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Holy crap on a cracker!!

I knew it had been a while since I last posted a personal blog, but I didn’t realise that it had been four complete months since I sat behind my desk, keyboard at the ready, to pontificate about whatever took my fancy. The day job and my Starburst assignments have been keeping me busy and on the move, but really...
Four months? That’s downright shameful. Especially when I bear in mind that personal blogs are supposed to be the backbone of this site.

So, here I am, with some time on my hands, my Starburst assignments totally up to date, and a website to play with.

You only have to look back through this site to know that I’m kind of a comic book super hero geek. Always have been, always will be. That’s a part of me that has really been reinforced over the past few months. Check out here to see what I thought of the Avengers movie. That was something I never thought I’d see. Christian Bale’s Batman took his final bow in the last instalment of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy and that was perhaps the best of all three. But apart from these epics, and the anticipation of Man of Steel, Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 next year - what has really caught my imagination recently is Smallville.

On its first run, Smallville came at the wrong time for me. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had ended, and I didn’t really want to move on to a similarly themed series with a super powered teen suffering angst. Buffy was a series I came to in the middle of its run, having caught up to the broadcast episodes by watching the earlier ones on VHS (those were the days). I enjoyed the series to the extent that when it came to a conclusion, I was happy it had ended properly with a definite closer, but at the same time, sad that there wouldn’t be any more episodes.

Hearing that Superman was going to get the Buffy treatment with a re-imagining back to his days at Superboy living with Ma and Pa Kent in the small Kansas town of Smallville, dealing with all the usual teen drama stuff of girlfriends, parents who don’t understand, high school and saving the world seemed just too similar to the Buffy Summers saga. Besides, (and this is the truly odd thing that I never usually do) before committing to watching a single episode even, I wanted to make sure that the series wasn’t just a one season wonder, that the greatest of all super heroes was going to be treated properly, not rehashed just to become relevant to the post MTV generation that idolises Jersey Shore and the Kardashians (if anybody can tell me why they’re famous, incidentally - I’d be grateful). In short, if the series ended where it should, with Clark Kent becoming Superman I’d be happy. So I wanted to make sure that the series fulfilled its promise, as soon as I knew that was the case - it was time to investigate further.

Biding my time until the price was one that I was happy to pay, I bought all ten seasons in a box. Yes, ten years worth. It was a gamble based purely on the fleeting glimpse of how it all ended. Crazy, huh?

Maybe not so....

The box arrived three months ago and I quickly became hooked. At the time of writing, I’m four episodes in to season six. (Which is another reason I haven’t blogged for a third of a year, I guess).

There are certainly similarities to Buffy - but then, there would have to be. The first seasons of each focus more on the freak of the week type of stories, where there’s a different monster or meta human on the loose and the situation needs resolving. Story arcs kick in from season 2 onward, progressively getting stronger in the ensuing seasons. Each season seems to be more or less a school year in the first seasons, and most of the hero’s problems emanate from the students or teachers there.

Smallville seems to be the meteor capital of the world, as the small town was bombarded by a shower which also brought the infant Kal-El to Earth. Found and adopted by the Kents, a childless couple who run a farm, as he grows, he begins to develop powers far beyond those of any normal human. He can run fast, jump higher and so on.

But it’s not all good for Clark - those meteors have turned green and can kill him, and they seem to be everywhere. Plus, they emit some kind of radiation that has affected some of the Smallville inhabitants, giving them some kind of unpredictable mutant power, be it the ability to affects the minds of others, or to cause objects to burst in to flame and so on. The meteors have also had a profound effect on the lives of two others, Lana Lang lost both parents when they hit the Earth, and young heir to billions Lex Luthor lost his hair in the shock of a near miss. As far as series set-ups go, the producers had plenty to work with.

Casting was of course crucial, and this is where the series really came into its own with plenty of fan and geek pleasing choices. Tom Welling plays Clark Kent with an eerie channelling of the late Christopher Reeve in the delivery of his dialogue. In fact, Welling plays the part so well, I’m disappointed that he’s not in the role for next year’s Man of Steel, especially as he’s now old enough to play Superman convincingly and there’s a natural continuity already in place. Another inspired fan pleasing choice was casting Annette O’Toole in the role of Martha Kent, as she was already known to Superman fans as the original Lana Lang from Superman 3.

Michael Rosenbaum fills the role of Lex Luthor, quickly becoming one of TV’s most likeable villains. The fact that we know he’s going to turn out to be one of the most evil men the planet has ever seen doesn’t detract from his charm or his coolness. Smallville’s story is as much about Lex’s slow descent into villainy over the course of several seasons as it is about Clark’s rise to heroism. Like Yin and Yang, they’re two sides of the same coin.

