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Birds of Prey

Entry updated 10 November 2023. Tagged: TV.

US tv series (2002-2003). Warner Brothers Television and DC Entertainment with Tollin/Robbins Productions for the WB Television Network. Based on characters created by Gardner F Fox, Carmine Infantino, Bob Kane, Bob Layton, Paul Levitz, John Ostrander, Jerry Robinson, Jo Staton, others. Producers included Peter Giuliano, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. Directors included Jim Charleston, Chris Long, Brian Robbins. Writers included Adam Armus, Nora Kay Foster, Adam Horowitz, Laeta Kalogridis, Edward Kitsis, Melissa Rosenberg. Cast includes Ian Abercrombie, Maggie Baird (occasional), Shawn Christian (occasional), Lori Loughlin (occasional), Dina Meyer, Shemar Moore, Mia Sara, Ashley Scott and Rachel Skarsten. 14 45-minute episodes. Colour.

Set in New Gotham City, this series stars the Superhero Helena Kyle/The Huntress (Scott) – daughter of Batman and Selina Kyle (Baird), formerly the Villain Catwoman. It is seven years since Selina's murder and Batman's self-imposed exile from the city. Helena is guided on her missions by the former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon (Meyer) – shot in the spine and paralysed from the waist down by Batman's old enemy the Joker, and now operating as the Oracle from a high-Technology laboratory in the New Gotham Clock watchtower. They are aided and advised by Batman's ever-loyal butler/assistant Alfred Pennyworth (Abercrombie).

They are joined in the debut episode by Dinah Redmond (Skarsten), a teenager with powers of Telekinesis whose range is never fully explored. Dinah proves to be the daughter of the original Black Canary (Loughlin), who had her adopted at age six to protect her from the Canary's numerous enemies. Helena's Superpowers include extreme agility and speed, plus enhanced senses of smell and hearing; she excels in hand-to-hand combat. Oracle uses various scientific Inventions to aid her and Dinah: tiny communications devices, surveillance gadgetry, and much further scientific equipment in the Clock Tower. While the trio fights many superhuman opponents, here called "meta-humans" (see Mutants), their primary foe is Dr Harleen Quinzel (Sara) a psychiatrist treating Helena for anger-management problems (Helena blames Batman for her mother's death). Quinzel is actually the Joker's former lover Harley Quinn, plotting revenge on his behalf and working to become the new criminal overlord of New Gotham.

Police Detective Jesse Reese (Moore) works with Helena and eventually becomes her love interest. By day, Barbara is a school teacher, romantically involved with fellow-teacher Wade Brixton (Christian). Finally Quinzel hypnotizes Helena, and learns the team's secrets, allowing her to use her power of mass Hypnosis in an attempt to take over the city. She kills Wade during a battle in the tower before being captured. Barbara's secret ace in the hole is a neuromuscular control device which allows her to briefly walk again at the finale. It is revealed that Batman has been quietly following events from an unknown location, a fact known only to Alfred.

This series was based on events from the DC Comics Birds of Prey (one-shot 1995 dated 1996; 1999-2014) continuity set in the Parallel World Earth-Two where the original Gotham City was destroyed by an artificial earthquake and Catwoman had given up crime. Each instalment was introduced by Alfred, given a somewhat larger role than usual. A differently costumed version of the Huntress appeared in the live-action, made-for-television film Legends of the Superheroes (1979). Harley Quinn, normally a comical villain, is here a vicious, bloodthirsty killer. The programme's grim tone may have accounted in part for its short run; the quality was good but the initially high ratings rapidly dwindled. The home video release includes the unaired pilot in which Quinzel/Quinn was played by Sherilyn Fenn, who lacked Sara's physical resemblance to the Comics character. [GSt]


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