Premiering a month after 9/11, it showed up when TV needed a hero. The WB Network also needed a hero, having recently lost Buffy to rival UPN. Who would have guessed, in 2001, that a TV series about the young adventures of Superman before he was Superman would go on for ten years.
That’s what it did, and in less than three weeks, Smallville: The Complete Series hits DVD from Warner Home Video.
Without Smallville, you probably wouldn’t even be reading this. I got my own start writing about TV with KryptonSite – the largest and [hopefully] most well-known Smallville fan destination. Without that experience, I doubt I would have ever written for the Smallville magazines or companion books. But hey – this review is about Smallville, not me, right?
And that’s where we go next.
Smallville: The Complete Series is a 62-disc set that contains all 218 episodes from all ten seasons of Smallville. In short, it’s the best way to have the entire series all in one place. To make the package more appealing, the DVD’s are put in two square bound “books” full of vivid images, with the discs being held between the sleeves. There’s a Daily Planet newspaper included that has articles written especially for this release, and a small booklet telling us what is on what disc (but be aware – it says the Complete Series retrospective is on Disc 61, when it’s actually on 62. Nitpicking, I know). Physically, the package is beautiful, although I do have two issues… one is that the sleeves holding the discs are VERY tight, making me paranoid that the discs will get scratched. The other is the front cover art to begin with – blue jacket/red shirt always implied “Bizarro” to me. There’s a red jacket/blue shirt on the envelope holding some of the extras; I actually wish this had been used on the front cover.
The big reason to check this set out is a 100-minute retrospective on the show. I admit slight bias because I am interviewed on the feature, though if anyone sees me on it, know that I know that yes, there were more than two action figures in the initial run; I think they edited it because they only had physical samples of Clark and Lex to display. But wow – so many people are interviewed, including the elusive Tom Welling, whose interviews were done at the time of the “Finale.” There are so many treats – Michael Rosenbaum talking about Tess, the revelation that someone else was cast for Lionel before John Glover…. and people were featured in interviews who I never expected to see discussing Smallville again, including Sam Witwer, Al Gough, Miles Millar, Ken Horton, and Jeph Loeb. Erica Durance, Allison Mack, Phil Morris, John Schneider, John Glover, Annette O’Toole, Michael Rosenbaum, Cassidy Freeman, and Tom Welling are a few of the actors interviewed, and crew members beyond those mentioned before, who were also interviewed, include Glen Winter, Al Septien, Turi Meyer, Kelly Souders, Brian Peterson, Bryan Q. Miller, Greg Beeman, and Mairzee Almas. It’s really comprehensive, and I’m sure I’m missing a few people in that list. The whole feature is narrated by Phil Morris, whose love of the show was always greatly apparent.
The best part of it, beyond showing off the most fantastic moments of the ten years of the series, is that it reminds me of why I loved Smallville to begin with, and why we all loved Smallville to begin with. Beyond the “shipper wars” and arguing fans, something brought us in, and chances are good that that “something” is represented within. It was also really nice to revisit some of my favorite parts of the series, including parts I might not have even thought about lately.
Part of me wishes this could have aired on The CW at the time leading to the series finale. It’s that good, and it honors the show in the way that it should.
That’s hardly the only extra feature. Beyond the extras on the individual seasons, the set also includes an unaired 1961 Superboy TV pilot, Aquaman starring Justin Hartley (previously only released as a Best Buy exclusive DVD), the 2004 Paley Festival event, a retrospective on Comic-Con appearances by the show, and more. Honestly, I’ve barely been able to scratch the surface; watching all of this will take me weeks. So, I can’t say yet how the Season 10 extras are, or talk about the commentaries, because I haven’t seen them yet.
As comprehensive of a set this is, there are some things that I feel are missing that I wish had been included. The original Smallville pilot episode, starring Cynthia Ettinger as Martha Kent, has never been publicly broadcast, and that version of the pilot also contains scenes that were never seen in any other version. Allegedly there was even more Smallville pilot footage that has never seen the light of day. That would have been fantastic to include, if they could get the clearances. On a similar note, Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders mentioned prior to the airing of the “Finale” that things – including a lot of the Apokalips story – ended up on the cutting room floor. Where are they? They would have been great to have on DVD. Likewise, I wish that the original version of the Season 7 episode “Veritas” – when it was envisioned as the season finale – could have been included, even without finished effects. It would have been an easy extra to create, and I’ve always wondered how that cut would pan out. The season would have ended with Lex finding the Fortress – in clips seen only briefly in the “Finale” and in a promo for “Veritas” that aired on The CW back in the day.
Additionally, I would have loved to have seen the original WB “Song Yet To Be Sung” ad campaign on these DVD’s, even though I’m well aware that aside from the early X-Files sets, promos rarely seem to end up on TV show season sets. It still would have been a nice (and nostalgic) addition.
A lot of people have complained that this set is on DVD, rather than Blu-ray, but the thing is… the original elements to produce the show’s early seasons do not exist in the highest-resolution form. To release a Blu-ray of those early seasons would have resulted in an inferior picture, and if Warner Bros. had spent the money to remaster (if it’s even an option), it would mean it could be a lot longer of a wait to get a set like this at all. To me, the episodes on this set look fantastic on the DVD format. If the other option would be to release a “Blu-ray” at the exact same quality, it might not have a point.
In the end, Smallville: The Complete Series is a celebration of Smallville. Ten years! Every fan of the show should try to put this on their holiday wish list. It definitely does the series justice. Maybe because I’m still geeking out at its awesomeness, but I’d put this on the “Highest Possible Recommendation” list.
Here are some images from the set if you’re curious to see more: