Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 7: "Smart Kids"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: October 31, 1993
Directed by Robert Singer
Written by Dan Levine
Courtney Peldon as Amy Valdez
Michael Cavanaugh as Dr. Carlton
Scott McAfee as Phillip
Jonathan Hernandez as Dudley
Emily Ann Lloyd as Inez
Sheila Rosenthal as Karen
Margot Rose as Mrs. Powell
A group of children break into a state school in the dead of night, using technology that allows them to bypass the electronic locks; accompanied by a pet pig named 'Socrates'. They head to the infirmary where they steal vials of a red liquid they refer to as being 'smart stuff', explaining that drinking the liquid will allow them greater intelligence.
A Daily Planet news meeting is interrupted when the staffers notice that a TV signal has been hijacked by a group of children (the same ones we saw at the beginning of the episode) who are broadcasting a message that they wish to be left alone.
Luthor meets with a Dr. Carlton. The two men are behind the 'smart serum' and while the doctor is worried that when the children run out of the serum, they will notify the authorities of who's responsible, Lex is nonplussed, for he believes that the children won't betray the ones who are creating the serum for them. Carlton asks what they will do if the children are harmed and Luthor simply responds "You can't make chicken soup without plucking a few chickens."
After a suggestion from Jimmy, Lois and Clark identify the children as being runaways of Beckworth State School. The trio talk to the principal about the children, all of whom were problem children with whom the ordinary public schools had difficulty. With his x-ray vision, Clark spies a doctor shredding papers in the infirmary. When the doctor exits the room holding a black bag full of shredded paper, Clark stealthily uses super speed to nab handfuls of paper from the bag, hiding them in his pocket. A little girl, Inez runs up to Lois and warns her that her sister Amy and the other escaped children are in big trouble and asks her to help.
When Lois and Clark examine the paper shreddings, they discover multiple references to a formula named 'Mentamide 5'.
That night, Amy returns to the school to 'rescue' her sister, only to be captured. Inez calls Lois from the principal's office and explains that Amy is in real danger. Lois and Clark secure a faxed letter of allowance from Amy's mother and Amy is released into Lois' care. Lois is immediately overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenthood, as Amy ties her up, knowing that Lois is only taking care of her so that Amy will lead her to the other children. Over time however, Amy warms to Lois.
Lois and Clark go to Doctor Charlton's office and Clark steals a sample of Mentamide 5.
Luthor speaks to Doctor Charlton over the phone, telling him that he is impressed with the results of Mentamide 5, despite the disappearance of the children. He quickly learns however that his credit card has been maxed out (the children have been using a duplicate of it).
Superman flies over Metropolis attempting to use his super-senses to find the children. He searches all manner of environments where children could be found, such as carnivals, baseball games, etc. After a fruitless evening, Superman lands in the streets of Metropolis and ducks behind an alleyway, changing into Clark Kent again. Unfortunately, the Smart Kids filmed him ducking into the alley and emerging as Kent.
Lois and Clark discover that Doctor Charlton has taken 'an extended leave of absence'. Clark gets a letter from the Smart Kids informing him that they know he's Superman and to be in his apartment that evening. When he arrives home, there is a camera and a television set up for him to communicate with the children. Clark swears to the Smart Kids that he's not Superman and that he just met Superman in that alleyway. Using a broken glass and a concealed tub of ketchup, Clark pretends to bleed. The Smart Kids have second thoughts about Superman's identity upon seeing this.
While tinkering with Lois' television set, Amy ends up breaking it. She becomes very upset by this as it is now clear to her that the intelligence-enhancing effects of Mentamide 5 are wearing off. She explains to Lois the emotional dependance one has on the serum upon gaining increased intelligence. Lois calms her down and explains the joy of being a child the natural way.
