The late Frank Gorshin was born on April 5 in 1933, meaning tomorrow would have been his 82nd birthday. Quick, was he Bele or Lokai in “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield?” Or, more importantly to the Cheron, was his face black on the left/white on the right, or the reverse? (Before you answer, keep in mind you must differentiate between his left and your left.)The absurdity of that second question speaks to the greatness of the episode, one of the most striking commentaries on race relations to air on television during the late 1960s. (Other than, like, the news.) Gorshin was terrific as Bele (there's your answer!), but also no stranger to fans of what we'd today call, for better or worse, “geek programming.” There's a good chance that anyone watching Star Trek was also tuning in for the goofy TV version of Batman. During the first and third season, Gorshin was yukkin' it up as Edward Nigma a/k/a The Riddler, bombarding the Dynamic Duo with brainteasers. (Riddle me this! Who played the role in the second season? It was John Astin.)
Batman and Star Trek are two of the most-lasting entertainment franchises, successful in television, film, comics, books, video games, Halloween costumes, novelty records, you name it. And Frank Gorshin is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to common denominators. How about Catwoman? Like The Riddler, she was played by multiple actresses on the old 1960s show, but two of the three also appeared on Trek. Julie Newmar played Eleen the Capellan, wife of Teer Akaar in “Friday's Child.” You may remember her climbing up the side of a mountain and mispronouncing Bones' name. (“No! Only MACK-coy!”) Newmar eventually gave up the catsuit to Lee Meriwether, who, of course, was Losira in “That Which Survives.” Well, a computer-generated replica of Losira, at least, as the brave officers of the Enterprise eventually discovered that she, like all of her fellow Kalandrans, died thousands of years ago.The third Catwoman, Eartha Kitt, never was on Star Trek (her name is EARTHA after all), but let's not leave out Yvonne Craig. Craig showed up as Barbara Gordon, a/k/a Batgirl, during Batman's final season. She rode a spunky purple motorcycle, wore a shiny purple uniform with a long gold cape and adorable little cowl and, yeah, okay, I guess I was always a little more attentive when it was a Batgirl episode.Craig was unforgettable as Marta, the Orion in Garth (LORD Garth!) of Izar's asylum in “Whom Gods Destroy.” As far as prurient Orion dances go, hers absolutely tops the one in “The Cage”/“The Menagerie” - and, in fact, her overtures to Captain Kirk may be some of the more erotic moments in the entire series. (The cliché of Kirk “making it with green aliens” likely stems from this episode.) Marta gets one of the best deaths in TOS, too, when Garth (LORD Garth!) blows her up as she is asphyxiating.
Not all of Batman's TV villains sprang from the pages of its comic book. Some were created for the show, like Colonel Gumm, who appeared in two episodes, and was played by none other than Roger C. Carmel – better known to Trek fans as Harry Mudd. (Dig this coincidence: one of Colonel Gumm's episodes is called “A Piece of the Action.”)But let's get out of the 60s! More recent Batman and Star Trek connections aren't quite as obvious, but they exist. Actually, some of them are pretty obvious. Remember the scene in The Dark Knight where there's a ferry full of prisoners and the Joker is going to blow it up? One of the dudes on the boat was Tommy “Tiny” Lister, who played “The First Klingon” if you stay true to the timeline. He was Klaang, left behind E.T.-style, in Enterprise's pilot “Broken Bow.” Also in The Dark Knight were Trek guest stars Keith Szarabajka (Voyager and Enterprise), Danny Goldring (Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise) and Andrew Bicknell (The Next Generation).Skip ahead to The Dark Knight Rises and beneath that strange accent and sleep apnea mask was Bane, played by Tom Hardy who, that's right, was Shinzon, the younger clone of Captain Picard from Star Trek Nemesis. If you want to play the game that, through Picard/Shinzon, you can connect Star Trek/Batman and the X-Men, be my guest. I'll be in the next room laughing at you. Also in The Dark Knight Rises was Brett Cullen, who played Deral in the Deep Space Nine episode "Meridian."
And there's more... plenty more. DS9's Rene Aubjernonois, for example, popped up in Batman Forever. Among the Star Trek guests who acted in other Batman features are Anthony De Longis, Branscombe Richmond, Biff Yeager, Tracey Walter, John Glover, Ed Begley Jr. and Vincent Schiavelli. Then there are animated Batman shows to consider. Kate Mulgrew voiced Red Claw, while Michael Ansara did the talking for Mr. Freeze. Want more? How about Nichelle Nichols, Robert Picardo, Ron Perlman, David Warner, Adrienne Barbeau, Brock Peters, Clive Revill, Diana Muldaur, Paul Winfield, John Glover, LeVar Burton, etc.? So these are the casting connections. Is there a spiritual connection between Batman and Star Trek? They were both on television in the late 1960s and sometimes the sets would shake if someone stomped too hard. But beyond that? I say, not really. Star Trek, even during Deep Space Nine, is a utopian vision of tomorrow. From the first days of “Detective Comics,” Batman feels, to me, to be fetishizing the past. Forget Bruce Wayne's obsession with his lost parents, the whole vibe of grim streets and underworld villains exists in a darkly romanticized bygone, urban era. Not that I don't enjoy Batman, but its essence is one of looking back, not like Star Trek, which is looking forward.
Maybe you disagree? Is there a Batman/Star Trek connection that I'm not making. Leave your comments below – same Bat-Password!
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