Episode Title: The Joker’s Flying Saucer
Original Airdate: February 29, 1968
We are down to the last few episodes of Batman and we have seen all the major villains put in their final appearances. That is, with one notable exception. It seems appropriate that the biggest of all of Batman’s foes should be the last iconic villain to put in an appearance on this show. We bid farewell to Cesar Romero’s take on the clown prince of crime in today’s episode, The Joker’s Flying Saucer.
As our story begins, Gotham City is all abuzz due to several sightings of a flying saucer in the area. What’s more, some citizens have even reported seeing little green men around the city. Even Barbara Gordon is startled one day at the library when this green dude starts messing around with the books. Batman and Robin are soon called into action and even join Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara for an interview with a woman who claims to have seen the martian. While this is going on, the alien manages to plant an explosive device in the Batmobile.
The woman, though, is all a part of a hoax concocted by the Joker designed to spread panic across the city. Now, in order to complete his flying saucer, Joker needs to procure a supply of the light-weight metal Berrylium. There just so happens to be a large supply at the research facility of the Wayne Foundation. With the help of the new Current Criminal Activity Bat-Disclosure Unit, Batman figures out this is what Joker is after, so they dispatch Alfred to the Wayne Foundation to check on security. When our heroes go to leave a short time later, the bomb in the Batmobile goes off, leaving the Batcave in shambles…before the commercial break.
When we return, we see that both Alfred and Batgirl (who overheard info about the Joker through Commissioner Gordon) have both been captured. In fact, Joker plans to blast Batgirl into space, tying her to a rocket with a short fuse. Luckily, she has an Automatic Fuse Extinguisher built into her utility belt. So, Joker just grabs her and Alfred and takes off in the flying saucer. The UFO flies all over the globe, freaking out people world wide. Back at the Batcave, our heroes come to and head off to board the Batcopter. Thanks to a homing device Alfred planted in the saucer, the Joker’s ship is drawn back to its point of origin. Of course, Batman and Robin are waiting and the big final fight breaks out…ending with Joker being hauled back to prison.
Cesar Romero’s Joker has consistently been one of the better villains on this show. After having re-watched almost all of this series with adult eyes, I now have a new appreciation for his performance. I first watched this series as a young kid in the 70’s and didn’t realize its intentional campiness. When it started airing again in my late teens (at the time of the release of Tim Burton’s Batman) it was often pointed out how ridiculous this version of Joker was compared with the Nicholson version. But that’s selling Romero short. His performance actually strikes a wonderful balance between the sinister and the loony. Is it silly that he’s trying to scare the world with a flying saucer…of course. Through it all, though, there’s an undeniable evil glint in Romero’s eye. Though this show was at its heart a comedy, Romero’s Joker is worthy of standing beside the likes of Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill and Heath Ledger.
As great as Romero is in this episode, it is a bit out-of-left-field for him to be hatching a plot involving aliens. In fact, this plot could’ve been pulled off without him. One of the Joker’s gang in this episode is a guy with green skin, green hair, and green clothes playing the part of the alien. He’s played by actor Richard Bakalyan, a veteran of many Disney productions and other movies including Chinatown. He looks pretty freaky as the alien, and is quite a bit more animated than the average henchman. I dare say, he could’ve taken the lead and been the actual villain of this story. Still, I’m glad Romero’s Joker is there, this being his final episode and all.
The strange thing about this episode, though, is that Batman and Robin don’t really do much. They use a computer that is essentially psychic to learn who the bad guy is and what he’s up to. Then, before they can do anything about it, the Batmobile blows up and they are lying in the rubble. Meanwhile, Batgirl manages to get herself captured as well. What ultimately brings down the Joker this time is the resourcefulness of Alfred, who, though also captured, has the brains to plant something that drops Joker right into Batman’s lap.
All-in-all, though a bit silly, this is a worthy send off for Romero’s Joker. Now, with Joker back behind bars, we’re left to have to tangle with a few not-so-iconic villains for the last two episodes of the show. The teaser at the end of this episode introduces us to Dr. Cassandra Spellcraft (Ida Lupino) and Cabala (Howard Duff). Looks like they are out to steal a diamond in next week’s episode The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra. Join us, same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
Current Criminal Activity Bat-Disclosure Unit
Anti-Thermal Bat T-Shirts
Automatic Fuse Extinguisher
Inter-cosmic Two-way Thermaphone
Holy Rock Garden
Holy Known Unknown Flying Objects