The Matt Signal – Episode 62: His Silicon Soul

Plot summary: One of HARDAC’s Duplicants is reactivated… and it thinks it’s Batman!

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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!

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Notes

Episode Title: ‘His Silicon Soul’

Original Air Date: November 20th, 1992

Directed: Boyd Kirkland (14)

Written: Marty Isenberg (2) & Robert N. Skir (2)

The title is an homage to The Twilight Zone episode ‘Her Pilgrim Soul’

I failed to mention in the HARDAC two-parter that Karl Rossum’s voice-actor is William Sanderson, who played the inventor of Replicants in Blade Runner.

Among Rossum’s toy collection are Batmite and Superman villain Mr. Mxyzptlk.

Recap

Three dirty rotten crims break into an old Cybertron warehouse, taking a shine to a particular crate. Unfortunately for them, as soon as they begin prying it open, freakin’ Batman bursts out and kicks their asses!

After capturing the first two goons, the third unloads multiple rounds into the Caped Crusader! Only it isn’t Batman at all, but rather a cyborg, with circuitry exposed rather than ya know, his guts. The confused bot stumbles back to Wayne Manor and asks Alfred for help.

Back at the warehouse, the real Batman arrives and ponders who captured the three thieves in his own trademark manner. He finds a pretty ridiculous clue in the form of a computer chip on the person of one of the crooks.

Meanwhile Robo-Bats doesn’t understand Alfred’s assertion that he’s a HARDAC Duplicant, pleading for help. Alfred flees to the Batcave, dons a mask and then releases knockout gas, which naturally has zero effect. Robo-Bats calmly researches HARDAC on the Batcomputer and then heads off to find Karl Rossum.

Actual Batman gets there first, questioning Rossum about HARDAC. Rossum swears that HARDAC was destroyed and he has no interest in trying to create artificial life anymore, preferring the simple life of an organic farmer… albeit one with some incredibly sophisticated farming equipment.

Robo-Bats arrives later and pleads to have his mind restored to his real body, rejecting Rossum’s assertion that he’s 100% robot as he remembers his friends’ birthdays etc. Enraged, he demands to know HARDAC’s location.

The two Batmen lock horns with Bruce seemingly disabling his Duplicant with a hose. Rossum tries to finish it off but Batman insists it could lead them to HARDAC. This provides Robo-Bats enough time to recover and gain the upper hand.

Curiously the synthetic version of our hero abandons the fight to save Rossum from his collapsing greenhouse and is himself buried in the rubble. But when the humans try to dig him out, he’s gone!

Both parties seek out HARDAC’s remains and this time the Duplicant is quicker. Locating a crate bearing the HARDAC logo, Robo-Bats falls under its thrall, ripping his own skin off in order to insert a circuit into his skull. A repair program runs on his body and HARDAC uploads itself into his ‘brain’.

Original flavour Batman arrives and the two fight again. It does not last long. Robo-Bats returns to the Batcave and begins uploading HARDAC to the Batcomputer. Full Skynet, baby!

Bruce returns for round three, and while his robotic doppelgänger is easily able to anticipate his every move, he posits that it is unable to kill because it was been programmed with Batman’s strict moral code. Robo-Bats denies this, but Bruce is proven right when he refuses to deliver a killing blow.

They continue to struggle and Bruce falls to his apparent death, devastating Robo-Bats to such a degree that it smashes the Batcomputer, killing the HARDAC-upload and destroying itself. Of course Bruce survived, and he and Alfred ponder if the Duplicant had a soul… of silicon.

Best Performance

Kevin Conroy found a new way to win this category: play both the hero and the villain! I don’t think it’s his best work, but it’s a solid outing, and he does manage to make the two sound different in terms of their emotional state so that you can tell which is which. Plus it’s pretty cool when Robo-Bats thinks he’s killed a man and screams “Noooo!!!”

Jeff Bennet does get a brief return as HARDAC, but it’s more of a cameo than a feature performance, and Conroy outclasses him here.

Ranking

I would say that I enjoyed this more than the first part of ‘Heart of Steel’, but less than the second. It’s self-contained and has a pacing advantage over either part, able to deliver a satisfying beginning, middle and end structure in 22 minutes, but is more simplistic as a result.

