Dark Danny: You don’t get do you? I’m still here! I still exist! That means you still turn into me.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Sometimes cartoons are not afraid to go into dark territory. And this episode of Danny Phantom was the one episode that went into darker territory than most other episodes of the series. And it did so with something small but with cataclysmic consequences.
The story is that Danny, while preparing to take an important exam called the CAT winds up traveling through time with his friends Sam and Tucker to a dark future where their town is destroyed and an older Danny has become the world’s most powerful and evil ghost.
A lot of the episode is Danny dealing with the repercussions of his future. Almost everyone is outright enraged with Danny willing to kill him on the spot such as Ghost Hunter Valerie Gray who often found herself allying with Danny and even Vlad Masters who in his own twisted way viewed Danny as a son and even took Danny in as his own in this devastating future.
We see through the last third of the episode, several future versions of Danny’s foes and they have nothing but sheer contempt for him. Past episodes involving these characters showed them reveling in the trouble they caused and enjoyed the thrill of the battle but here the way the voice actors deliver it and their future designs showcase the hatred they have. The normally dopey Box Ghost for instance is far more serious and his “beware” catchphrase is actually shivering to hear. Ghost singer Ember McClain had her vocal cords damaged. Biker Johnny 13 somehow wound up confined to a wheelchair.
As the episode progresses, despite Danny and his friends’ best efforts to prevent it the episode keeps building up towards this dark future. Present Danny is trapped in the ghost zone of the future, the future Danny has managed to disguise himself as his past counterpart to ensure his existence, and Jazz repeatedly gets subdued despite knowing all of this. Even when Danny defeats his dark counterpart, he has used up all his energy in doing so to the point that he is too late to save his friends and family. Had it not been for Clockwork the future would have come true.
The future version of Danny is quite the character himself. The backstory of how he came to be through Vlad quite literally ripping away Danny’s humanity is quite tragic and horrifying through its visuals and even though Vlad does not directly say it, his words about how some things are better left unsaid say it all about whatever was left of Danny’s humanity and cap the whole thing off. Eric Roberts gave a fantastic and sinister voice to this villain that truly signify the brutality and sadistic nature of this guy. On top of that they build him up to be quite powerful in that he possesses not only the upgraded powers of himself but also Vlad’s ghost powers as well (in addition to his own exclusive ghostly wail). It comes to the point that the only thing that defeats him is Danny developing the ghostly wail.
The episode also gave an introduction to Clockwork. The late David Carradine gave him a cryptic vibe, which works given the unknown circumstances of time. And I liked it how he takes a variety of different forms such as a child, adult, and an old man.
The episode also ends with Danny finding out Jazz has known his secret for some time now. And it furthers the loving bond between the two siblings.
Now there are some definitive flaws in this special. For one we get a brief appearance by the villain known as Box Lunch who is the daughter of Box Ghost and Lunch Lady. It is funny how Danny finds it gross but how the heck do ghosts reproduce? Skulltech 9.9 is a good idea for a villain but the series never took advantage of the idea again. Thirdly the episode ends with the fact that the future Danny now exists outside of his own timeline and the implication that the Fenton Thermos could not hold him forever but again the show was cancelled too early before there could be anything of it.
The Ultimate Enemy is quite a dark episode of Danny Phantom but the fact that it didn’t follow through on its dark prospects is quite saddening. It presented a horrifying picture and easily cements itself as the best of the four Danny Phantom specials out there.