Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 18: "Vatman"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: March 13, 1994
Directed by Randall Zisk
Written by Deborah Joy LeVine & H.B. Cobb
Michael McKean as Dr. Fabian Leek
Ira Heiden as Messenger
Sam Rubin as Newscaster
Wil Albert as Delacroix
John McMahon as Cop
Cynthia Ettinger as Tour Guide
While in France, Superman saves an airplane from crashing. Clark watches live coverage of the event from the Daily Planet, shocked that someone else has similar powers to him. He calls Jonathan and Martha and relays the situation, while walking along the ceiling of his apartment. Later, he flies to Paris and surveys the plane, noting that identical handprints to his are impressed into the plane.
Lois is worried about Superman being seen around the world; she believes that perhaps Superman is moving on from Metropolis and is looking for other places to call home. Perry arrives at work wearing a flashy new suit and a hairpiece. Jimmy and others around the newsroom are perplexed and worried. Meanwhile, the 'new' Superman is seen blasting through the sky at top speed, causing a sharp gust of wind along the streets of Metropolis.
Lois admits that it was wrong of her to say that Superman 'belongs' to Metropolis. Superman tracks down his mysterious doppleganger and discovers that he is physically identical to him in every way. The impostor Superman states in a cocky, childlike-manner that it is his purpose to take over from the original Superman, who has outgrown his usefulness.
The impostor Superman returns to a lab where Lex Luthor is waiting for him. We learn that this clone of Superman was created by Luthor to destroy the real Superman. Lex tells the clone a warped version of Red Riding Hood, where the wolf eats the grandmother and he and the girl split a life-insurance policy between them.
Perry gets angry at everyone for continuously asking him whether or not he's okay. The impostor Superman foils a bank robbery and carelessly tosses one of the robbers into a police SWAT van. Unaware that he is in fact an impostor, Lois is suspicious of the way he acts.
Discussing the matter further with his parents, Clark wonders if he has a twin brother. Jonathan makes the point that Jor-El would have mentioned something in the globe sent in Clark's ship.
Cat and Jimmy discuss Perry's apparent midlife crisis. Jimmy finds a note suggesting that Perry is going to jump off the Metropolis Bridge.
Lois gets a message she believes is from Superman, requesting to meet her in her apartment that evening. Lois frantically gets ready, making dinner and opening a bottle of wine. The clone Superman arrives, acting strangely, making inappropriate comments and putting his arm around Lois. Clark arrives just as the impostor clumsily kisses Lois hard on the mouth. The impostor leaves when Clark stands up to him. Lois is now convinced that it's not the real Superman and that it is an impostor.
Lois and Clark visit Dr. Fabian Leak, an authority on the scientific process of cloning. He attempts to make a pass at Lois, who shoots him down. Later, the real Superman flies into space, where he finds his clone tampering with a satellite. The clone reveals that he knows Superman is Clark Kent and that while he hasn't told anyone yet, he might if provoked. Superman asks him questions about his past and the clone is saddened when he realizes he doesn't know any of the answers.
Lois and Clark discover that a lock of Superman's hair was stolen from an owner who purchased it at a charity auction. Dr. Leak warns Luthor that the clone is dying; Lex orders that the clone will have to kill Superman the following day. The clone listens on, unbeknownst to Lex.
The next day, the clone kidnaps Lois, pretending to be the real Superman. He brings Lois to a movie studio, where a tour group sees them and mistakenly believes them to be shooting a movie. Superman arrives and fights his clone to save Lois. The two men of steel fire their heat vision at each other, with Superman narrowly winning the battle. The clone-Superman collapses and realizes that he is going to die soon. He informs Superman that he has to leave, but that he will return shortly.
The clone confronts Luthor and Dr. Leak, who dies when he is knocked back into the clone's incubation chamber. Luthor narrowly escapes, but not before sacrificing the lock of Superman's hair to the dying clone. He comments that all parents suffer abandonment by their children.
The clone requests Superman to give him a Viking funeral. Superman agrees, flies his clone into space and throws him into the Sun.
Perry's 'jump' is revealed to be a charity bungee jump. His hairpiece falls off at the bottom of the canyon and he explains to Clark, Lois and an embarrassed Jimmy that he has turned 50 and that he simply wanted to try some new experiences.
Lois and Clark discuss companionship for Superman, with Lois hinting at a romance between her and the Man of Steel.
Review Rating - 1 (out of 5): Man, what a bad episode. Like every Superman series other than the George Reeves series, this was the mandatory Bizarro-episode. Unfortunately, very little is done with the concept of a misshapen, Frankenstein-like Superman monster. Instead, we just get some trick-photography shots of Dean Cain talking to himself in space (where there's no sound, remember?) and Lex making cheap puns pretending to be a daddy. I suppose I'm glad enough that they didn't actually try to do Bizarro the way he appears in the comics (as "Superboy" definitely did, with surprisingly decent results; and "Smallville" did, more along the lines of this train-wreck), but they at least could have made Bizarro seem like a real threat and not just an annoyance. The evil twin in this episode was less like the "Evil Superman" from "Superman III" and more like a superpowered Gus Gorman.
There's just so much wrong with this episode. Why is Lois so concerned with Superman saving people all over the world? That's what Superman's supposed to do! Is she really disappointed that Superman is saving lives where lives need to be saved?! For the first time in the series, I actually feel like disregarding a line completely. It's such an out-of-character suggestion by Lois, a character who we are so used to seeing building up the legend of Superman where Clark hasn't quite figured it out yet. Here, she's just being selfish and fatally ignorant.
I have a huge problem with the lock-of-hair business. In the close of the episode, Bizarro makes Lex surrender the lock of hair, which Luthor reluctantly does. If he copied the DNA-code from the hair, surely he'd have it saved somewhere so that he wouldn't actually need the physical strands of hair anymore? And why bother keeping it all in the same place? It's physically clear to us that it's not one solitary strand of hairs, it's a whole bunch of them. It would be perfectly sensible for Lex to hide the rest of it away somewhere very safe. Given that cloning became such a prominent feature of Lex's underground criminal activities in the later seasons, it's disappointing that nothing like this is even mentioned ever again.
Dean Cain as 'Bizarro' is stupid and embarrassing. The 'evil twin' concept is always going to be silly, but doing it in a way where the 'twin' is childish and camp was just a complete and utter misfire. Cain understandably isn't skilled enough as an actor to play such a wildly different character to the one he's playing (very few actors are) and while I'm able to credibly believe that Bizarro and Clark/Superman are different people, it's really cringe-worthy television. On a subjective level, this is the kind of episode I'd be embarrassed to show my friends. The 'battle' between Superman and Bizarro is a flat-out farce, with little or no effort put into it. Very little blows are exchanged and instead, we just get a few visual tributes to Western movies (they were on a movie-set, after all), with Bizarro clawing at his pelvis, as if he's going to grab his gun. Once again, the series shows a blatant aversion to any kind of fight-choreography and instead opts to throw in a few shabby sight-gags, like a painter rushing inside a fake-store and putting up a 'Closed' sign, as the two Supermen confront each other.
Michael McKean appeared as the sleazy Fabian Leak. As you may or may not know, McKean went on to play Perry White in "Smallville" and is married to Annette O'Toole who played Lana Lang in "Superman III" and Martha Kent in "Smallville", (meaning that one of the two have appeared opposite every live-action TV Superman, with the exception of the two Superboy actors). Like so many other notable bit-part actors on this show, his part could have been played by anyone and isn't really notable for any particular reason other than the trivia behind his appearance. Lois knocking down his sleazy advances is entertaining enough, though.
Speaking of Perry, the subplot regarding his midlife crisis was handled decently enough, but it doesn't tie into any of the themes or even the events of the overall episode. Nothing Perry, Jimmy or Cat do relate to the other events of the episode, to the point where their subplot is completely filler for the first time. It's as if the writers had a 30-minute Bizarro episode written, so the editor just slotted in a perfect little side-story about Perry that fleshed out the run time.
The few things I liked about this episode all related to visual effects. Clark walked on the ceiling of his apartment early in the episode and it was completely seamless and realistic-looking. While having someone walk on a ceiling is probably easy enough to do, the really amazing part comes when Clark reaches 'up' and takes an apple, which he then bites and places back in the fruit bowl. I actually don't know how they did this; it's one of those little touches of spectacular that are easily missed. Other than that, I have to say the trick-photography shots of Dean Cain are also completely seamless and while his performance as Bizarro-Superman leaves something to be desired, you never don't believe that he's talking to another person. "Superboy" had similar trick-photography in the "Roads Not Taken" two-parter where Superboy travels to another dimension, but they were absolutely awful (understandable as "Superboy" was produced on a lower budget).
Unfortunately, there's one great, big fat deduction-mark for this episode where visual effects are also concerned. "Vatman", Season One, Episode 18 may be recognized by the "Superman Homepage" as the first, official use by "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" of the cheat-effect known as 'Cape-Out'. This "effect" involves Superman flapping his cape in front of the camera as he jumps off in the opposite direction, with flying sound effects played in the background to simulate the Man of Steel flying away. This effect was frequently used as the series progressed, instead of expensive wire-shots. It's one of the biggest complaints people make about the series and frankly, it's understandable enough. "Superboy" had tremendous, jaw-dropping, outstanding wire-work throughout its entire four-season run. "Smallville" very rarely had any flying scenes, but of its few, many of them were very impressive. Even "Adventures of Superman" with George Reeves had the exciting sequence of George Reeves physically bounding into the air, aided by a (sometimes visible) springboard. "Lois & Clark"'s solution is shabby and depressing. Once again, You Won't Believe a Man Can Fly.
Luckily enough, next week the quality skyrockets in "Fly Hard" one of the very best episodes of the season, which thankfully has an excellent wire-work takeoff in one of its final scenes.
Back to the "Lois & Clark - Episode Reviews" Contents page.