TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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bat-rss
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TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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One of our favorite Batman arcs growing up was the three-parter “The Zodiac Crimes” featuring the mind-blowing combination of Joker and Penguin! But when Stephen Kandel wrote it, it was a two-parter introducing a new villain: The Astrologer. Why might it have been switched to a three-parter starring established villains? How much in the script did Stanford Sherman change when he was asked to rewrite it into what was broadcast? And, can a huge meteorite falling on you cause you to be… burned to death?? We’ll see as we walk through the script!

Also, guitarist Marcos Kaiser performs the Batman themes of 1966 and 1989, and your mail about our discussion of Sherman’s letters prompts us to drill into the probable causes of the gradual “slide” in bat-script quality.

Read the script, and listen to our comments on it, here!
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High C
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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Diving in already, and I can clarify something 10 minutes in--Per what Oscar Lilley said in To The Batpoles #108, there were internal memos indicating that there were plans for re-edited foreign movies IF the theatrical movie had made a lot of money. Because it did merely OK, those plans were scrapped. So there is some plausibility for the 'European movie' theory being part of the reason for the development of the three-part scripts, along with the stated idea of having concluding episodes go up vs. Lost In Space on Wednesdays.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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High C wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 6:29 am Diving in already, and I can clarify something 10 minutes in--Per what Oscar Lilley said in To The Batpoles #108, there were internal memos indicating that there were plans for re-edited foreign movies IF the theatrical movie had made a lot of money. Because it did merely OK, those plans were scrapped. So there is some plausibility for the 'European movie' theory being part of the reason for the development of the three-part scripts, along with the stated idea of having concluding episodes go up vs. Lost In Space on Wednesdays.
Just found another mistake, (well, something I disagree with) from the show:

Paul: 'Terry Moore is good.' In many other roles, yes. I once saw her on an episode, of yes, The Virginian and she was quite effective and affecting. But ugh--It's like she's saying her lines on a different show (planet??) from the one everyone else is on. To each his/her own, I suppose, but to me she's a symbol of the season 2 malaise and a sign that the Semplian ideal was long gone. There's no way she ever could have joined her brother the honest, hard-working shepherd.

I sincerely wish they had stayed with Kandel's original script just to have a more self-assured Blaze-style of henchmoll, as you guys noted.

The Dick playing the tuba sight gag demonstrates two things--Sherman didn't care about conventions of the show (Bruce and Dick talking about/doing something related to the crime or villain) and nobody (Hoffman, Horwitz) seemed to bother to fill him in on them.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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From the Bat-Inbox: To clarify what I meant about the contrast between Hizzoner The Penguin and The Contaminated Cowl is this: The world is in mourning because they believe that Batman and Robin are dead, but only a few weeks ago (presumably), three people showed up to watch Batman give a campaign speech for Gotham City mayor and everyone else was prepared to vote for a known criminal, presumably. That doesn't make a whole bunch of sense, even by Gotham City logic, as John S. Drew calls it. In essence, Batman goes from afterthought to beloved in the blink of an eye.

I suppose one can argue, as Joni Mitchell once posited 'Don't it always seem to go/That you don't know what you got 'til it's gone/They paved 40 Acres/Put up an industrial park' Well, sort of. You get my drift.

Again, one can blame Charles Hoffman for the lack of consistency in tone, but Horwitz and Dozier also were asleep at the switch.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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High C wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:43 am From the Bat-Inbox: To clarify what I meant about the contrast between Hizzoner The Penguin and The Contaminated Cowl is this: The world is in mourning because they believe that Batman and Robin are dead, but only a few weeks ago (presumably), three people showed up to watch Batman give a campaign speech for Gotham City mayor and everyone else was prepared to vote for a known criminal, presumably. That doesn't make a whole bunch of sense, even by Gotham City logic, as John S. Drew calls it. In essence, Batman goes from afterthought to beloved in the blink of an eye.
One week after the apathy about Batman running for mayor, the fine folks of Gotham City were ready to throw the Duo under the bus because of Mr. Freeze's frame-up and Nellie Majors' willingness to believe they were on the take.

