“The Joker’s Flying Saucer”
Written by Charles Hoffman
Directed by Sam Strangis
Season 3, Episode 24
Production code 1720
Original air date: February 29, 1968
The Bat-signal: The citizenry of Gotham City is convinced that there will be an alien invasion, despite assurances by Gordon to the contrary. Professor Greenleaf is trying to convince Barbara (who’s actually working in the library!) that humanity should submit to their new alien overlords. While Barbara doesn’t buy Greenleaf’s story, she does see a green-skinned and -haired man vandalizing the library.
Faced by near-harassment from the people of Gotham, Gordon does the same thing he always does when required to do his job: he calls Batman. The Dynamic Duo slide down the poles and drive to GCPD HQ.
Turns out the rumors were started by the Joker, who designed a flying saucer while in prison with the help of his pickpocket cellmate.
Batman, Robin, Gordon, and O’Hara question a Mrs. Green, who insists she saw a three-foot-tall Martian man in Gotham Central Park. And then Barbara arrives at Gordon’s office completely a-quiver, telling our heroes about the little green man in the library. Said little green man, whose name is Verdigris, has also been in the Batmobile, where he’s left a bomb to go off at midnight. The Dynamic Duo head back to the Batcave, not realizing the Batmobile is bombed, and eventually they figure out where they’ve seen Mrs. Green before: she was the front-woman for a bunko artist (which is what they called grifters in the 1960s).
Professor Greenleaf also turns out to be working for the Joker. The criminal clown’s next move is to steal some beryllium for the flying saucer from the Wayne Foundation. Batman figures out that it’s the Joker, so he has Alfred check on the Wayne Foundation security and also informs Gordon that the Joker is the likely culprit.
Barbara was in Gordon’s office when Batman called, so she heads off to change to Batgirl. Batman and Robin get into the Batmobile at midnight, at which point the bomb goes off, half-destroying the Batcave.
Joker stole the beryllium, and also captured both Alfred and Batgirl (off-camera!) and bring them back to his hideout—an abandoned launching-pad factory—with Joker assuming that Alfred is a mad scientist.
Batman and Robin survived the bomb blast, though the Batcave is a disaster area, with all the phones and radios destroyed—including the Bat-phone.
Joker finishes the flying saucer and ties Batgirl to a rocket. His plan is to send her off into space while Joker will orbit the Earth a few times then launch his “invasion.” Batman and Robin manage to rig up a radio, and Alfred finally gets through and reports to Batman.
Batgirl is able to keep from being shot into space, but Joker still takes her with him in his flying saucer, which goes into space, orbits the Earth a few times (allegedly getting too close to the sun at one point), then returns to earth. However, Alfred was able to put in some homing, er, uh, something in the beryllium that forces it to land back in Joker’s hideout. Alfred surreptitiously lets Batman know this, and so the Dynamic Duo are waiting for Joker and his gang when they arrive back at the abandoned launching-pad factory. Fisticuffs ensue, and Batman, Robin, and Batgirl defeat the would-be invaders in time for Gordon and O’Hara to arrive to take them all to the hoosegow.
Batman and Robin put the Batcave back together, but then they’re alerted by Gordon to a strange happening in Spiffany’s…
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! We see the newest absurdly specific device in the Batcave: the Current Criminal Activity Bat-Disclosure Unit, which apparently provides the details from the script of the episode they’re in. Also our heroes have taken to wearing Anti-Thermal Bat-T-Shirts under their costumes, which protect them from the bomb blast, er, somehow. With the Batmobile buried under rubble, our heroes get to use the Bat-cycle to drive to the Bat-copter. However, the Batmobile bomb-detector seems to be on the fritz, since it totally misses the bomb that was placed in the Batmobile…
Batgirl has a fuse extinguisher in her Batgirl utility belt.
Holy #@!%$, Batman! “Holy interplanetary yardstick” is Robin’s clever rejoinder upon being told that Mrs. Green encountered a supposed Martian who was three feet tall. “Holy rock garden!” is his exclamation after the bomb has made a big mess of the Batcave. “Holy known unknown flying objects!” is Robin’s bizarre response to Alfred’s report on Joker’s plan, which is so bizarre that Batman doesn’t understand it and asks him to repeat it (it doesn’t help).
Gotham City’s finest. Apparently, everyone in the world feels that the logical thing to do when they see a flying saucer or hear about an alien invasion is call the police commissioner of Gotham City. Sure.
Special Guest Villain. This is Cesar Romero’s swan song as the Joker, thus going out with a significant whimper.
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.
“You suppose there’s a working launching pad left in this abandoned launching-pad factory?”
“Yes, there’s one in the launching-pad equipment locker, Joker.”
–A delightful exchange between Joker and his henchman.
Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 66 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Jim Beard (editor of Gotham City 14 Miles).
Joker assumes Alfred is a mad scientist, even though Alfred previously defeated the Joker singlehandedly in “Flop Goes the Joker.” You’d think Joker would remember that.
Verdigris is played by Richard Bakalyan. It’s never made clear who he really is or where he comes from. His name is a slightly more subtle take on the emerald theme of the episode, with the constant references to little green men from Mars and characters named Greenleaf, Emerald, Chartreuse, Shamrock, and Green.
Byron Keith makes his final appearance as Mayor Linseed. Fritz Feld returns as Greenleaf—he previously played Oliver Muzzy in “Pop Goes the Joker.”
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “We’ll return to Gotham City where I’ll ultimate my ultimatum!” This episode isn’t a total disaster, mostly by virtue of Richard Bakalyan, who cavorts beautifully with Cesar Romero, and also by virtue of Romero himself, who’s never not fun.
But holy cow, what a misbegotten mess! This is perhaps the worst treatment of the Barbara Gordon/Batgirl character all season, as we start with Barbara screaming at the sight of Verdigris in her library, and continue to her being captured off-camera, and then being barely in evidence in the fight scene at the end. The one and only thing she accomplishes is to not be shot into space.
Not that Batman and Robin do much better. Aside from the fisticuffs at the end, they don’t actually accomplish anything on their own, as the Batcave’s computers tell them that it’s the Joker, and it’s Alfred who mostly saves the day. (Batman doesn’t even notice the bomb in his car…)
And even by this show’s standards, the plot’s ridiculous—though in keeping with the Joker’s previous plans. I mean, he’s already managed time travel and robotics, why not space travel as well? And why not just use it for petty larceny? Sheesh.
Not the best episode for Romero to go out on, but the man himself is, as ever, having a grand old time cackling his way through the episode.
Keith R.A. DeCandido is running a Kickstarter for Mermaid Precinct, the long-awaited fifth novel in his series of fantasy police procedurals. Please consider supporting it! He will be a guest at the Central Pennsylvania Comic Con this weekend in York, Pennsylvania, where he’ll have a table to sell and sign books.