Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 3 - Episode 14: "Tempus Anyone?"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: January 21, 1996
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Written by John McNamara
Hamilton Camp as H.G. Wells
Emily Procter as Lana Lang
Lane Davies as Tempus
Lee Arenberg as Major Domo
Eric Morgan Stuart as Rookie Cop (as Eric Stuart)
Chuck Butto as Spy
Lee Spencer as Bank Guard
Elizabeth Maynard as Woman
Lois and Clark discuss their upcoming nuptials - Clark tells her that he met his old girlfriend Lana Lang recently and that she impetuously invited herself to their wedding. Superman is called to the bank where a gas-bomb has gone off. The security guard tells the Man of Steel that a crazed man wielding a gun took gold and jewels.
Lois encounters Tempus (however she has no memory of the events of "Tempus Fugitive") and he coerces her at gunpoint into entering his time machine. Superman arrives just in time to see Lois and Tempus disappearing through a temporal portal.
Lois arrives in Centennial Park, facing her own grave. H.G. Wells approaches her and introduces himself, explaining that he has met her before - when he was younger. Lois instantly recalls the previous adventure. Wells explains that she has entered a parallel dimension where actor Charlton Heston is President. Tempus is a respected politician who has made firearms affordable and attractive - he is using his inter-dimensional portal to jump back and forth between worlds, to increase his wealth in the alternate universe.
Lois suggests finding the alternate version of Clark. She finds him, but he's a bumbling, ineffectual weakling with no interest in using his powers for good. She visits the Daily Planet, where Perry is running for Mayor and Jimmy is owner of the newspaper. Perry and Jimmy both question Lois as to what happened to her - in this reality Lois disappeared in the Congo years ago.
Lois runs into the alt-Clark and his domineering fiancée Lana Lang. When Lois has left, Lana chastises Clark for using his powers earlier that day. Lois manages to convince Perry to give her her old job back. She then requests to partner up with Clark. She quickly explains to Clark that she knows all about his alien heritage and tells him about Superman in her dimension. Clark explains that the Kents died when he was 10 and that his youth was very different from that of 'her' Clark.
Tempus strands Lois on the ledge of a building for the sake of torturing her in a world where Superman doesn't exist. Lois stumbles off the broken ledge, but Clark saves her. Lois tries convincing him to adopt the Superman identity.
Lois and Superman patrol Metropolis and stop a number of crimes. Tempus watches via hidden cameras - this is what he planned all along. Lana discovers what Clark has done and threatens to leave him if he should continue.
Lois receives an anonymous phone call (from Tempus) threatening to kill Perry White in an upcoming debate. When Superman arrives, Tempus creates an elaborate trap and exposes Superman's true identity, subduing him with Kryptonite. A bomb Tempus planted manages to spoil his plans however, and Superman is clearly seen swallowing the bomb - saving everyone. Perry is successfully voted in by a landslide victory as a result.
Lois leaves a heartbroken alt-Clark, who explains that he needs her to learn how to be the hero she expects him to be. Lois explains that 'her' Clark needs him just as much and that she owes it to him to return to him.
Lois and H.G. Wells return to the prime universe where Superman explains that Lois has been gone for 10 seconds. Lois decides to invite Lana to the wedding.
Review Rating - 4 (out of 5): With the return of the series' best original villain comes the return of the honest-to-God MAGIC that makes this series the very best Superman series. "Tempus Anyone?" is not simply the return of a fan-favorite villain to wreak more three-act havoc, it raises a supremely important question in the context of these characters and their importance to each other: What would happen if Lois Lane entered a World Without Superman? By answering that she would CREATE a version of Superman using the exact same ideals represented by the Man of Steel she knows and loves, it once again graduates her from mere love interest to his heroic equal. In "Strange Visitor (From Another Planet)" she indirectly convinced 'her' Clark to continue being Superman, not necessarily because of the good deeds he did and the people he saved, but rather because of the symbol he represents - here she goes a step further, creating that symbol to help Clark free himself from his inhibitions. It cements Lois' importance in the show and the Superman legacy - she's just as much a reason for the creation of the Man of Steel as the Kents or even Jor-El and Lara.
My God Lane Davies is just the best. Once again he effortlessly chews the scenery ("I'm the bad guy! I always have a plan!" or "If I wanted to kill her, I'd beat her to death with a frozen lamb chop and eat it with a nice Merlot.") with a villain that not only challenges Superman and his belief-structure, but also the very framework of a fictional TV show. He breaks the 3rd wall a handful of times (most notably with his intentionally silly line about commercial breaks) and states that part of the reason he brought Lois into this alternate dimension just to torture her, is because it makes for 'good TV'. Of course there are holes - why bother? - being one. How did Tempus escape from his Wild West prison in the 1800s? Being another. But Davies is so effortlessly charming and the story so wonderfully inviting that you don't find yourself caring about these unexplained details.
One of my favorite scenes of the entire series is alt-Superman stopping the mugger and grimacing to Lois when he introduces himself as 'Superman,' only for the officer to unashamedly remark "That's a pretty cool name!". One of the best things about "Lois & Clark" is how gleefully unapologetic it was about Superman being a beacon of hope despite its awareness of the obvious peculiar aesthetic of a man in tights and a cape - few scenes display this confidence as well as here. You truly believe that that cop thinks Clark a champion, with no need to suspect his strange abilities or his odd appearance. Classic comic book goodness.
Perry and Jimmy are delightfully occupied by a credible subplot in this episode - Perry's running for Mayor you see, and Jimmy is the prodigious owner of the newspaper thanks to his financial success as a "Computer Whiz" (oddly credible given the setup of previous episodes). It would have been nice to spread this episode out to a two-parter to truly explore the ins and outs of what could have been for these two characters, but there's enough here that it's satisfying.
If I could criticize one thing, it would be the strange over-fetisization of guns, even after Tempus has been arrested, but given the strange science-fiction trappings of the plot, I'll grant the episode even that. I thought throwing Elvis in at the end was a cute touch as well.
Other than that, it's a pity they couldn't show Clark in an S-less Superman suit when Lois has designed a suit for him. It's quite clear that they employed some camera-trickery to hide that fact that the suit still had an S on it (even if the script demanded that it be S-less like in the pilot). From a story standpoint, the concept is still strong, and the execution is so strong in the rest of the episode that I'll allow it.
I'll leave you with another immortal (albeit less-quoted) quote from "Lois & Clark"'s version of H.G. Wells:
"It's not that gods are anxious about their responsibilities...but with such great weight comes great understanding! Trust that, Clark! And trust you've found your true destiny! And in you, a once hopeless world, has found its future. Good luck to you!"
(Tempus: "God Herb, who writes your dialogue?")
Next week, some like it tense when Tony Curtis arrives to cause havoc on the eve of Lois and Clark's wedding.
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