Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 3 - Episode 7: "Ultra Woman"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: November 12, 1995
Directed by Mike Vejar
Written by Gene F. O'Neill and Noreen Tobin
Shelley Long as Lucille Newtrich
Mary Gross as Nell Newtrich
Hal Havins as Driver
Lawrence Mandley as Husband
Evie Peck as Woman
Gilbert Rosales as Thug
Thomas Rosales Jr. as Thug
The Newtrich sisters plan on making Superman permanently apathetic with a rock of Red Kryptonite they have acquired.
Meanwhile, Clark plans on bringing Lois to Paris (he plans to propose to her once again). This is interrupted by a citizen in danger - a child is trapped in a well. Superman rushes to the scene followed by Lois, but it turns out to be a baby doll. The Newtrichs zap Superman with their Red K laser - he leaps in front of Lois and absorbs the blast just as they run away. Superman quickly discovers that he's powerless and that Lois has acquired his superpowers.
The Newtrich sisters are annoyed that their plan to neutralize Superman didn't work, but plan on pulling another heist anyway. Nell Newtrich actually believes that the beam did work - after all, Superman didn't come after them.
Clark trains Lois to use her powers while they try to figure out why the Red Kryptonite affected Clark the way it did. Lois hears a truck driver scream for help as his brakes have failed. She successfully stops the truck. Superman covers for her so that the man doesn't suspect that it's her.
Jonathan and Martha come to Metropolis to help Lois create a super-identity. Superman meets Dr. Klein who is trying to get the Red-K laser working again.
Perry receives a letter from Alice telling him that she has left him. Perry's sadness is interrupted by a bomb threat warning that unless Superman shows up within 2 minutes the Daily Planet will be destroyed. The Newtrich sisters have set up a trail of Kerosene that will destroy the building. Superman clumsily tries to extinguish the flames with a fire-blanket, to no avail. Lois arrives in her new superhero outfit and extinguishes the flames. Superman introduces her to Perry and Jimmy as 'Ultra Woman'.
Nell Newtrich theorizes that Superman's powers have been transferred to Lois Lane, explaining the existence of Ultra Woman. She has created a new Red K laser. Her sister Lucille demands that the laser be used on her so that she will receive superpowers.
The newsroom is filled with flowers for Ultra Woman from various celebrities - and Jimmy Olsen who has become infatuated with her. Clark is frustrated by his sudden mortality.
Perry is visibly shaken by Alice leaving him.
Lois and Clark get a lead on the Newtrich sisters. Lois goes into action as Ultra Woman and quickly discovers how difficult it is to multi-task all of the disasters a superhero faces.
Jonathan and Martha reassure Clark that this power-switch will not affect the dynamic between Lois and Clark. Clark heads to Lois' and witnesses a mugging. He manages to hold his own against the muggers until one of them pulls a knife on him. As luck would have it, the Newtrich sisters ward off the muggers. Unfortunately, they hold Clark up at gunpoint and trap him in a room with a bomb armed to go off in five minutes. They plan on luring Ultra Woman to rescue Clark so they can steal her powers. Clark manages to wrangle out of the wires and escape, harmlessly tripping the electrocution circuit in the process. He manages to escape, after which he screams out for help. Ultra Woman comes to his assistance. He leads her back to the Newtrich's apartment. Unfortunately the sisters have escaped.
Lois tells Clark that she failed to save people from a mudslide in Brazil, which has left her deeply upset. Clark tells her that sometimes there are just people who you can't save. Lois discovers bank digits rubbed out on the chalkboard.
Jimmy gets a call about a jumper. Clark learns that it was the jumper's sister who made the call - he quickly realizes that it's the Newtrich sisters and rushes to Ultra Woman's rescue. Unfortunately they've already effected the power transfer. Lucille Newtrich now has super powers and she plans on pulling off a heist.
Lois learns that Lucille is planning to steal old ATM bills. Lois shows up as Ultra Woman and bluffs that she still has all of her powers. Superman shows up and hands the Red K laser to Lois who successfully transfers all of the power back to Superman.
Perry explains that he and Alice have broken up and that he'll be moving out at the end of the month.
Lois tells Clark that she realizes that she loves him more now that she knows how hard it is to do what he does. Lois asks Clark to marry her. Clark says yes.
Review Rating - 4 (out of 5): Another really great episode. Where it fails in providing the superhero action of earlier seasons, it triumphantly succeeds in how it develops the complexities and idiosyncrasies of the characters giving us a definitive conclusion to the "Will they won't they?" aspect of the Lois and Clark romance.
