Oh, and her love for Batman shines through despite Dorian being convinced she’d lose all her memories when she transformed, so that’s something?

  1. The Joker
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Two-Face
  4. Clayface
  5. Mad Hatter
  6. Poison Ivy
  7. Catwoman
  8. The Riddler
  9. Clock King
  10. HARDAC (and Ronda Duane)
  11. Killer Croc
  12. Rupert Thorne
  13. Lloyd Ventrix
  14. Josiah Wormwood
  15. Scarecrow
  16. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  17. Tony Zucco
  18. Harley Quinn
  19. Hugo Strange
  20. Red Claw
  21. Arnold Stromwell
  22. Mad Bomber
  23. Tygrus
  24. Man-Bat
  25. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  26. Cameron Kaiser
  27. Kyodai Ken
  28. Penguin
  29. Dr. Emile Dorian (and Garth)
  30. Professor Milo
  31. Sewer King
  32. 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 tomorrow with If Beale Street Could Talk.

Kevin & Jerome’s Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul podcast, Reel Bad, drops new episodes the first Tuesday of each month… that means next week.

Speaking of Jerome (twice), he continues to bring 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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