Episode title: Lost Soul
Original air date: October 9, 1999
There is a real theme of passing the torch in this week’s episode as Robert Vance, the owner and president of a major computer corporation uploads his conscious into a computer to enable him to assist with the running of the company after his death. Despite being shut down by his son when he took over the company, thirty five years Vance’s grandson Bobby has now been thrust into the role of company head following the sudden death of his father and seeking advice reactivates the program only to soon be convinced to allow this cyber version of his grandfather access to the internet under the guise of helping him unaware that he has sinister ulterior motives.
Terry meanwhile is on a date with Dana who it would seem are now back together, though no idea when this happened. Still as seems to be a running theme with everytime these two try to have a date night, it’s not long until the cyber Vance is disrupting their evening as he spreads through the computer systems of Neo-Gotham, which seeing how everything is now automated and linked to computer is very bad news as Terry soon finds out when the lift they are in soon starts going haywire. Things only get worse however when Terry finds his suit being taken over as it appears nothing is safe from being hacked by the program.
Playing like the a reverse version of “The Lawnmower Man” in that were that featured Jobe trying to upload his conscious into cyberspace, here we have a program that’s currently trying to find a way out, the exact plans for which I will leave as a ghoulish surprise as they come with a nice chill when cyber Vance revels his plan. Still here we have a story which perfectly uses the futuristic setting, with Cyber Vance being able to hop between networks and access an unlimited source of information he makes for a challenging foe, more so when he is able to use Terry’s own suit against him as unlike the previous suits this futuristic version is also connected to a computer system and hence vulnerable to being hacked as Terry Soon discovers when Vance attempts to down him by having him walk into the ocean.
Vance is of course unquestionably creepy not only for the silhouette image of his face which represents him as a program, but also the aristocratic accent to his voice makes him stand out from being just another killer computer program thanks to Stacy Keach ‘s voice work who some may previously remember voicing the Phantasm in “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” and here again really making this character stand out especially during the scenes which showcase his more ruthless side.
With Terry’s suit being taken out of action with Bruce being forced to press the kill switch while trying to save it from Vance’s control. This of course sets things up for Bruce to highlight that Batman is more than a fancy suit as he encourages Terry to rely on his own skills outside of the suit, though in a generous moment does loan Terry the utility belt from his old suit for his final showdown with Vance who at this point is using his powers to move the bat suit around without anyone wearing it and meaning that Terry is faced with the task of fighting his own batsuit, something I’m sure Bruce never had to deal with.
The passing the torch theme is equally prominent here in the relationship between Terry and Bruce, with Bruce it would seem from several of his comments such as “None of the Robins ever complained” when Terry complains about having to use the old fashioned exit to the bat cave and seemingly indicating that Bruce views Terry as being another Robin, despite the fact that he is wearing the batsuit. More interestingly when Terry is picking out a mask to wear he opts to use the “Nightwing” mask. Nightwing being the alterego the first Robin Tim Drake took on when he broke away from Bruce. The decision to take this mask perhaps symbolising that like Drake, Terry also refuses to be confined to the role of sidekick. It is of course interesting to see Bruce still taking this standpoint especially when we have at this point assumed that Bruce has handed the mantle over to Terry, though it would seem that despite being retired there is still a part of him that refuses to let go of this side of his life.
Another fast paced episode which embraces the setting, while subtly building on the relationship between Terry and Bruce without having to draw focus to these aspects and bogging the story down or removing the focus from the threat which Cyber Vance is providing. Sadly this is a one off appearance for Vance, who had potential for further chaos especially when the city is essentially setup to be one big playground for him. As a one off villain Vance certainly makes a mark in unquestionably one of the best episode of the series.
Next Episode: Hidden Agenda