The "Lois gets powers" story is such a well-worn formula that it has long become a trope in superhero books. At some point or another, every superhero's girlfriend has been bestowed with their beloved's god-like abilities and it usually ends with the status quo being restored. "Ultra Woman" is no different - I'd even say this is unfortunate; how exciting and groundbreaking would it have been for an entire story arc of "Lois & Clark" to revolve around a powerless Clark Kent and the adventures of Ultra Woman? In 1995 it would have been ratings poison, but in 2013 I see it as a missed opportunity.
"Ultra Woman" is an episode that deftly deals with a rather tired trope and makes it fun, interesting and even thought-provoking. One of the missteps of "Lois & Clark" is how it only casually references the kind of international super-feats Clark Kent is responsible for, but in this episode we really get a sense of just how much work Superman really does (even if we're TOLD rather than shown - which of course is something I can forgive given the limitations of a weekly TV series). The formula isn't just thrown in for the sake of it - it's present as a legitimate character catalyst - Lois can't truly commit to Clark until she knows him as well as she knows herself. How better to learn the intricacies of his life than to switch places with Superman? It's done beautifully.
To be fair "Ultra Woman" is far from perfect. Like many of the third season episodes, it suffers from campy, groan-worthy villains. The Newtrich sisters are charming and inoffensive enough and they remind me a lot of the kind of villains we saw in the old George Reeves show "Adventures of Superman" - constantly bickering and damning the other for their part in bungling whatever heist it was that Superman interfered with. Shelley Long is another stunt-casting coup for "Lois & Clark," but I also have a soft spot for Mary Gross, who I will always remember as 'Mrs. Quick' from "Sabrina The Teenage Witch," arguably the most iconic 1990s comic-book inspired TV show. According to her IMDb, she also made 77 appearances on "Saturday Night Live". Good for her.
Another thing I'll tip my hat to the writers for is that they finally decided that either Perry or Jimmy needed something to do besides further the plots of the two leads. Alice heartbreakingly leaves Perry after a brief bit of set-up in the previous episode. Certainly it's a bit strange that this is happening so soon after Perry shelled out $1000 for opera seats in "Just Say Noah" (an episode where we actually get a few anonymous glimpses at the thus-far unseen Alice White), but I suppose I'll buy it. The mortality of Perry's marriage was something that needed addressing, given how often we've seen him pull all-nighters at the Daily Planet. He seems like a devoted husband in his own right, but the sheer fact that we've never even seen Alice speaks volumes.
It is unfortunate that this episode seems to do a particular amount of 'glossing over' super-feats and rescues (something this show is usually a little bit more subtle about than "Adventures" or "Smallville" were). Perhaps it's simply that the script called for far too many action scenes - to be fair we do get the impressively filmed stunt of Lois stopping a runaway truck. I would have liked to see at least one blue screen shot of Ultra Woman (perhaps flying into Burma or saving the hijacked plane?). Oh well.
While the visual effects this episode lacked are certainly a sore spot for me, I can't help but acknowledge the abundance of cool effects that WERE present in the episode, most notably Lois' pink x-ray vision, which was used quite effectively, particularly in one tracking shot where we see the beams piercing through the Newtrich's house. There's a scene I just can't forgive though - in the well-executed scene of Lois panicking under all of the 'super-hearing alerts', we get Ultra Woman taking off into flight. Except...she's not really doing that. Instead, it's just Teri Hatcher running to the left of the screen with her arms in the air. It's even worse than 'cape-out'. It's 'run-out'. It's very difficult to imagine that there actually is a woman taking off into the skies here.
A few fun things I noticed:
- Jimmy mentions a street corner as "Giordano and Adams" referring to Dick Giordano and Neal Adams. Very neat callback.
- At one point Clark asks if anyone would like coffee. Jimmy responds that he would, followed by Lois who reiterates that she would like it "With sugar." Die-hard viewers will remember from "All Shook Up" that Lois doesn't drink 'real coffee with real milk and real sugar'...but a super-powered Lois who doesn't have to worry about calories or cholesterol probably does! I thought this was a really nice touch, if it was intentional.
- Among the celebrities who send Lois flowers are Brad Pitt, Dionne Sanders, Antonio Banderas and...Fabio (remember him?).
Next week we get our first tabloid-soap opera story when Superman is accused of fathering a love-child in "Chip off the Old Clark". Join me! And don't forget to follow @loisandclarks5 on Twitter!
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