Smallville appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The shows largely looked good.
Seasons One through Seven shot on 35mm film, whereas Seasons Eight through Ten went digital. This meant the loss of grain after S7, but otherwise the episodes tended to look fairly consistent.
With one exception: visual effects. Whereas the S1-S7 shows appeared to go back to the 35mm source and didn’t just transfer the video masters, the effects offered “up-rezzed” footage, so they tended to look iffy.
Nonetheless, sharpness usually seemed positive. Even outside of the effects elements, some softness crept in at times, but the episodes mostly came across as accurate and well-defined.
Other than effects, neither jagged edges nor moiré effects created distractions, and edge haloes failed to manifest. A few small specks cropped up on occasion, but source flaws remained absent most of the time.
In terms of palette, Smallville tended toward primary colors and veered toward the peppy side of natural. The hues seemed well-rendered and full.
Blacks felt dark and tight, while shadows appeared clear and reasonably concise. The episodes looked better than expected and showed nice quality most of the time.
Given the series’ TV roots, Smallville’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio offered decent breadth but not anything that would compare to the work for feature films. Still, the soundtracks opened up the material fairly well.
This meant soundscapes that provided nice stereo music along with a fair number of localized effects. Even though we don’t meet Superman until the end, the series came with a lot of action, and these elements used the side and rear channels in a moderately engaging manner.
Audio quality worked fine, with speech that appeared natural and distinctive. Occasional lines became a little edgy or dull, but those instances remained modest.
Effects showed pretty good range and impact, while music felt fairly bold and bright. Though the audio never rose above its TV origins, the tracks suited the shows for the most part.
Lots of extras appear across these 40 discs, and we find 22 audio commentaries for 20 episodes. Here’s who we get:
“Pilot (Extended)” executive producers/co-creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar and director David Nutter.
“Metamorphosis”: Hough, Millar, Butter.
“Red”: Gough, Millar and director Jeph Loeb.
“Red”: co-executive producer Greg Beeman and actors Tom Welling, Kristin Kreuk and Michael Rosenbaum.
“Rosetta”: Gough and Millar.
“Rosetta”: Welling, Kreuk, Rosenbaum, Beeman and director James Marshall.
“Exile”: Rosenbaum, Gough, Millar, Beeman and executive producer Ken Horton.
“Truth”: Marshall and actors Allison Mack and John Glover.
“Memoria”: Rosenbaum, Gough, Millar, Beeman and Horton.
“Crusade”: Gough, Millar, Horton, and actors Erica Durance and Annette O’Toole.
“Transference”: Glover, Gough, Millar, Horton.
“Spell”: Kreuk, Mack, Durance and director Jeannot Szwarc.
“Thirst”: Gough, Millar, Horton and writer Steven S. DeKnight.
“Splinter”: DeKnight, Marshall and actor James Marsters.
“Persona”: Horton, Glover and producer Todd Slavkin.
“Siren”: Gough, Millar, writers Kelly Sounders and Brian Peterson and actor Justin Hartley.
“Identity”: Peterson, director Mairzee Almas and actor Cassidy Freeman.
“Legion”: writer Geoff Johns, executive producer Darren Swimmer and supervising producer Tim Scanlan.
“Kandor”: writers Turi Meyer and Al Septien and actor Callum Blue.
“Idol”: Durance, Peterson and Souders.
“Lazarus”: Mack, Freeman and writers Holly Henderson and Don Whitehead.
“Dominion”: Peterson, Souders, Hartley and Blue.
Across the episodes, we get notes about story/character domains, cast and performances, sets and locations, various effects, music, design choices, and general show-related topics.
Unsurprisingly, the quality of the commentaries varies, but that said, most come across as quite good. We find only a few relative duds, so most of the tracks work nicely.
In general, the ones that feature Millar and Gough fare best. Of all 22 commentaries, the Millar/Gough discussion of “Red” probably becomes my favorite, as the producers give us a frank, informative view of the episode and other series-related topics.
“Thirst” becomes an unusual commentary because those involved actively criticize the episode. They chose to discuss it because they felt it offered the season’s worst show. I actually liked the program, but this still turns into a fun alternate to the usual happy talk.
On the other side of the spectrum, the commentary for “Spell” offers the worst of the bunch. The actors do little more than giggle and offer banal notes, while director Szwarc tells us next to nothing, even though his work on 1984’s Supergirl gives him an unusual perspective on Smallville.
