Look up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s…. well, Clark Kent. When Smallville was first developed for television, the show runners made a few conscious decisions that have, for the most part, been kept for the show’s first 8 seasons. There was a strict “no flights, no tights” rule that was in effect for anyone hoping to pen an adventure for the show. Everyone knows we’re talking about Superman here, but the term is avoided like a deadly disease. All of the familiar places and names are firmly in place, but make no mistake. This is the world before Superman began to make his presence known to the world.
For those of you who have been living under a rock since the 1930’s, Smallville was the Kansas farm town where young Kal-El’s space ship from the dying planet Krypton crash- landed. He was discovered by Jonathan (Schneider) and Martha (O’Toole) Kent and raised as their adopted son. The series began with Clark’s high school years. Clark always had a crush on neighbor Lana Lang (Kreuk). In a nod to the 1978 film, Martha is played by Annette O’Toole, who played Lana in that second film. Clark’s high school friends include Chloe Sullivan (Mack) who is somewhat of a computer whiz and ace school paper reporter. Clark also befriends local billionaire son Lex Luthor (Rosenbaum) after saving his life. In these early seasons the characters would slowly build towards the eventual hero/villain relationship that Luthor and Superman would share. Lex Luthor’s father Lionel Luthor (Glover) would go from being a bad guy to a good guy and back again as the show progressed. Much of these early episodes dealt with Clark discovering his powers as he matured. Eventually all but the flight ability would surface. The show also took on a freak-of-the-week aspect at times. It seems that while Kryptonite robs Clark of his power, it has created mutant powers in many humans who have encountered it over the years. Clark and Chloe would spend many a season tracking down and stopping these “meteor freaks”. Justin Hartley joined the cast as a full on regular playing Oliver Queen, better known to comic fans as The Green Arrow. Thenthere is Cassidy Freeman as Tess Mercer. Tess is taking over Luthorcorp in Lex’s absence. She gets a pretty rich back story here and is not a character from the comics. It’s likely the name was an homage to Lex’s secretary in the first films and some of the comics, Miss Teschmacher. She’s just as strong-illed as Lex and just as eager to discover Clark’s secret. Clark is finally working at The Daily Planet with Lois (Durance). Clark has finally embraced his destiny and begins to patrol the streets of Metropolis. He’s known as the Red-Blue Blur based on an out-of-focus picture that Jimmy takes of him saving Lois.
There are also some new and very strong additions to this season. Zod finally gets a face in the way of Callum Blue. This is a younger Zod who was plucked from the last season’s orb. He and many fellow Kandorians from Krypton were stored as DNA by Jor-El. They now swarm the Earth but without their powers, at least at first. Zod is the beginning of the evil character we saw in the Donner films. He does not know that he caused the destruction of Krypton. He wants his powers and to rule the Earth as the new Krypton. Julian Sands takes a few episodes as Jor-El, finally in the flesh.
The season also brings the Checkmate secret government organization into the show’s mythology. They will try to get Clark and his buddies to join them. They will also play a part in the season-long war between Clark and Zod. Zod will try to turn Earth’s Sun from yellow to red, which will give him and his army their powers while taking away Clark’s. Look for Chloe to really take her Watchtower duties over the edge.
There is an episode which brings DC’s old Justice Society Of America into the fold. Michael Shanks of Stargate fame plays a rough-voiced Hawkman. It also feature’s Andromeda’s old Rev Bem himself, Brent Stait, as Dr. Fate.
Tom Welling plays Clark, and he does an outstanding job. He has one of the best ranges of emotions without having to truly emote all that much. He’s a gifted subtle actor. Just the kind of person needed to play the duality of Clark Kent. It’s obvious that the Christopher Reeves films had a huge influence on the series. Welling looks more than a little bit like Reeves and could easily pass as a younger version of the same persona. There are other nods. The voice of Superman’s father Jor-El is played by Terrance Stamp, who was the powerful Kryptonian Zod in the first two films. The structure of the Fortress Of Solitude is also nearly identical to the film version of the Superman hideaway.
Smallville is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p image is brought to you from a VC-1 codec. Kudos to Warner for correcting a huge error in the previous Blu-ray release. They were squeezing 7 episodes plus bonus material on one disc. The bit rate was barely above DVD specs. What a difference just one more disc makes. One less episode on each and all bonus material pushed to the fourth disc which only has 4 episodes. Thank you, Warner. Now we get something more worthy of this show. Colors are brilliant, particularly the primary tones. Of course, that means wonderful blues, reds, and yellows. Contrast is better than average, and black levels are good. What you come to high definition for is the detail, and you get it here. In fact one of the downsides is that the Doomsday creature actually looks pretty fake with this level of detail. Most of the time it only heightens the experience.
Smallville’s audio is presented in a disappointing standard definition Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It’s likely identical to the DVD release. Dialog comes through just fine. There is some rather aggressive use of surrounds on rare occasions. What really suffers here is your sub.
There are a few Audio Commentaries on selected episodes.
Deleted Scenes: Many of the episodes have deleted scenes available on the same disc as the episode.
The folks behind Smallville have really begun to dig deep into the DC universe of characters for both heroes and bad guys. It is all being integrated into a rather large tapestry. This season is really the first time that a single story arc dominates the entire year. The Zod war is the focus of most of these episodes. I rather liked it because it took us away from the “meteor freak-of-the-week” scenario that the show was often finding itself in. We’re getting close to the end now. Season 10 will be it. It’s my hope that we’ll finally see Welling wearing the famous tights of Superman. He’s earned that moment. “It’s his destiny.”