But Smallville also strikes gold when it takes a turn towards more comic-book territory, as evidenced by the parade of shape-shifting killers and other outlandish antagonists (many generated, in one of the series' most ingenious notions, by the same devastating meteor shower that brought the infant Clark to Earth) that Clark must harness his powers to face and defeat. Gough and Millar, along with their capable cast (which includes Michael Rosenbaum as a young and already bald-pated Lex Luthor, and Annette O'Toole and John Schneider as the Kents) manage to pull off the precarious high-wire act of combining science fiction with coming-of-age drama to create this highly watchable programme. --Paul Gaita
Keep in mind that when Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created the Man of Steel in 1939 there was no Superboy until 1949, when he began part of the futuristic Legion of Super-Heroes. All we knew about the early days is that just before the doomed planet Krypton exploded to fragments, a scientist placed his infant son within an experimental rocket ship, launching it toward earth. When the vessel reached our planet, the child was found by an elderly couple, the Kents. They adopted the super tyke and with love and guidance shaped the boy's future. As he grew older Clark Kent learned to hurdle skyscrapers, leap an eighth of a mile, raise tremendous weights, run faster than a streamline train, and that nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin. When his foster parents passed away, Clark decided he must turn his titanic strength into channels that would benefit mankind.
The key part of "Smallville" is that creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar go back to the simple beginning, with young Clark (Tom Welling) growing up on the Kent farm with Martha (Annette O'Toole) and Jonathan (John Schneider). From the "Superboy" comic books the series borrows the characters of girl next-door Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) and best buddy Pete Ross (Sam Jones III). But in addition to covering the basics, Gough and Millar come up with a key triad of additions to the original Smallville mythos.
First, they add young Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) to the mix, knowing that he and Superman are fated to be (im)mortal enemies, but that for the present he and Clark are friends (after Clark saves Lex's life in a car accident that should have killed them both). The key thing is that they truly are friends and that "Smallville" is as much about how Lex would become a super villain as it is about how Clark would become a super hero. Throw into the mix Daddy Dearest in the form of Lionel Luthor (John Glover), and Lex would have already pulled all of his hair out if it were not for what happened that fateful day in Smallville.
Second, is the brilliant reconceptualization of Superman's arrival on earth where the small spacecraft shows up in the middle of a shower of glowing green meteors that are all that remains of the planet Krypton. As much as the little boy in that spaceship, those meteors change Smallville forever, turning a little girl into an orphans and a young boy bald, and the small Kansas town into the self proclaimed meteor capital of the world. More importantly, those little green rocks will have continue to have an impact as they cause a series of mutations with which young Clark will have to contend. This also accounts for the great in-joke that Clark always becomes a bumbling idiot around Lana because she wears a locket made of kryptonite.
Third, there is the multi-purpose character of Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack). The driving force of the Smallville High School student newspaper her "Wall of the Weird" documents all the strange things that have happened around Smallville since the meteor shower, making her the show's resident mistress of exposition. But she is also the tragic figure who longs for Clark the way he casts puppy dog glances at Lana, creating a nice example of teenage love triangle pathos.
Overall, Miller and Gough had created an extremely solid premise for their series, which creates multi-dynamics for all of the plotlines. The first season (2001) is book ended by some great special effects, with the devastating arrival of the meteors in the pilot and the three twisters becoming one in the thrilling cliffhanger finale. My only serious complaint is that Schneider's Jonathan Kent has too much of an angry edge, which takes away from his font of parental wisdom. Martha really needs to mellow him out so that he cuts Clark some slack. I understand that Jonathan is motivated by fears and concerns about his son, but I always liked the gentle influence personified by Glenn Ford in the first Christopher Reeve "Superman" film. Turning adolescent traumas into mutant monsters of the week is a hit and miss proposition, but that was true of the first season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as well, and look at how well that series turned out.
Yes, we can also throw into the mix that Clark and Lana are played by a couple of cute young actors. Welling is not too serious as the kid who is going to grow up to be the hero who stands for truth, justice, and the American way, and I was going to say Kruek was the WB's new Katie Holmes except after her soft-core Lana scene in the school swimming pool goes way beyond the world's biggest collection of midriff revealing tops. But the bottom line here is that either the Clark-Lana or the Clark-Lex would be enough to make this a good show and "Smallville" has both of them and a lot more, including the brilliant metaphor of the scarecrow immortalized in the DVD collection's cover shot.
As is usual for the first season of any show, ‘Smallville’ takes a little time to find its footing – stumbling through season one and the early part of two. This set contains episodes which range from superb (notably ‘Leech’, ‘Zero’ and ‘Tempest’) to dreadful (‘Metamorphosis’, ‘Craving’). The strength of the show lies in its characters, and episodes which are driven by those characters and their personal struggles are those which really excel, whilst others which balance this aspect with a freak-of-the-week B-plot often end up either mediocre or ridiculous.
In general, the dialogue in the show is excellently written from the word go. The writing occasionally falters, however, and clanger-lines are not uncommon, especially in exposition scenes where the characters are forced to spout hypotheses which would leave even Agent Mulder feeling a little foolish, had he to suggest them. Indeed, many ideas here have been pilfered from ‘The X Files’ and other shows, and as there simply isn’t enough time in each episode for emotional-turmoil scenes and a strong sci-fi plot, the former shines at the expense of the latter.
Overall, ‘Smallville’ season one can be forgiven for its failings, as so much of it is so enjoyable. The extras on this set are fairly meagre, consisting only in those made for the Canadian release of the Pilot/’Metamorphosis’ ‘mini-movie’, but the extras are unimportant when it’s the episodes you really want to see. Climaxing in the fantastic ‘Tempest’, we are left holding our breaths for season two.
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