DCAU #69: Paging the Crime Doctor

IN THIS ONE... Rupert Thorne's brother is forced to kidnap Leslie Thompkins to help him operate on the mobster.

CREDITS: Written by Randy Rogel, Martin Pasko, Mike W. Barr (a real comic book writer, he wrote some seminal Batman stories and created the not-so-seminal Batman & the Outsiders series) and Laren Bright; directed by Frank Paur.

REVIEW: Okay, wait. Matt Thorne, Leslie Thompkins and Thomas Wayne were class of 1907 or 1908, and that was "40 years ago"? Yep, their medical school yearbook sets the timeline for BTAS as the post-war 1940s. Explains the cars and fashions if not the medical lasers and how Batman will show up in contemporary Justice League. It's the Gotham calendar, don't worry about it ;-). That laser, by the way, is probably my one real complaint about this otherwise very good episode - it's just silly to me that medical equipment would be built enough like a gun, trigger included, that it could be used as a cordless weapon like that. It's silly. And on the animation side, this one's a little murky for me - I almost jacked up the brightness on my TV - but again, a small complaint.

This is the story of two doctors who work off the books. There's Leslie, who treats Batman on the side, and Thorne, AKA the Crime Doctor, who operates a clinic for his brother Rupert's gun thugs without a license. Well, even if he had a license, the kind of work he's forced to do wouldn't be legal. Treating Batman can't be too legit either, I should think, so Leslie might want to get off her high horse. Still, she's basically forced to operate on someone at gunpoint, and the crooks were going to off her as soon as she was done, leading to Matt Thorne unsurprisingly turning to the good side. This is a much more sympathetic version of the character from the comics (see below), one who made a mistake to help his own brother decades ago, and has been paying for it ever since. But still one who respects his Oath even if he's an accessory to murder, presumably. He has to be a sympathetic figure, because he has to earn a place as Thomas Wayne's school friend, and Bruce Wayne's financial help with his defense in exchange for what we'll call a "second opinion" on his father (after all, Leslie too could have told him about Thomas).

What the Crime Doctor loses in medical gimmicks, Thorne's goons supply. They use an ambulance to jack an armored car. There's one guy at the illegal clinic that throws scalpels. And the animation makes all these sequences quite exciting, especially given that Batman is suffering from a concussion most of the time. There's a fine transition at the end with Thorne showing up in jail through the magic of a lighting change. It's good-looking stuff, no colorful villains necessary.

The comics' Crime Doctor was a less sympathetic figure, though nevertheless initially ruled by the Hippocratic Oath, who appeared as early as Detective Comics #77 (1943). As time went on, he became more unethical, sadistic and hands on, as per DC Comics' aesthetic in the 2000s. I'm not sure at what point his last name was used to retcon him as Rupert Thorne's brother - it might even be this episode - but it seems to have taken hold in the comics. Though sometimes called Matthew, he was mostly known as Bradford Thorne.

SOUNDS LIKE: The Crime Doctor is played by Joseph Campanella whose Wikipedia photo amusingly portrays him as a doctor (from the 60s drama, The Nurses); other credits include Guiding Light, Mannix, The Bold Ones: The Lawyers, and Days of Our Lives. Gary Kroeger from SNL and Rodger Bumpass (Dr. Light on Teen Titans, Squidward Tentacles on Spongebob) play some of Thorne's men.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - MacGuffin aside, an exciting episode that adds depth to one of Batman's less regular supporting cast members and broaches on his childhood, with cool animated set pieces too.


American Hawkman said...

This was indeed the first time that the Crime Doctor was connected to Rupert Thorne.


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