DCAU #26: Dreams in Darkness

IN THIS ONE... The Scarecrow's fear gas sends Batman to Arkham after the vigilante starts hallucinating.

CREDITS: Written by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens (I've read several of their Star Trek novels, but they also worked in TV, most notably on Phantom 2040 and Primeval: New World); directed by Dick Sebast.

REVIEW: If at first you don't succeed..? The Scarecrow has been the main villain of as many episodes as the Joker in the first half of the season, but we won't see him in that role again in BTAS. In Dreams of Darkness, I think they finally made it work. In fact, they used this scheme in Batman Begins. We don't see a whole lot of the Scarecrow, but it's his fear gas and the hallucinations they create that are the real visual meat of his episodes, so we don't need to. They even try to hide his involvement in the first act, letting us wonder just what pushed Batman over the edge. Well, ANOTHER edge, shall we say. Arkham's psychiatrists might be interested in "helping" him regardless for his mask fixation (psychobabble saves his secret identity, delightful!) and somewhat lunatic drive to dress as a bat and fight equally outlandish villains and their cybernetic henchmen (Torchy the Swiss Army Man - ha! - seems out of place in all this).

So the Scarecrow may be endangering Gotham, all we really care about is Batman not going permanently mad. Our interest lies in his escape from Arkham, his confrontation with distorted versions of his friends and foes, and ultimately getting to a treatment in time. The very best of the hallucinations concerns a giant gun, dripping sewage/blood, rising out from the city's underbelly and firing. Because of standards and practices, I'm guessing, the animated show isn't actually ABLE to show the Waynes' murders, but this impressive symbol for it it is more clever and interesting. In general, the animation is more than able to meet the script's requirements, with grotesque images like Two-Face's head busting out of the Penguin's and Poison Ivy growing tendril arms, as well as dynamic car crashes and an expressionistic atmosphere. The episode shows flashlights throwing flares, and Batman bathed in hellish red light as the Scarecrow's plans explode. Quite effective.

IN THE COMICS: The first story arc in Batman: Shadow of the Bat (1992) had Batman check himself into Arkham to investigate some murders there only to be imprisoned as a madman by the head psychiatrist. Dr. Bartholomew may be a reference to Dr. Bartholomew Wolper, who treated the Joker and Two-Face in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Bartholomew mentions the Joker's real name as Jack Napier, an invention of the Tim Burton film, not of the comics.

SOUNDS LIKE: Richard Dysart (L.A. Law, The Thing) plays Dr. Bartholomew. Takayo Fischer (Mistress Ching in the Pirates franchise) is Dr. Wu. And Loren (Robin) Lester actually does the Joker's laugh in this episode, not Mark Hammill!

- The Scarecrow episode we should have gotten right off the bat.


LiamKav said...

The Scarecrow's mask has actually been redesigned again for this episode, although it's a much smaller change. His voice is different too. Same actor, but a much quieter delivery that I think really works.

I love this episode. You have said that you are curious to see the Wayne murders, but a combination of BS&P and the producers desire not to tell the origin again have stopped that (which is impressive, especially compared to the constant retellings of Spider-Man's origin we've had in the cinema over the past decade). The hallucination in this episode though is a great consolation. The giant gun, dripping blood, shows us Batman's fears far more effectively than Scarecrows first episode. And the sequence with all his rogues is great, especially the Clayface animation on Ivy and the way all their musical themes mix together.

The Jack Napier thing gets retconned later. By the time of TNBA his real name is "unknown", as it should be.


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