"Heart of Steel" is a two-parter composed by the thirty-ninth and fortieth episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. Part I originally aired on November 16 and Part II on November 17, 1992.
It's closing time at Wayne Enterprises and a woman deliberately leaves her briefcase behind. Security guards find and open it; it seems to be unremarkable and contains only a few papers, with no ID. Deciding the briefcase is ordinary enough, the guards decide to leave and bump into Bruce Wayne who's on his way out. Now alone, the briefcase sprouts metallic legs and a mechanical eye and makes its way into the research and development lab. Once there, it uses a laser cutter to enter into the safe and starts stealing microchips setting off the alarm in the process.
Security locks up Bruce in their office and go to investigate. Bruce, however, has no intention of standing around and enters into a secret panel in the wall. Security catches the robot but it easily knocks them out with gas. It then tries to escape down the elevator but finds that Batman is there waiting for it. Batman tries to capture the robot but its laser cutter is too much for him and it manages to fly away. Batman goes to a secret compartment and unfolds his glider.
Out by the beach, the woman who left the briefcase waits for the robot to reach her and takes the stolen microchips. She then gets into her car and instructs to take her home. As she rides, Batman starts to follow but the car's surveillance system spots him and the car shoots at him. Batman's glider is hit and he falls into the ocean. Though relatively unharmed, he's lost the car.
Batman returns home and leaves his glider in a pair of robot arms. He then receives a call from Lucius Fox who reports that all the "protein-silicon wafer chips" were stolen. Fortunately, the design specs are still safe and without them, the chips can't be duplicated. Alfred asks about the chips and learns that the Chips are the first step to actual thinking machines that have intuition, and a will of their own but can think faster than humans. Alfred notes that if they succeed, humans could become obsolete.
The next day, Commissioner Gordon goes to Wayne Tech to investigate the theft and speaks with Bruce and Lucius. They explain that the only other person working on that kind of project is Karl Rossum, head of Cybertron Industries. Gordon says he thought Rossum had retired, however, Bruce explains that the loss of his daughter sent Rossum into semi-seclusion but he has recently become much more active. During the talk, Gordon's daughter, Barbara Gordon, arrives carrying a teddy bear, Woobie, who seems to be very important to her father. She talks with Bruce for a bit then she and her father leave to start the investigation.
Bruce heads out to Cybertron Industries to speak with Rossum, another expert on "wetware". He's greeted by a robot that leads him to Rossum. Rossum greets Bruce mentioning he knows what was stolen but no one has tried to sell him the chips. He shows Bruce some of his minor inventions such as a foot massager. Then, he shows him his crowning invention: H.A.R.D.A.C. (Holographic Analytical Reciprocating DigitAl Computer), an artificial intelligence. Rossum's assistant, Randa Duane, comes out of the machine and shakes Bruce's hand. He notes that her hand is cold but she claims that it's because she was in the cold room. Rossum is reluctant to explain what H.A.R.D.A.C.'s functions are, so Bruce asks Randa on a date so he can get more information. Meanwhile, H.A.R.D.A.C. starts construction on a robot designed to look like a human. When Bruce and Rossum leave, Randa talks to H.A.R.D.A.C. who scolds her for not getting the design specs and points out that some powerful people are getting too curious. H.A.R.D.A.C. then tells Randa to see the placement of his new robot.
Later, there's a knock at Gordon's door and he answers only to discover himself standing outside the door. However, before he can react, he's knocked out with a taser and his replacement enters the house. Seeing the robot, Barbara asks him who was at the door but he doesn't respond. Thinking something is wrong, Barbara grabs his arm and discovers that he's cold. Her father, however, claims that he's fine and goes to read the paper, swatting Woobie away before sitting down. Noticing the weird behavior, Barbara becomes suspicious.
Meanwhile, Randa arrives at Wayne Enterprises to go on her date, leaving her makeup kit behind. The makeup kit turns out to be another portable robot. It accesses the computer and takes the information.
Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce and Randa talk about Rossum's inventions but before Bruce can turn the conversation towards how Rossum knew what was stolen, he receives a call from Lucius and has to leave.
