Superman on Television
Superboy: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 12: "Kryptonite Kills"Reviewed by: Scotty V
Two boys in a desert are horrified to see a streaking meteorite tumble from the sky above them. They approach after the meteor crashes and the glow from the crater illuminates them both in a green hue. We quickly switch to the Gems and Minerals class at Shuster, where Clark, Lana and T.J. discuss Lex Luthor, who has returned. Lex is sitting with his goon Leo (Michael Manno) and of course, the beauty of the week, whom T.J. has a crush on, one Ronnie Lawler (Pamela Bach). Ronnie tells Lex how lucky she feels to have had a helicopter ride and a yacht trip to which Lex responds that she should feel lucky, for he has selected her.
Professor Peterson (George Chakiris) enters the class, saying that his associates in Addis Ababa have given him what they believe is a "fragment of another world." Clark immediately feels strange, stands from his seat and tumbles into the aisle. During the commotion, Luthor pockets a piece of the rock from the Professor's box. As Luthor leaves the room though, Clark begins to feel better. The Professor wants the infirmary staff to hurry up, since he called them already, but Clark tells him: "No doctors," and Lana admits that Clark's "avoided doctors ever since we were kids."
Lex walks along the campus with Leo, telling him how he's finally gotten what he's always wanted, referring to the stolen fragment, and Leo agrees that Lex is always very lucky. They enter Seminole Hall as Luthor explains it's not about luck but that: "People like me always get what they deserve." Lex snaps his fingers and two bumbling kids ask him what he needs. Lex orders them to get the machine they'd built for him, calling it an Electro Polarity Discharger, because he believes he now has what they need to make it work. The boys bring the Discharger to Lex's room, he tosses them the fragment, which he describes to them as "power", and they...activate the machine. A green beam emanates from the device, which has been aimed at Luthor's stereo, and the music gets louder and louder, until the electricity shorts out and Luthor laughs, saying that tonight they'll paint the town black and then rob it blind.
Back at their dorm room, T.J. tells Clark he's going to tell Veronica (Ronnie) how he feels and that once she sees how much cooler than Lex he is, she'll surely go out with him. Clark says T.J.'s got nothing to lose and then the lights in the room flicker. The radio announcer says they've had some power problems at the station and T.J. heads out to cover the power plant, saying there must be a problem there and that Clark should stay put because he's still weak. Clark, sensing a problem bigger than T.J.'s camera, tears open his shirt and flies out the window. At the plant, the students helping Lex are firing their beam at the building, trying to knock out all the power in the city. Superboy intercepts a power line that seems to be carrying a much larger and more dangerous electrical charge than normal, and as T.J. snaps photos, Superboy absorbs the extra energy while Lex's unnoticed helpers beat feet.
Later, T.J. runs up alongside Ronnie, telling her they should go out for pizza and a movie sometime. Ronnie responds by saying that the date sounds nice but that she can't go because Lex wouldn't like it. When T.J. protests, she further explains that no one understands Lex. Lex is kind and generous, she says, and that his arrogance and obnoxiousness is just a defense covering for how shy Lex really is. During the conversation, Lex arrives and offers Ronnie a necklace. Though Lex portends to be giving a show of his generosity, the necklace is truly the stolen fragment hung from a chain. Lex gave it to Veronica so he could keep it hidden where no one would think to look, but Ronnie indeed takes it as a further sign of Lex's affections toward her.
Further proof of those affections comes later, at dinner, when, in his dorm room, Lex prepares a version of chicken flambé he came up with, just to serve to Veronica. As Lex is beginning to explain the greatness of his recipe, the phone rings. Apparently the police have discovered the machine Lex told the bumbling students to destroy. Seeing that Lex is upset, Veronica asks him what's wrong but he refuses to tell her, eventually telling her to shut up when her prodding annoys him further. Veronica, offended by Lex yelling at her, yells back and Lex overturns the table in anger. The chicken flambé quickly catches the room on fire, leaving Lex and Veronica trapped. Within seconds, Clark senses the fire and zooms to the rescue. When he arrives however, as Superboy, Veronica's necklace affects him and he collapses. Though Superboy opened the path for their escape, Veronica says they need to help the fallen hero, but Lex leaves her, saying "You help him, I'm outta here!"