Lex Luthor kills Doctor Carlton with the advanced Mentamide 6 formula. The kids kidnap Lex and plan to use him as leverage to get as much Mentamide 5 as they need. After STAR Labs analyze the serum that Clark stole from Carlton's lab, it is discovered that Mentamide 5 overloads the brain and kills the user after prolonged use. With this information, Lois persuades Amy to show her to the other children, as their lives are in danger. Clark changes to Superman and speaks to Philip, the leader of the Smart Kids, about the joys of a normal life, free from being different. Philip threatens to kill Luthor, who is tied to a chair surrounded by syringes supposedly filled with Mentamide 6. However, upon pressing the button, Philip reveals that they simply squirt cherry syrup and that they never had any intention of killing Luthor.
The children revert to normal intelligence and return to the school. Lois, Clark and Jimmy walk through the playground talking about the story and childhood in general. Clark spies the smart kids writing "Clark is Superman, Maybe?" on the ground with chalk, only to scribble it out again. He tells Lois that he's not sure if they've seen the last of the Smart Kids.
Review Rating - 2 (out of 5): I mentioned in last week's review that I thought this was quite a bad episode, owing to memories of watching it when I was younger. Truth be told, while it has the usual plot-holes and occasional flirts with cheesiness, it's really not THAT bad, especially for a kiddy-centric episode. It's just that it's such a dreadfully uninspired episode, with a plot that doesn't even come close to being 'a job for Superman'. At no point does Superman's actual presence in-costume (not necessarily his superpowers) enhance the events that transpire. Clark's powers do help him to steal a few things from the ill-fated Dr. Charlton and the scene where Clark outsmarts the Smart Kids was entertaining enough, but this episode mostly just seemed to be this show's answer to the "kids are taking over" fad that seemed all too common in action/adventure shows throughout the 90s. In order to attract younger viewers, it seemed like a necessity for shows of this nature to have plots that involved children committing crimes or being in danger in some way. While the child-actors are all competent enough, none of them really seem like the 'problem-children' they are supposed to be; all of them are clean-cut, good-looking and well-spoken. One could argue that this is due to the intervention of the 'smart stuff', but the cynic in me says that those are the only kinds of child-actors available for TV bit-parts.
There's only one really notable bit of development in this episode that warrants mention. When Clark steals the mentamide 5 from Dr. Carlton's office, Lois is truly delighted with his performance as a reporter, for the first time in the series. Clark's boundaries and morals as a reporter are possibly being loosened by Lois' tirelessness and in the process, they are growing closer together, as friends.
In terms of cinematography however, there are some notable highlights in this episode. When Superman touches down on the streets of Metropolis, while being filmed by the Smart Kids, there is an impressively realistic wire-shot of him landing. Unlike "Superboy", a show that can boast realistic wirework as its absolute crowning highlight, wire-work was uncommon in "Lois & Clark" and while this particular shot is nothing special compared to the former show, it was a pleasure to see the effort and is worth mentioning all the same. Another great highlight within this episode is Clark ripping open his shirt to reveal the Superman costume underneath, for the first time in the series. It's not quite as excellent as later shirt-rips, but once again, it warrants a mention that we finally get to see Superman doing this time-honored pastime.
One thing is really starting to irritate me, however regarding Luthor. While I stand by John Shea's consistently excellent performance, I have to point out that Luthor's involvement in the plots of the episodes is getting more and more formulaic. Inevitably in the opening scene, the basic plot is revealed to us. Soon after, we see Luthor communicating face-to-face with his partner in crime, the "villain of the week" (last week it was Max Menken, here it's Dr. Carlton). Later on when the plot advances, we see Luthor receiving a call from said associate, reassuring them that everything is fine. In the closing act of the episode, the associate is killed by Luthor, whose name remains unscathed. We're not even halfway into the season yet and it's starting to seem a bit stale. Luckily things do get better as the plots grow ever more advanced than the last few, but at this point, if someone was watching the series for the first time, they'd be entitled to be a bit bored.
Ultimately, that's all I have to say about this episode. Traditionally, I would always skip past this episode when re-watching the series, even before the DVD sets were released and it was shown on television. It's just a clichéd, irritating episode and while there're no true moments of dumbfounding unwatchability, it's decidedly less than average.
Fortunately, next week things really pick up with "The Green, Green Glow of Home".
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