Wasn't Robert Morley supposed to play "The Astrologer," a plan that obviously never came to fruition?
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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Dr. Shimel wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:07 pm
High C wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:43 am From the Bat-Inbox: To clarify what I meant about the contrast between Hizzoner The Penguin and The Contaminated Cowl is this: The world is in mourning because they believe that Batman and Robin are dead, but only a few weeks ago (presumably), three people showed up to watch Batman give a campaign speech for Gotham City mayor and everyone else was prepared to vote for a known criminal, presumably. That doesn't make a whole bunch of sense, even by Gotham City logic, as John S. Drew calls it. In essence, Batman goes from afterthought to beloved in the blink of an eye.
One week after the apathy about Batman running for mayor, the fine folks of Gotham City were ready to throw the Duo under the bus because of Mr. Freeze's frame-up and Nellie Majors' willingness to believe they were on the take.

Wasn't Robert Morley supposed to play "The Astrologer," a plan that obviously never came to fruition?
Morley was supposed to play Sandman. In fact, it already had been leaked to the media. But allegedly he backed out when it became a teamup. But Dozier was quoted as saying he had Robert Morley lined up. That was the role he was supposed to play, according to paperwork.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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High C wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:44 pm
Dr. Shimel wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:07 pm Wasn't Robert Morley supposed to play "The Astrologer," a plan that obviously never came to fruition?
Morley was supposed to play Sandman. In fact, it already had been leaked to the media. But allegedly he backed out when it became a teamup. But Dozier was quoted as saying he had Robert Morley lined up. That was the role he was supposed to play, according to paperwork.
I seem to recall that we discussed Morley bailing out, in our endless discussion of the Sandman/Catwoman arc with Joe Dator (episode 49). I don't quite recall what we said, except that yes, Morley didn't want to have to share the stage with another villain.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

Post by cammy85 »

Two burning questions come from this: in the first part, they pulled the same schtick from the Chandell episodes where Bruce and Dick weren't in the area to answer the Batphone or Batsignal, yet that was resolved a lot quicker than in the latter arc. Why did they do that twice? Was that to play up the threat of two supervillains teming up for the first time in the series? Was that supposed to happen in the original script without Catwoman?
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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Seeing the original script kind of clarified for me why in the final three-parter Venus is a bit more schizoid in terms of jumping ship from starting to go sympathetic in the end of Part 1 to abruptly doing Joker's bidding again in Part 2 because the script was making of using Kandel's original scene of Venus disguised as a policewoman in the Astrologer script and it still makes sense there that she's still pulling heists. But the way this scene unfolds in the trilogy it just comes off wrong and only calls attention to what's wrong with the character of Venus in the final version IMO. And I have to echo High C that I don't think Terry Moore demonstrates the gravitas needed for this role. If I had an alternate pick for the part, I'd probably nominate Edie Adams.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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cammy85 wrote: Sat Jan 09, 2021 10:29 am Was that supposed to happen in the original script without Catwoman?
Nope - no camping scene in the original Sandman script; B&R go right into action.
"To the medical eye, such childish claptrap means only one thing, young man: You need some sleep."
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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epaddon wrote: Sat Jan 09, 2021 11:04 pm Seeing the original script kind of clarified for me why in the final three-parter Venus is a bit more schizoid in terms of jumping ship from starting to go sympathetic in the end of Part 1 to abruptly doing Joker's bidding again in Part 2 because the script was making of using Kandel's original scene of Venus disguised as a policewoman in the Astrologer script and it still makes sense there that she's still pulling heists. But the way this scene unfolds in the trilogy it just comes off wrong and only calls attention to what's wrong with the character of Venus in the final version IMO. And I have to echo High C that I don't think Terry Moore demonstrates the gravitas needed for this role. If I had an alternate pick for the part, I'd probably nominate Edie Adams.
I always assumed she pulled the jeweled scorpion heist and happily participated in the Basil Beaumont kidnapping because she believed Batman and Robin dead due to the meteorite and they hadn't fully reached her yet.

