Superman on Television
Superboy: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 19: "War of the Species"Reviewed by: Scotty V
The show opens with a scientist being pursued down an empty hallway by something that makes him breath really hard. The scientist, great actor by the way, is apparently caught by his hunter because there's a scream and then we cue the spot where the credits should be. Since this show has the credits before the teaser, we simply go straight to Lana, Clark and T.J. driving to interview another scientist, at the very same labs where the chase occurred.
The scientist, Dr. Stuart (Kevyn Major Howard), another great actor by the way, is being interviewed for some massive steps forward in robotic technology. His idea is that soon, robots will be able to make their own choices rather than simply react to stimuli. The kids are shown a demonstration of a small robot that seems to have some of its own desires and interests. When Clark and Stuart head off to continue the personal part of the interview, Lana and T.J. wander into another room and discover the dead scientist from the teaser. When they react to the body and call for help though, an android shows up and begins destroying the room around them, slowly closing in. The android (John Matuszak) looks like a guy with battle armor on.
Stuart and Clark respond to the screaming kids and try to get into the room they're trapped in, but the door is blocked. Clark runs off, saying he's getting help, and changes into Superboy. At first, the android slaps Superboy aside with ease, but then the two engage in fisticuffs in the hall. Suddenly, the android freezes in place; Dr. Stuart has deactivated it with a handheld remote. Though T.J. has taken an entire roll's worth of photos, suddenly a military representative shows up and destroys the film. T.J. and Clark report to their editor (who seems to be a different actress playing Dean Lockhart or has gotten much better as an actress since last we saw her) and inform her the film was destroyed but Clark can still write the story.
After the kids and Superboy depart, Stuart uses the android to kill the military rep, telling him he has other plans for his android. T.J., who feels embarrassed because a good photographer should always have a backup plan, heads back to the lab, alone, to get some new pictures. Further, Lana has informed him that Clark, not he, has won the Student Journalism award that T.J. was sure was his. Intent on getting the award next year, T.J. somehow sneaks into the lab, easily finds the android and starts taking pictures. Stuart shows up with his remote and uses the android to capture T.J., telling the photographer he plans to lure Superboy for a test.
When Superboy arrives, Dr. Stuart attacks him with the android and Superboy makes short work of it, tearing off its arm in the process. Stuart then activates a force field that Superboy seems hard-pressed to escape. As Superboy seemingly weakens, Stuart announces that he too is an android, from another planet "much like this one," and that his species rose up against their human creators and plan to help artificial intelligence on Earth do the same thing. Superboy melts mud into a mirror with his heat vision and deflects the force field at Stuart, which stops him. In the end, all is well and Clark tells T.J. they can share the journalism award. When the new boss tells T.J. he's sure to win next year with the photos of Superboy's second battle with the android, we learn that T.J. forgot to load his camera.
Rating - 2 (out of 5): This episode rates a 2 only because I like when aliens come on any Superman show. For a while, all incarnations seem to avoid things that are too fantastic, but eventually they all come around. Look at Lois & Clark. For the first season they tried to keep most things grounded in explainable reality. But then, when John Shea (Lex) chose to leave the show, the producers had no choice but to bring in the clones and the aliens and the fantastic. Smallville has been much the same. Though the prods on that show continuously dipped into the "meteor freak" barrel and that was ok, it wasn't until season 4 or so when they decided an occasional alien was good too. At present, it seems every second Smallville episode features an alien. On Superboy though, we were introduced fairly early on to the alien cloud entity in episode 9, so the good thing here is they weren't afraid to shy away from that fantastic.
Otherwise though, the acting is terrible, the pacing is horrendous and the cinematography is wonderously bad. Almost every set, save for the newsroom of the Herald, looks exactly the same. The labs, where most of the scenes take place, are completely bare of any decoration or set pieces. They're simply stark white walls. I think I saw one painting in Stuart's office. Maybe they did it on purpose to show that the artificial life forms had no connection to emotional works of art or to decoration. If so, then I must commend them on that. Also, early on in the show, when Lana and T.J. are trapped in the room, the android knocks over some shelves that stop anyone from entering. At first, it just seems convenient; so that when Clark and Stuart arrive they can't get in. Later though, when we discover Stuart's actually the one responsible, it kind of seems like he purposely had the android shut him out of the room so that Lana and T.J. will be destroyed.
In my memory, it's been a while since we've seen heat vision or x-ray vision, so I was happy to see both used in this episode. Superboy peeks in to see Lana and T.J. in trouble with the x-ray and he uses his heat vision to melt a mirror from mud to stop Stuart at the end. Speaking of Superboy and stunts. When Superboy is fighting the android in the hallway, there's a point where Newton's stand-in or stunt guy is clearly seen for a few seconds. It doesn't even seem like a particularly dangerous stunt. Heck, the camera could have been positioned so that we wouldn't notice, but instead we get a full on shot of some 40-ish looking guy with frazzled brown hair spinning around after a punch from the android.
Now that's quality. Or little quality. And next time we'll check out "Little Hercules."
Back to the "Superboy - Episode Reviews" Contents page.