WillFriedle, Kevin Conroy, Lindsay Sloane, Dan Lauria, Stephen Collins, Lauren Tom
Story By: Stan Berkowitz & Alan Burnett Written By: Stan Berkowitz Directed By: Dan Riba
Bruce - "Well we've got a rough idea where the house is and we know the underground rivers can take you almost anywhere in the city. That's the good news." Terry - "And the bad news?" Bruce - "Everything else."
...proved to be a very different show from Batman: TAS, not just because it transported the legend of the Dark Knight to a futuristic Gotham, but because the show focused on a teenage lead. The high school setting meant that different types of story could be told, some focusing on the typical drugs/gangs/bullying aspect often found in stories revolving around teens and some branching out to cover other genres that featured a youthful cast of characters. Earth Mover, was Batman Beyond’s stab at the horror genre and presented a rather creepy tale of revenge from below the grave (cue maniacal laughter track)!!!
Terry's high-school friend Jackie had the feeling she was being followed and her fears were confirmed when Terry spotted a mysterious creature watching her house. Being a hero Terry confronted the creature, but was surprised when it crumbled upon contact and a sample taken back to the Batcave revealed it was nothing more than dirt. Perplexed, Terry looked deeper into the case and found a connection between Jackie's step-father Bill, her deceased biological father Tony and the illegal dumping of toxic waste! So he confronted Bill at his home who broke down emotionally in front of Jackie, but their problems got worse when the house was suddenly pulled underground!!!!!
As the episode began, Jackie was convinced she was being watched and it had been putting her on edge all day. Agitated and worried, she was unable to relax whilst Terry and Dana were at her house, which set an X-files style scene for the darker elements of the episode that unfolded. Jackie’s unease was justified, as outside the property lurked a silent creature, watching and stalking the area. Terry became aware of the creature and gave chase, only to find it was nothing more than a pile of soil, which gave the creature a supernatural twist. Like Michael Myers from the Halloween franchise, or Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th, this was a silent yet sinister being, cloaked in mystery. As the story developed, the creature was merely an extension of something worse, a ghost from the past, locked away deep below the ground that reached out and clawed to the surface, exposing a secret long since buried. Jackie’s biological father, Tony, was the apparition and existed as little more than a shell, trapped as part of the earth, kept alive by a flow of toxic waste pumped into his husk of a body...like an intravenous feed! An accident that Jackie’s step-father Bill was a part of was the cause and it had left Tony unable to do little more than exist with thoughts of revenge to keep him ticking over. He was blinded to anything other than expelling those feelings and had little care for the safety of his daughter, who he pulled below the surface to the world he controlled. The horror in the story came from what had happened, but more importantly it existed as the rotting thoughts within Tony's mind, that did more damage than he ever could.
Writer Berkowitz brought out the real horror for Jackie, as she was left with confusion over what had happened between Tony and Bill which played out against some uneasy visuals which increased tension during the uncomfortable situation. The worms that crawled over the windows of the underground house were a neat touch, but during the flashback, the sight of Tony's eye watching the toxic waste draw nearer to him as he was unable to move, was the real stand-out moment. Strip back a horror classic and what remains are moments of intense feelings involving humanities desires and weaknesses. Strip back the supernatural and science-fiction elements of Earth Mover and there was a story about facing decisions which had ramifications for later life. Batman Beyond was a show about teenagers (and of course Batman); but it was also about dealing with all the problems life throws at a person and how best to put them right. It's just a sad fact of life that sometimes things bubble under the surface and the way people deal with their problems is truly the worst horror of them all.
BELOW THE SURFACE: * When Terry made his entrance in the shadows of Jackie’s house to expose the truth behind Bill’s past, it was reminiscent of Batman's classic entrances from Batman: TAS.
* Terry's girlfriend, Dana, was voiced by Lauren Tom. She voiced numerous characters in animation, including news reporter Angela Chen on Superman: TAS and Jinx and Gizmo on Teen Titans.
* Will Friedle has provided voices for Teen Titans, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Batman: Gotham Knight, but was most recognisable for playing Eric Matthews in the long running live action comedy, Boy Meets World (1993 - 2000).