Plot summary: There’s a talking gorilla on the loose in Gotham, so naturally Batman teams up with it to fight poachers!
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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Episode Title: ‘Speak No Evil’
Original Air Date: November 4th, 2000
Directed: Dan Riba (12)
Written: Stan Berkowitz (14)
Splicing animals with human DNA instead of the other way around was the premise of one if the early Batman Beyond comics released 10 months before this episode. Hilary J. Bader wrote the book and was one of the show’s lead writers, so there’s a solid chance she floated the idea here.
‘See No Evil‘ was a BTAS episode name. Maybe the new Matt Reeves/Bruce Timm cartoon will feature one called Hear No Evil to complete the set.
This episode is likely intended as a soft follow-up to The New Batman Adventures episode ‘Animal Act’, which featured a gorilla and other animals being mind-controlled by Mad Hatter.
A gorilla is on the loose in Gotham, scaring bystanders. Terry overhears some screams and slips off to try and wrangle it, but gets his ass thrown through a shop window because it’s a god damn gorilla.
Terry gives chase for a while, but it hops onto a train and he can’t keep up. A pair of scientists arrive and reveal the gorilla is called Fingers and it escaped while they were running tests.
The GCPD wait at the next stop with nets but Fingers sees them coming so bails early into a nearby park. Terry tells Bruce that it seems a little too intelligent as it boarded the only high-speed train.
He investigates the scientists’ lab and finds a hidden chemical used in the Splicing process, deducing they added some human DNA to boost the ape’s intelligence. He lectures them.
Fingers is highly agitated by a news report on a local animal conservationist, James Van Dyle, tossing a park bench at a giant screen and then… saying his damn name!
Terry tracks him down again and they fight atop a construction building. Fingers asks why Terry can’t just leave him alone, explaining Van Dyle captured his mother and sold him to the scientists.
Batman pledges to capture Van Dyle by dawn. He infiltrates the secret poacher’s compound and obtains evidence that he and his crew are illegally extracting the tracking chips of protected species.
Unfortunately, Van Dyle is able to spot Terry and hits him with a stun gun. Luckily, Fingers gets antsy and hops in a cab to come and save him from lions.
Van Dyle’s men open fire, but Batman is able to take most of them down. Barbara Gordon arrives to arrest Van Dyle, and Fingers gives testimony in lieu of the destroyed evidence.
Terry has to intervene to stop Fingers from killing Van Dyle, and then he and Bruce return him to the wild. They plan to reverse the Splicing process, but Fingers insists on remaining intelligent so he can help fend off future poachers.
Quite obviously, it’s Malachi Throne, who last leant his vocal talents to Two-Face’s alternate personality, The Judge, in the final episode of TNBA. A talking gorilla is an entirely different animal. Okay, column over, goodnight everyone! No, but for real, Fingers is the best-written and performed character in this episode by a comfortable margin.
The only other people who get more than a sentence or two are Will Friedle and Kevin Conroy, who are both perfectly fine, and Reiner Schöne, who makes James Van Dyle as generic as you’d expect.
For as much as I enjoy this show and often find it fascinating as a companion piece to the BTAS/TNBA era, episodes like this demonstrate why it was coming to an end at this stage. With a couple of exceptions, season 3 has been pretty bad, likely because of how thin the creative team were stretched at this time by Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Static Shock, The Zeta Project and the soon-to-launch Justice League. That’s a lot of plates to try and keep spinning, and a number of the best writers from the previous era are rarely, if ever, contributing to Beyond.
Anyway, it’s an incredibly simple story, and I think you’re either the type of person who likes the sound of Batman teaming up with a talking Gorilla seeking revenge on a poacher, or you’re not. I would like to be, but I simply don’t think I am. Or at least this script did nothing to help me be.
I’ll give them props for bringing back Splicing as a justification for Fingers’ intelligence and power of speech, but even that was borrowed from a comic. The animation is quietly some of the best in the show, but there’s no real signature moment or sequence that I’d recommend.
There’s nothing I can really point to and say ‘that was terrible’, but it’s profoundly dull, and boring is always worse than bad.
- Out of the Past
- Final Cut
- Disappearing Inque
- King’s Ransom
- A Touch of Curaré
- Rebirth Part I
- Hidden Agenda
- Lost Soul
- Earth Mover
- Black Out
- Dead Man’s Hand
- Where’s Terry?
- Sneak Peek
- Rebirth Part II
- Once Burned
- Big Time
- Sentries of the Last Cosmos
- April Moon
- The Eggbaby
- Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot
- Mind Games
- Hooked Up
- The Winning Edge
- Ace in the Hole
- The Last Resort
- Speak No Evil (NEW ENTRY)
James Van Dyle (Reiner Schöne) (first appearance)
For as great as the upper echelon of original creation villains have been on this show, there are some really dull ones as well, and Van Dyle falls firmly into the latter category. He’s a poacher. He has a techno-eyepatch and a cool stun gun. That’s all.
Obviously if you have a soul you’re anti-poaching, so he doesn’t even need to do anything to make you root for the good guys, but he’s still an uninspired character design. They basically lightly dipped him in a Rob Liefield vat of 90s comic book overdesign that gave us the likes of Cable and Deadpool.
- Mr. Freeze
- The Jokerz
- Derek Powers/Blight
- The Royal Flush Gang
- Talia/Ra’s al Ghul
- Ian Peek
- Willie Watt
- Dr. Cuvier (and pals!)
- Mad Stan
- Robert Vance
- The Terrific Trio
- Bullwhip’s Gang
- Simon Harper (and the Sentries!)
- The Mayhem Family
- Agent Bennet
- The Brain Trust
- Paxton Powers
- Charlie ‘Big Time’ Bigelow
- Dr. Stephanie Lake
- Howard Hodges & General Norman
- Jackson Chappell
- James Van Dyle (NEW ENTRY)
- Mr. Fixx
- The T’s
- Ronny Boxer
- Dr. Wheeler
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.