“Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin”
Written by Stanford Sherman
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 3, Episode 1
Production code 1701
Original air dates: September 14, 1967
The Bat-signal: Batman and Robin return to the Batcave, having just stopped Catwoman’s latest scheme. They head up the batpoles, as Bruce and Dick are going to the opera with Gordon, O’Hara, and Gordon’s daughter Barbara, who has just moved to Gotham City. Barbara has just gotten her MLS and is now working at the Gotham City Public Library.
However, when Barbara arrives at her apartment building, she’s kidnapped by Penguin.
Gordon and O’Hara arrive at her apartment—where her afternoon newspaper is still sitting on her welcome mat—but there’s no sign of her, because she’s tied up in the vacant apartment next door, a prisoner of Penguin. When Bruce and Dick arrive, Penguin calls Barbara’s phone. Gordon is livid at his daughter being kidnapped, and Bruce offers to pay whatever ransom Penguin wants—but he doesn’t want a ransom, he wants a wife. He’s already placed an item in the society pages saying that Penguin is engaged to Barbara.
For her part, Barbara is defiant right up until Penguin threatens Gordon, at which point Barbara consents to marry the crook, as long as her father remains unharmed. Penguin locks her in a room with a bridal gown for her to change into.
Gordon and O’Hara return to police HQ to call Batman, while Bruce and Dick head to Wayne Manor to slide down the batpoles and be there for the call.
Meanwhile, Alfred is having dinner with the Reverend Hazlitt to discuss a church supper that Alfred is helping organize. They’re interrupted by Penguin’s henchmen, who are there to kidnap a minister to perform the wedding. Alfred quickly claims to be the minister in question over Hazlitt’s attempt to object, and he allows himself to be kidnapped, alerting Batman via a signal in his belt buckle along the way.
They track Alfred to one of the locations the Batcomputer revealed to be a possible hideout for the Penguin. (At no point do they comment on the fact that it’s in Barbara’s building.) But even as they trundle off in the Batmobile, Barbara has effected an escape of her own, climbing out the window just as Alfred is put in the locked room with her and the dummy she put the bridal gown on. She traverses the ledge to the window of her own apartment, and reveals a revolving wall that leads to a secret room where she keeps the accoutrements for her other identity as Batgirl.
Batman and Robin arrive at the same time that Batgirl shows up, and fisticuffs ensue, with our trio of heroes putting the kibosh on Penguin and his henchmen. However, Batgirl takes a powder, and Penguin manages to gas the Dynamic Duo while they’re trying to free Alfred from the room he’s locked in.
Penguin quickly has his henchmen put Batman, Robin, Alfred, and “Barbara” (actually the gown-wearing dummy) into sacks and tosses them onto a waiting mattress truck on the street. Batgirl sees this from the ledge as she’s on her way back to her own apartment, and quickly gives chase in her Batgirl-cycle.
Batman and Robin are hung over a pot of scalding water, but Batgirl shows up. Fisticuffs ensue, which distracts Penguin’s people long enough for Alfred to free the Dynamic Duo (after socking Penguin in the jaw a couple times). While Batman and Robin take care of Penguin and his thugs, Batgirl gets Alfred to swear to keep her identity a secret. He also covers for her to change clothes back into the wedding dress and get in the sack, so she can pretend to have been kidnapped this entire time. The good guys win, the bad guys lose, and all’s right with the world.
As an added bonus, it’s Dick’s birthday and he passed his driver’s test. Bruce gives him a shiny red 1968 Plymouth Barracuda Convertible as a present. Meanwhile, Gordon gets a call from the Riddler…
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Alfred has an emergency belt buckle bat-call signal, which alerts on the emergency bat-callbox (oddly labelled “EMERGENCY BATCALL BOX”) in the Batcave, and they use the Bat-radarscope to track him. They have bat-tools that allow them to bat-pick a lock.
Meanwhile, Batgirl has toys of her own, including a secret room in her apartment, a purloined freight elevator, and a Batgirl-cycle.
Holy #@!%$, Batman! “Holy complications!” Robin states when they learn that Alfred is in trouble. “Holy agility,” Robin enthuses to Batgirl after seeing her in action against the Penguin.
Gotham City’s finest. Gordon actually is able to deduce that Barbara hasn’t been home at all, based on the afternoon paper still being on her welcome mat. (Yeah, it’s an obvious clue, but by GCPD standards, this counts as genius.)
