Birds of Prey is sort of legendary among geeks. The concept was make a Batman television series ala Smallville but without Batman. So the focus shifted to Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl, aka Oracle) and then the muscle came from the supposed daughters of Black Canary and, well Batman himself. And bingo, you have three lovely femme fatales who fight crime in the spirit of Batman.
The original pilot for the 13-episode series was very elaborate and well very well could have been the best pilot The WB produced besides Smallville. The pilot opens with Helena Kyle (Ashley Scott) screaming as her mother’s murderer runs away from the scene. Then it cuts Barbara Gordon (Dina Meyer) in the shower as she has flashbacks to her and Batman fighting the Joker.
A voice on the TV announces that the woman murdered was Selina Kyle (Catwoman). But just when you thought it couldnt get any darker, Barbara races to the front door and the Joker appears and shoots her. It is quite a cryptic and gothic setup for the series.
Just the visuals on the opening scene, the Joker’s line of “Knock, Knock” (sounding a lot like Mark Hamill’s Joker from the cartoon), the trail of blood as it spills towards thebat symbol and Batgirl’s mask. This is a brilliant take on Batman lore and set the tone for the series.
The series takes place seven years after the events of the opening. Dinah (Rachel Skarsten) is a lost innocent, Helena is in therapy and Barbara is dealing with being in a wheelchair.
The first season villain was setup to be Helena psychologist, Harlequin (in the unaired it’s Sherilyn Fenn, network pilot it’s Mia Sara). Kind of like the big season baddie Buffy the Vampire Slayer used to have per season. The series also introduces us to a very young Dinah Lance (aka Black Canary) who eventually becomes the ward of Barbara Gordon.
One more secret is dropped that Helena is the love child of Batman & Catwoman and that Barbara Gordon is also Helena’s ward. It is explained that Helena didn’t go live with Batman because when her mother was murdered Batman had no idea he had a kid and she was okay with that.
But what is so much better about this version of the pilot is how they setup up the aired version is just how much these characters feel like the comic book not WB versions.
Sure they gave Helena “cat-like” powers and Dinah psychic powers. But if the show started with this version of the pilot instead of the watered down version. I really believe that this show could have become as successful as Smallville. It was all there!
Pilot Score: 4 out of 5.
Note: You can find the unaired pilot on the Birds of Prey: Complete Series DVD set.