Season 1, Episode 3
A Thing About Rats
Air Date: December 16th, 1987
If the previous episode was jam-packed with brand new characters, this one…well, it’s not. But the audience is introduced to the one and only Baxter Stockman.
A hapless inventor who is more concerned with earning an honest living by way of his own inventions, Stockman just wants to improve his world, if not the entire world, by using small robots he created, called Mousers, to rid New York city of its rat problem once and for all. Unfortunately, things don’t work out that way. Baxter’s robotic exterminators work too well, causing every exterminator business in the city to refuse employment outright. It’s a biting bit of irony that Stockman’s own good work is keeping him out of work (something of a theme in regards to this character). Penniless and unemployed, Baxter is easily manipulated by the Shredder and begins work to create hundreds of Mouser robots. And while Baxter is told he is doing work to help the city, he’s actually working unintentionally to destroy Splinter and the Turtles.
The introduction of Baxter Stockman is a great nod to the comic books that inspired this whole series and everything that followed. After the Shredder, Baxter was the first villain the Turtles face. Although there are several differences from the comic book and the version appearing in the animated series.
Let’s get the obvious difference out of the way first, Baxter was race swapped at some point during development of the ‘87 animated series. While he’s a white guy in the animated series, in original comics (as well as all subsequent media that followed) he was depicted as African American. I don’t know why there was a change, and I haven’t been able to find a reason why there was a change to begin with. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter; I guess when developing and adapting an animated series from someone else’s work, there are changes all the time.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Baxter in the show and in the comics at the time was the fact that the animated series depicts Baxter as something of a victim at the end of the day. He can’t find work, his own inventions are deemed dangerous, he’s manipulated by those that hold more power than him and at the end of this episode, he’s left tied up to a light pole in the middle of the night. While in the comics, Baxter created the Mousers to hold the city for ransom and basically create acts of terrorism. Comic book Baxter is not likeable at all and you’re happy to see him get hemmed up by the Turtles.
Finally, there is no relationship between Baxter and April O’Neil at all in the animated series. In the old comics, April was an intern at Stockman’s lab before she met the Turtles and had a work relationship with him before he tried killing her when she found out his real plans for the Mousers. Speaking of April, the ‘87 animated series is the reason she is always depicted as a lemony-clad reporter.
This episode, while introducing less, moves just a bit slower than the last. As I said before, Stockman is manipulated by the Shredder to produce an army of Mousers to seek and destroy the Turtles and their sensei. After an unsuccessful attempt on their lives, the Turtles are forced to temporarily flee the safety of their underground home (did I even mention that the Turtles live in the sewers yet?) and find asylum at April O’Neil’s apartment. Something she’s not too happy with at first…or at all really.
Okay, let’s talk about April for a second. This poor girl has had her life put on hold as she has become embroiled in a conflict involving mutants, ninjas, aliens and robotic exterminators and the only one that has looked into seeing if she was alright was her boss. Seriously, she was missing for (probably) five days and not one call from a parent or a friend outside of work. I know I know this is a kid’s show but a voicemail from mom would’ve went a long way.
And vice versa; call your parents, kids.
Long story short, the Turtles find out that Baxter created a mast control for the Mousers and quickly go about destroying it to stop an overwhelming and preposterous amount of Mousers from tearing through there family. Baxter snitches on Shredder, revealing the location of a secret lab to the Turtles. Michelangelo Solid Snake’s his way into the lab only to be caught and tied up by the Shredder, who is controlling the Mousers. But Michelangelo is only momentarily in peril as he is released by Krang.
Didn’t see that one coming, did you?
Krang wants the Shredder to fail as it would break the Shredder’s confidence and finally convince him to build the body that Krang is desperate to have. Although, if Krang has all the tech in the universe at his disposal, why is he so dependent on Shredder? Especially when it is implied that he’s just a screw up that flunked out of the Foot Clan. I don’t know, but it makes for great comedy later on. Anyway, the Turtles eventually defeat Shredder and shut down his Mousers, sending him back to the Technodrome with his tail between his legs.
Baxter will have a huge impact on the show very soon as he inadvertently provides the Turtles with weapons, vehicles and gear ass they raid his home/laboratory. Wow…this poor guy can’t catch a break. Even after an embarrassing defeat to a fight he didn’t really have a dog in his own home and belongings are taken from him by a bunch of teenagers. This show, or at least this episode, proves that not all bad guys are created equally. While Baxter never intended to be a “bad guy”, he was forced on that path by basically being true to himself. If he wasn’t such a great inventor, he wouldn’t have created a rodent exterminating robot that did too good of a job, he never would have been unemployed and never would have met the Shredder or the Turtles.
So, I guess the overall message of this episode is…don’t be too good at your job? I don’t know, the show is call “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and it’s aim is to sell toys to kids. Job well done, I say.