Outside, Lex runs into Leo and pleads with him to go back inside to save the rock. Leo finally agrees and heads inside. Once there, Leo discovers both Superboy and Veronica unconscious on the dorm room floor. Leo lifts Veronica and carries her outside. Leo complains that Lex didn't tell him Superboy was inside as well and Lex says to forget about them, referring to Veronica and Superboy, and instead asks where the necklace is. Veronica, hurt that Lex only cared about the necklace, tells Lex she never wants to see him again and throws the necklace to the ground. The necklace lands in a stream of water from the fire hoses and is dragged into the sewer before a diving Lex is able to grab it. T.J., dressed in only his bath towel, snaps photos of Lex lying in the muddy water, embarrassed.
With Veronica and her necklace taken away from him, Superboy regains consciousness and is able to blow out the flames in the apartment and leave as well. Once outside, he joins the others in mocking Lex and then makes a much more important trip. The Professor gives Superboy a lead box containing "every last piece" of the rock, even though he believes it could be of use to mankind. Peterson is convinced that Superboy's great importance to the world will be much greater than any rock and so thinks Superboy should get rid of it. Superboy crumples the box in his fist and then tosses it away, presumably into space. The episode ends with the Professor's line about the lead box containing every last piece, as we're shown the piece from the necklace floating in an underground stream.
Rating - 3 (out of 5): Another episode directed by Jackie Cooper. That's two in row now directed by our previous editor in chief! Unfortunately, though this one is considerably better than the last, the Perry White magic doesn't seem to make a bit of difference. I will say though, that since this is the first appearance of Kryptonite in this show and it's handled in a fairly cool way, I've added a point. After all, it's a pretty important piece of the mythology and they even gave a little nod to the original films with Addis Ababa and all.
Our opening scene, in that above-mentioned famous locale though, leaves a lot to be desired. It's thankfully short, but almost everything about it is bad. The two kids who discover the meteor, clutching at each other in supposed fear when they see it falling from the sky comes off so badly that you just can't take it seriously. I'm sure it's difficult to find good young actors and I know these two don't even have a line and aren't even on screen for more than a minute, but still, they're just horrible. Then, we switch scenes and we're treated to the return of Scott Wells as Lex Luthor. Hooray!
Apparently, T.J. is suddenly in love with this Veronica girl and she's infatuated with Lex because, well, he's rich. There's never been any evidence in Luthor that he's nice to be around or even capable of love and yet, when Veronica defends Lex later in the episode, she seems to believe he's really great. I would normally say that love is blind and that it's possible she does see something others don't, but unfortunately her very first line sums up her character. In fact, it begins with Lana's line. Lana says Veronica's fallen for Lex Luthor and that God only knows why. Then we're told why by Veronica. Because of the yacht trips and the helicopter rides, she feels so lucky. She says so herself. And this is the girl T.J. is infatuated with. Well, I guess we never really thought T.J. was all that bright a flash bulb anyway, right?
The Professor's speech about the meteor that his associates contacted him about is pretty good. It's a very dramatic speech. The Professor talks about it being a fragment from another world and the synthesized music plays a bit as Peterson displays it to the class. He even tells us that specialists believe the rocks were likely hurled to earth when the planet they made up was destroyed in a spectacular explosion. It works. Then, when Peterson takes a piece out of the basket containing the rock, the camera zooms in on Clark, who already looks to be coming down with something. The way Newton plays Clark's discomfort is dead on. It's evident Clark can't breathe, even before he says it and he just looks so unwell. Not crazy, just a little unwell and right now we can tell. Make up department even puts a little sweat on our hero and when he collapses in the aisle of class the situation certainly looks dire. If this were an unknown character and Kryptonite was an unknown source of distress for him and we were seeing this for the first time, this would be very scary indeed. So it plays very well, even though this is supposed to be connected to the Donner films, which I've already explained doesn't work, and we've already seen Clark's first encounter with the unknown Kryptonite in Luthor's lair under Metropolis in the first film.
