Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 4 - Episode 1: "Lord of the Flys"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: September 22, 1996
Directed by Philip J. Sgriccia
Written by Brad Buckner, Eugenie-Ross Leming
Simon Templeman as Lord Nor
Mark Kiely as Ching
Mark Lindsay Chapman as Jen Mai
J.G. Hertzler as Trey
Richard Grove as Col. Ambrose Cash
Eric Allan Kramer as Drull (as Eric Allen Kramer)
Dan Hildebrand as Ran
Justine Bateman as Zara
Lois pines for Clark and dreams of him arriving back in her apartment as though he had never left. Light years away, Clark is shown onto a palatial starship that will bring him to New Krypton.
Zara and Kal-El undergo a marriage rite, much to Clark's dismay. Two or Lord Nor arrives on Smallville and announces plans of his domination. Martha tries to contact Lois, but Drull destroys the phone. Nor activates an impenetrable force field around Smallville closing it off from the rest of the world. Lois tries to investigate the issue, but can't get through to any phone line in Smallville.
The New Kryptonians return to Earth when they discover that Lord Nor is on Earth. In order to contact Clark, Lois poses as a Kryptonian concubine. Lord Nor appears on Sunrise America with Leeza Gibbons to speak more about his intentions of ruling Earth. The United States Army tries to open fire on Nor's shield but he easily eradicates their forces.
Superman and the New Kryptonians commandeer the Daily Planet Building as a base of operations from which to fight Lord Nor. Lois and Clark infiltrate Smallville, posing as civilians. The town is in tatters as Nor's minions run rampant. Martha and Lois create a diversion in order for Superman to rescue a slave from being executed. Lord Nor learns from a mole in Kal-El's administration that he is in Smallville - he threatens Jonathan and Martha's lives, drawing him into the open and declaring war against him.
Review Rating - 3 (out of 5): It feels strange giving 'Lord of the Flys' a sub-par score. On the one hand, it greatly expands the mythology of 'Lois & Clark' bringing it more in line with the kind of thing you'd expect from the source mythology. But once again, the emphasis on camp humor and gags drowns out any attempt at legitimate science fiction.
First and foremost, this is a weird version of Krypton. Monarchies, casual adultery and outright sexual slavery is more like the kind of thing you'd see on a random Star Trek planet (or even a Star Wars planet) than the kind of grand, enlightenment (however vain) we've come to expect from Krypton in the comics and in the feature films. Lois herself even jokes about it! Perhaps this particular off-shoot of Kryptonians lost their way a bit, but this doesn't look anything like the kind of world shown to us in episodes like 'The Foundling'. But then, the general trend in the 1990s was to downplay the importance of Krypton in the creation of Superman and to focus more on his wholesome upbringing on Earth. Nevertheless, even if you divorce your thoughts from the source material entirely (which admittedly, I should be doing in a review like this) and take the episode at face-value, it's still a bit odd and it's strange that Clark isn't a bit more disappointed at how backward New Krypton is.
I very much enjoyed the several shots of the Kryptonian 'floating palace' and every time I watch these episodes I wonder where that prop came from. From what little I've seen of Babylon 5 I thought it looked similar. I also liked the fun 'space' music that plays every time we see the palace, as though we're watching an episode of Star Trek. And speaking of Star Trek, J.G. Hertzler a.k.a Martok from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine plays the Kryptonian Trey in these episodes! I had a double-take when I realized who it was - even without his layers of Klingon prosthetics, I'd recognize that distinctive voice anywhere. I became a Star Trek fan later in life (and I've only recently finished watching Deep Space Nine for the first time) so it was great to discover that he had such an enjoyable bit-part in this series from my youth.