But what was really weird was the initial conversation about Venus really being nice after the bogus "twins caper". Like where did that come from???
chrisbcritter wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 3:34 am
Nope - no camping scene in the original Sandman script; B&R go right into action.
Thanks!! That was just a waste of time, especially when that script had two supervillains, not one on the loose.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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cammy85 wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 10:15 am
chrisbcritter wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 3:34 am
Nope - no camping scene in the original Sandman script; B&R go right into action.
Thanks!! That was just a waste of time, especially when that script had two supervillains, not one on the loose.
Agreed! Of course, what would Tim and Paul have done without those now famous lines--'Sack time, fellas. You can go on down to the creek and brush your teeth and hit the old sleeping bags.' #campingtrip
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

Post by Dan E Kool »

150 episodes! Wow!

I always enjoy these "script" episodes because of the behind-the-scenes glimpses they give us of how 66 Batman was made. But I'm equally grateful that everyone here reads and comments on the scripts... so that I don't have to. Scripts are just clunky things to read. Thanks, everyone! :D

As an example, I hadn't noticed that Adam West dubbed in the "Bat Analyst/Anazlizer" line before. I'm a little surprised that the producers even cared about something so inconsequential, considering the lack of consistency elsewhere in the show, as already mentioned here by others.

Overall, I'm glad this script got rewritten into a Joker/Penguin story. The team-up is a lot of fun. And a robed wizard doesn't strike me as a great villain design. I just can't picture it.
High C wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 6:49 am Just found another mistake, (well, something I disagree with) from the show:

Paul: 'Terry Moore is good.'
I take your point, but actually she's really good. And I will prove it with the following counter-arguments:

1. She's got it.
2. Yeah baby, she's got it.
3. She's your Venus.
4. She's your fire.
5. Ad infinitum.

I'm sure you'll agree that you can't say that about anyone else on the show. And without Terry Moore, we would be without Paul's uncanny impression of her performance.

"OoooOOOoooOOOOoOohhhh Baaaaaatttttmannnnnnn"
High C wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 1:34 pm What would Tim and Paul have done without those now-famous lines--'Sack time, fellas. You can go on down to the creek and brush your teeth and hit the old sleeping bags.' #campingtrip
Haha! Love it!

To give you a more serious rebuttal, I do actually, unironically, love Terry Moore in this role. I will grant you, Hich C, that the tone of these episodes is different than the best of Semple's Season 1 work. Having heard how close Venus came to being made in the mold of Blaze, the differences between the two seasons are even more apparent.

Season 1 has a thin veil of seriousness that a lot (but not all!) of Season 2 just totally abandons. Whereas Blaze acts and is treated as a criminal accomplice, Venus is gavaged champaign by the Penguin and almost gets eaten by a giant clam...

And yet, and yet... We've discussed before the distinctions between unintentional, "true" camp and deliberate "camping." Terry Moore's performance straddles that line so beautifully for me. Her act is obviously intentional. She is camping. She doesn't actually believe or expect any of us to believe that this is a serious performance. But at the same time, she doesn't play it for laughs. She cranks it up to the highest setting, she goes all-in and says, Take it or leave it, bub. And I take it.

Other characters, even in these same episodes, are often reduced to sit-com like buffoons. The Chief and Commissioner especially. Those jokes just don't do it for me. You can get similar humor on Gilligan's Island or elsewhere. Terry Moore's Venus allows herself to be the joke, and I'm thankful to her for that.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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I always respect your opinion, Dan E., and usually we're on the same side, just as I'm usually on the same side with Tim and Paul, but this always will be one in which I'm on the opposite side of the argument.

I know we'll never agree, and that's fine. Debating this is fun. But I guess the best way to present my argument against Terry Moore's interpretation of Venus (and don't get me wrong, neither scripter did her any favors) is to quote from Venus by Shocking Blue, as you did in jest. Only I will do it somewhat seriously.

A goddess on a mountaintop
Was burning like a silver flame
The summit of beauty and love
And Venus was her name


You see, when you name a character Venus in a fantasy setting, that name has implications and connotations. It has meaning. And there is some of that in Kandel's original script. His Venus is more like Blaze--she definitely is The Astrologer's lead henchperson, even ordering around the other 'satellites' on occasion. The name Venus, in a fantasy setting, suggests a woman self-assured, in charge, not a woman moaning and mooning 'Oh, Batman' every five seconds and being an absolute blithering idiot much of the time. It has little to do with physical appearance and everything to do with attitude. She did have her good moments. The Brindle scene is terrific. If Moore could have bottled that for the rest of her performance, she could have done a lot better, IMO.

