Superman on Television
Superboy: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 9: "The Alien Solution"Reviewed by: Scotty V
Our episode begins with Lana Lang falling from the sky inexplicably and Superboy coming to her rescue. They land near her jeep and Supes tells her to head back to school while he goes after the "three guys in the chopper." The rescue is meanwhile being watched through a hazy purple cloud by a mysterious someone. We are then treated to a creepy view, complete with growling, of the watcher's apparent lair. A floating energy cloud moves around inside a cave. Within the cave, there are several glass enclosures that seem to store either bodies or outfits of warriors. The energy floats into one of the cases and disappears into the body or suit within it. The glass shatters and the body within becomes animated. It blasts an 'S' on a stone - the marker to be the site of the energy creature's next victim - as he shouts the name: "Superboy."
We discover the creature is an alien when it travels to Earth via a purple asteroid (ship shaped like an asteroid) and attacks Lana to lure Superboy. Some students tell Clark people are under attack and so he turns to Superboy to face the menace. When Superboy arrives, Lana is being threatened and Supes intervenes. In a voice that reminds one of the old style Japanese Samurai films, the alien tells Superboy the body he is now in is very strong. The alien warrior then knocks Superboy aside, and when Lana rushes it defending Superboy, it throws her aside as well. The two super powered beings then fight, each knocking each other down, until with one final blow, the warrior falls, pronouncing Superboy a great warrior with powers that it only wishes it had and then it falls silent...dead. Paramedics arrive at the instant the fight is over and announce that both Lana and the being are dead. Superboy seems on the verge of tears when he leans over Lana's body but hears a heartbeat. Then, while Superboy is looking away, telling the paramedics Lana is alive, the purple energy being hisses out of the warrior and enters Lana.
At the hospital, the doctor tells Clark the body of the warrior was already dead before it ever fought Superboy but that it had been preserved somehow. Lana lays in bed unconscious, until later when Clark speaks to her tenderly, telling her she's like a sister to him. Despite the fact that earlier in the episode she passionately kissed him when he was Superboy and then he kissed her as Clark. Clark whispers to her that when he's Superboy she's the woman he loves. Upon Clark's announcement that he's Superboy, Lana's eyes flash open, although they glow the eerie color of the energy being. The being, as Lana, pushes Clark away, telling him it will kill Lana's soul unless Clark relinquishes his powerful body and allows the alien to take it over. The alien then breaks a vase and holds it to Lana's throat. Clark tells it to stop, saying he'll do whatever the being wants. The alien says: "I want to fight on my terms." Clark promises to go with the being and so it exits Lana's body. The two alien visitors then fly from the Earth's atmosphere and land on the alien's asteroid.
Once there, the alien entity explains that it has been conquering warriors for a very long time. It constantly moves from world to world, fighting the most powerful beings there and then moving on. The being further explains that, each and every warrior tried to resist it, but that once each were unconscious, it conquered them from within. Superboy expresses his disgust that someone would kill others just to store them and use their bodies to kill again and the being mocks him. Of course Superboy wouldn't understand, says the creature, the body Superboy possesses is "wasted on you," says the alien. "With it in my power, I could conquer worlds!" Superboy announces that he'd never kill anyone and that no one can force him to and the alien tells him he has no choice. The energy then disperses into three beams and enters the three remaining bodies it has stored. Telling Superboy he is outnumbered and that he will conquer Superboy as he has all the others. However, before the alien can finish entering the three bodies, Superboy uses his heat vision to destroy them. The alien roars its anger and heads back toward Earth to kill Lana and Superboy chases after him.
Within moments, Superboy overtakes the alien and arrives in Lana's hospital room just ahead of the alien. The entity tells Superboy that it's only a matter of time and that since Superboy can't kill it, it will eventually consume Lana and then watch as Superboy dies of despair. It then attempts to bypass Superboy and enter Lana but Supes sucks in a Super-breath and collects the alien cloud within himself. Superboy then releases the breath into a fire extinguisher and leaves the room, returning a second later as Clark. When Lana wakes, she tells him she had a strange dream that Clark was really Superboy and he tells her to dream on. Later, Clark deposits the extinguisher, with the alien trapped inside, into a laboratory storage freezer, closes the door and says: "Stay cool, man."