If Clark needs a Lex, then of course he also needs a Lois, and this is a character they’ve handled especially well. Erica Durance plays the part of a nosy, irritating nuisance, constantly as annoying to Clark as he is to her in return. You can see this character growing to be the same person that Teri Hatcher portrayed in Lois & Clark. My only issue is - stunning as she is, Erica Durance just seems older and mature than the rest of the supposedly teen cast. This is despite her being a year younger than Tom Welling but then she IS four years older than Allison Mack. Go figure. It’s no biggie, she just seems like a twenty something among a bunch of teens and with the exception of Lex, I’m guessing they’re all supposed to be around the same age.

Kirsten Kreuk’s Lana Lang tries hard to smoulder, but ends up simpering and Alison Mack’s Chloe Sullivan...well, I like the character, but I can’t recall there being a Chloe Sullivan in the Superboy comics I used to read. Maybe she was introduced in one of the relaunches, who knows? But certainly a character that I’ve grown to like is the evil through and through Luthor senior, Lionel (John Glover). Again - he’s so evil that you can’t help but like him - both he and Lex are from the "love to hate him" mould as Larry Hagman’s J.R.Ewing back in the days of Dallas. And this brings me to something I’ve noticed becoming clearer as the episodes - Smallville is less of a teen/young adult drama, and more of a soap in the Dallas category. Except better written.

Fans of DC comics will love the references to a young Flash and Cyborg - but the real miracle, for me at least, is that they’ve even made the dullest of DC’s roster of heroes interesting - that takes a lot of doing with Aquaman and Green Arrow, but the Green Arrow episodes especially are compelling - and I could never stand him in the comics, unless he was team with the Green Lantern.

So, I’m at about the half way mark and loving what I’m seeing. Any series that features the voice of original General Zod Terence Stamp as the disembodied voice of Jor-El, and Christopher Reeve as a scientist trying to help Kal-El achieve his destiny with Margot Kidder as his assistant gets my vote. I recommend this as a good and wise purchase - and you can get it right here. I’m enjoying the way it’s all unfolding into the legend we all know, and to paraphrase Steven Tyler it’s the journey, not the destination. (Though I know the destination isn’t going to be a letdown)

Speaking of letdowns - Doctor Who.

Okay, before everybody starts waving their sonic screwdrivers at me, let me explain. Through the sixties and seventies, Doctor Who was a hit and miss thing for me. I used to make a point of tuning it if the Daleks or Cybermen were around, but the rest came and went. I was, I guess a casual fan. The reboot back in 2005 changed that considerably. I loved what Russell T.Davies did with the character, I loved the season long story arcs and the looking for clues, like the "Bad Wolf" references in the first of the new seasons, the new, heavier Daleks, the higher production values and the fact that it was promoted as the flagship show for the BBC.

But since Steven Moffet has taken the reins as show-runner, I don’t think Doctor Who has lived up to its promises. Moffet was all about taking a darker turn, but as a regular viewer and fan - I keep feeling that I’m being short changed.

The word is that the new season will kick off this very month, much later than the usual April slot, and the opening story is one that I’m anticipating. Finally, we get a Dalek story written by the Moff. But what’s it all about?

Titled Asylum of the Daleks, I’m wondering what definition of "asylum" do they mean? If it like a lunatic asylum for Daleks? Where all the really twisted and demented Daleks are sent because they’re a danger to all the rest? Or is it a sanctuary, where the Daleks can hide in peace and safety, away from persecution? I mean...who would persecute a Dalek? (Well, I guess Who never mind)

Karen Gillan as Amy Pond with Dalek and Time Lord

What has me really interested in this (though I’d be a liar if I denied hoping for the psychiatric unit of the Daleks) is that it’s supposed to feature every version of the Daleks - ever. The bronze juggernauts, the silly iPod multi coloured ones we saw last, the plywood ones with old Austin indicator lights on their domes, maybe even the dreaded special weapons Dalek.

Yep, I’m looking forward to that particular trip down memory lane. So much so, that when I was in Cardiff a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a three disc box set called Doctor Who - The Beginning and this has the first three Doctor Who stories from the early sixties in one box.

Looking back at those early black and white episodes, it’s amazing how dark in tone they are. The Doctor isn’t the dashing though eccentric young man he is now - he’s a grouchy, impatient old man - selfish and petulant beyond all reason, thinking nothing of risking the lives of his reluctant companions to soothe his own curiosity. William Hartnell’s Doctor was an anti hero through and through.

The first Dalek story is included in the box, and having become more familiar over the years with the feature film adaptations of the Daleks first stories, I was surprised by just how evil and malicious they were - even moreso if you take into account the fact that this was 1963.

If you want to see how it all began, hit this link to be taken to Amazon for more details.

That’s it for now - more soon. If you want to discuss anything you’ve read here or want to bring up another topic, hit the site’s Facebook page and let’s chat.

Stay low, stay sharp, stay safe.

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