I also think Moore was doing one of her usual schticks, a vocal impression of Marilyn Monroe. I won't link to it, but she went on What's My Line in the 1950s and did it, and you can find that on YouTube. The problem, IMO, is she did the voice here, but not the attitude. There's no way the two factions ever will agree on Moore's performance, but those are my .02.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #150: “The Astrologer”: The Proto-“Zodiac” Script

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OK, turning to the actual podcast, the whole Kandel script (and some of Venus' lines), some thoughts:

1--Biggest improvement in Kandel's original script? No 'Joker jelly,' which means no Stafford Repp topless scene. Nightmare fuel if there ever was. Was Bonnie scarred for life when he walked by on his way into Gordon's office? Ugh. Heaven forbid we see Yvonne's navel (or that of a certain other female character in the third season, for that matter), but we get a medium close-up of Stafford Repp's aureolas. Gee, thanks. Where was ABC's Standard and Practices when we needed them? OK, we eventually did see Sivi Aberg's navel, which was nice, but that still wasn't enough compensation for the biggest horror since the shower and attic scenes in Psycho.

2--You guys are absolutely correct. Pick any cartoon boss you like. For those of us of a certain age, it's Mr. Slate or Mr. Spacely--I was more a Flintstones fan, so it's Slate for me--and I can picture Dough-zier, much like them, with steam coming out of his ears. And with his hat, if he were wearing one as men apparently did in the 1960s, flying off his head with a whooshing sound as he contemplated the amount of money Kandel's script would cost for some of those intended set pieces. It's surprising that a man who already was a veteran scripter by then wouldn't grasp that.

3--As you two did, I enjoyed Kandel's 'civic responsibility' moment with Batman and the rest interrogating Pluto. I can picture Adam delivering it. My only quibble, besides Kandel misspelling 'grammar' on the page, is having Robin chime in with a similar line. I think that undercuts it a little. It's a good line; let it stand on its own.

4--Give Kandel credit for getting to all the signs of the zodiac in two parts.

5--Getting back to Venus, I think there is a little bit more character motivation for the flip-flops in the original script. First, she gains respect for Batman after he apprehends her and brings her with them to a potential crime scene, with her making no promises of repenting, but lets her go rather than put her in harm's way. (Although she soon throws the knockout dust at them with no hesitation, while at least Sherman added the hesitation.) However, I again would give Kandel points over Sherman in that Venus' conversion back to evil in the 'Brindle' scene later is explained by her implying that because she believes Batman is dead, it doesn't matter, i.e., with Batman gone, her reason for going straight is gone. That reasoning is not in the aired three-parter, thus, again, her flip-flopping is more capricious and the wild tonal shifts in Moore's portrayal, as noted in Keith DeCandido's tor.com review, don't sell it.

6--You guys made a good point. Venus does seem more like a Blaze-type moll, and that's what Kandel knew. Although with the flip-flopping, it also seems more like a role for an ingenue, a younger type, not someone presumably with more life experience. Again, and I'll try to drop it after this, I can picture a Susie or a Baby Jane Towser type delivering some of Moore's line readings, not a woman in her 30s. It's much the same problem, at around the same time in season 2, with Rocket O'Rourke in Puzzler. And actually with non-moll Sophia Starr in season 1. They wrote several female parts that seemed to be tailored to younger women with little to no life experience or savvy, but then gave them to experienced actresses in their 30s.

Perhaps it's because Greenway didn't trust the younger actresses. I get that. But it also has the effect of making 30-something women, especially Venus and Sophia--Rocket not quite so much--seem like airheads, and there's something that isn't campy about that, it's more Greenway misogyny, or so it seems. Don't get me wrong--the show had its share of dumb henchmen. But they didn't get the screen time that some of the stupid (though still sexy) dames got, so it seems magnified.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17
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