Episode Title: The Puzzles are Coming
Original Airdate: December 22, 1966
Of all the guest villains who appeared in the first season of Batman, the highlight for me was Frank Gorshin’s Riddler. He was clearly a highlight for others as well. Gorshin appeared on the show more than any other guest in the first season and he was nominated for an Emmy. But when season 2 of the show rolled around, Gorshin was unavailable due to his Vegas show. So Batman’s producers had to come up with a plan B. That included reworking a script written for the Riddler and inserting a new villain. So, enter Maurice Evans (Dr. Zaius himself) as the Puzzler in The Puzzles are Coming.
Our story opens with a small toy rocket being launched and landing in the office of Commissioner Gordon. There is a message attached that seems to point to none other than the Puzzler. So, of course, Gordon grabs the Batphone…interrupting Bruce and Dick practicing their bird calls. Batman and Robin quickly spring into action.
At City Hall, Batman examines the message which says, “I know a bank where the wild time blows, inside out the puzzle goes.” Batman reverses the word “bank” to come up with “Knab,” the name of a billionaire visiting Gotham. Artemus Knab must be the target. So Batman and Robin rush off to meet him, but it turns out that Puzzler is already there and has entered into a business relationship with the millionaire. The two are working together in the field of balloon manufacturing. Of course, the balloons have puzzles (or should we say “riddles”) printed on them.
There’s more to these balloons, though. Puzzler and his men take a bunch of them to a gatherng of rich society types at the airport. They then pop the balloons, which contain a gas which causes everyone to freeze like statues. They then steal all the jewels. Batman and Robin even end up getting frozen as the crooks escape. However, later at the Batcave, Batman examines more clues to track down Puzzler at his balloon factory. After a fight with Puzzlers goons, the villain gets the jump on our heroes with a couple of poison darts. Next thing we know, our heroes are in a hot air balloon, the basket of which will drop from the balloon when they reach 20,000 feet. Cue the cliffhanger narration.
Horror of horors!!
Is there no escape??
That altimeter is rising fast!!
Is this the last harrah for the dynamic duo?
Can anything save them?
We can only hope ‘till tomorrow!
Same bat-time, same bat-channel!!!
This episode is kind of a mixed bag, though ultimately pretty enjoyable. It is extremely obvious that this story was originally intend for Riddler. When Gordon and O’Hara receive the first message they act like it couldn’t be anyone but Puzzler…while everyone in the audience is going…nope, sounds a bit like Riddler to me. Oh, we’re calling the messages “puzzles” this time. Nope, they’re still riddles. It’s kind of like how the MCU referred to Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver as “miracles” instead of “mutants.”
On the positive side, I really liked Maurice Evans as Puzzler. The producers have added some things to his character to set him apart from the Riddler. Most obvious is his love of Shakespeare as well as his overly theatrical line deliveries. Evans’ voice has great quality to it and he looks so lovably pompous. Plus, I probably got a bit wrapped up in hearing Dr. Zaius’ voice coming out of a human. Even though this is a story that was intended for Riddler, Puzzler couldn’t be more different than the cackling green-suited criminal…at least in terms of how he presents himself.
This episode has a number of other fun touches. The gas filled balloons, not to mention the gas masks Puzzler and his men wear, certainly made me think of the plot of Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the 89 Batman film. I also thought that seeing young Dick Grayson practice his bird calls was one of the weirdest moments of the series so far. Even weirder was that Bruce encourages Dick to build his skills because one day it could lead to humans actually being able to communicate with birds!?!?
Our heroes could certainly use some help from the birdies right now. They’re about to plummet from a hot air balloon. We have to wait until next time to see what happens in The Duo is Slumming. Same bat time, same bat channel (superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
Holy Deposit Slip
Holy Flight Plan
Holy Graf Zeppelin