"Perchance to Dream" is the thirtieth episode of Batman: The Animated Series. It originally aired on October 19, 1992.
Batman is chasing some crooks into a warehouse when, suddenly, he finds he has walked right into a trap. Blinded by a sudden flash of light, he sees something about to fall on his head and is knocked out.
It is then that Bruce wakes up in bed and is greeted by Alfred. He seems ignorant of Bruce Wayne's life as Batman, not knowing what he means when he says he fell into a trap, and mistakes the name Robin for the name of a woman Bruce may be dating.
Bruce decides to get back to work as normal, but when he tries to open the clock, he discovers that the secret entrance to the Batcave isn't there. Bruce's frustration turns to shock when he sees that Thomas and Martha Wayne are still alive. Worried, Thomas examines Bruce and asks him if he's okay. Bruce answers that he is and continues the day.
Confused, Bruce talks to Alfred and asks to learn more about his own life. Alfred explains that Bruce is the head of Wayne Enterprises ever since his father retired, though Lucius Fox really runs the company, and that he's due to be married to Selina Kyle.
Later that day, Selina goes to cheer up Bruce. However, Batman appears outside. Shocked and determined to discover what's going on, Bruce races outside and witnesses Batman stop a jewel heist from the oddly-named store ALXJYZIV. Selina explains that Batman just appeared in Gotham a while back and no one knows who he really is. Trying to make more sense of all this, Bruce asks Selina if she knows about Catwoman. Selina just gets worried.
Confused by memories of his previous life as Batman, Bruce goes to see Dr. Leslie Thompkins. She clears up that Bruce is simply identifying with Batman, because he feels as though he's been given everything his whole life and the lack of real accomplishment is manifesting the fantasy that he is Batman, who has worked for everything he has and every deed is of great value. Relieved, Bruce determines that the nightmare is over.
He goes to his home, and is "his normal self" according to Alfred. Bruce is feeling happier than he has for years, however, when he tries to read a newspaper, the words appear jumbled. This confirms Bruce's fears that something strange is happening when he tries to read some of the books in the library, and the words are also completely jumbled. Bruce starts to lose his mind and realizes that this life he is living is not real at all. He sees a news report about Batman and realizes he has something to do with all of this.
Bruce races to a sports shop and buys a grappling hook, a rope, a flare gun and some flares. Things go easily enough until he goes outside and the police confront him on parking in a no-parking zone. When they discover he's Bruce Wayne, they ask him to come with them because his strange behavior has been reported. Bruce refuses and makes a break for it. Evading the police, he goes to the Gotham Cemetery and he climbs to the top of a bell tower.
Batman arrives shortly thereafter and Bruce attacks him saying that he's figured it out: this is just a dream. Batman asks him how he knows and Bruce explains that when he tried to read, he couldn't because reading is a function of the right side of the brain, while dreams come from the left side. While Bruce can't explain how Batman is behind everything, he continues to fight him while the police call out to Bruce they just want to talk. Ignoring them, Bruce continues to fight and pulls off Batman's mask to reveal the Mad Hatter. The Mad Hatter explains that this is indeed a dream world, which the real Mad Hatter invented to simulate everything that Bruce wants. Bruce is worried that this means his secret is out, but the Mad Hatter assures him that the mind control device reveals nothing to the outside world. Bruce demands that the Mad Hatter release him, but is told that there is no way out. Bruce looks over the side of the tower and realizes a possible way out. Refusing to live a lie, he leaps to his death.
As Batman's mind is unable to create a scenario in which he has died, he wakes back in the real world. He finds himself in a room with the Mad Hatter and a mind control device is on his head. Batman makes short work of the thugs and angrily asks the Mad Hatter why he did this. The Mad Hatter angrily breaks down in tears and admits that he wanted Batman out of his life so badly, he was willing to give him a dream world of his own. The police arrive and he is taken into custody. Batman then leaves, hurt by the loss of his dream life.
Home video releases
- The Adventures of Batman & Robin: Batman the Dark Knight (VHS)
- Batman: The Animated Series, Volume Two (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Blu-ray)
- During the initial car chase, both the crooks' car and the Batmobile drive through the buildings because the background cells and the foreground cells aren't edited together correctly.
- When Bruce sees Batman for the first time in the dream world, the "Wayne Enterprises" logo can clearly be seen as he rushes to get downstairs. Again, the "W.E" logo on the building is also seen. However, the store the crooks are robbing across the street reads "Alxjyziv" rather than "Jewelery".
- When Bruce tells his parents "You're a lie", he mouths, "It's not true".
- When Bruce uses his rope to climb the bell tower, the grapple is attached to a gargoyle. However, in the next shot it is attached to the top of the tower, the rope and grapple completely disappear later.
