“Time Out Of Joint” (season 2, episode 8; originally aired 10/8/1994)
When Fox commissioned another 20 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series for a second season of the series, they insisted that Robin be given more screentime. Seen as an entry point for younger viewers to the series, Robin was proven to sell toys and about to make his big-screen debut in Batman Forever, so it made sense for the character to have an expanded role on the series. The series was renamed The Adventures of Batman & Robin, and the opening sequence was altered to reflect the shift to the Dynamic Duo rather than a singular Dark Knight.
“Time Out Of Joint” is the first episode (in production order) to be saddled with the new opening, which is a noticeable step down from the evocative intro TMS had created for the series. Shots from the old opening are cut with clips of Batman and Robin in action, and it loses the artistic maturity of the previous sequence. The introduction of Batman: The Animated Series suggests a certain level of sophistication in the episode to come, whereas The Adventures of Batman & Robin just seems like every other children’s show. And the contents of “Time Out Of Joint” don’t do much to change that.
Clock King’s debut was a highlight of the first season, profiling one of Batman’s lesser-known rogues with a story that used the character’s gimmick as a reflection of his mental health. The Temple Fugate we see in “The Clock King” is a threat because he uses his brain, but his second appearance in B:TAS takes a detour into sci-fi that turns him into a generic villain. Alan Burnett’s story has the Clock King acting as the butler for Dr. Wakati, a scientist who has a device shaped like a Moebius strip that changes the acceleration of time.
With Wakati’s device, nuclear waste could be destroyed in minutes instead of eons, and terminal medical patients could be put in stasis until cures for their diseases are discovered. Fugate decides that the tech would best be used to rob an auction house and try to kill the mayor, because he’s crazy. Fugate’s meticulous knowledge of schedules is briefly mentioned, but the story struggles because it tackles the time gimmick physically instead of mentally. The plot is a rehash of Clock King’s introduction with fancier gadgets and less pathos, as Fugate tries to kill the mayor for making him late to that meeting almost 10 years ago. He should really get over it, because good villains diversify their victims and the Mayor Hill schtick is getting old.
Steve Perry’s stale dialogue doesn’t add to the tired story, and his attempts at one-liners, both humorous and serious, fall flat. Fugate never seems like much of a threat, he just has a bigger weapon. When Batman and Robin get their hands on Dr. Wakati’s devices, Fugate never stands a chance. Despite the title change, Robin doesn’t actually do much this episode except crack wise, but at least he’s not actively putting himself in danger like he usually does.
I prefer my Batman stories to take in a heightened but realistic world, and “Time Out Of Joint” goes for superhero fantasy that is a jarring shift from the B:TAS norm. It’s just plain odd to see Batman running through Gotham at super-speed while carrying a bomb that is detonating in slow motion. And for technology that is still in a prototype stage, Dr. Wakati sure did make a ton of his time-altering devices. The time altering technology does lead to some cool visuals courtesy of Dong Yang, but the animation isn’t enough to elevate the story. Batman and Robin flying through time on their motorcycles is essentially an action figure commercial, and the entire episode has a phoned-in feel. It’s not especially bad, just bland.
- Batman Beatdown: As Clock King makes a run for it after the Dynamic Duo foils his murder plot, Batman sticks his foot out from behind an alley wall, tripping Fugate into a bunch of trash cans. A simple end to a simple story.
- My favorite time-altering effect is when Clock King knocks on Mayor Hill’s office door when time is slowed down and it sounds like a machine gun.
- Batman’s super-speed solution to the explosion in this episode is repeated by Flash in the Justice League episode “Wild Cards.” Apparently it’s a pretty familiar trick in the superhero community.
- “I’ve heard that time is money, but this is ridiculous.”
- “Whoa! Faster than a speeding bullet!”