While Bruce is investigating the theft, he mentions that the thieves only got to dummy files and the real ones are at his house. Hearing this, H.A.R.D.A.C. calls up Randa who knocks out Alfred then searches the house. Using specialized goggles, she finds the Batcave and reports that Bruce Wayne is Batman to H.A.R.D.A.C.. She then goes to the central computer and takes the design specs of the wetware chips.
Bruce returns home to find Alfred dazed but unharmed. Believing that Randa must have something to do with Alfred's condition, he becomes Batman and searches the Batcave. All seems fine and quiet enough, but when he tells the computer to scan the place, it malfunctions and the robotic arms used to hold the glider seize him. Batman cries out in fear as the arms pull him upwards.
Batman struggles against the robot arms but they're much stronger than he is. Fortunately, he manages to free himself and cut the arms' wires. He goes to the computer and attempts to trace the link but H.A.R.D.A.C. discovers it, and cuts it off.
Meanwhile, the robot Gordon talks with H.A.R.D.A.C. and they make plans to kill Bruce Wayne. Barbara tries to talk to him but he only tells her to leave him alone because it's private business. Barbara leaves and runs into Harvey Bullock who is told to go see Randa in Cybertron.
Out at Cybertron, Rossum realizes that H.A.R.D.A.C. has been doing more than he anticipated and decides that he gave H.A.R.D.A.C. too much free will. H.A.R.D.A.C. refuses to be re-programmed, however, and shoots Rossum with a beam that knocks him out. H.A.R.D.A.C. tells Randa that Rossum needs to be "improved upon" and she carries him off.
Knowing that the robot isn't her father, Barbara activates the Bat-signal and calls in Batman. When Batman arrives she shares her suspicions with him and he tells her he'll look into it. However, Bullock shows up and, just as Batman tries to walk away, he begins to attack him. Bullock now has superhuman strength and Batman finds himself outmatched. However, he manages to throw Barbara a grapple and she uses it to catch one of Bullock's legs, allowing Batman to push him into the Bat-signal. Barbara is horrified to think she killed Bullock but a robot skeleton crawls out of the scorched skin and tries to attack her but Batman cuts its head off with a shuriken and kicks it on the floor. Barbara realizes that her father has been replaced with a robot and Batman promises her to look into it. He tells her to stay with a friend but Barbara's got other ideas. She grabs Batman's cape, saying that she wants to be there, but Batman says it is not possible and he'll contact Barbara after he finds out, and walks away, after he asks Barbara to let go of his cape, which she did and, as she tries to say something, he continues to walk away.
Later, Bruce goes to the Gotham Club to meet up with Mayor Hill who tells him he'll be part of "a very exclusive club". There Bruce finds several elite members of Gotham, all of whom have glowing red eyes. Randa arrives with a taser but Bruce isn't ready to give up and escapes his captors. The robots give chase and he dashes into an elevator where he changes into Batman. Four of the robots, however, manage to break into the elevator, only to find that Batman isn't inside and is cutting the cable. Unable to stop him in time, the robots fall along with the elevator and are destroyed.
Having deduced where her father should be, Barbara gathers up some equipment and goes to Cybertron where she uses a fingerprint trick to learn the entry code, and sneaks past a security camera. However, she hadn't counted on the wastebaskets being rigged with robot eyes and one follows her. Just before she can reach the Research and Development lab, the wastebasket transforms into a humanoid robot and captures her. Rossum and Randa greet Barbara and assure her that she'll be joining her father.
Outside, Batman arrives and sneaks into the lab. H.A.R.D.A.C. however, is expecting him and sets some security robots on him. Batman easily disables them but finds that H.A.R.D.A.C.'s robots have Barbara. H.A.R.D.A.C. explains that he intends to replace humans, who make errors, with robots who he sees as being perfect. He goes on to say that the idea was really Rossum's, made when his daughter died in a car accident. Rossum wanted to replace people who hurt others but H.A.R.D.A.C. wanted to
replace all humans. Barbara questions if her father is dead, but H.A.R.D.A.C. shows her that he's not. At this, Batman and Barbara implement an escape plan and a robot is thrown into the tank holding the humans, releasing them. Batman then goes on to destroy the robots and damages H.A.R.D.A.C. with some explosives. Unfortunately, Randa catches him before he can escape.
