What’s The Story?

King Boris, the monarch of an unnamed European country (though he has an English accent) is visiting Gotham on a goodwill visit, and bringing with him a miniature replica, in gold and jewels, of the famous Queen of Freedom monument, to be placed in the monument itself.

The Riddler kidnaps Boris, in what turns out to be a fiendishly complicated plan. The Riddler knows Batman and Robin will interfere, and so he’s set a trap for them that will lead to their deaths. Then, with the Dynamic Duo out of the way, he can move on to the second part of his plan — while he had Boris kidnapped, he planted a bomb in the replica monument, and he blackmails Gotham for a million dollars or the Queen of Freedom itself will be blown up. He even enlists the help of a Batman lookalike to convince Commissioner Gordon to pay him (even after telling Gordon in his ransom note that Batman is dead).

Luckily, Batman and Robin are not as dead as the Riddler believes, and foil his dastardly plans.

This is the first Batman story not to be based on a comic.

The Goodies
Batman

Believes that “the very essence of democracy” “is that the world knows that all visitors to these teeming shores are safe, be they peasant or king.”

Batman is a better chess player than Robin.

Robin
Robin is relatively subdued this story, only letting out two epithets; “Holy swordpike!” and “holy conflagration!”

Robin needs a torch to fix the atomic pile in the Batcave properly.

Robin is also a surprisingly modern teenager. When told to look up an address, he instinctively goes to the Batcomputer first, before Batman chides him, pointing out that “there are some things we can do the good old-fashioned way, using the telephone book”.

Alfred
Alfred doesn’t take much of a part in this story, being reduced to the bit part he had in early episodes. He does, however, polish the Batpoles.

Commissioner Gordon
Long ago gave up trying to discover Batman’s secret identity, believing both he and Gotham owe Batman too much to do that. Considers Bruce Wayne a good friend, and a hero in his own right for stepping up to pay the ransom. Is unfooled by the Riddler’s goon Whitey dressed up in a Batman costume, but says nothing in order not to put Bruce Wayne (also in the room at the time) in danger. Still, despite all the evidence to the contrary, believes he has a good police force.

The Baddies
The Riddler

“That infernal prince of puzzlers!” “Our quizzical criminal”

The Riddler told Batman once that “a riddle a day keeps the Riddler away”. What he meant by this is that “as long as he’s dishing out riddles, he’s not finished with with only two appearances his plot. When the riddles stop, that’s when he’s ready for his final caper”.

The Riddler seems more maniacal than ever, and is easily offended. When Mousey (his latest moll) remarks that she’s never met royalty before, the Riddler replies, in ever louder outraged tones, “Royalty? You never met royalty? Just whom do you think stands before you, my cherub? I am the Prince of Puzzlers, the Count of Conundrums, the King of Crime! I hold court here, no-one else!”

The River Rat Gang
The Riddler’s latest gang are a sorry bunch, who spend much of their time eating cheese rodent-fashion.

The Gadgets
Other than the torch in Batman’s utility belt, and a homing transmitter planted in a fake tiara stolen by the Riddler, no gadgets play a role.

The Batmobile
Has a start button, labelled start button. This is next to the button for the homing receiver scope.

Gotham City
Has an international airport, and a “Royal Mushroom Club” with a very well stocked wine cellar. Gotham is home of the Queen of Freedom, which appears to be the Batverse’s version of the Statue of Liberty. It has an abandoned water and power plant, on Cartridge Road just near the Gotham City River.

What’s New?
Nothing new is added to the characters here, but this is the first time the Batman TV series has done an original story, rather than adapting an issue of the comics.

Review
This is widely regarded as one of the bigger duds of the first series, and it’s easy to see why. Neither particularly funny, nor particularly exciting, the script is a mess of vague references to chess that don’t go anywhere.

Thankfully, a few things save the story from total tedium. The first is Adam West, as good as ever in the role of Batman. The second is the direction, which has a very different, and much darker, look than much of the rest of the series, with some interesting use of shadow.

But most of all, this is Frank Gorshin’s show, and he rises to the challenge. The Riddler had been an utterly minor presence in the comics before the first episode of Batman, having only appeared in one story since 1948, but Gorshin’s performance in Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle had ensured he would quickly return to the TV series, and the character became a regular foe in the comics at the same time.

Gorshin is even better here than in his first appearance. While most of the villains so far have fallen into either absurd grotesquerie (the Joker, the Penguin) or have been played as essentially normal people (Zelda, Mr. Freeze), Gorshin manages somehow to convince even when playing arguably the most ridiculous part of all. His maniacal laugh, his fury when his ego is bruised, his constant contortions and capering, are all over the top, but all have a core of realism to them. In this way his performance is a mirror image of West’s — while West plays the role so completely straight that even apparently straight lines become funny, Gorshin plays his role so absurdly that even the most absurd moments seem reasonable.

By bringing the Riddler back, the show had to commit to doing its own stories, rather than just adapting and parodying stories from the comics, and while this story is not one of the better ones, it proves that the Batman TV series was now definitely its own thing.

Personnel
Cast

Adam West: Batman
Burt Ward: Robin
Frank Gorshin: The Riddler
Alan Napier: Alfred
Neil Hamilton: Commissioner Gordon
William Dozier: Narrator

Crew
William Dozier: Executive Producer/Creator
Fred de Gorter: Writer
Tom Gries: Director

[These are being published several weeks in advance on my Patreon, where I've just posted the ninth Batman 66 TV series post, which will not appear here until late March. If you want to find out now what I think of False-Face, sign up to support my writing at $1 per month or whatever you can afford. If you can't afford anything or don't like the idea of me having money, they'll all turn up here for free eventually anyway.]

One Response to “Batman ’66: A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away/When the Rat’s Away the Mice Will Play”

  1. PapaPopGuru Says:

    “He does, however, polish the Batpoles.”

    Yikes.

Leave a Reply