DCAU #174: The Hand of Fate

IN THIS ONE... Superman seeks Doctor Fate's help against a demon.

CREDITS: Written by Hilary J. Bader and Stan Berkowitz; directed by Dan Riba.

REVIEW: Oh dear. You know when you're really excited about seeing one of your favorite characters on a show, but are also coming off the best possible episode of that show? Well, that. But quite frankly, even if I hadn't just watched World's Finest, I don't think Doctor Fate's introduction is all that great. For one thing, it's NOT Superman's first meeting with either him or Inza. Which is off-putting. When a mystical threat pops up in Metropolis, despite sort of playing the moment as the revelation that Superman is vulnerable to magic, he immediately knows who to ask for help, and whenever their first encounter(s) happened, Fate has since decided to give up superheroics for a more meditative life. I guess the comics are going to have to fill that hole.

My point is, Fate's turn doesn't really mean anything if we didn't know him from before. We're told this is a change, and Inza doesn't agree with it, but it's not the same as realizing it for ourselves. And it's pretty clear to the point of dull predictability that Fate will show up in the climax to save Superman's bacon no matter what he told him. He's shamed into it. Plotting 101. Bah, whatever. When you've got your big mystical hero able to recreate the MacGuffin that Karkull explicitly destroyed, but unable to retrieve it when simply dropped, you know the writing's not up to snuff. Never mind the Wiccan girl whose "comic relief" scene doesn't bring anything to the table.

Even the magical effects lack luster, though I appreciate the fact Karkull takes the Daily Planet over, as it does look like a place of power. The demonic looks imposed on Lois and Jimmy getting ripped off them like big costumes is fun, though the creators never really make me feel like Superman's having a hard time fighting his own friends. A wasted opportunity. The best moment in the whole episode is actually a human one, when, at the very end, the S.C.U. barges in, guns in front of them. That got a smile out of me, but otherwise, not so much.

IN THE COMICS: Doctor Fate (and Inza) first appeared in More Fun Comics #55 (1940), when he starred for until issue 98 (1944) while simultaneously appearing as a member of the Justice Society of America over in All-Star Comics. Both were blonder characters there. The Tower of Fate in Salem Massachusetts first appeared in More Fun #67 (1941). He would reappear sporadically from the 60s on, getting his own series and mini-series every so often (though often NOT with Kent Nelson as the core identity). As for Karkull, he is named after Fate villain Ian Karkull (More Fun #69), but has little in common with the Durlan-looking demon seen in this episode. In the comics, he was a human scientist and archaeologist who used relics against Fate. He is today best known as the retcon that made JSA members retain unnatural vitality through the present. He name-checks the Lords of Chaos, which are Fate foes since the late 70s.

SOUNDS LIKE: Doctor Fate is played by Uruguayan actor, George DelHoyo (Orpheus on Days of Our Lives). Inza's voice is that of Jennifer Lien, i.e. Kes on Star Trek: Voyager. Karkull is Ted Levine (Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs). Let's not forget Cree Summer as Rainsong; due for a recurring role on Batman Beyond (we'll get there eventually), she was the voice of Penny Gadget and the face of Winifred in A Different World.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - A misfire. Just because I want to see all my favorite DC characters show up in these shows doesn't mean the score immediately goes up when they do.


Andrew Gilbertson said...

I can agree about the Fate introduction (though I do like the idea of Superman having other encounters and friends off-screen)- but I think this episode was noteworthy ('praiseworthy' is debatable) for an incredibly-heavy, dark tone. This one was NOT for little kids, and the inherent creepiness was quite effective.

American Hawkman said...

This is one of my favorite episodes of the series, and probably my favorite character introduction, so I disagree with the review. I liked Fate as trying to retire after decades of service, but being inspired by Superman to continue the fight. GREAT use of Inza, and generally a good episode in general. Love it.


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