Really this boils down to cool opening, the quickest bit of detective work and three fights between the same two individuals. The third one is pretty cool, with Bruce melting half of his Duplicant’s face off with acid in an obvious homage to both Two-Face and Terminator. It’s also a nice little bit of Batman character work that even his robotic clone can’t bring itself to kill, regardless of its end goal.

Ultimately I think the HARDAC trilogy hasn’t aged particularly well, as this particular market has become oversaturated since the early 90s, but at the time this was cool as hell, and in a children’s cartoon no less. I vaguely remember the episodes, but not well enough to know if I was creeped out by the sight of a Robo-Batman ripping his own face off. Probably!

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Almost Got ‘Im
  3. Heart of Ice
  4. Shadow of the Bat Part I
  5. I Am the Night
  6. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  7. The Man Who Killed Batman
  8. Perchance to Dream
  9. Two-Face Part I
  10. Joker’s Favor
  11. Feat of Clay Part II
  12. The Demon’s Quest Part II
  13. Harley and Ivy
  14. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  15. Beware the Gray Ghost
  16. Mad as a Hatter
  17. Heart of Steel Part II
  18. Appointment In Crime Alley
  19. Two-Face Part II
  20. Pretty Poison
  21. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  22. Feat of Clay Part I
  23. His Silicon Soul
  24. Off Balance
  25. Vendetta
  26. Birds of a Feather
  27. Heart of Steel Part I
  28. On Leather Wings
  29. See No Evil
  30. The Clock King
  31. It’s Never Too Late
  32. Joker’s Wild
  33. Eternal Youth
  34. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  35. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  36. Zatanna
  37. Day of the Samurai
  38. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  39. The Mechanic
  40. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  41. Terror in the Sky
  42. P.O.V.
  43. Christmas with the Joker
  44. Fear of Victory
  45. Be a Clown
  46. What is Reality?
  47. Night of the Ninja
  48. Mudslide
  49. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  50. Nothing to Fear
  51. Prophecy of Doom
  52. Tyger, Tyger
  53. Blind as a Bat
  54. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  55. Dreams In Darkness
  56. The Last Laugh
  57. Cat Scratch Fever
  58. Moon of the Wolf
  59. Paging the Crime Doctor
  60. The Under-Dwellers
  61. The Forgotten
  62. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

HARDAC (Kevin Conroy/Jeff Bennett) (third appearance)

Look. I’m sure some people would take offence to me considering Robo-Bats and HARDAC to be one and the same, but I included the Duplicants when ranking the latter last time, so it seems only fair I follow suit here. Besides, it’s only going to benefit HARDAC!

In fact, I’m willing to put it into the top ten after this, if for no other reason than the gnarly visuals made possible by having a synthetic version of Batman. Censors let more violence slide when it involves robots, hence Wolverine never touching a human-esque character with his claws but completely shredding Sentinels. A man tearing the flesh from his own skull? Horrifying. A robot doing it (while still moaning in confused pain I might add)? A-OK!

Heck, they even had time for a quick debate about whether HARDAC’s vision for a world full of compliant Duplicants would achieve Bruce’s dream of a crime-free Gotham!

  1. The Joker
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Poison Ivy
  4. Harley Quinn
  5. Two-Face
  6. Mad Hatter
  7. Penguin
  8. Catwoman
  9. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  10. Clayface
  11. Ra’s al Ghul
  12. The Riddler
  13. Clock King
  14. Killer Croc
  15. Lloyd Ventrix
  16. Count Vertigo
  17. Josiah Wormwood
  18. Scarecrow
  19. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  20. Rupert Thorne
  21. Sid the Squid
  22. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  23. Tony Zucco
  24. Man-Bat
  25. Hugo Strange
  26. Red Claw
  27. Arnold Stromwell
  28. Mad Bomber
  29. Tygrus (and Dr. Dorian)
  30. Kyodai Ken
  31. Gil Mason
  32. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  33. Cameron Kaiser
  34. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  35. Talia al Ghul
  36. Mad Dog
  37. Ubu
  38. Professor Milo
  39. Romulus
  40. Sewer King
  41. Boss Biggis
  42. Montague Kane

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.

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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