“Ring Around the Riddler”
Written by Charles Hoffman
Directed by Sam Strangis
Season 3, Episode 2
Production code 1707
Original air dates: September 21, 1967
The Bat-signal: The Riddler is hiding out in a little-used gymnasium (conveniently labelled “LITTLE USED GYMNASIUM”) and trying to get Kid Gulliver to throw a fight. He won’t do it, so Riddler tosses him in the steam room to convince him. His plan is to take over Gotham’s boxing industry.
Kid Gulliver takes a dive in the third round. Bruce, Dick, and Alfred are watching, and Bruce solemnly calls an emergency meeting of the Gotham Boxing Commission (of which he is the chair), as he’s SHOCKED! to learn that there are undesirable elements getting involved in boxing.
Riddler leaves a box covered in blinky lights at the Gotham Square Garden box office. Barbara shortly thereafter comes to the box office to buy tickets, and discovers the box. She changes to Batgirl and calls Gordon, who calls Batman. The blinky box is brought to Gordon’s office, where Batman manages to get it open, and there’s a note in amongst some metal filings. It, of course, has a riddle: “Who rules the ring? No king, prince, or rajah, look for a clue on the walls of Kafajah.”
Kid Gulliver has disappeared, kidnapped by the Riddler, having pumped him full of “riddle juice,” which keeps him amnesiac and dopey.
Batman and Robin bat-climb Barbara’s building to consult her (at Gordon’s suggestion) about Kafajah. She points out that the temple there was home to fisticuffs before boxing. They realize Riddler’s riddle was referring to a boxing ring. Gordon stops by to see his daughter and also tell Batman and Robin that Kid Gulliver was found outside Gotham Square Garden with no memory of the fight.
The Dynamic Duo hie to the Garden while the Gordons watch a sports talk show hosted by Riddler’s moll, Betsy Boldface, who interviews Riddler disguised as “Mushy Nebuchadnezzar,” southwest Asia’s finest boxer, dressed in a turban and the Riddler’s purple mask. (Don’t ask.)
At the Garden, O’Hara has been given the same riddle juice that Gulliver got, and Batman and Robin—after being tormented by the Riddler—get him off to the hospital.
Meanwhile, Barbara talks to her bird Charlie—since she has neither a partner nor a butler with whom to have expository dialogue. She doesn’t think Mushy is a real southwestern Asian based on his chin (the only thing she could see under the turban), so she goes to investigate the exotic food that Mushy claimed to be eating. Batgirl tracks Betsy (buying the food) to Riddler’s lair, where he has three boxing champs kidnapped. Riddler asks Siren (who showed up early for next week’s shoot) to stop her, but her powers only affect men. They put Batgirl in the steam room, and then bring the boxers—who are successfully put under Siren’s spell—and have them thrown into the steam room as well. However, Batgirl has successfully escaped the steam room. Because she’s just that awesome.
Gordon summons Batman and Robin, as well as Barbara. Riddler wants Batman to face Mushy in the ring, and he taunts Batman, calling him a coward (and broadcasting that taunt on the radio), until he agrees. This actually works.
Batman and Riddler face each other in the ring, and Batman does very well until Riddler hits Batman with a bunch of metal filings, and then suddenly he can’t move. Barbara excuses herself and changes to Batgirl and finds Betsy wielding a giant magnet under the boxing ring, which is keeping Batman in place. Batgirl takes care of both Betsy and magnet, and Batman can now move. Batman starts to win the fight again, so Riddler legs it to his hideout, where Batgirl and Betsy are waiting. Batman, Robin, and Alfred show up and fisticuffs ensue. Our heroes are quickly triumphant, though Riddler threatens to return.
Gordon gets buzzed by Bonnie, who says that Lorelei Circe is here to see him—but it’s actually Siren, and she ensorcells him with her singing…
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! The only bat-device used is the bat-stethoscope Batman uses on Riddler’s blinky box.
Holy #@!%$, Batman! When told that Kafajah was an early source of boxing, Robin cries, “Holy hieroglyphics!” After Riddler disappears from sight, Robin yells, “Holy blackout!” When Harriet shows up at the boxing match, Robin grumbles, “Holy missing relatives!” When Riddler hits Batman with magnetized bits, Robin screams, “Holy sudden incapacitation!”
Gotham City’s finest. Riddler gives O’Hara a dose of his riddle juice for no apparent plot reason whatsoever.
Special Guest Villain. After a one-year absence, and after the failed substitutes of Maurice Evans as the Puzzler and John Astin as the Riddler, Frank Gorshin at last returns to the role of the Riddler for the first time since the feature film. It’s his only appearance this season, and therefore his last appearance on the show, though he will reprise the role of the Riddler in one of the godawful Legends of the Superheroes specials from 1979 alongside Adam West and Burt Ward.
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.
“Gentlemen, if we had our choice of laps to sit on, which would we choose?”
“Laps to sit on?”
“Kid Gulliver’s temporary lapse of memory.”
–Riddler and his henchman indulging in my favorite of Riddler’s pun-filled riddles in the episode. Hey, I laughed!
Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 50 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Dan Greenfield of the 13th Dimension.
Madge Blake makes one of only two appearances this season as Harriet, as Blake was ill and had basically retired from acting. She’ll be back in “The Bloody Tower.”
In addition to appearing the tag to tease her appearance in the following episode, Joan Collins also appears as the Siren in the episode’s middle helping Riddler out, an additional tease.
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “When is a prize fight like a beautiful lady?” On the one hand, yay, Frank Gorshin’s back as the Riddler! Of all the problems the uneven second season had, the biggest was the lack of Gorshin’s Riddler. His manic energy, his superlative line deliveries, his laugh—all were very sorely missed last season.
And his riddles are actually a lot of fun this time. Some puns, some wordplay, some goofiness—a good, if not great, cross-section of his various riddling styles.
Unfortunately, it’s wrapped around a plot that is nonsensical even by the low standards of Batman ’66. Riddler taking over Gotham’s boxing matches sorta kinda makes sense in the abstract as a plot, as there’s money in them thar fights, but the way he goes about it is bizarre, to say the least, and why put himself in the ring to fight Batman?
It’s very rare that a TV show does a boxing episode and that episode winds up being good. There are occasional exceptions, but mostly it’s just painfully bad, and this is one of the most egregious examples ever. I mean, seriously, why did anyone think it was a good idea to do an episode featuring Batman boxing against the villain when the villain in question is the 5’8″ Gorshin? (Batman even remarked on it, commenting that Riddler is shorter than Robin, which is strictly speaking not true, Burt Ward is actually half an inch shorter than Gorshin, but we’ll let it go.)
I do like the fact that they use Barbara’s mad librarian skillz to consult on the case, and I love that Alfred is involved in the climactic fisticuffs (take that, Sean Pertwee!), and I like that the moll isn’t a traditional pretty young thang, but an older woman with a butch haircut who hosts a sports talk show.
And Frank Gorshin is back! Worth it just for that.
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s latest fiction: three Super City Cops novellas about police in a city filled with costumed heroes and villains that will be published in December, January, and February by Bastei Entertainment. Full information, including covers, promo copy, and preorder links, can be found on Keith’s blog.