Superman on Television

Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews

Barbarians at the Planet

Season 1 - Episode 20: "Barbarians at the Planet"

Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir

Originally Aired: May 1, 1994
Directed by James R. Bagdonas
Written by Dan Levine and Deborah Joy LeVine

Guest Cast:
Barbara Beck as Sandra Ellis - LNN News
Chris Demetral as Jack
Castulo Guerra as Steven Sanchez
Beverly Johnson as Mrs. Cox
Patrick Kilpatrick as Devane
Alex Nevil as Chip


A group of criminals headed by a man named Devane break into a warehouse and steal an assortment of things, including a chunk of Kryptonite.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor is taking Lois to his favorite Italian restaurant - in Milano. While flying aboard his private jet, Lex asks Lois to marry him. Lois explains that while she has enjoyed the past few weeks with him, she hardly knows him and she is going to need time to think about this offer. Lex is alerted to a phone call, which he takes privately - Devane is offering to sell him the chunk of Kryptonite he has found.

One morning, a few days later, Lois and Clark are walking into the Daily Planet building for work. Lois is trying to name all seven dwarves from "Snow White" to win a bet against Clark for five dollars. She stumbles on the last name, which Clark laughs at, while also secretly blowing out a cigarette a man keeps trying to light.

When the duo arrive in the newsroom, they discover that no one's paycheck has been honored, as the Daily Planet is having serious money troubles as circulation is down and their advertisers have abandoned them. Perry promises that things will be back to normal, but that there has been talk of layoffs. Sure enough, Jack and Jimmy discover that they have been let go.

Devane contacts Luthor and arranges a meet for him to purchase the Kryptonite. Later, Luthor arrives in the newsroom and announces that he has bought the Daily Planet and that everyone will get to keep their job, with no layoffs. Clark is very angry about this, much to Lois' chagrin. Lois begs Clark to give up the idea that Luthor is behind all of the evil in Metropolis and explains that he has asked her to marry him.

Lex gives Perry a "Supervising Editor" by the name of 'Chip', who has just graduated from Harvard Business School. Perry resigns in anger.

Clark has his story about electricity rate-hikes pulled by Lex. Clark asks Luthor if his story getting pulled has anything to do with Lex's role on the Metropolis Electricity board of directors, and they squabble about this for a few minutes. Jack makes a snide remark at Luthor's expense, about which Lex is not happy. When Lois sees all of this, Lex tries to assure her that he is simply trying to save the Daily Planet.

Clark tells Jonathan and Martha that he's in love with Lois and that he must tell her, to prevent her from marrying Luthor.

Jimmy and Jack get new jobs in the printing room, which they hate. A bomb goes off in Jack's lunchbox. Superman saves everyone by flying a fire-hose into the building. Jack is arrested when Luthor accuses him of being behind the explosion.

The explosion destroys the Daily Planet building and buries the newspaper. Perry decides to retire. Lois tries desperately to convince Lex to rebuild the Planet, but Lex explains that it simply doesn't make any economic sense. Instead, Lex gives Lois a job at the Luthor News Network (LNN). Lois tries to get Clark to join her, but Clark swears never to work for Lex Luthor. He tells Lois how he feels, but she turns him down. She does however, ask Clark to contact Superman for her.

Luthor meets Devane and double-crosses him, retrieving the Kryptonite free-of-charge.

Superman meets Lois, who professes her love for him. She insists that if he were an ordinary man without superpowers, that she would love him just the same. Superman explains that under the circumstances, he can't believe her.

Clark visits Jack and promises to vindicate him. Perry has a retirement party and gets drunk, babbling about Elvis to the news team. Lois and Clark fight about Luthor once again and Lois finally admits that she's going to marry him.

Lex hints to Lois about the ruthless nature of his life, while we see flashbacks explaining how Luthor paid off the advertisers and the bank managers and bankrupted the Daily Planet; how he double-crossed Devane, framed Jack and how he plans to kill Superman with the Kryptonite. He promises Lois that from this moment forward, he will change, that he will hurt people no longer.

Superman spies Luthor placing the ring on Lois' finger and flies to the antarctic at super speed. His loud cries of anger cause an avalanche.