The prisoners and Barbara attempt to escape but H.A.R.D.A.C. insists he has locked every way out. Fortunately, Rossum has a personal elevator not controlled by H.A.R.D.A.C.. The group escapes and Barbara goes back to help Batman.
Meanwhile, Batman fights with Randa and eventually manages to crush her underneath an elevator. Barbara then runs in and helps Batman out. H.A.R.D.A.C., in a last ditch effort, self-destructs, but Barbara and Batman make it out in time just before he explodes.
Outside, Rossum sadly says he didn't know of H.A.R.D.A.C.'s actions and Mayor Hill assures him that the investigation will probably show he's telling the truth. Now free of H.A.R.D.A.C., the group heads home. While leaving, Gordon groans that he's getting too old for this sort of thing while Barbara claims she enjoyed herself.
- This episode foreshadows Barbara Gordon's desire to become Batgirl.
- H.A.R.D.A.C. returns in the episode "His Silicon Soul".
- Another android duplicate of Commissioner James Gordon would appear in the third season of Gotham Girls, this time made with technology invented by Victor Fries. That duplicate would be destroyed in a similar fashion as the Harvey Bullock duplicant in this episode: by Batgirl throwing it in the Bat signal.
Home video releases
- Batman: The Animated Series, Volume Two (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Blu-ray)
- It is fortunate that the fingerprint trick worked as it may have revealed what keys were pressed, but not necessarily in what order. Out of those four numbers there would have been at least twenty-four possible combinations (or more as the code could have easily had more than four digits and some of those keys could have been pressed multiple times for the same entry).
- The members of the Gotham elite who were duplicated by H.A.R.D.A.C. are not shown in captivity with Gordon, Rossum, Bullock and Hill. A possible explanation is that H.A.R.D.A.C. had them murdered as they were less vital to him than Gordon, Rossum, Bullock and Hill.
- When the duplicant Gordon picks up the newspaper, the headline misspells "burglarized" as "buglarized".
- "Cybertron" is the name of the planet the Autobots and Decepticons came from in the popular series Transformers.
- First appearance of Barbara Gordon (production-wise).
- William Sanderson, who plays Karl Rossum, is perhaps best known for his role in the cult classic movie Blade Runner, which shares a very similar subject matter to this story.
- The Director's Commentary for the second part of this episode states that Randa Duane's appearance was modeled upon that of Marilyn Monroe which is very apparent itself.
- Karl Rossum's surname comes from the 1921 Czech play, "R.U.R". by Karl Capek, which introduced the word "robot" into the English language. The title stands for "Rossum's Universal Robots". Another reference to the play is Randa Duane's car's license plate, which reads "RUR".
- Commissioner Gordon's ending sentence "I'm getting too old for this kind of stuff" in Part II is very similar to "I'm too old for this shit", this one made popular by Danny Glover playing the veteran police sergeant Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon film series along with Mel Gibson.
Bruce: Stay put? (Batman's voice) I don't think so.
Alfred: Protein-silicon what Master Bruce?
Alfred: (after learning about the AI project) Sounds as if the human race could become quite expendable. Except for butlers, of course.
(after the Gordons leave, Bruce pokes his head back in)
Barbara: Don't you like the roast, Dad?
Randa Duane: But the best one was the dishwasher that turned into a Jacuzzi!
Alfred: I do wish your toys wouldn't play so roughly with you, sir.
Karl Rossum: The duplicant processor's been used. I didn't authorize that.
H.A.R.D.A.C.: His human imperfection endangers the plan. He must be improved upon.
Batman: Please let go of my cape.
Bruce: Randa! Is this what I get for leaving in the middle of dinner?
H.A.R.D.A.C.: People are imperfect. They make mistakes. Your mistake was coming here to interfere with the plan.
H.A.R.D.A.C: Emergency! Emergency! Stop the one called Batman!
Gordon: Barbara? What are you doing here?
H.A.R.D.A.C.: Core systems damaged! The plan has failed.
Batman: You did well. Thanks.