Of the 22 tracks, though, only “Spell” becomes a waste of time. While the rest offer ups and downs, all give us pretty good material, so I find a lot to like about these commentaries.
Note that the commentary for the “Pilot” accompanies the show’s Original Extended Broadcast version. Whereas the “main” cut of the “Pilot” runs 45 minutes, 29 seconds, the “Extended” edition goes for 50 minutes, eight seconds.
The extended “Pilot” also looks much worse than the “main” version. Finished on videotape, it seems bland and blocky. Note the extended “Pilot” also features Dolby 2.0 audio instead of the main episode’s DTS-HD MA 5.1.
Deleted Scenes appear for 91 episodes: “Pilot” (five scenes, 4:26), “Metamorphosis” (2, 2:32), “Heat” (1, 0:48), “Duplicity” (1, 0:28), “Dichotic” (1, 1:25), “Prodigal” (1, 1:41), “Fever” (1, 0:47), “Exodus” (1, 0:40), “Exile” (1, 2:38), “Slumber” (1, 0:27), “Shattered” (1, 1:38), “Velocity” (2, 1:35), “Obsession” (1, 1:10), “Resurrection” (1, 0:29), “Crisis” (1, 1:57), “Memoria” (6, 6:13), “Talisman” (2, 5:52), “Forsaken” (2, 3:10), “Gone” (1, 1:22), “Façade” (2, 1:56), “Devoted” (1, 1:30), “Jinx” (1, 1:33), “Spell” (3, 3:22), “Bound” (1, 0:55), “Scare” (2, 4:04), “Pariah” (3, 2:56), “Krypto” (2, 3:23), “Sacred” (1, 0:47), “Onyx” (2, 2:14), “Blank” (2, 2:37), “Hidden” (3, 1:23), “Aqua” (1, 1:54), “Thirst” (2, 2:18), “Fanatic” (6 6:08), “Reckoning” (1, 1:34), “Tomb” (3, 3:39), “Cyborg” (1, 0:27), “Hypnotic” (2, 3:17), “Fragile” (1, 1:27), “Mercy” (1, 1:05), “Fade” (1, 2:08), “Sneeze” (1, 2:28), “Wither” (2, 2:41), “Arrow” (2, 3:36), “Fallout” (1, 1:24), “Hydro” (2, 2:39), “Labyrinth” (1, 2:43), “Crimson” (1, 1:11), “Freak” (1, 0:44), “Combat” (1, 1:44), “Progeny” (2, 2:28), “Nemesis” (1, 2:25), “Phantom” (1, 1:42), “Kara” (1, 1:56), “Fierce” (2, 2:54), “Cure” (2, 3:22), “Action” (2, 1:18), “Wrath” (1, 2:39), “Gemini” (3, 2:27), “Persona” (1, 1:15), “Siren” (3, 2:00), “Fracture” (2, 2:34), “Hero” (1, 1:10), “Traveler” (1, 3:10), “Veritas” (1, 1:37), “Descent” (1, 1:40), “Sleeper” (2, 3:00), “Arctic” (3, 2:34), “Plastique” (1, 2:29), “Instinct” (1, 0:16), “Legion” (1, 0:43), “Power” (1, 0:45), “Requiem” (1, 1:20), “Turbulence” (1, 0:57), “Hex” (4, 5:49), “Eternal” (1, 0:20), “Beast” (3, 4:04), “Injustice” (1, 0:48), “Rabid” (1, 0:13), “Roulette” (1, 0:26), “Disciple” (1, 1:48), “Persuasion” (2, 1:23), “Conspiracy” (2, 2:34), “Upgrade” (2, 1:29), “Charade” (1, 0:34), “Salvation” (1, 0:15), “Shield” (1,0:36), “Supergirl” (1, 0:08), “Abandoned” (1, 1:48), “Beacon” (2, 3:01), and “Scion” (2, 1:29).
That becomes a whole lot of cut footage, and inevitably, the clips vary in quality. Some seem pretty compelling and meaningful, whereas others offer insignificant additions.
For the most part, though, we find some decent material. Most tend toward small character moments and/or exposition, so they don’t lean toward anything genuinely important. Nonetheless, they’re usually fun to see.
We can watch the added footage for “Pilot” and “Metamorphosis” with or without commentary from Gough and Millar. They give us basics about the sequences but nothing especially insightful.
Season One provides a Storyboard to Screen featurette that compares the planning art to the final shots for parts of the “Pilot”. It becomes a decent addition.