One problem I do have with the actual fragments shown in this episode though is the inconsistency of what they look like. We all know that Kryptonite is supposed to be green. Sure, there are multiple different colored varieties that cause different effects, but this is supposed to be THE Kryptonite, the big one, and the one to outdo all others. This is the deadly one so it should be green, right? Throughout this episode it changes color so many times that it becomes a sticking point for me.
First, we'll take a look at the opening, with the kids in the desert. When they approach the crater, there is no glow and no color, just a big steaming black, burned whole in the dirt where the meteor crashed. Then suddenly, when they lean over the crater, the kids' faces are glowing green. When the camera switches to show the rock in the crater however, there is barely even a hint of the green-ness, nor the glowing, that reflected off the kids in the shot previous. There is a bit of green, but the smoldering pile certainly isn't glowing and it's mostly charred black. It looks like a barbeque pit.
The next time we see the rock, it's in Professor Peterson's class. The Professor brings it in in a box and when he opens it, the stone appears mostly white but the tips are a glowing green. At least here it has the glow it's supposed to. Then, when Peterson takes a small piece out of the basket within the box, the piece actually looks like a whitish aqua or blue and not green at all. The camera switches to a suffering Clark and then back to the Professor and when it does, the rock still looks more blue and white than green, but there is a hint of green now at the center, but no glow. Switch back to Clark then back to the Professor and now the stone is all white. Then when Luthor steals a piece from the basket, the rock looks perfect, it's all glowing green and just right. When Lex puts it in his pocket though, it's back to white again.
In the dorm room, when the bumbling students come in with the Polarity device, Lex tosses them the rock to power the machine and the rock here looks like nothing more than a piece of crystal. No color at all. When they turn the machine on though, the beam that comes out is bright green. Anyway, enough of that, the point is, whether through editing mishaps or missing effects or laziness or whatever, the Kryptonite changes color far too many times in this episode.
The next thing that irks is the inconsistency of the way Clark is affected by the Kryptonite. When the Professor first brings the meteor into class, he carries it in a wooden box. Inside the wooden box is a basket and inside the basket there are several chunks of Kryptonite. Clark isn't affected by the radiation or the rock being in the room. This, even though at the end of the episode, the Professor says that Superboy will now be protected from the rock because it's encased in a lead box. In the classroom, it's not in a lead box, nor is it specifically shielded in any way, and yet Clark isn't affected until the Professor holds up a piece of the rock. Clark isn't even affected when the box and basket are opened. Only when the rock is held up does it affect him and that just makes no sense. Then, though the box and basket are still open, and though Lex has a piece right in his pocket and walks right by Clark, Clark comes to and starts to sit up as if he were getting better, though he should be getting worse.
Why must the goons Lex works with always be bumbling buffoons? Leo. The two students here who created the machine in this episode are even worse than Leo. I just don't understand why we can't have regular villains who are smart scientists working with Lex that aren't complete idiots as well.
When Superboy comes to the plant to investigate, why is there a super-electrical charge going through one power line? I guess it's possible that the beam from the machine is upping the power first, in order to short it all out when all is said and done. Okay then, so why when Superboy grabs the line does he seem to be in immense pain and having awful trouble with surging electricity? I guess we are to assume that since the machine is causing the surge and since the machine is powered by Kryptonite then the caused electrical surge hurts Clark more than normal electricity would. The problem with that then is consistency. Sometimes Kryptonite hurts him when it's a tiny piece but only when it's being held out of a wooden box. Other times a tiny piece, such as when it's in a guy's pocket right next to Clark, doesn't hurt him at all. So then, you'd assume that when Superboy is so near to a mile long beam that's super-powering an electrical power station and the beam itself is made of Kryptonite that he'd be weakened but here he isn't. Unless you contend that the reason he had trouble with the electrical surge is due to the giant Kryptonite beam but then, why would such a tiny piece across a classroom knock him unconscious but a super-charged giant beam only cause him difficulty in dealing with electricity?
