DC Universe’s Titans introduced audiences to the eccentric superhero team Doom Patrol, who will star in their own spin-off in 2019. Here are our first impressions of the new characters.
As if Titans did not have enough on its plate, what with familiarising audiences with the Titans team, the show has dedicated an entire episode setting up the DC Universe spin-off series Doom Patrol.
The fourth episode of Titans’ premiere season, aptly titled ‘Doom Patrol’, ostensibly works as an origin story for Garfield Logan, aka Beast Boy (Ryan Potter), but it also sets up the Doom Patrol team. In the DC comics, Beast Boy was introduced in a Doom Patrol comic, so kudos on the comic book accuracy, but we actually end up learning very little about Beast Boy in this episode.
With Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft) acting as audience stand-in, we learn about each of the Doom Patrol characters – their backstories and their personalities. These will certainly be fleshed out in the spin-off series, but the little we see in this one episode tells us a great deal.
Here’s what we think of the of the Doom Patrol team members. Spoilers ahead!
When Garfield brings Rachel to the Calder House, the hideout for Doom Patrol, the first member we meet is Robotman. His introduction isn’t exactly pleasant. We hear him before seeing him, as he berates Garfield for leaving the house and possibly exposing them. He then leaves after instructing Garfield to come for dinner, at which point Rachel, who had been hiding in a closet, breathes a sigh of relief. Only to have the closet doors pushed open by a terrifying metal creature with glowing red eyes. Meet Robotman.
However, as the episode progresses, it is revealed that Robotman’s fearsome appearance hides a kindly soul. The audience learn that Robotman was once famous race-car driver Cliff Steele, who was in an accident and declared dead before the mysterious Chief saved Cliff’s mind and transferred it into a robot body.
In the comic books, Beast Boy and Cyborg have a legendary friendship, and this relationship is somewhat transferred to Beast Boy and Robotman in Titans. The two spend the most time together and seem to understand each other better than the rest of the team. They also have the most emotional of goodbyes among the team when Beast Boy leaves to join the Titans.
Among Doom Patrol, Robotman probably gets the most character development, though some of it is subtle. While the rest of the occupants of the house tuck into a massive dinner spread, Robotman merely sits and examines the food, prompting Rachel to kindly describe the taste and texture of the food to him.
He also makes a comment that belies his loneliness – partway through the episode, he says he can’t find anyone who would want to dance with him. He is partially appeased when Rachel does the Robot dance.
Voiced by Brendan Fraser, who is barely recognisable through the synthetic audio, and portrayed in Titans by Jake Michaels, Robotman is an original member of Doom Patrol in the comics, and is set to appear again in Doom Patrol. He is the most intriguing of all the characters, I feel, because he isn’t as thrilled to be living this half-life.
Robotman is alive but at what cost? And how long can he stand it before he breaks? I can’t wait to find out in 2019.
Larry Trainor, aka Negative Man, is the jolly father figure of Doom Patrol. When we meet him in Titans, he is playing AC/DC on full blast while cooking an unbelievably elaborate dinner. Unlike Robotman, whose initial interactions with Rachel border on hostile, Negative Man is much more welcoming. Not only does he not object to Rachel entering his huge kitchen without a by-your-leave, he even invites Rachel to join them for dinner.
We soon realise why. Negative Man’s idea of dinner is what can only be considered a five-star hotel’s buffet menu. He can easily afford to accommodate one uninvited guest. He could possibly feed an army!
Negative Man was once Larry Trainor, a pilot who was exposed to negative energy when his plane crashed. According to Chief, this accident took place 50 years ago and Trainor was given only days to live until the Chief’s intervention. How exactly Negative Man and Chief are in such good condition 50 years later is a mystery that will only be solved in the spin-off show.
Negative Man is voiced by Matt Bomer and was portrayed in Titans by Dwain Murphy. Can I just say that it seems an absolute crime to have Bomer as a voice actor in this series and playing a heavily-bandaged character in Doom Patrol. However, Bomer’s distinctive voice and inflections give Negative Man a kind and generous demeanour, making him that much more relateable.
I am interested to find out more about Negative Man’s relationship with food. We find out why he has to make such huge quantities, but why does he create such elaborate meals? Not to mention the insane desserts. It isn’t just the spread that is stunning, but the presentation as well. Negative Man no longer seems to be a pilot and his negative energy clearly has no effect on food. Could that be the reason why he has taken on the role of chef? Or is it because delicious food beautifully presented puts a smile on everyone’s face?
Unlike Robotman, who gives us an inkling about his distaste for his new life, Negative Man does not appear to have any such animosity towards his present existence. But, his elaborate culinary style could be the façade behind which he is hiding his inner pain. It will certainly make for an interesting character study.
