Superman on Television
Superman: The Animated Series - Episode Reviews
Season 2 - Episode 15: "Father's Day"Original Air Date: October 3, 1997
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Taylor
Here Dad. I got you a tie.
Many of this series' creators are self-purported fans of Jack Kirby's "Fourth World" from the DC comics of the 1970s. Darkseid has always made an excellent Superman villain, so it is easy to see how the end of this season and much of the next came into being. But more on that as those episodes are reviewed.
Darkseid appeared briefly in the final moments of "Tools of the Trade" near the end of the first season when Bruno "Ugly" Manheim as the leader of Intergang was collecting powerful weapons of advanced technology from a character named Kanto. Kanto turned out to be an emissary of Darkseid from Apokolips. That setup led to the encounter in this episode between Superman and Darkseid's son, Kalibak, whose first comic appearance was The New Gods #1 in 1971. Superman and Darkseid met for the first time at the end of this episode.
Rating - 4 (out of 5): There are two very good reasons this episode was created, but don't look for any depth beyond that.
First, it advanced the story behind Darkseid and the planet Apokolips, now including one of Darkseid's sons, Kalibak. Desaad was a very important character from the "Fourth World" as Darkseid's right hand hatchet man with is own dissenting agenda.
Second, this episode was the most fight-heavy action romp this series ever put out, and it got pretty brutal.
It's widely accepted among Superman fans that a battle between the Man of Steel and Darkseid has a fifty/fifty chance of swinging either way, although Superman usually won in the end. So it only followed that Kalibak as Darkseid's son, would have given Superman a few problems. Kalibak was a force to be reckoned with, but when Superman got a second wind, he made it look as though he could have easily defeated Kalibak at any time. The end of the fight took away much of the suspense as to who might win. It showed that when Superman got angry, he was twice as powerful. Then he completely trounced Kalibak.
The battle took up about half of the episode and Superman tried to appeal to Kalibak's better nature several times by explaining that the fight was hurting innocent people around them. Raised as the son of an evil despot, Kalibak did not care who was hurt, yet Superman still pleaded with him to stop ad nauseam.
The politics of Apokolips were also showcased early in this story. At the start, Desaad had sent a killer robot to Metropolis to seek out and destroy Superman, which allowed an action-heavy sequence in the first few minutes as Superman fought the robot. It also showed how Darkseid reacted to Desaad's failure. Desaad's agenda from that point was to take the pressure off himself and put it somewhere else, which is why he convinced Kalibak to secretly go to Earth to fight Superman. Win or lose, Desaad knew that Kalibak's attack on the Man of Steel would anger Darkseid to the point that Desaad would no longer be in trouble. Who says an action romp can't have subtext.
Darkseid was clearly unhappy with Kalibak's failure, but even more so that his demands to leave Earth alone for now were disobeyed, Darkseid appeared to kill Kalibak with Omega Beams from his eyes in front of Superman. Rest assured that he returned later in this series and then again in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.
Jonathon Kent spent most of this installment trapped under rubble from Kalibak's initial attack. While Pa Kent's attempt to stop Kalibak was ridiculous at best, it showed where Clark/Superman learned to face insurmountable odds while understanding that success or even survival were not always a likelihood.
The title, "Father's Day" worked because for both the hero and villain, the motivation was to please a father. Kalibak wanted to destroy Superman against his father's will. Superman wanted to save his father's life and in a much simpler way, wanted Pa Kent to enjoy Metropolis in spite of its technological advances over his own Kansas farm. Also it was Father's Day in America during the episode, even though it aired in October.
Darkseid and Kalibak both looked great as a conglomeration of their modern comic book appearances put into the style of Superman: The Animated Series. Desaad on the other hand just didn't look right. Desaad has always been a smarmy, charmless fop, but the way he looked in the animation just didn't do anything for him. It would have served him better to look intelligent and devious with the same costume instead of a greasy hunchback with narrow eyes.
Kalibak was voiced by Michael Dorn (TV's CHiPs, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine). I've found that Dorn's career has been both a blessing and a curse. He has a wonderfully deep voice that is sought after for certain kinds of roles. Believe it or not, he is actually a very good actor who can deliver beyond his "Worf voice." He returned in later episodes voicing a different character and spoke in what I would assume is his normal voice.
More on that later.
Kalibak sounded exactly like Worf from the Star Trek franchise. Even his scream that broke all the glass in the crystal shop made me think of an episode where he did the same kind of scream in Star Trek: The Next Generation. For those unfamiliar with his voice, check it out online.
This was also a big episode for returning characters. We're more than halfway through the series and Mike Farrell and Shelley Fabares as the voices of Jonathon and Martha Kent had only been in the pilot and one scene in "Mxyzpixilated."
Michael Ironside's Darkseid returned from a brief appearance last season where he had one line. Ironside was a perfect Darkseid. His grating voice took the character exactly where it needed to go without overdoing it.
Bruce Weitz came back for a short appearance as Bruno "Ugly" Mannheim. He was in, "Fun and Games," as well as "Tools of the Trade" which introduced the "Fourth World" in Superman: The Animated Series.
Desaad's character design was lacking, but Robert Morse (TV's Mad Men) did a fine job voicing the character. Although Desaad was used well and gave the audience a good taste of his character, he never appeared in the rest of the "Fourth World" stories from this series again. Later in the Justice League episode "Twilight," the character was voiced by Rene Auberjonois, who also voiced Desaad in the Super Friends series.
For an interesting piece of trivia, voice acting legend Frank Welker, who voiced several monsters and two minor speaking roles in Superman: The Animated Series, also played both Darkseid and Kalibak in Super Friends.
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