3Review Rating - 3 (out of 5): This episode is a confused, mixed-bag of ideas that only barely warrants a 3/5. Events transpire and plot-threads are developed far too quickly and at times it seems as though even the characters in the episode are aware of the ridiculousness of the proceedings. Once again, "Lois & Clark" tries to jam-pack fodder for a two-parter, a story-arc or even an entire season into one 45-minute episode and this is the most alarming example of how this practice doesn't work. Within this episode we have:

- Lex proposing to Lois; her indecision and ultimately her acceptance

- Clark wondering whether to tell Lois the truth about his feelings, let alone his dual identity and his ultimate decision to tell her that he loves her

- Lex Luthor taking over the Daily Planet, destroying it and allowing Lois to become a reporter for LNN, a job which she excels at

All of these different elements would have been far more effective if they'd been spread out over an entire season, instead of one episode. In many ways, the second season should have opened with Luthor buying the Planet and Luthor's proposal should've come halfway through the second season. This would have been an excellent way to keep the series fresh, as well as to delay the Lois/Clark romance for just a little bit longer, in a way that would have been credible. Unfortunately, "Lois & Clark" flirted with cancellation far too often in its pilot season to warrant anything like the kind of overarching stories it enjoyed in later seasons (for better or worse) and as we've seen thus far, Season One was mostly comprised of standalone filler episodes of varying quality. In that sense, this is probably the most depressing episode of "Lois & Clark" as it has the best level of craftsmanship and watchability, but it is full of wasted potential and ideas that could have been stretched out so much more. I may give "Smallville" a lot of guff in these reviews, but at least it knew not to use up all of its trump cards at once.

In saying all of that, I shouldn't have to say that an awful lot of things seem rushed to the point of ridiculousness in this episode. Lois should've been worried about Luthor's sanity after he proposed to her after only a few short weeks of dating. Perry resigns at the first sign of interference from Lex? Lois gets a job at LNN, immediately wowing everyone there? Ugh.

Lois' characterization really disappointed me in this episode. First off, why in God's name would she accept Luthor's proposal after a couple of weeks of dating? She's clearly not terribly interested in his money, or the access she'd have to it; it just makes no sense at all. Secondly, when she turns Clark down, she then has the gall to ask him to contact Superman for her, so that she can try and profess her undying love to him, even though she's thinking about marrying Luthor? The nail in the coffin comes in her facepalm-inducingly naive request to Lex to rebuild the Daily Planet. When Lex sensibly explains (read: lies) that it makes no financial sense to rebuild, Lois counters this argument by simply telling Lex that "Everyone is really SAD!" and that that's why he should invest millions of dollars to fix it. It's like a little girl asking her dad to adopt a dog from the pound, even though the family doesn't have the means to take care of a dog. It's hopelessly, depressingly naive for someone who is supposed to be a prize-winning journalist.

As is often the case in weaker (or in this case, misguided) episodes, there are some signature character moments to cheer the viewer up. Clark challenging Lois to name all seven dwarves is exactly the kind of carefree banter we needed to establish that the everyday love the two characters share is quite different to Lois' confusing feelings for the pretentiously serious Luthor. Also, pretty much every scene where Clark is trying to convince Lois of Lex's evil is terrific on Dean Cain's part. "He's not just evil, the man's a MONSTER!" in particular, is delivered excellently.

The other great advantage of this episode is once again, John Shea as Luthor himself. One of the most fascinating things about this version of the character, as opposed to the more traditionally villainous John Byrne/Marv Wolfman version on which he is based, is that he truly does seem to be in love with Lois in his own warped way, outside of his animosity for Superman. His love for her and his desire to rush a victorious life of domestic normality into existence seems to be the product of his ultimate destruction as the uncrowned King of Metropolis. It harkens back to "Pheromone my Lovely", where he explains to Nigel (whose absence in favor of the expendable 'Mrs. Cox' is one of the many things that are wrong with this episode) that he is 'doomed' as a result of his feelings for Lois. It's a shame we didn't get his further thoughts on this dialogue, but everything else we do get is terrific. I love that Lex's proposal takes place on his private jet, en route to Milano. I like to think that by whisking Lois away on a trip across the world, that he was competing with Superman; trying to prove that he was capable of the same super-feats, in a different way. When he finally tells Lois that he no longer plans on hurting anyone, we the viewers are so impressed by the honesty in his eyes that we can just about believe him, in spite of his wicked deeds in the past. Truly, the greatest performance by an actor playing Lex Luthor.

Once again Jack makes an appearance. Once again, there's no reason for it and he undermines Jimmy's presence. I should mention that the characters are at least featured side-by-side, with Jack finally abandoning Clark and becoming an awkward sidekick for Jimmy. After next week, we'll be rid of him for good, thankfully.

Some of you might have missed that there's a takeoff reminiscent of the old "Adventures of Superman" series with George Reeves, in this episode of "Lois & Clark". When Superman is about to takeoff with the fire-hose, instead of the usual wire-shot or "cape-out", he instead takes a running jump, just like his 1950s predecessor. I'm not sure if this was intentional, but it looks acceptable enough that I wonder why they didn't use this method instead of "cape-out", in the later seasons. There's an absolutely TERRIFIC wire-shot landing in the next episode, that is worthy of the Superman movies.

Next week, Luthor's number is up and Lois is going to be spending her honeymoon at the Heartbreak Hotel and not at "The House of Luthor" (heh).

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