On Season Two, The Man of Steel runs 10 minutes, 22 seconds and offers notes from Gough, Millar, Welling, Beeman, Rosenbaum, Kreuk, artist Alex Ross, writer/producer Jeph Loeb, and actors Christopher Reeve and John Schneider. We learn of Reeve’s guest spot in this decent but it mostly exists to praise the actor.
Faster Than a Speeding Bullet goes for 11 minutes, 24 seconds and provides comments from Reeve, Gough, Millar, Loeb, Horton, visual effects producer/supervisor Mat Beck, senior visual effects producer Kymber Lim, visual effects supervisor John Wash, lead artist Eli Jarra, and CGI artist John Han. We find an overview of the series’ visual effects in this decent summary.
Next come five clips under The Chloe Chronicles. Originally used as promotional webisodes, these occupy a total of 14 minutes, 47 seconds and present segments in which the Chloe character reveals strange goings-on in Smallville. These offer a clever way to add background to the episodes.
A Gag Reel spans six minutes, eight seconds. It brings the usual goofs/giggles and seems forgettable.
Season Three brings Producing Smallville, a 22-minute, 36-second featurette that involves Beeman, Welling, Gough, Millar, Rosenbaum, Schneider, Wash, Kreuk, Mack, producer Bob Hargrove, production designer David Willson, costume designer Caroline Cranstoun, key makeup supervisor Natalie Cosco, hair designer Richard Kohlen, key hair designer Christine O’Connor, 3rd AD Jen Carpenter, construction coordinator Rob Maier, director of photography Barry Donlevy, special effects coordinator Mike Walls, unit production manager Jae Marchant, co-stunt coordinator Chris Sayer, props coordinator Richard Moulner, art director James Philpott, graphics illustrator Scott Bader,
The show looks at behind the camera elements such as the work of various crewmembers. This turns into a pretty effective view of the different domains.
S3 also comes with seven more Chloe Chronicles clips. These fill a total of 22 minutes, 44 seconds. These follow the same path as those from S2 and continue to seem fun.
A Season Three Gag Reel lasts four minutes, 31 seconds and resembles the collection from S2. Yawn.
With Season Four, Being Lois Lane fills 10 minutes, 14 seconds with info from Loeb, Durance, Millar, Gough, DC Comics Senior Editor Mike Carlin, and actors Dana Delany, Noel Neill and Margot Kidder.
As expected, we get notes about the Lois character as well as the ways the various actors approached her. It’s too bad Teri Hatcher doesn’t appear, but we get some useful notes, especially from Kidder.
Behind Closed Doors spans 15 minutes, 36 seconds and involves Millar, Gough, Loeb, Peterson, Souders, Kreuk, Slavkin, Swimmer, Mack, Glover, Durance, consulting producer John Litvack, co-producer Luke Schelhaas, and staff writer Holly Harold.
We take a look at the “writer’s room” and the ways the crew generate scripts. It becomes less informative than I expected but it still provides fairly decent material.
Next comes Season Five and The Making of a Milestone, a look at the series’ 100th episode. It runs 29 minutes, 52 seconds and leads us through the process of the 100th show’s creation.
This acts partly as a “fly on the wall” view, with comments from cast and crew during the production. It delivers a nice take on the development and execution of this particular episode.
Excerpts from the Documentary Look, Up In the Sky! take up six minute, 29 seconds. I wrote about the full 110-minute version right here, so check that out for complete thoughts.
Here we hear from Neill, Kidder, O’Toole, filmmakers Richard Donner and Bryan Singer, and actors Dean Cain, Brandon Routh and Jack Larson. The “Excerpts” obviously pare down the source to the bone – so much so that this feels like nothing more than a semi-pointless teaser.
Season Six comes with The Legend of the Emerald Archer, a 25-minute, 23-second program that involves DeKnight, Souders, Peterson, Millar, Gough, Hartley, comics writers Brad Meltzer, Mike Carlin, Mark Waid, Kevin Smith, Denny O’Neil and Judd Winick, group editor Bob Schreck, comics artists Neal Adams and Phil Hester, and DC Senior VP Dan DiDio.
This program delivers a quick history of Green Arrow. We find a pretty solid overview of the character’s roots and development all the way through Smallville.