We know Rita Farr (April Bowlby) isn’t the happiest member of the Doom Patrol when Garfield goes to call her for dinner. Not only is there a massive pile of dirty dishes outside her bedroom door, demonstrating how often she stays in her abode, but Garfield’s hesitation in asking her to join the team for dinner shows that the team is understanding of her reluctance.
Inside her room, we see the actress that Rita once was. There are several glamorous photographs of her and stills from films of yesteryear. On an old-fashioned television, a black-and-white film starring Rita is playing at full volume.
And where is Rita? On the bed, except she is in a form very unlike the photos and film we have seen. The being we see on the bed is akin to a giant amoeba.
At the dinner table, however, the ravishing beauty in the photos appears, coaxed out of her hiding place by the possibility of meeting a new guest, Rachel. Rita piles her plate with food, praising Larry for the spread before explaining to Rachel that her condition requires her to eat a great amount.
Unfortunately for Rita, her aim to make a good first impression falls short when her human appearance begins to unravel. Rachel isn’t phased and instead, takes Rita’s hand to calm her and take her pain away.
We later learn from Chief that Rita was doused with toxic gas that left her cells unstable. In addition to her worsening condition, she was also institutionalised for years. Rachel sees some of this when she holds Rita’s hand and gets flashes of Rita’s memories. No doubt these memories will be further elucidated in Doom Patrol, or at least I hope so, because the glimpses we got here in Titans weren’t very coherent.
It isn’t completely clear whether Rita has control of her powers. She can maintain her human appearance, but under stressful circumstances, she destabilises. However, near the end of the episode, when Doom Patrol think they are under attack by Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) and Kory Anders (Anna Diop), Rita takes advantage of the strobe lights to appear human and then monstrous in a jump scare.
I do wish Rita’s moniker had been updated. Why is she called Elasti-Girl whereas the male characters are called Robotman and Negative Man? Only Garfield is given the moniker ‘boy’ because he is apparently a teenager. I can’t see this being changed in Doom Patrol either as I doubt DC Universe will change the source material. It’s just so reductive in 2018.
Chief gets a heroic introduction in Titans. He brings in a patient dying from exposure to liquid nitrogen. He injects her with a serum which only makes matters worse until Rachel steps in and her soul-self stabilises the woman. One would expect Chief to feel insecure about a teenage girl saving the day, but instead he is grateful and offers to help Rachel with her problems.
At dinner, Chief is less than humble about his abilities though, praising himself for keeping the Doom Patrol members alive well past their expiry date so that they can be here “enjoying dessert”. At which point, we get a glimpse of Robotman drumming on his empty plate. Not everyone is getting dessert, Chief.
We get more of an inkling of Chief’s personality when he lays into Garfield about bringing Rachel into the house. Initially it seems the Chief is only mildly annoyed, but he gets more and more furious with each passing moment till his admonishment turns into direct verbal abuse. And when Garfield is truly distressed, Chief apologises for being so stern. It’s a very disturbing scene.
Of course, by the end of the episode, it becomes clear that Chief’s intentions are not all that noble. He tries to forcefully ‘help’ Rachel using his serum and doesn’t back down even when she asks him to stop, even incapacitating poor Garfield when he intervenes. Chief eventually gets his comeuppance with Rachel’s soul-self bashing him against every conceivable surface. He is relegated to a wheelchair with a broken back, apparently a situation he has only recently recovered from.
Despite his shocking behaviour, most of Doom Patrol opt to remain with Chief when the Titans leave the premises. They clearly still feel beholden to him even if he isn’t the kindest of people. Interesting!
Chief is one of the founding members of Doom Patrol even in the comics, but I am not certain whether the Chief we have met in Titans is Dr Niles Caulder from the comics. Especially as Doom Patrol lists Timothy Dalton as Chief. What is the reason behind the recasting? We will obviously have to wait till next year to find out.
Having said that, I would like to see more of Bruno Bichir’s Chief. It seems like he has a saviour complex but an underlying need to control his charges, maybe to the point of being abusive in his need for power. Bichir perfectly encompasses all this in this episode; I can only imagine what he would do with more screen time.
Our first look at Doom Patrol was not what I expected. Whereas so many spin-offs are introduced as antagonists to the primary heroes, most of the Doom Patrol members take Rachel in and care for her. I also love the domestic setting for the characters, which gives audiences a sense of who these people are, and not just what they do.
When Doom Patrol was announced, I wasn’t particularly excited at the prospect of a show about featuring a group of misfits. But, after watching this episode, I am genuinely intrigued to get to know these characters better and see what heroes they can become.