Home > A-minus, Batman: The Animated Series, Episode Grades > Batman: The Animated Series, Episode 43 – “His Silicon Soul”

Batman: The Animated Series, Episode 43 – “His Silicon Soul”

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Written by Marty Isenberg, Robert N. Skir
Directed by Boyd Kirkland
Originally Aired November 20, 1992.
DVD: Batman, The Animated Series, Volume Two

Summary: Batman continues his war on crime. Meanwhile, Batman investigates someone apparently playing a game of copycat. One of the two hides a shocking secret.

Arc Notes: Final appearance of HARDAC or its minions.

Background:

As, again, this is an arc self-contained within Batman stories to the best of my knowledge and research abilities, there isn’t much here. About the only noteworthy thing is that this is actually a direct sequel to the prior episode, essentially making this the same length as some direct-to-DVD efforts.

Thoughts on the Episode:

At the time of this episode’s first airing, the biggest genre show on TV (and one of the biggest shows on TV period) was Star Trek: The Next Generation, whose breakout character was the android Data. Most of Data’s episodes revolved around his attempts to either become more human or understand the idea of humanity itself, and this episode feels very much like a TNG ep, or even the occasional “technology is EVIL!” episodes of the original series. This episode revolves around whether it’s possible for a robot to develop ethics, and what happens if the robot does in fact try to emulate one of the most ethical men on the planet.

This episode is a lot more than the sum of its parts (it does feature top-notch animation, though). If BTAS was written for a slightly older audience, this could have been played off as something of a fascinating mystery, following the duplicant Batman around for the entire episode while only giving subtle clues that something’s wrong. Instead, it’s played much straighter, with the erstaz Batman (hereafter “Batman” since I’m going to get tired of coming up with cute ways of describing him) revealing his true nature right off the… bat. There is a brief bit of double-crossing with the idea that “Batman” is the real one’s brain implanted in the robotic body, but even that doesn’t last very long. That kicks off a series of switchbacks on the main plot as “Batman” first recovers his memories of HARDAC (along with a desire to actually be Batman strong enough that he somehow acquires Batman’s ethics) then heads back to the Batcave for a final confrontation somewhat reminiscent of the one we saw earlier in “Black Out.”

While the plot itself has a few holes (how exactly did the robot figure out what Batman’s ethics were simply from information obtained from the Batcomputer? Then again, Batman would probably have a “if you’re a robot trying to interpret me, here’s what to do” file as a trap, because he’s Batman), as a combination of a robot soul episode and The Terminator, the episode really comes together. The entire HARDAC storyline, aside from some details such as Gordon’s rank, feels a lot like a “Year One”-era storyline, with Batman more concerned by the manipulations of ordinary men (or, well, robots) rather than stopping insane schemes perpetrated by a psychotic super-villain. HARDAC’s scheme¬† isn’t anything special, but any time Batman is matched up against a villain that’s a lot more powerful than he is means he’s got to play things smart in order to win, and Batman certainly comes up with a doozy here.

While the robot’s acquisition of a conscience is questionable, Batman basically does the oldest anti-robot trick in the book by getting it to think about the moral consequences of its actions and getting it to turn against itself. Sure, it’s very trite to have the clock stopped with less than a second to go, but given that there was no way to access the computer (fairly set up by Alfred’s earlier disabling at the hands of the robot) it’s entirely fair. It’s actually neat, in that Batman barely escaped the robot after a fall earlier in the episode, so he knows that the robot isn’t the type to check and make sure a falling victim has bounced twice. The robot is reasonably well-developed as a character – since he’s basically a metallic Batman, he doesn’t need much – but you get the sense that there was a deeper story there about the development of an artificial intelligence into something more; perhaps, as Batman speculated, something with a soul, albeit electronic. Justice League would of course run with this idea later.

The sequel-ish nature of this type of episode can occasionally be a detriment, but because this is essentially one continuous narrative from the earlier story, it works out for the best. The episode is helped by the aforementioned high animation quality; this one seems to have a bit more of an Asian influence than normal, with the shading looking very animesque at points. However, it’s appropriately dark, with the greenhouse scenes featuring Rossum almost feeling like an aberration in comparison to the unrelenting stormy blackness of the rest of the episode. Although I personally don’t believe that every Batman episode has to look like this, when used with discretion this style of¬† animation serves an episode extremely well. The character animation is also very nice, with subtle hints as to the robot’s true nature, later with his disentegrating condition also receiving quite a bit of detail. Unlike the first HARDAC episode, here the chanracters are more complex for more of the episode, and even Alfred is better than usual.

Although it would have been interesting to go back to the well of HARDAC, as the series became more modernized the idea of a killer computer seemed more than a little out of place. Best for something like this to be confined to these early years, before Batman started dealing with threats that could potentially act on a galactic scale. But that’s the next episode.

Grade: B+. A great example of taking a solid initial presence and making it better, even if it means going back to an often-used plotline.

Random Thoughts:

  • Note that the Batcave stairway entrance is once more hidden in the clock, as opposed to (as someone pointed out in an e-mail) the 1960’s style bookcase entrance.
  • “A robot can’t build a factory!” Alfred, you’re staring at a robot that is walking and talking and who you have good reason to believe just killed Batman. Do you honestly think that putting together an assembly line is going to prove difficult for this thing?
  • I love the gag with Batman uselessly swinging the sword into “Batman.” If it had vibrated on contact, it would’ve been straight out of a Bugs Bunny short.
  • Rossum’s re-purposing of his tech for use at the greenhouse is a pretty funny touch.

Line of the Episode: “What… is… LOVE?” Wait, no, that’s Jim Kirk.

Next Side Story: We’re going to cover some dream- and hallucination-based episodes, starting with “Dreams in Darkness”, but I also want to do Volcana’s origin.

Next Justice League: “Tabula Rasa”, as I get to do a proper backgrounder for the first time in a little while.

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