The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 34: The Eggbaby

Plot summary: Terry is tasked with taking care of a robotic baby for a class assignment, forcing him to take it with him while trying to foil a group of jewel thieves.

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: ‘The Eggbaby’

Original Air Date: April 1st, 2000

Directed: James Tucker (1)

Written: Hilary J. Bader (8) & Alan Burnett (8) (story)

This episode was conceived to be as childish as possible in order to win a golden statue, because the daytime Emmy Awards leaned heavily towards kid-friendly content. The ploy worked and they won!

James Tucker gets his first directing credit, as series workhorse Curt Geda had gotten started on Return of the Joker by now. Tucker became a huge part of Justice League Unlimited, Batman: The Brave and the Bold and is now one of the producers of the upcoming Batman: Caped Crusader cartoon.

The final speaking appearance for Blade.

Recap

An overdressed woman and her two sons break into a mansion and blow open a huge walk-in safe. They bicker the entire time, including the mother’s decision to take only a single ruby ring and leave behind the rest of the riches.

Bruce informs Terry her name is Ma Mayhem, and she’s been stealing rubies for some time. Before they can formulate a plan to catch the Mayhem Family, Terry is called away to class.

More specifically, he’s called away to ‘Family Studies’ where the class are subjected to that age-old TV trope: looking after pretend babies for a week.

Rather than bags of flour or plastic dolls, they’ve got tiny robotic eggs because it’s the future. Terry is less than enthused, and Blade, his partner for the project, isn’t much help.

Bruce deduces that Ma Mayhem is re-stealing rubies she stole years earlier before being imprisoned. Terry prepares to head out and try and catch her, but Blade dumps the eggbaby on him last minute so he’s forced to take it with him.

The crying alerts the Mayhem Family, with Carl (the bigger of the two boys) heading up to confront Batman. And by confront I mean shoot at a whole bunch. Terry barely manages to avoid death, nearly loses the eggbaby AND the criminals get away. Perhaps an all-time L.

Try as he might, Terry can’t unload the eggbaby, so again has to take it when he goes to foil the Mayhem Family at a museum. Hiding it on the roof this time, he’s able to confront the criminals directly… and kind of gets his ass handed to him again. Yikes.

To make matters worse, Terry realises he left his eggbaby in the back of the Mayhem Family’s invisible flying truck… Yep.

Luckily it turns out the Batmobile can scan for the frequency of the eggbaby’s cries, leading Terry to the crooks’ hideout just in time to rescue it from a multi-storey fall.

Placing the eggbaby in a backpack, Terry gives chase to the escaping Mayhem Family and finally takes them down. Naturally he ends up getting the only A in the class because the eggbaby had so much fun during the chase. Cartoons!

Best Performance

Who would have guessed this joke episode would have one of the most difficult choices for best voice acting in the entire franchise to date. Not joking.

The Mayhem Family are all excellent, with Kathleen Freeman playing her ridiculous character completely straight, talking shit to her two sons and ensuring Ma has a hard edge that doesn’t match her appearance, but keeping her daydreams alive. Andy Dick is kept on a short leash, and that’s definitely for the best. Mark Rolston’s role is the smallest, but he’s decent too.

Max Brooks was excellent in his return as Howard Groote, who takes the assignment just that little bit too seriously, reluctant to even let Dana hold their eggbaby. Seth Green gives Nelson a softer side that you keep expecting to be revealed as an elaborate ruse so he can wail on some nerds, but I think the reading is he is legit psyched to be a dad one day, and Seth makes that feel organic. Melissa Disney is dripping in valley girl attitude, making me wish this weren’t her final outing as Blade.

I’m inclined to go with Will Friedle though, as he hams it up to the max both in protest to the assignment but also defending it against the grumpy Bruce (Kevin Conroy is as fantastic in that role as you’d expect). He isn’t happy about the situation, but he also doesn’t want to fail so takes it seriously.

Ranking

On the commentary track for the episode there’s a fun exchange between James Tucker and Hilary Bader where the latter seems oblivious to there being any deeper themes at play in the episode she wrote, but that only serves as a testament to what a good writer she is because even on autopilot there is some interesting stuff here.

