For Adam West, superhero star of the hit '60s TV show Batman, it wasn't exactly a breeze getting into the role of asthmatic villain Breathtaker in the Sci-Fi Channel's new Black Scorpion series (debuting Jan. 5). After all, he's not an actor who's used to exploring his dark side.

"It was good to play a supervillain for a change instead of a good guy," West tells TV Guide Online. "But it was a challenge for me to play someone that bizarre, with almost Shakespearean dimension."

West appears as Dr. Noah Goddard, a onetime top cardiopulmonary surgeon who suffers brain damage from a gunshot wound and who now spends his days plotting ways to asphyxiate the city with a hallucinatory gas. He's one of several guest star villains in the campy new series, which also features former Batman Riddler Frank Gorshin in the role of the evil Clockwatcher.

"Black Scorpion definitely is derivative," says West of the series, which stars former Miss Kansas Michelle Lintel as the show's sexy superheroine. "They're trying to do a kind of Batman thing with the distaff side."

West still marvels at the enduring influence and appeal of the Batman series, which left the airwaves back in 1968 after two wildly successful years on the air. "People come up to me on the street and do entire scenes," he says. "It's a bit much, but it is a wonderful tribute to the show. As an actor, it's a rewarding thing."