Rating - 4 (out of 5): Ok... ok... ok, now I was tempted when this episode first started to actually dock it at least a point just because of the opening. I'll explain what I mean. The show starts with Lana Lang falling from the sky in her best "Countdown to Nowhere" outfit, screaming her best "Countdown to Nowhere" screams after being thrown out of a "Countdown to Nowhere" helicopter commandeered by three "Countdown to Nowhere" bad guy goons. Now for those of you unfamiliar, "Countdown to Nowhere" was the fifth episode of the season that might have been the first but for some reason they aired out of order. In that episode Lana is kidnapped by these goons and thrown out of the chopper. Superboy comes of course, and saves her just in time and when he and she land, they land on a beachfront with T.J. waiting by picking his nose. And I reiterate and I'm not kidding, T.J. is picking his nose. My point here is that in this episode, in which we're clearly being reshown the scene where Lana falls from the copter, Superboy lands her by her jeep, alone, on a road and not at all near or like the episode where it actually occurred. We know it's not just a re-use of the footage because Superboy actually says to her that he's going after the three guys in the chopper.
Secondly, Lana talks to Superboy as if they're best friends. As if, in fact, she already knew that Superboy was really Clark and vice-versa. Now someday we all hope that she will find out and become one of his first and best confidantes for all time, not like it is in that other show about a young Clark. Sure she now knows on that show but it's just been done very poorly and I'm not sure anyone would want that Lana as their confidante but anyway, I digress. The way they simply change the relationships of the characters on this show is just very sloppy. In one episode Clark and Lana seem like close friends, in another it seems they just know each other and then in this one Clark mentions how she's the love of his life. Plus, Lana talks to Superboy when he puts her down as if they are lovers or at least dating. When this event actually occurred, way back in episode five, which was supposed to be his first appearance to the public, (it's all very confusing) although that wasn't done very well, Lana and Superboy had never met. She actually says to him in that episode something about she's so thankful to "whoever he is and wherever he came from." Now though, she says, "will I see you again," and "I'm sorry these things keep happening to me." He talks about her track record and how they'll definitely see each other again.
Then... then... she kisses Superboy before he flies off. Sure it's all very romantic and passionate but still, it didn't happen this way. "He didn't get out of the cock-a-doodie car!" (Big points for that one.)
It's as if they want to jump ahead in the story line to a point where Clark and or Superboy or both are involved with Lana in a true romantic relationship, which could happen I suppose, but the strange thing is that they jump forward in the plot by going to a point where none of anything had happened yet because Lana and Superboy just met when she fell from the sky. Again, it's all very, very confusing.
Then, to make matters worse, later on in the show Clark kisses Lana as if they've been dating but we all know from watching that they aren't. They aren't even romantically involved... or are they? It seems to me maybe the show doesn't even know. And then... then... when Lana's in the hospital, after he's kissed her like a girlfriend... he calls her someone who's "like his sister." Then he tells her she's the love of his life - "when I'm Superboy." Wow. Quite a few turnarounds there and quite a few reveals too. Just to make sure everyone has it straight: Lana loves Superboy enough to kiss him passionately right after they just met and then Clark kisses Lana passionately later on even though there's never been a hint they're dating or are attracted to one another beyond friendship or a sibling like relationship, plus Clark thinks of Lana as his sister and the love of his life. In addition, there are apparently two versions of Superboy and Lana running around who may have just met and landed on a beach or not just met, are passionately in love and perhaps landed near a jeep on a road. Got that? Ok then.
One thing I must say before I start in on the cheesy alien: this is the 9th episode of this show and they've already realized that Superman meets and fights and befriends aliens sometimes. Something that other show might have done well to realize much earlier and to some extent even now. I was very pleased to see an alien on the show this soon and it's one that can actually throw down with the Boy of Steel. We first meet said alien on his home world? Space ship? Mind controlled flying asteroid? Anyway he's in his cave-like dwelling on an asteroid when we meet him and he's a floating purple energy cloud. He's apparently a collector of dead bodies and he can take them over and use them to fight. Once the alien is inside the warrior body it becomes an enemy straight out of the Power Rangers and he mighty morphs his way into a baton-wielding, beam shooting semi-samurai over-acting camp fest who extra articulates his way to a battle with Superboy.
