With season seven already underway, our favourite TV drama about young Clark Kent’s journey to becoming Superman is still going strong. Back in 2001, I have to admit I wasn’t all that optimistic about the show’s prospects. The pilot was strong, but after viewing the first few freak-of-the-week episodes, thing weren’t exactly looking up, up and away. At least not for me, anyway. Thankfully, I don’t make the decisions, because Smallville grew to become an entertaining show with decent story arcs and interesting twists in the lives of its characters.
By the time this sixth season rolled around, Smallville had moved well beyond the constraints of high school drama, and added more heroes and villains than you can shake a stick at. But is bigger better? The jury’s still squabbling over that one, in between bites of their free lunch. In the meantime, I’ll pass judgment on this DVD set.
Spoiler warning: skip past the next two paragraphs if you want to avoid plot details.
In nuts and bolts, season six takes our hero inside the Phantom Zone, which is inhabited by a society of exiled criminals from the 28 known inhabited galaxies. When Clark gets out of the Phantom Zone, a handful of prisoners escape with him. In the special powers department, Clark acquires super breath, after developing a cold from his superhuman efforts in cleaning up Zod’s destruction in Metropolis. We also see the fates of Lionel and Lex Luthor come to fruition following General Zod’s possession of Lex, which is undone by Chloe and Lionel.
More DC Comics characters are introduced, including Oliver Queen (The Green Arrow), Jimmy Olson and Martian Manhunter, some of whom join forces in Smallville to battle a common enemy. Clark vows to continue his training at the Fortress of Solitude, once all the escaped criminals are either returned to the Phantom Zone or outright destroyed. Other plotlines involve Lana and Lex’s marriage (who would have ever thought?), Lex’s ultra-secret experiments and the introduction of a Clark clone (been there and bought the t-shirt).
If you ask Smallville fans what they thought of season six, you’ll probably hear everything from “best” to “worst” of the series. I’d call it somewhere on the better side of the median, to avoid listing the seasons in order of preference. The aspects of the show that I appreciated back in 2001 are still present, including its dynamic cast, lead by Tom Welling, (Cheaper By The Dozen), Michael Rosenbaum (Kickin’ It Old Skool) and Kristin Kreuk (EuroTrip); strong production values, with some cool effects; and, most importantly, its greater story arc, which really began to flesh out toward the end of the series’ first season, and has been propelled forward since. I don’t care much for the one-off episodes, no matter how cool their plots, at least not nearly as much as I enjoy the continuing growth of Superman, and his relationship with Lex Luthor.
And so it is that season six of Smallville is, for me, a bit of a mixed bag. Overall, I enjoyed it quite a bit, but there are a handful of episodes I could have done without. It’s like the show’s creators have about a dozen episodes of good material each season, and then stretch it all out to 21+ episodes. Maybe it’d be better as an HBO series?
Smallville – The Complete Sixth Season is presented on six discs, with all 22 episodes in 1.78:1 widescreen format. The series tends to look a little more like a movie than a TV show, and that’s especially true with these nice DVD transfers (thank goodness things have improved since the series’ first season set, which was plagued with compression issues). The episodes are presented very consistently, with appealing colours, good sharpness and few compression artifacts. A keen eye might catch the odd bit of digital noise, but overall these episodes are looking just super.
The sounds of Smallville travel to your ears by way of Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks for all 22 episodes. As far as I can determine, this is the first time for 5.1 surround on a Smallville DVD set, so let’s have a round of applause for Warner Home Video. These tracks sound great, with the series’ trade-marked, award-winning audio editing and effects filling out the sound stage whenever something cool happens on-screen. The usual stuff, dialogue, soundtrack and score, all sound good, too. Really, my only complaint is the show’s annoying theme, which has plagued my ears since the first DVD set.
Audio is English-only, but subtitles are available in English, Spanish, French and Chinese (Mandarin, I assume).
Smallville – The Complete Sixth Season offers up a fair selection of bonus material, but not of the volume or quality of previous season sets. And strangely, very few of these extras actually address the show’s core characters or its ongoing story arcs. Anyway, here’s the rundown:
- Green Arrow – The Legend of the Emerald Archer: 25 minutes on the story behind the character, and the approach to bringing him in to the Smallville universe.
- Smallville Legends – The Oliver Queen Chronicles: a collection of six animated shorts, each with an interesting Green Arrow side-story.
- The Making of Smallville Legends – The Oliver Queen Chronicles: the title says it all, see above. Nice to see this included, since it’s really a bonus on top of a bonus.
- Smallville Legends – Justice and Doom: an animated, digital comic. Sound cool? Be sure to check it out.
- Smallville – Big Fans: the longest of the bunch, at 30 minutes. Nice to see some reverse appreciation for the series’ fan community, which is pretty hardcore.
- Unaired Scenes: otherwise known as deleted scenes, these are available for 12 of the 22 episodes. Mostly cut for good reason, but some are well worth watching, and must have been cut only for time.
There’s no denying Smallville’s success as a TV series or as a reinterpretation of the Superman mythology. There’s a lot of cool, engrossing stuff in the series as a whole, and a fair portion has been allotted to this sixth season. Of course, at this point, you already know whether you’re interested in buying this set or not. At least you’ll be happy with your purchase if you do, because the audio and video are great and the extras, while limited in scope, offer enough supporting material to enhance the viewing experience.