Lord Nor a.k.a. 'Not Zod' is one of the great missed opportunities of the 'Lois & Clark' series, not because he isn't interesting or that the actor isn't skilled enough for the role, but simply because the creators either by coincidence or design, veered far too close to Terrence Stamp's portrayal of General Zod in the Superman movies. It's a mistake the showrunners of 'Arrow' made with Ra's Al Ghul as well. One of the great victories of 'Lois & Clark' is how it tended not to fly so close to how the films did things (with a few notable exceptions), especially compared to other live-action Superman shows like 'Superboy' or 'Smallville'. This feels surprisingly uninspired. Especially given that Lord Nor is introduced with the line "Kneel to the forces of Nor!". Doesn't get any more samey than that.
That being said, Simon Templeman is both amusing and genuinely sinister in the role (at least in a pantomime villain sort of way). He has a line of dialogue where he says, "We're not in Kansas...anymore..." and the way he lingers on 'anymore' is delightfully evil. The only irritating aspect of his performance is how he insists on calling Clark 'Kal-Al' instead of 'Kal-El' - to the extent that for years as a child I thought Superman's Kryptonian name was in fact 'Kal-Al' (remember, this was my first exposure to the world of Metropolis). While it definitely is a bit strange-looking, I dig his bizarre car-tyre costume. It's oddly similar-looking to Michael Shannon's armor in 'Man of Steel'.
Mark Kiely takes over from Jon Tenney as Lieutenant Ching in this episode and Tenney is sorely missed. I like Kiely just fine, but Ching brought a gravity and a weight to the character that was above and beyond the kind of 'TV acting' we've grown accustomed to on this show. Kiely is perfectly fine in the role, he's just not as good. Fans of 1990s TV may recall that Mark Kiely played Gil Meyers on 'Beverly Hills 90210' around the same time that Dean Cain was a recurring character on that show.
I do like that (like the Man of Steel film) Lord Nor is surrounded by a small army of evil Kryptonians and it makes for far more of a sense of impending global doom than in Superman II where the three Kryptonian villains felt more like disorganized vandals than an invading force. To my knowledge the only time we ever see someone directly murdered by heat vision in live action happens in this episode when one of Lord Nor's cronies disintegrates a man with his eyes. Admittedly he sort of just disappears in a puff of smoke than melts into a puddle of blood, but it's still very effective. One interesting casting note to mention is that Eric Allen Kramer plays Drull, another one of the Kryptonian Cronies. Kramer has had many similar 'henchman' type roles in dozens of TV series and movies, but comic book fans will recognize him as the original Thor from
the 1980s TV movie 'The Incredible Hulk Returns' - I'd certainly recommend checking that one out as it's an interesting oddity (and its follow-up 'The Trial of the Incredible Hulk' features a Daredevil very similar to the one in the recent Netflix series).
Special effects-wise, there are lots of impressive effects in this episode, from the reasonably good flying and wire-work (remember, that's a rarity at this point in the series), some good heat vision shots as I mentioned, a really awesome car that falls out of the sky in one scene (they literally replay the shot, such is its impact). But by far the best special effect of the episode (and one of my favorite of the series) is a really neat transporter effect when Clark, Ching and Zara are entering the palace for the first time. Usually on Star Trek we see the characters 'beam out' in a shimmering display of light and energy - but we rarely see the effect from their point of view (I'm told there's one episode of 'The Next Generation' where this happens, but I don't recall it). In this episode of 'Lois & Clark,' we see the environment warp and transform around Clark, as though we're seeing the teleportation from his point of view. Very cool indeed - hats off to the visual effects team once again.
A few more notes:
- I've alluded to Star Trek a number of times during the descriptions of New Krypton and its customs - is it a coincidence that some of the Kryptonian servants look a bit like classic Original Series Klingons?
- The bald Kryptonian Crony who plays opposite Eric Allan Kramer's Drull is clearly British actor based on his horrible American accent. Why did the showrunners even feel that he needed an American accent at all? Couldn't they just allow him his native accent?
- I never noticed in previous viewings, but Smallville is quite clearly the exact same lot as Metropolis, they just hide this fact by not shooting the most familiar buildings and keeping the extras dressed in 'country' clothing.
Join me next week when I discuss one of my favorite episodes of the series, 'Battleground Earth'.
Back to the "Lois & Clark - Episode Reviews" Contents page.