For more consistency let's check into the way Superboy handles cleaning up the Kryptonite. When the Professor tells Superboy that the amount in the lead box is all of it, Clark should know that it's not. They even make a point of showing us when Superboy comes to after Leo saves Veronica that Clark knows the necklace caused him to pass out. I understand they wanted to end on a bit of a cliffhanger type ending with the Professor saying they had all the fragments and then showing us the necklace floating along but then don't show us that Superboy knows about the necklace. So then when he's there watching Lex reach for it in the sewer at the end he just seems absentminded or something to not have gotten rid of it with the rest. Also, when Superboy takes the lead box out to toss into the air, they show us a shot of a plane for several seconds. Supes never flies or anything, they just show him look into the air and then show us this plane. I don't really know why it's there. It seems like they were going to add a streaking effect after Superboy throws the lead box because after he does they show the plane again, but there's no effect. They must have run out of budget. Plus, when Clark crushes the lead box in order to throw it, there are clearly edges showing where the seams have burst and he would have been weakened because the lead could then no longer contain the radioactivity.
Next I simply must mention Scott Wells as Lex. I know I've mentioned it before but I really just don't get it. I'm an actor myself and I think I'm pretty decent and talented. I've been trying to get parts in plays and shows and films for quite some time. Sure, I've done a lot of theatre but most of it's been unpaid. Okay so I've done a few independent films but all of those were unpaid and went nowhere. This guy Wells somehow got himself an agent, which I have still had no luck in acquiring, then got an audition to play one of the most famous, though often portrayed poorly, villains in history! And he accomplished all of that with his paltry lack of talent! You might say I'm bitter and with people and occurrences like this I certainly am. When there are thousands of people out there like me, believe me I went to school with some of them, who can't land acting jobs because goobers like Wells are eating them all up, it definitely makes me angry.
Anyway, when Luthor gets angry at the table because Veronica is prodding him, Wells can't even seem to remember what he's supposed to say next. In this, Wells probably isn't really to blame, I mean, director (Mr. Cooper), do another take. Actors will forget their lines sometimes in the heat of the moment. That doesn't mean you have to leave it on film. Then, when Lex does overturn the table it really is almost laughable. It's really the whole situation and the whole growth of his anger with no real building. One second he's pacing and doesn't really know what to do and then the next, he's throwing the table over and tantruming like a child. It's not only this though. It's the way he gives his dialogue every time. It's even the way he walks; at certain points, he sort of bounces around. I guess he thinks he's strutting confidently but he looks like an ostrich or something. If you have access, watch it, you'll see what I mean. Look in particular at the scene where he goes to get the flambé out of the kitchen. It really made me laugh. And for speech, any time he talks will really do.
The actress playing Veronica is painful to watch as well. So are the bumbling student scientists and so is Leo. Oh yeah, and T.J. too.
Overall though I thought this was a decent introduction to Kryptonite in this series and even with the issues I had above I enjoyed that part of it. I also wanted to mention that I thought it was extra neat that Veronica is given a necklace with a small chunk of Kryptonite on it. First, I thought it was a little funny because the whole time Veronica is so flattered by how great Lex is and by this great present. Problem is, the necklace is god-awful ugly. The rock is way too big and it just looks garish. With all the money he has, you'd think the girl would be offended by this trash looking piece of what he calls "not real space rock" hanging from her neck. The other thing it reminded me of though, is another Lex Luthor love interest from another incarnation altogether: the Krypto-necklace worn by Lana Lang in the early seasons of Smallville.
Speaking of Smallville, let's see if we can improve our rating yet again next time when a little piece of Smallville comes to Shuster with a visit from Jonathan Kent in Revenge of the Alien.
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