No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Barbara is Bruce’s date, officially, when they go see the opera. So naturally, Bruce thinks it’s very important for Dick to come along. Yeah.
Special Guest Villain. Burgess Meredith is back as the Penguin, for his first of three appearances this season—he and the Joker are the only villains who will return twice in this final year. He’ll be back in “The Sport of Penguins.”
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na. “I don’t know whether to call him ‘Daddy’ or just ‘Commish’.”
“If I were you, Penguin, I’d call ‘help,’ right now.”
“When we get through with you, Penguin, you’ll be hollering ‘Uncle’ instead of ‘Daddy’.”
Penguin trying to figure out what to call his future father-in-law, and Batman and Robin providing some suggestions.
Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 49 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, author and audio drama producer Jay Smith.
With this episode, the show is reduced to a weekly, rather than twice-weekly, schedule, airing only on Thursdays. Most (like this one) were single standalone episodes, with only a few two-parters (and one more three-parter). In order to keep the cliffhanger theme going, the next week’s villain generally makes a preview cameo at the end of the episode to set up the subsequent one—to that end, Frank Gorshin briefly appears as the Riddler in the tag at the end of this week.
Yvonne Craig debuts the role of Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl, in this episode (after having been mentioned in both “Batman’s Waterloo” and “The Duo Defy“), and she will remain a co-star of the show for the remainder of its run. Even as she is added to the credits, Madge Blake is removed, as Blake’s ill health made it impossible for her to continue in the role (though she will make two guest appearances, in “Ring Around the Riddler” and “The Bloody Tower”).
Because Howie Horwitz didn’t think it was “ladylike” for a woman to engage in fisticuffs, Batgirl’s fight choreography is centered on kicks (thus making use of Craig’s dance training).
The sound effects are once again changed with a new season, as now they flash.
The New York Public Library’s main research library on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street is used for the establishing shot of the Gotham City Public Library.
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Bats! I’m surrounded by bats!” Let me state for the record that I love the addition of Batgirl to the cast. I’m the child of librarians, so I approve of a heroic character who is one (see also: Giles, Rupert; Carsen, Flynn), I like her cheeky attitude, and best of all I like her costume. It’s a small thing, but the red hair that sticks out from under her cowl is a brilliant bit of concealment, since hair color and style is one of the main things we use to identify people. I find it impossible to credit that anyone who sees both Bruce Wayne and Batman, and especially anyone who sees both Dick Grayson and Robin can miss that they’re one and the same, but I can buy it with Barbara Gordon and Batgirl.
So while I enjoy her introduction—especially the misdirect in thinking that she’s the helpless victim who needs the Dynamic Duo to rescue her, only to have the tables turned and she’s the one who rescues them—it’s just a pity that it has to happen in an episode that makes absolutely no sense.
Penguin’s plan, on the surface, seems to fit his common mode of trying something nominally legitimate (running for mayor, becoming a movie mogul, starting a security company) as a cover for criminal activity, but the details make no sense. How would marrying the commissioner’s daughter under duress do anything to keep him safe from prosecution? Gordon is obviously livid at the very notion of Barbara being in the same room as Penguin, what makes the criminal think that forcibly marrying his daughter will make his life in any way easier?
Amusingly, Batman and Robin are pretty much totally useless in this episode. If you remove them from the episode entirely, not much would have been different. Alfred does a lot more, truly, from his heroically claiming to be the minister to save Hazlitt from being kidnapped to his thrashing of Penguin. (Take that, Sean Pertwee!)
I also have to wonder about Barbara’s apartment. I mean yeah, Wayne Manor has a Batcave and a secret sliding bookcase and whatnot, but Bruce is a millionaire (which we’re reminded of every time his name is spoken). Barbara is a librarian (a first-year librarian, no less!) whose father is a government employee. No way she has the money to put a revolving wall in her apartment. Plus, how’d she get access to the freight elevator without anyone noticing? And how’d she put that door in the brick wall?
Keeping the story to half an hour actually works wonders, as we’re spared a lot of the filler and nonsense, and I like the fact that they break with the formula by starting with the end of the previous week’s case and going to Barbara’s kidnapping, with Gordon’s call to Batman not happening until long after the credits.
But the nonsense-o-meter is up around eleven on this one…
Keith R.A. DeCandido is at Philcon 2016 this weekend in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, along with C.J. Cherryh, David Seeley, and L.E. Modesitt Jr., among many others. He’ll be doing bits of programming and also spending time at the eSpec Books table. His schedule can be found here.