Devotees of gene splicing target the D.A.
  Original Airdate: September 17, 1999
  Episode # 16
  Rating: * * *

Credits Cast

Written by Evan Dorkin & Sara Dyer
Directed by Curt Geda
Music by Michael McCuistion
Animation by Koko/Dong Yang

Will Friedle as Terry McGinnis
Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne
Stockard Channing as Barbara Gordon
Cree Summer as Max Gibson
Teri Garr as Mary McGinnis
Ryan O'Donohue as Matt McGinnis
Lauren Tom as Dana Tan

Paul Winfield as Sam Young
Ian Buchanan as Dr. Cuvier
Tim Dang as King Cobra
Mark Jonathan Davis as Virtual Anchor
Ice T as Ramrod
Yvette Lowenthal as Chelsea
Cree Summer as Tigress

There's an intriguing idea at the heart of "Splicers." Lots of them, in fact. Here's one: What are the limits of self-manipulation; what (if any) difference is there between adorning the body in a distinctive way and altering the body itself? E.g., what (if any) difference is there between donning a pair of cats-eye lenses and altering the eye itself to have the appearance and properties of a cat's? No difference, say some in this episode. All the difference in the world, say others.

Here's another idea: Cuvier and his minions think that they're onto something bigger than just body-piercing. They're asserting a right to self-creation, the right to re-create themselves in their own choice of self-image. What, if anything, is wrong with that? Cuvier even couches it in the phrase that in contemporary America sanctifies all: It's a "lifestyle." If everyone has the right to belong to his or her own tribe, and has the right to create a new group, is there anything wrong with creating a new group by changing one's DNA; is there anything wrong with joining a new tribe by seceding from the human race? Plenty is wrong with it, say some in this episode. Nothing is wrong with it, say others.

Of course, even in contemporary America not every choice can be tolerated. Smoking is a personal choice, but it is also unhealthy; hence it is wrong, say some contemporary moralists. Cults try to recruit members, but it's not okay to force your morality on others, so coercive conversion is wrong, say the forces of tolerance. But splicing isn't unhealthy or life-threatening, apparently. And Cuvier is not out change the "norms," he merely wants to preserve his difference. Should he and his followers be forced to change back? Yes, say some in this episode. No, say others.

There's lots of asserting going on, but not much argument; lots of action, but precious little acting on principles. The idea of splicing is plainly horrific, and D. A. Sam Young is prepared to outlaw it. But neither he nor anyone else ever explains why it is horrific, or why it should be outlawed. Perhaps that's because neither he nor anyone else has thought long and hard enough about the idea; or perhaps it's because he, like Cuvier, believes in nothing except choice and tolerance, and so has no principle to justify his reluctance to tolerate Cuvier's choices. So repression replaces reasoning when a liberal conscience runs up against its limits; Young's (and Batman's) willingness to destroy the splicers is almost as scary as the splicer's willingness to violate their own bodies. Is this the brave new world that amoral science and empty-headed tolerance are driving us toward: a place where absolute and unreasoning freedom can only be bridled by absolute and unreasoning force?

The episode itself seems to share Young's predicament: It can neither tolerate the splicers nor explain why they cannot be tolerated. So, like Young, it collapses into frenzied action as a substitute for thought. Creepiness in the early going dissipates into derring-do by the end, but there is enough interesting design-work, from King Cobra to Cuvier's final Lovecraftian transformation, to make it eminently watchable.

Related Episodes
   * Ace in the Hole
   * On Leather Wings
   * Tyger Tyger
   * Moon of the Wolf
   * Critters

What Others Are Saying ...
"All action, no plot. Just a gimmick -- an interesting gimmick that could've been expanded upon."Tim Leighton for World's Finest

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