Big Fans goes for 29 minutes, 56 seconds and features Millar, Gough, DeKnight, Waid, Durance, Glover, Rosenbaum, production assistants Kendra Voth, Genevieve Sparling and Danny Lee, associate producer Mark Warshaw, WB TV publicity Susan Kesser, and various Smallville fans.
As the title implies, this one gives us a view of the series’ fans. A little of this goes a long way, so the majority of the show feels like little more than self-congratulatory fluff.
Under Smallville Legends, we get some shorts: “The Oliver Queen Chronicles” (6 chapters, 22:30 total) and “Justice & Doom” (5 chapters, 9:50 total).
“Chronicles” offers Green Arrow’s origin story told via the ugliest, creepiest CG animation in the history of the universe. Even without the horrifying visuals, this never becomes a compelling take on Arrow’s backstory, but the animation makes it unbearable.
“Justice” gives us an adventure with Arrow and some other heroes. Presented in animated comic book form, it presents much more appealing visuals, and that makes it a lot more enjoyable than “Chronicles”.
We also can watch three segments under The Making of Smallville Legends’: “Bringing the Script to Life” (2:52), “Creating Characters and Props” (3:45) and “The Animation Process” (2:31). We get notes from Warshaw, executive producer Tony Carenzo, 3D modeler Kevan Barnett, 3D props Jim Choung, environmental artist Michael Lederer—Morihisa, and character animator Mark Butler.
Unsurprisingly, these lead us through aspects of the “Queen Chronicles” production. As much as I loathe the animation, we get some decent notes here.
As we go to Season Seven, The Last Daughter of Krypton runs 17 minutes, 49 seconds and features remarks from DiDio, Millar, Gough, Szwarc, DC publisher Paul Levitz, DC Comics senior editor Matt Idelson, DC Comics group editor Eddie Berganza, DC Comics writers Elliot Maggin and Gail Simone, Dark Horse Comics executive editor Diana Schutz, DC Comics writer Joe Kelly, and actor Helen Slater and Laura Vandervoort.
We find another quick history of a character, with the obvious emphasis on Supergirl. “Daughter” delivers a solid examination, and I really like the involvement of people from outside of the comic book world, as it’s cool to hear from Slater after all these years.
Jimmy on Jimmy lasts 23 minutes, 17 seconds and offers a chat among actors Aaron Ashmore, Jack Larson, Marc McClure and Sam Huntington. All four played Jimmy Olsen, so they discuss the character and their experiences in their various projects. This turns into a very fun panel, as it’s great to see the different Olsens chat together.
By the way, since I was 11 when 1978’s Superman hit screens, McClure will always be “my” Jimmy. That said, I hope the guy lost that awful hairpiece he donned for this interview. Buddy, it you want to fool people with a wig, make it the same color as your actual (remaining) hair!
More Smallville Legends shorts come with S7, as we find “Kara and the Chronicles of Krypton”. These bring us six “mobisodes”, which are clips that come with fairly basic animation.
All together, these last 21 minutes, 22 seconds. Despite the cheap animation, these add up to a reasonably likable adventure.
With Season Eight, In the Director’s Chair goes for 19 minutes, 14 seconds and boasts comments from Mack, Freeman, Slavkin, Swimmer, Maier, Almas, executive producer’s assistant Christopher Petry, editor Andi Armaganian and director of photography Glen Winter.
Mack directed “Power” for S8, and “Chair” looks at these experiences. We do get some decnet notes, but way too much of “Chair” does little more than praise Mack, so it feels fluffier than I’d prefer.
Making a Monster spans 15 minutes, 24 seconds and delivers info from Peterson, Johns, Souders, Meyer, Septien, creature designer Bill Terezakis, and actor Sam Witwer.
“Monster” looks at Smallville’s use of the Doomsday character. It becomes a useful overview.
Season Nine offers Kneel Before Zod, a 15-minute, 12-second reel that includes comments from Peterson, Souders, DiDio, Donner, Johns, Blue, Freeman, DC Comics Group Editor Matt Idelson, DC Coordinating Editor Elisabeth Gehrlein, and actor Terence Stamp.
“Kneel” covers Zod from 1978’s Superman through Smallville. Oddly, the show doesn’t talk about Zod’s comic book origins, and that makes this a good but incomplete discussion.
Absolute Justice goes for 29 minutes, 30 seconds and includes Johns, Peterson, Souders, Scanlan, Winter, Hartley, Terezakis, Philpott, Walls, costume designer Melanie Williams, prop master Michael Holme, and actors Phil Morris, Wesley MacInnes, Britt Irvin, Jim Shield, Brent Stait, and Michael Shanks.
