Today, I’m continuing my week-long marathon of the Bibleman franchise as part of Secular Students Week. If you make a donation to the Secular Student Alliance this week, and I’ll cover a movie of your choice.
In 1998, two years after the conclusion of “The Bibleman Show,” “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” marked the first episode of “The Bibleman Adventure,” the second and longest-running incarnation of the show.
For “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt,” Willie Aames takes sole writing and directing credits, and continues to star as the crusading eponymous hero, Bibleman. Chris Fann, who was previously co-director on “The Bibleman Show,” is now relegated to director of photography, I assume for the purpose of giving Aames sole credit. Notably, Tony Salerno’s creation credit for the Bibleman character is absent from both the ending and opening, which makes me wonder how much internal turbulence there was over the change of direction for the show.
The villain of the episode is Shadow of Doubt, who is overall a pretty generic antagonist for Bibleman. He uses a sort of chemical to inspire doubt in people, which reminded me a bit of the mind control used by previous villains. His performance is certainly over the top, but the character still comes off as pretty dull on the whole. He does have a fourth wall breaking henchman named Ludicrous, who is somewhat self-aware about his position, and steals the show from Shadow of Doubt in most of the villain scenes. However, Shadow does get his time to shine with his frenetic dancing musical number.
“Who is both a verb and a noun!”
“Shadow of Doubt!”
For the first time in the franchise, Bibleman has allies in the form U.N.I.C.E. and Coats. U.N.I.C.E. is an intelligent, speaking computer that runs the Bibleman headquarters, and continues to appear throughout the rest of the series. Coats is a pretty generic assistant / sidekick, who has a vague sort of military aesthetic to him.
The story of “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” centers on a young girl, Kyla, who has lost her faith, which is initially assumed to be due to her parents arguing. However, there are also sinister forces at play in the form of a Pandora’s box of doubt, planted by a new villain called Shadow of Doubt. Bibleman has to overcome his own insecurities and find a way to defeat the shadow, and help restore Kyla’s faith.
Kyla: “You don’t know how I feel! Nobody does! Not even God!”
Bibleman: “Kyla, that’s just not true. God does care…I mean, he must?”
“Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” features a new introduction that focuses more on action, and also introduces the more familiar BibleMan logo. The old theme song is still around, but it plays over the credits as opposed to the introduction sequence. Honestly, it is a bit strange tone-wise to have both styles present, but I am guessing that will only be the case for a few of these transition episodes.
There is still a children’s musical number at the beginning of the episode, but it is cut into semi-digestible small chunks. I’m curious if this was initially intended as part of an episode of “The Bibleman Show,” and was repurposed for “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt.”
“Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” features more deliberate attempts at humor than previous episodes, most of which awkwardly fall flat. As the series goes on, the amount of tongue in cheek self-awareness seems to increase, which adds a whole new dimension of cringe-inducing awkwardness to the show.
The entire episode of “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” reinforces a stereotype that the only reason people leave religion is due to some trauma or sinister influence, which just isn’t true by a long shot. The Bibleman version of questioning faith is also kind of hilarious in its lack of sincerity.
“In my mind I know all the right scriptures. I just don’t feel like they are real. One thing is for certain: whoever this [villain] is, he has affected my ability to reason.”
I was a little surprised when Shadow of Doubt survived the episode, especially given the show’s pattern for giving villains violent and tortuous ends. I assume this was done to make a statement about how doubt never totally goes away, or something to that effect.
“Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” is more or less middle-of-the-road as far as entertainment value for Bibleman goes. The villain could certainly have been better, but there are still some entertainingly awful child acting and dialogue moments that help it out. It is certainly easier to sit through than the first two episodes of “The Bibleman Show,” and features a lot more cheesy action and fighting, if that is what you are looking for.