For one thing, Terry is the only student not to raise his hand when asked if he expects to be a parent one day, until Dana nudges him. Now obviously the idea was he wasn’t paying attention and she was trying to help him give the expected answer, but the notion he deliberately kept his hand down until his on-again off-again girlfriend pressured him into answering in the affirmative is very funny to me. Especially as she gives him a flirty look at the end when he aces the assignment and he just gulps.

I actually think they left some money on the table in the form of the social dynamics of the various pairings. Dana ends up with Howard Groote (the geek who paid for a femme-bot girlfriend) who is so overbearing she never gets a turn, bully Nelson does all the work in exchange for Max doing his homework (nice character wrinkle for her to self-identify as a breadwinner) and Terry is matched with Blade, the only person less interested in the assignment than him. Huge fan of her almost immediately failing the assignment for them, only for his superhero reflexes saving the day. I also can’t deny smirking at Terry driving slow to keep his eggbaby happy, and the visual of Terry, Nelson, Howard and Jared all hanging out with their simulated children. Yay for ideas about fatherhood in the future!

The more obvious metaphor is Terry against all odds ending up being quite good at a role he thinks he’s entirely ill-equipped for, and in the face of constant mockery too. Sound familiar?

Look, it’s a very silly episode with a lot of juvenile humour (including the infamous moment where Batman sticks his tongue out at Carl while the eggbaby mimics his pose seen at the top of this review) and ridiculous dialogue. Even the villains are over the top. I wouldn’t want this to be the tone every week, but I actually don’t think it is a black mark on the series or anything, and did genuinely enjoy most of it. In particular I preferred it to the other obvious comedy episode featuring Howard Groote, so will place it just above that one.

  1. Meltdown
  2. Eyewitness
  3. Babel
  4. Final Cut
  5. Disappearing Inque
  6. Spellbound
  7. A Touch of Curaré
  8. Shriek
  9. Rebirth Part I
  10. Bloodsport
  11. Splicers
  12. Zeta
  13. Armory
  14. Hidden Agenda
  15. Lost Soul
  16. Earth Mover
  17. Black Out
  18. Dead Man’s Hand
  19. Sneak Peek
  20. Rebirth Part II
  21. Once Burned
  22. Revenant
  23. Heroes
  24. The Eggbaby (NEW ENTRY)
  25. Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot
  26. Mind Games
  27. Hooked Up
  28. The Winning Edge
  29. Ascension
  30. Joyride
  31. Golem
  32. The Last Resort
  33. Plague
  34. Rats

Villain Watch

The Mayhem Family (Kathleen Freeman/Andy Dick/Mark Rolston) (first appearance)

Somewhere in the general region of Farmer Brown and the trio of comedy villains from Make ‘em Laugh, the Mayhem Family actually end up being pretty fun because they stand out more from Terry’s rogues gallery than the former did Bruce’s. Ma is an angry long-time thief who has done hard time but dresses like a regular old lady. Slim is a weasely little gadget boy who gets smacked around by Ma. Carl is the big strong dumbass. It works. The actors all understood their assignments and give them an extra little something.

The fake out with Ma seeming like she’s going to nurture the eggbaby after his sons are bemused by it, only to order Carl to throw it out of a window was funny.

I’m not going to try and argue they’re top-tier or anything, but you can do worse for comedy villains.

  1. Inque
  2. Shriek
  3. Curaré
  4. Mr. Freeze
  5. Spellbinder
  6. The Jokerz
  7. Derek Powers/Blight
  8. Stalker
  9. The Royal Flush Gang
  10. Armory
  11. Ian Peek
  12. Earthmover
  13. Willie Watt
  14. Dr. Cuvier (and pals!)
  15. Mad Stan
  16. Robert Vance
  17. The Terrific Trio
  18. The Mayhem Family (NEW ENTRY)
  19. Agent Bennet
  20. The Brain Trust
  21. Kobra
  22. Dr. Stephanie Lake
  23. Howard Hodges & General Norman
  24. Paxton Powers
  25. Jackson Chappell
  26. Cynthia
  27. Falseface
  28. Mr. Fixx
  29. Ratboy
  30. Dr. Wheeler

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 the next MCU show starts. In theory I may drop some one-off articles or something, but life is hectic right now so… don’t bet on it.

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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