The appearance of an alleged crime fighter, Mysterio, almost discredited the fledgling reputation of Spider-Man, until Spidey cleared his name by connecting Mysterio to a string of thefts committed in his name, as well as the attempted murder of J. Jonah Jameson and Detective Lee. With his status as a hero redeemed, Peter Parker has overcome a war with PR and secured things with Mary Jane Watson.
Although things are back on with Mary Jane, Peter has managed to arrange a date with Felicia Hardy; admittedly as a chaperone to a physics exhibit, but as he sees it, a date none the less. It soon dawns on him how out of his depth he may be as he enters through the large security doors to the expansive front lawn, feeling somewhat underdressed as a chauffeur deposits him at the front doors where he is greeted by the impeccably dressed manor butler. Outside the compound walls a mechanical claw disables the security cameras and a guard is dispatched to check out the cause of the fault. Peter marvels at the vastness of the Hardy’s hallway, which could fit Aunt May’s entire house with room to spare – to preoccupied to avoid stumbling into a vase but saving becoming so much floor decoration. Outside, the guard calls in a code red upon discovering the crushed camera but is seized by a metal tentacle. Felecia descends the stairs to meet Peter, charmed to see him awaiting her with flowers (unwittingly snatched from the fallen vase) – pushing his luck, Peter offers his jacket to her but she bluntly insists on taking a jacket and returning upstairs to her room. Outside, the tentacled shadow approaches the house. Hearing a crash and Felicia scream, Peter runs upstairs to see her wrapped in the grip of Dr. Octopus. Doc Ock lashes out, launching Peter into the wall and collapsing the ceiling onto him, striding away with his captive – leaving Peter for dead.
Later Peter is grilled by the FBI about the kidnapping – mocking his description of a man with four mechanical arms. Anastasia Hardy returns home and is informed of her daughter’s abduction and handed a note informing her that ransom instructions are shortcoming. She recognises the signature as that of Dr. Octavius, whose outlandish experiments had recently been refused further funding by the Hardy Foundation – this is an act of revenge. Peter recalls that Otto Octavius was his childhood science camp professor: the man who influenced his academic interest in science and taught him that initial failure should not discourage in the pursuit of knowledge. As Spider-Man, Parker takes to the streets to search for leads while pondering what could have changed Octavius. Elsewhere in the city outskirts, Octavius is holding Felicia captive at a disused aeronautics development hanger. He remains cryptic when asked who he is, getting defensive when Felicia insists she never harmed him and claiming that everybody is so quick to deny culpability; fellow academics had ridiculed his research into battery-sized cold fusion, and the retraction of funding from the Hardy Foundation forced him to relocate to a ramshackle basement in order to continue his research – his arrogance causing him to push forward with his experiments, resulting in the explosion that left his mechanical harness fused to his body.
Anastasia enlists J. J. Jameson to publicise the agreement to meet Octavius’ demands for Felecia’s safety from his broadcasting station. Octavius phones the station – before answering, Jameson is advised to keep his cool and keep talking until the call can be traced. Ock demands their conversation be broadcast so the world knows how he has been mistreated, so Jameson pushes on by asking about Felecia’s wellbeing. Octavius glibly replies that all scientific endeavours of worth require sacrifice, at which Jameson loses his cool, but Octavius proves he is in control of the situation by warning that Jameson is in no position to threaten. Bated, Jameson belittles Octavius as the crew loos on in horror. When Jonah describes him as a coward who has to resort to stealing children, and not a scientist, Octavius makes his first demand: Jameson is to deliver the ransom personally - alone. That night Jameson arrives at the rendezvous point , unaware that he is being tailed by Spider-Man. A tentacle grabs him and hauls him into the rafters where Ock is waiting him, taking the briefcase of money and refusing to allow Jameson to see Felicia. Springing to Jameson’s aid, Spidey makes his move (Octavius believes Jameson brought him for security) but is caught off guard at the speed of his opponent. Ensnared and beaten, Spider-Man is told that now Octavius wants double the ransom for his two hostages within 24 hours, then flings Spidey through the window into the river and leaving with Jameson.
Spider-Man goes to the Daily Bugle the following day, where Anastasia blames his interjection for the newfound problems – Felicia would have been returned by now had he not interfered. Spidey disagrees, believing Octavius wouldn’t have made it so cut and dry, but Anastasia wants to hear nothing of it – claiming Spidey could be working with Ock for all she knows. Robbie admits after this he doesn’t know whether he was right to defend Spider-Man against Jonah – a remark that cuts Peter deep. At Aunt Mays’ house he considers hanging up the costume as all he seems to do is create further problems and lead to the creation of more super criminals, but this self-defeatism will get him nowhere, and for once Peter Parker may be able to do what Spider-Man can’t.