Once you get past the realization that the Power Rangers show might have copied their villains off this very model, (that's a good thing, right?) it's actually a pretty fin show to watch. It's exciting to see Superboy come to Lana's rescue when the alien is threatening her and even more exciting to see the smack-down that occurs just after. The alien is really no match for Superboy, which is why he wants Supes' body to begin with, but they do throw each other around a bit before our boy hero throttles him. I say 'him' when referring to the alien here because in general, it seems like the alien is of a male-type persuasion, although it's really only an energy cloud and therefore probably doesn't have a gender, at least not in the way we scale it, but they use a male voice and he acts male, except when he's in Lana, of course.
Now on Smallville we've certainly seen plenty of instances where a person we know starts acting in a manner they wouldn't normally act and then our hero has to save them or stop them. But on Superboy, it's a first and strangely enough, Clark actually realizes something's wrong within a minute! That would be a record on the 'Ville. But now, and really a first for me, I really thought Stacy Haiduk did a really fantastic job with the whole Linda Blair thing. In fact, I think everyone should take a turn at being possessed in his or her life. It really seems like a great experience! Haiduk as Lana even thrashes around a bit in the bed in a scene very reminiscent of The Exorcist. Haiduk's facial expressions are really great and really believable as the evil cloud entity embodies her. Her vocal intonations and body language fits right in as well and I definitely bought that she had become the alien.
I have to say though that the paramedic (Ray Muennich), the one who announces that Lana is dead and then steps in front of Superboy to tell him there's nothing he can do, was another of the worst hires I've ever seen on a television show. Smallville has quite a few itself and by watching that show I've become somewhat of an expert but this guy is just plain ridiculous. It seems to me that they did a decent job casting the regulars on this show, but when it comes to guest stars and small roles it's as if we're at a David Copperfield show and he's throwing out random poofs to try and pick his next assistant and whomever the producers hit when they throw theirs...that's who we get on the show! I mean, when we fade back in on the scene by the tree and the paramedic stands and tells Superboy "there's nothing you can do," the line is so terribly delivered that Newton's Superboy almost looks out of place being sad.
Finally, I must say that once again I thought Newton's duel roles as both Clark Kent and Superboy were far and above standout. He plays an excellent Superman-ish figure and when he circles the evil alien sizing him up it's just classic. Several times now, and this show (at least in my reviewing of it) is only 9 episodes old now, Newton has been given the opportunity to announce as Superboy that he'd never kill anyone and I love it when he does. Again we get a classic Superman belief and we're reminded why we all love Superman the way we do. Certainly that's one tip those other guys over on the CW could have taken from this production. Superman, Clark Kent or Kal-El, whatever name you use, DOES NOT KILL. They even take great pains in the hospital scene to show how concerned Clark is that he may have been responsible for killing the alien and he's somewhat relieved, though confused and sickened, when the Doctor tells him the creature was dead already. There is no proof though, when Clark finally traps the energy creature in the freezer, that that won't kill it, but I guess it was a compromise, since the creature announced earlier that it couldn't be killed.
In summation, Newton = great Kal-El, Haiduk plays a neat-o villain and thankfully T.J., though his voice can be heard briefly speaking to Clark on the phone, is unseen in this episode since his character was cut from the original landing sequence the way it originally went. As Clark, Newton is both genuine and comedic, without really going over the top in that clumsy way that often worked for Christopher Reeve but might sometimes be too much. The plot here was really cool and I was glad they looked to the skies for a villain since, throughout history, so many of Clark's enemies have been from space. Comic books and cartoons have used aliens and visitors from space regularly and I'm not really sure why they have such a hard time on TV, maybe because of the fear that it comes off campy (as it does here) but the idea works fine. And even here, though over the top camp was clearly what they were going for at some points, the villain still comes off as menacing and is a dangerous adversary.
It's a little bothersome that the writers here seem determined to change what's come before at their whims with no explanation and I really wish they wouldn't. However, in this case, cutting the scene where T.J. sits on a bench by the beach picking his nose when Superboy lands with Lana at the end of Countdown to Nowhere is really an acceptable loss. It makes no sense that Superboy and Clark and Lana are suddenly all lovey-dovey, for all the reasons listed above, not the least of which is continuity or simple progression. On the whole though, I actually really enjoyed this episode and I think many fans of the hero genre will too.
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