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Doom Patrol: Every Brendan Fraser Appearance As Cliff Steele (& Why)

Warning: Contains spoilers for Doom Patrol season 3, episode 8, "Subconscious Patrol."

Brendan Fraser doesn’t often show his face in Doom Patrol, but when Cliff Steele makes an appearance it’s always for an important narrative reason. Brendan Fraser stepped away from the limelight for a time, but his acting career has recently been having a resurgence with projects like The Whale on the horizon. His appearances as Cliff Steele and regular voicing of Robotman in Doom Patrol were a large early part of that resurgence.

Doom Patrol’s Cliff Steele was a self-destructive racecar driver whose life was falling apart. He had let fortune and fame go to his head and neglected his wife and daughter in favor of partying and sex. His life changed when Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton) plotted a car accident that killed his wife and only left his brain behind to be put into the suit that would make him the cyborg Robotman. Cliff’s daughter, Clara, was ultimately raised by the man that his wife had been cheating on him with, Bump.

Related: Every Upcoming Brendan Fraser Movie

Much of Doom Patrol is told through Robotman’s eyes, with his creation being the focus of the pilot episode and it being Cliff Steele who introduces the audience to the rest of the Doom Patrol. However, Brendan Fraser makes surprisingly few in-the-flesh appearances through flashbacks and mental spaces. In most episodes, the body of Robotman is portrayed by Riley Shanahan with Brendan Fraser providing the voice. Here is every episode that Brendan Fraser makes an on-screen appearance in and why he’s there.

The very first episode of Doom Patrol was also the one that most heavily featured Brendan Fraser in the flesh. As an introduction to Doom Manor, his story is the first to be told in full as he remembers the initial crash on the racetrack after the discovery that his wife was cheating on him with Bump. Fraser appears repeatedly throughout in flashbacks and memories as he slowly remembers exactly what happened to him that led up to him becoming Robotman.

The appearance of Fraser as the pre-Robotman Cliff Steele helps to drive home the emotional side of the undesired transformation alongside Robotman’s anger and frustration at the situation. Before the rest of the team are properly introduced through their own episodes throughout Doom Patrol season 1, Brendan Fraser’s portrayals of Cliff Steele help to humanize the character and the team as he reckons with his regrets about how he acted and uses the memory of his daughter to help him overcome the hurdles of living in a new body.

Aside from some “previously on” segments, the next appearance of Brendan Fraser on-screen comes in Doom Patrol season 1, episode 4 “Cult Patrol.” Cliff is tormented by the loss of his daughter, Clara, and his body and has a dream within a dream where he comforts a baby Clara before being terrified by Robotman appearing as his reflection. In the surface-level dream, he gives comfort to an older Clara. As well as underscoring the human and emotional side of a character that can sometimes be loud and aggressive, Brendan Fraser’s appearance here underlies some of the themes of the episode as the Doom Patrol struggle with Willoughby Kipling (Mark Shephard) over whether to a child whose very existence threatens the world.

Related: Doom Patrol: Why Jane And The Alters Become Puppets

In Doom Patrol season 1, episode 9 “Jane Patrol,” the Negative Spirit uses its powers to transport Cliff into Jane’s mind when she is comatose after the Underground (where Jane's alters co-exist) falls into disarray. Throughout Doom Patrol, Cliff enters several mental or metaphysical spaces, including the afterlife, but is still portrayed as Robotman. However, within Jane’s mind, Cliff is represented as his pre-Robotman self as he is portrayed by Brendan Fraser until he ultimately rips his skin off to reveal Robotman underneath. The choice to show Fraser in this episode helps to demonstrate how close Cliff and Jane actually are, whether Jane would admit it or not. His appearance in this space is not about how he sees him, but rather how Jane sees him, not as the monster that she accuses him of being after he rips apart Nazis in season 1, episode 3, but rather as a friend.

Brendan Fraser only makes a single onscreen appearance in Doom Patrol season 2. In the first episode of the season, the show provides Cliff’s memory of uninviting his father from his upcoming wedding in an attempt to avoid a fuss at the event. Clara is about to be born and his dad implies that Cliff will be a bad father and will want out of the situation before too long. It’s important that Cliff is portrayed by Brendan Fraser here not only because it is a memory, but because it is a scene that clearly helped underline the more flawed aspects of the person Cliff was before the accident. His father was unpleasant but entirely right, and the scene suggests that there are elements of intergenerational issues at play.

In Doom Patrol season 3, the show continued to use Brendan Fraser’s onscreen appearances sparingly, but both occasions were extremely powerful for different reasons. In Doom Patrol season 3, episode 1 “Possibilities Patrol,” the series wraps up some loose ends from season 2 which had been cut short owing to complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant that Clara, who Cliff had reconnected with, had her baby and Cliff was able to hold his newborn grandchild. While he cannot feel anything, he notes that he can remember how it felt, and Doom Patrol cuts to Brendan Fraser as Cliff Steele holding Clara for the first time as a baby. The contrast of using Robotman and Cliff Steele in that moment helped to underscore the struggles that Robotman suffers through, but also shows that he has found a certain amount of peace with the situation and is glad that he is able to be present for the birth of his grandchild.

As The Sisterhood of Dada’s Eternal Flagellation begins, the Doom Patrol are forced to face the secrets held within their subconsciouses. For Robotman, this was a day when he left Clara in the car outside while he went to do drugs and to hook up with a stripper. Brendan Fraser appears as the subconscious version of Cliff Steele and delivers an emotional monologue against the wishes of Robotman explaining what he had done in the past and insisting that they need to move on and be a better person. Robotman has often hidden behind the fact that he was not a great person before the accident, but having Brendan Fraser appear on screen for this scene helps to drive home the fact that he has been using that in some way as an excuse not to move forward, hiding from his secrets and his troubles rather than working through them head on.

Next: The Mummy Franchise Needs Brendan Fraser (Not Another Reboot)

Doom Patrol releases new episodes Thursdays on HBO Max.

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