- When Bruce "wakes up", the robe on the side of his bed is transparent for a few seconds.
- Adrienne Barbeau is credited for playing Catwoman, but in the dreamworld, she is just Selina Kyle.
- Although the entire series is heavily indebted to Film Noir, some of the most explicit references are found in this episode. The climax at the bell-tower is perhaps a nod to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and Batman directly quotes Humphrey Bogart's final paraphrase from The Tempest in The Maltese Falcon in the end. The dreamlike nature of the storyline is very much in common with Film Noir. Interestingly, the climax also resembles the finale of Metropolis and Tim Burton's Batman, in which Michael Keaton's Batman and Jack Nicholson's Joker face off in the spire of a cathedral.
- This episode marks the first time in the DCAU where Batman and Bruce Wayne come face to face with one another.
- By this episode (in production order), Kevin Conroy's voice for Batman began to change slightly, becoming less raspy and more gruff compared to previous episodes (the voice would continue to change slightly in The New Batman Adventures and Justice League).
- The title comes from a line in the famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy from the play Hamlet, in which Prince Hamlet debates with himself whether or not to commit suicide, or to face the cruel travails of the world, and specifically the task of avenging his dead father which has been put before him. This is a subtle, but intriguing parallel not only to the story of the episode itself, but to the story of Batman in general. Also, Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman in the series, appeared in a number of Shakespeare plays during the 1980s, before being cast on the show.
- The theme and conflict found in the episode are both similar to those faced by Superman in the Alan Moore story For the Man Who Has Everything. In that story, Mongul uses an alien plant to place Superman in a fantasy world where Krypton never exploded. Indeed, this story was eventually adapted in the Justice League Unlimited episode with the same title.
- Leslie Thompkins essentially sums up part of the episode: the persona of Bruce Wayne, who has never had to work for what he wants, is jealous of the personality of Batman, "whose every deed has great value". Thus, the two personalities fight each other in the bell-tower for control of Bruce Wayne.
- In the book, Batman Animated, Paul Dini wrote that the producers rarely explored the idea of Bruce being tempted to give up being Batman and lead a "normal" life. Kevin Conroy added:
|“||Batman needs Bruce, however hollow that identity feels to him from time to time. Bruce keeps Batman human... I think the temptation is there, but the temptation is to retreat into the cave and never come out. To give up his disguise as Bruce Wayne and surrender himself completely to the darkness.||”|
- In that sense, Batman seems to be able to tell that the dream world is a lie, because the temptation it offers is not truly the one he feels.
- The main clue that the Mad Hatter is behind the events of this episode is the fact that his theme plays in this episode's title card.
- Bruce buys "a flare gun and some flares", probably with the intention to get Batman's attention. However, he never actually uses them.
- Both Bruce and "Batman" act slightly out-of-character in the dream world, with Bruce being considerably more harsh than playful toward Alfred and "Batman" unusually calm and collected.
- One of the men who "Batman" stops during the jewel heist resembles The Penguin's henchman Jay from "I've Got Batman in My Basement", while the man who Bruce asks for the flare gun and flares resembles Raven from the same episode.
- Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman, has stated on his Twitter account that this is his favorite Batman: The Animated Series episode. He also confirmed it during an interview alongside Troy Baker, who has voiced both the Joker and Two-Face in the Batman: Arkham series and who also claimed "Perchance to Dream" is his favourite.
- This episode could be based on the Detective Comics issue #633 Identity Crisis, in which Batman awakes in a fictional world in that he isn't Batman.
|Kevin Conroy|| Batman/Bruce Wayne|
Thomas Wayne (uncredited)
|Bob Hastings||Commissioner Gordon|
|Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.||Alfred|
|Adrienne Barbeau|| Selina Kyle|
Martha Wayne (uncredited)
|Roddy McDowall||Mad Hatter|
|Diana Muldaur||Dr. Leslie Thompkins|
Bruce: How did I get back here? Robin?
Alfred: Well, sir, it's a leisurely existence, I admit. But there are worse lives.
Leslie: You've led the sort of life where everything has been handed to you. You don't feel you've accomplished anything. It's all been laid out for you.
Bruce: You're a lie! It's all a lie!
Bruce: Batman! Always Batman!
Bruce: Here I am! I've been waiting for you! You did this to me!
Batman: You're not well, Mr. Wayne. You need professional help.
Mad Hatter: Ah, "Are you the dreamer or merely part of someone's dream?" (chuckles) That was just the question Tweedledee put to Alice in Through the Looking...
Mad Hatter: N-n-now, wait just a minute! You don't want to do anything foolish! This isn't an ordinary dream! What if you're wrong?
Batman: Why? Why did you do it?!
Gordon: (Holding the Mad Hatter's Dream Machine) Something for the lab boys to play with. Any idea what it is?