Anastasia and the FBI are awaiting new developments over at the Daily Bugle. Robbie enters with a new video from Dr Octopus in which Jameson and Felicia are shown to be strapped to a girder beneath a rocket engine. Octavius has nothing to say other than new instructions will follow in the next few minutes. Peter informs the federal agents that he was a student of Octavius and might know how to get through to the man through his love of science– Anastasia backs his idea despite the agent’s disapproval but the phone is already ringing and there is no better plan on the table. Parker introduces himself as an ex-student and proceeds to flatter Octavius by reeling off all of the man’s papers that have influenced him over the years. Octavius throws out a trick question but Peter realises it is a ruse to prove his true motives. Impressed at the boy, Octavius asks if Peter knows of his work on cold fusion batteries, to which Peter exclaims he’d give anything to see it in action. Octavius takes the bait and insists Peter bring the ransom to his hiding point so he can see it first-hand.
That evening Peter enters the rocket assembly plant Octavius is using as a base of operations. The lights burst on, allowing Dr Octopus to seize the briefcase of money from the dazzled Parker, whose reassuring remarks fail to uplift Jameson’s pessimism. Satisfied that he has not been duped a second time, Octopus invites Peter to see what purpose the money will serve in the future of mankind – Jameson and Felicia will remain tied to the construct for the moment. Using the cold fusion battery Octavius seeks to provide the world with unlimited, renewable energy; a power he will control. One hand-sized battery could replace a dozen nuclear power stations, but as Peter points out the fusion becomes unstable once the container reaches a certain size – last time the experiment ended in a melt-down. Octavius admits that was the case, however were it not for the explosion the mechanical arms would not have been grafted to his spine, allowing him to conduct his work with four-times the speed as well as being the greatest weapons known to man. Senescing things are getting slightly out of hand, Peter asks for the release for the hostages, but Dr Octopus is insulted by the request – the ransom money only considered a first instalment, so jaded is he of the broken promises of the Hardy Foundation that he is determined to milk the family for all they have. He tells Peter that this is an example of the benefits of power; watch and he can learn much, but Peter informs him that he is no longer one of his students and there is nothing worthwhile left for Octavius to teach him.
Slighted by this betrayal of trust, Dr Octopus turns on Parker and hurls him from the window. As Octavius moves to silence the aghast Felicia he is stopped by Spider-Man, who proceeds to dodge all of Octopus’ attacks. Spidey activates a dynamo and directing Ock’s attacks at the gigantic magnet – incapacitating the mad doctor but at the same time activating the rocket assembly line, with a test engine directly above Jameson and Felicia’s heads preparing to activate. Forced to deactivate the rocket, Ock is freed and captures as Spider-Man as he works on freeing the prisoners – reactivating the rocket and destroying the control panel. While Octavius gloats on his premature victory, Spidey spots an electro-magnet. Webbing up Octavius’ goggles he is flung aside and positions himself between Ock and the magnet in an attempt to lure the man into his trap. Not one to be fooled twice, Ock is patient to wait the 20 seconds until after the rocket fires onto Jameson and Felicia before making his move. Spider-Man realises he’ll never make it past Octavius in time to stop the rocket, however as luck has it he is right next to the cold fusion battery reactor – offering a trade of his life’s work for the hostages before throwing the reactor into the path of the electro-magnet: trapping Octavius. With seconds to spare Spidey unties Jameson and Felicia and swings them to safety as the rocket exhaust bursts to life. Felicia runs outside to find Peter; Spider-Man swings out the window and buries himself in the rubble outside with enough time to shed his costume as Felicia arrives. Once she is sure he is okay Felicia agrees to go on a second date with Peter.
Sometime later Octavius sits incarcerated inside a special prison cell; tentacles coupled across the room to prevent him moving. Yet he remains undeterred, for neither walls nor bars do a prison make. This is not the end of Dr Octopus.
Peter realises that he need not always rely on Spider-Man to save the day – allowing him to grow as not only a hero but a person, however by doing so he has exposed himself to a powerful new enemy. Dr Octopus represents the greatest threat that Spider-Man has encountered so far – with the brains and speed to rival Spideys’ in addition to superior strength. In Octavius Spider-Man can see through the looking glass at what he could have become had he let power consume him, making the character of octopus and his relationship to the wall-crawler all the more dynamic. The design and characterisation of Octavius is perfect and true to its source, with enough of a modern slant to make him more contemporary and threatening; a podgy, arrogant individual who is all too quick to brag and gloat, with his trademark basin haircut and Germanic accent, in possession of a weapon far too potent for his runaway ego to responsibly handle.
One thing that did occur through this episode is that the ‘official’ running order might be a little off, as Peter seems to be dating MJ at the same time as he is attempting to court Felicia – perhaps I’m wrong but I recall watching this as it was originally broadcast and this episode was second in line. Anyway, it just seemed a little out of character for Peter to be playing off of two women.
Action scenes are provided in healthy doses, complete with the now expected fluid animation, trademark Spidey-quips, and ‘how will he outsmart the villain this time?’ moments. The episode is quite similar in its structure to Sting of the Scorpion but this is an origins episode and what matters most is the competent handling of the back-story and defining the relationships the antagonist has within the larger cast already established, which was very satisfying indeed.
Another triumphant episode that allows Peter to come up the hero for once, and introduces a well executed rendition of a classic member of the rogues’ gallery. The series continues to stand firmly on its feet and provide drama, action and sci-fi in equal measures.