This program discusses aspects of the “Society” episode. It becomes a quality behind the scenes look at the production.
With Season 10, Back in the Jacket: A Smallville Homecoming spans 19 minutes, 44 seconds and provides notes from Philpott, Winter, Peterson, Souders, Nutter, Marsters, Szwarc, Glover, Durance, assistant property master Mark Black, and actor Chad Donella.
Here we look at the series’ 200th episode, with glimpses of various aspects of the production. It offers a decent overview.
The Son Becomes the Father lasts 16 minutes, 51 seconds and offers info from Rosenbaum, Glover, Welling, Peterson, Schneider, Marshall, Nutter, Souders, Chicago School of Professional Psychology Adjunct Professor Jenna Dondero, forensic psychologist Dr. James Iaccino, and Gospel According to the World’s Greatest Superhero author Stephen Skelton.
The program looks at the father/son relationships seen in Smallville. Some of this seems insightful, but it’s not a great discussion.
Finally, we find a music video for “How Do We Do” by Swank. It also features cast members Cassidy Freeman, Justin Hartley and Alessandro Juliani. It’s pretty awful.
This set comes with two bonus DVDs, and Disc One starts with A Decade of Comic-Con, a 13-minute, 32-second reel with Souders, Welling, Mack, Freeman, Morris, Loeb, Winter, Durance, Hartley, Peterson. Witwer, Smallville Official Companion Series author Craig Byrne and writer Bryan Q. Miller.
As expected, “Decade” brings an overview of the various times Smallville cast/crew appeared at Comic-Con. Like these panels, “Decade” feels fluffy.
From March 2004, Paley Fest goes for 26 minutes, four seconds and involves Beck, Beeman, Horton, Loeb, O’Toole, Welling, Gough, Millar, producers Ken Biller, Joe Davola, Mark Verheiden, composer Mark Snow and actor Sam Jones III.
“Fest” looks at a variety of different production topics through the series’ first few seasons. It spreads the wealth, so no particular participants dominate, and it turns into a pretty effective overview.
From 1961, we get the pilot for The Adventures of Superboy. It spans 29 minutes, 37 seconds and offers the only episode for a series that never aired.
As a show, Superboy seems pretty terrible, so I can’t view it as a crime that it failed to make the grade. In an annoying touch, the DVD places the show inside a frame that resembles an old-time TV, so the image fills about one-third of the screen.
Created in 2006, we also find a pilot for Aquaman. It goes for 41 minutes, 23 seconds and brings Justin Hartley - Smallville’s Green Arrow – as the lead.
The show never got picked up, so it died with this pilot. I like that this set includes it, as it offers an intriguing potential series.
A longer version of a program attached to Season Five, Making of a Milestone splits into three parts and occupies a total of one hour, four minutes, 32 seconds.
Like the program on Season Five, this “Milestone” offers a “fly on the wall” view of the production. It continues to provide a fun look at the episode’s development.
On DVD Two, Secret Origin brings a one-hour, 30-minute, 22-second documentary about DC Comics. Released on its own in 2010, I already reviewed the program right here, so I won’t detail it in this space.
To summarize, “Origin” provides a decent overview of DC’s history. However, even at 90 minutes, it seems too short to adequately cover the subject matter.
Finally, DVD includes 10 featurettes under the banner A Retrospective Look. Taken together, these fill a total of one hour, 49 minutes, 19 seconds.
Over these, we hear from Glover, Welling, Morris, Rosenbaum. Mack, Kreuk, Millar, Gough, Loeb, Nutter, O’Toole, Schneider, Beeman, Jones, Horton, Byrne, Almas, Souders, Peterson, Durance, Winter, Verheiden, Miller, Meyer, Septien, Freeman, Witwer, Blue, director Kevin G. Fair and Superman on the Couch author Danny Fingeroth.
Each program discusses each season in order. The featurettes look at the series’ development, story and characters, cast and performances, effects, photography, design and costumes, sets and locations, and related topics.
These offer pretty good recaps of the different seasons and their challenges. They complement other elements found on these discs.
Across 10 seasons, Smallville created a fairly compelling look at Clark Kent as he grew toward his role as Superman. While the series could go a little soap opera at times, it still offered a lot of solid entertainment. The Blu-rays bring generally good picture and audio along with a slew of bonus materials. Fans will find a lot to like about this appealing complete series set.