The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 39: Untouchable

Plot summary: Terry has to juggle battling a new masked villain, Repeller, and the (allegedly) unwanted advances of a teenage girl.

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: ‘Untouchable’

Original Air Date: September 23rd, 2000

Directed: Dan Riba (11)

Written: Hilary J. Bader (9)

Alan Burnett conceived of the Repeller when he was ten years old. Take that how you will.

Irene and co. appear to suffer from primary immunodeficiency, but all you Web MD heads knew that already, right?

Recap

A wacky costumed sci-fi man surrounded by some kind of bioelectrical shield easily breaks into an isotope research lab. Batman fails to stop him from stealing the unknown experimental compound.

Bruce exposits that the manmade isotope is called Beta Sterillium and is the only sample in existence. Terry complains about the thief’s protective field, which repelled everything he threw at it, which gives Bruce a hunch.

Taking a tour of a Wayne-Powers research facility, Bruce and Terry learn from Dr. Suzuki of  experimental ‘Iso Rings’, used to treat immunocompromised patients by repelling all matter.

Terry meets a girl called Irene who has never left the facility and probes her for more information, while Bruce asks for schematics from Suzuki. His superior, Dr. Blades, is both furious and unimpressed by Wayne, all but kicking him out.

The mystery man sells the Beta Sterillium to some buyers, having previously dealt them Alpha Sterillium. Unsurprisingly, his next target will be Gamma Sterillium. He vows to kill Batman if he tries to interfere again.

Speaking of Batman in mortal danger, Terry won’t shut up about Irene to Dana. The situation is made worse when Irene calls him, claiming to have escaped, and they spend an afternoon together at the beach before she has to head back.

Bruce puzzles out that when Alpha and Beta Sterillium are combined with Gamma they can create a powerful explosive, so dispatches Terry to Bludhaven Nuclear Facility.

Sure enough, Batman tangles with ‘Repeller’ again. He finds momentary success with titanium restraints, but the villain completely kicks his ass for the second time and escapes.

Dr. Suzuki is revealed to be Repeller, attacking Dr. Blades and Irene when they discover his secret. Batman at last defeats him by covering his own ears and activating some giant turbines that overwhelm Suzuki’s ears, as Irene previously told him sound is the only thing that can pass through the barrier.

Terry tries to let Irene down gently, but it turns out she is dating a fellow patient (who dresses exactly like Terry).

Best Performance

Big pile of meh to choose from here. Gedde Watanabe was unremarkable as Suzuki/Repeller, failing to deliver his big villain monologue with much conviction. Miguel Sandoval succeeded in being unlikeable as red herring Dr. Blades, but didn’t really rise above fine.

Will Friedle and Kevin Conroy’s back and forth about Irene didn’t land for me at all. Lauren Tom continues to be a trooper as she’s handed a small number of lines every few episodes, delivers them well, but barely gets a real look in.

T’Keyah Keymáh and Victor Raider-Wexler were sort of interesting as the isotope buyers, but those are blink and you’ll miss them characters.

Therefore by process of elimination I suppose I’d choose Joanna Hulce as Irene, who commands tremendous sympathy due to her medical condition and the restrictions that come with it, and does a good job of being excitable without being annoying when sneaking out.

Ranking

The most bog standard type of Batman episode, with an insanely powerful mystery villain who ends up being the most obvious candidate even with an ostensible red herring. Dr. Blades is mean! He’s rude to Bruce, grounds Irene and bans Terry from the lab! Surely he’s the bad guy… even though he vehemently refused to discuss the notion of weaponising the tech, having turned down offers from the military in the past. Instead it’s literally the first person we meet, Suzuki, who simply wants to make more money, so builds a fancy suit and freelances as a burglar.

I’m giving them a hard time, but I actually enjoyed the power dynamics at play, as well as the villain (more on him below). The part that didn’t work for me as well was Irene. More specifically, her teased romance with Terry. Poor Dana has been horrifically neglected and even cheated on by Terry, so to briefly suggest he has a crush on yet another woman just feels unnecessary. His heart-to-heart chats with Bruce about how to handle the situation don’t really land, with Bruce telling him scores of women threw themselves at him and he simply ignored them and focused on being Batman. Gee, thanks, Bruce! It all culminates in her revealing a secret boyfriend and Terry laughing it off as a misunderstanding, which all feels like a waste of precious time.

Still, Irene does evoke sympathy due to her functional imprisonment in the facility and arms Terry with the knowledge he uses to beat Repeller, namely that only sound can get through the protective field. Speaking of which, I initially thought the turbine thing was a lame way to defeat a villain, but then realised the problem wasn’t just the loud noise, but that Suzuki himself couldn’t get through it in order to cover his ears, so he had to switch off the Iso Ring or get his eardrums burst. Smart!

But as I said, a lot of time is wasted that could have been invested elsewhere. For instance, what was the deal with the isotope buyers? They appear for thirty seconds, get two thirds of the components needed for their huge bomb and… that’s it? Are they still out there? With a few spare minutes we could have explored their motivations and had Batman take them down or something.

  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. Big Time
  23. Revenant
  24. Untouchable (NEW ENTRY)
  25. Sentries to the Last Comos
  26. April Moon
  27. Heroes
  28. The Eggbaby
  29. Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot
  30. Mind Games
  31. Hooked Up
  32. The Winning Edge
  33. Ascension
  34. Joyride
  35. Golem
  36. The Last Resort
  37. Plague
  38. Payback
  39. Rats

Villain Watch

The Repeller (Gedde Watanabe) (first appearance)

While the logistics of the tech may raise a few eyebrows (how would sound get in if it repels all matter, including oxygen?), he has a nice design and the powers the Iso Rings grant him are undeniably impressive and engaging.

On the surface he’s invulnerable and can fly and shoot energy beams, which are among the most generic powers in all of superherodom, but thanks to how they’re visually expressed and Suzuki’s creative ways of using them, he ends up being a great deal of fun. I would welcome a return but there will not be one.

  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. Repeller (NEW ENTRY)
  13. Earthmover
  14. Willie Watt
  15. Dr. Cuvier (and pals!)
  16. Mad Stan
  17. Robert Vance
  18. The Terrific Trio
  19. Karros
  20. Bullwhip’s Gang
  21. Charlie ‘Big Time’ Bigelow
  22. Simon Harper (and the Sentries!)
  23. The Mayhem Family
  24. Payback
  25. Agent Bennet
  26. The Brain Trust
  27. Kobra
  28. Dr. Stephanie Lake
  29. Howard Hodges & General Norman
  30. Paxton Powers
  31. Jackson Chappell
  32. Cynthia
  33. Falseface
  34. Mr. Fixx
  35. Ratboy
  36. 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 Moon Knight begins. I miiiight drop a column or two before then, but given I did an accidental racism last time, I probably won’t.

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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