The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 16: Splicers

Plot summary: Gotham’s youth become obsessed with cosmetic DNA modification, but Batman is concerned about what’s really going on behind the scenes.

After completing the original run of Batman The Animated Series, Matt Waters looks to the future each Saturday and Sunday with recaps of every episode of Batman Beyond, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

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Notes

Episode Title: ‘Splicers’

Original Air Date: September 17th, 1999

Directed: Curt Geda (6)

Written: Evan Dorkin (1) & Sarah Dyer (1)

This aired as the first episode of season 2. As mentioned in the recap for ‘Joyride‘, there was a push for more teen-focused stories going forward, hence dropping Derek Powers and the first three episodes featuring teenagers in prominent roles.

On that note, this is the debut of Terry’s long-term sidekick, Max, albeit as a brief cameo.

Dr. Cuvier was originally written as the son of one of Kirk Langstrom’s lab assistants but for whatever reason that failed to make it into the episode. Georges Cuvier was one of the pioneers of taxonomy.

Every single actor mispronounces ‘chimera’, presumably because Mission Impossible II hadn’t come out yet.

Recap

Terry and Dana’s friend, Chelsea, debuts her latest fashion accessory: cat eyes. Turns out DNA splicing has become all the rage, courtesy of the Chimera Institute and its founder, Dr. Abel Cuvier.

Terry expresses concern about the fad, just like District Attorney Sam Young, who is attempting to outlaw it due to a rise in violent crimes. Sure enough, Terry fends off a couple of troublemakers on a train who have modified themselves with bull and snake DNA.

Endeavouring to learn more, Terry takes Dana to Chimera for a consultation session after she expressed moderate interest. The two punks drop in for further enhancement, with Dr. Cuvier plotting to attack Sam.

Batman eavesdrops in stealth mode, but Cuvier’s assistant, Tigress, sniffs him out and he’s captured. Terry frees himself after regaining consciousness, but is greatly weakened, having to flee from a fight with Cuvier.

Heading over to Barbara and Sam’s house, Terry arrives just in time to protect them from Cuvier’s hit squad. His weakness is replaced by dramatically increased strength and he mops the floor with the attackers.

Unfortunately, he also becomes feral, frothing at the mouth and taking the beating too far, even lashing out at Barbara Gordon when she tries to pacify him.

Babs calls Bruce to warn him, and moments later Terry stumbles into the Batcave, now resembling Man-Bat! He initially asks Bruce for help but then becomes aggressive again and has to be tranquilised.

Luckily, Bruce had already been working on an antidote and restores Terry to normal. He informs his protégé that the GCPD raided Chimera and Cuvier is on the run.

Armed with a tranq gun full of antidote, Terry locates Cuvier and his goons with help from Ace the Bat Hound. He manages to neutralise the trio of henchmen, but Cuvier injects himself with a massive dose of the splicing chemical and becomes a literal chimera!

Cuvier kicks Batman’s ass a little until Terry injects him with even more of the serum, mutating him into a hideous monstrosity that Terry is able to trick into blowing itself up.

Best Performance

It’s a shame that Ian Buchanan is so good as Cuvier, because this episode features a number of excellent voice roles, from Ice-T as Ramrod, to Cree Summer as Max/Tigress, to Stockard Channing’s outrageous flirtations as Barbara Gordon. Even the usually underbaked Dana gets some great lines for Lauren Tom. Will Friedle is better than usual too, studying ‘On Leather Wings’ to help in his brief scene as Man-Bat. He gets some nice little moments with Dana, Bruce, Barbara and especially his continuing love/hate relationship with Ace.

But yeah, Buchanan is head and shoulders above everyone else as the nefarious slime-ball doctor pushing a dangerous experimental treatment on Gotham’s youth. He’s just charming enough when acting as Chimera’s spokesman, but never without that shady side.

Ranking

Finally, some god damn Cyberpunk! It’s taken 16 episodes for this future show to get to body modification, and they snuck in the ‘I’m an individual, just like all my friends’ swipe that you so often see levelled at those with tattoos, piercings etc. It feels true to life for city officials to try and use abstract crime statistics to prove youth culture = bad. It’s just a bit a shame that the story does end up playing out exactly like that.

The closest we get to balance is Terry pointing out his mother’s hypocrisy for condemning Splicing despite having a tattoo. But even then, Terry is immediately critical of the practice himself. But I suppose it is a children’s cartoon and heavy-handed preaching about morality is par for the course.

It’s a nice touch that Terry defeats Cuvier in a similar manner to Jackson Chappell in ‘The Winning Edge’, but it does complicate the rules about killing. Bruce generally showed fewer qualms about murdering non-humans, but Terry turned Cuvier into the blob monster in the first place, effectively executing him. You can argue that Cuvier had already turned himself into the Chimera, but reversing that was still on the table. And the only time Batman’s Golden Rule has come up was when Bruce talked Terry down from his desire for revenge on Derek Powers. Whatever, a minor thing.

Overall, it’s a fun episode that takes advantage of the setting in a way that surprisingly few have so far, as well as telling a nice little Terry story, also a rarity. His objections to the trend, interaction with Bruce and Ace, and final moment with Barbara, who tries to talk him out of being Batman, are all cute. It was normal to not delve into Bruce’s character much during BTAS, but that was because Batman arrived fully formed and iconic. Terry was a brand new character, and one that some fans objected to early on, so personally I think he needs more focus than his predecessor.

It doesn’t last long, but Terry becoming Man-Bat was pretty gnarly, too.

  1. Meltdown
  2. Disappearing Inque
  3. Spellbound
  4. A Touch of Curaré
  5. Shriek
  6. Rebirth Part I
  7. Splicers (NEW EPISODE)
  8. Earth Mover
  9. Black Out
  10. Rebirth Part II
  11. Dead Man’s Hand
  12. Heroes
  13. The Winning Edge
  14. Ascension
  15. Joyride
  16. Golem

Villain Watch

Dr. Cuvier (Ian Buchanan) (first appearance)

I’ll clarify right now that I will be including his henchmen, Ramrod, King Cobra and Tigress in his ranking, because really, we’re just talking about the group of human/animal hybrids here. They’re all fun, providing some Killer Croc style muscle for Terry to have to contend with, with Tigress spicing things up by being able to smell Batman while he’s invisible.

As for Cuvier himself, he ticks a number of boxes, starting out as a well-voiced sleazy business dude, but quickly transitioning to surprising physical threat… and then deadly monster that destroys Terry… and then an Akira-style mutant blob with tentacles.

I wish he returned in the show so he had a chance to climb the ranks more, and in fact one of the tie-in comics did reveal he survived the explosion.

  1. Inque
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Shriek
  4. Spellbinder
  5. Curaré
  6. Derek Powers/Blight
  7. The Jokerz
  8. Earthmover
  9. Dr. Cuvier (and pals!) (NEW ENTRY)
  10. The Terrific Trio
  11. The Royal Flush Gang
  12. Willie Watt
  13. Dr. Stephanie Lake
  14. Howard Hodges & General Norman
  15. Paxton Powers
  16. Jackson Chappell
  17. Mr. Fixx

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 including Return of the Joker.

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, is on hiatus until Hawkeye, though I may drop a couple of one-off articles.

There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. This week you probably shouldn’t answer your phone, as we cover Wes Craven’s Scream.

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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