Tonight, we bid farewell to one of the most character-driven shows in sci-fi history. The story of the coming of age of a young Superman is almost complete—and we have to say it has wrapped up pretty darned well.
Pieces have been fitting together so smoothly, it's difficult to believe these story arcs weren't planned from the beginning. But the following things show that Smallville was always a work in progress, and could've ended up going in far different—and stranger—directions.
Smallville was originally about Batman
Producers initially pitched the Superman series about a coming-of-age Bruce Wayne. Nobody wanted to air a show about some kid's parents getting whacked. So producers retooled it into the Clark Kent teenage drama we know and love today.
An even better reason why the Batman series was shelved was the movies. Warner Bros. was quite concerned that a Batman teenager show would step on the toes of their upcoming Batman Begins movie franchise reboot. Frankly, that's a pretty good point: how much Batman does the WB want going at any one time? Also, we think that Clark Kent struggling to understand and harness his superpowers adds a layer of depth we can't get with Bruce Wayne.
Margot Kidder was originally the main villain of Season 4
The plan was elegant. The Lois Lane actress from the original series, who still looks pretty hot, would come on Smallville as a villain. Not just any "freak-of-the-week" villain, but a huge baddie that would take an entire season to bring down. We're sure it would have been great, if only we lived in a world where everything didn't always get derailed by awfulness.
So what happened? Tragedy. Christopher Reeve, another cherished actor who made guest appearances on Smallville, passed away. Rather than crown the legacy by having Margot Kidder make every attempt to hurt the new Superman, producers agreed that her role should be softened. So Kidder's character got steered away from her rise to villainy. Instead of Kidder, producers introduced a surprising rivalry between Clark Kent and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.
The show was originally going to be filmed entirely in Australia
We just don't see it. The lush Vancouver-filmed greenery makes the town of Smallville so eye-popping. It's hard to believe that producers could have wanted a place known for its dry stretches. But, according to Smallville: The Official Companion Season 1, Australia was the original choice for filming.
We have to be missing something, because we're just not sure how that would've worked. Lost made up for the difficulty of filming in Hawaii by using the landscape to convey a strange land. But it's not like Australia affords many of those lush, multi-tiered landscapes. We think maybe New Zealand, the location for Lord of the Rings, might have been a better choice. However, Vancouver works great. Smallville is beautiful (even if its distance from Metropolis changes in every episode).
Martha Kent was originally Cynthia Ettinger
When we say "originally," we don't mean, "she was the producers' first choice." We mean the pilot was originally filmed with Ettinger as Kal-El's
foster adoptive mom. However, Ettinger and everyone else apparently agreed that it just wasn't working. So Annette O'Toole was brought in as the new Martha Kent. All of the scenes that had featured Ettinger were refilmed with O'Toole. Hey, it's hard to figure out which actress will be most believable picking up an alien baby.
The Watchmen set became available
One good surprise happened to the series last season, when sets from the movie Watchmen became available to Smallville. The ninth season episode, "Pandora," focused heavily on Lois Lane's visions of an apocalyptic future. The true magnitude of impending doom wasn't fully presented until viewers glimpsed a magnificently devastated, bombed-out town under a red sun.
These revelations presented a big point in the season-long story arc. Clark changes his mind from fighting Zod, the villain who is to bring about this destructive future. Kent realizes the scope of Zod's power, and decides to make friends with him instead.
The whole apocalyptic future setting was insanely cool, and let us know exactly what Zod was planning to do. Zod was always meant to be the main villain, but without the Watchmen set frightening us into submission, he wouldn't have seemed half as scary.
Producers abandoned the "Freak of the Week" formula
The initial format of Smallville, with exceptions, was to introduce a baddie each episode who would be defeated by the end. Producers called this "Freak of the Week," and the show's initial success meant the formula could've lasted the entire run. It wasn't until fans cried out for more information on the human sides of Clark and Lana that producers abandoned the format. This geared Smallville directly towards the character-driven plotlines that it's known for today.
Having a bad guy to fight every week is cool, but it hearkens to the old days of children's TV shows and comic books. A sophisticated, multi-episode plot was exactly what older Superman fans were hungry for. It's impossible to know for sure how long the monster-of-the-week show would've lasted, but it's more fun to watch Clark fight the monsters of adolescence.
Batman and Wonder Woman
Smallville loves to excite fans by weaving in origin stories of other comic book characters. There have been dozens of superheroes and villains worked into the script: Green Arrow, Darkseid, the show even loves to throw out nods to Spider-Man whenever it can. But two characters who are rarely mentioned are Batman and Wonder Woman. The upcoming WW feature film created a bunch of red tape for using the lasso-wielding vixen. The aforementioned Batman film series reboot meant that the Dark Knight was hands off, as well.
So, we'll never see Clark Kent accidentally bump into Bruce Wayne. But that didn't stop writers from working in a slew of nods to these superhero legends. Gotham and its sister city Blüdhaven are mentioned as real towns on Smallville. In addition to multiple references to the Wonder Woman universe, Lynda Carter had an exciting role on Smallville. As Moira Sullivan, Carter played a woman who could mind-control those infected by meteors. That's why you should always wear a mask outside: so meteors can't fly into your mouth and infect you.
Green Arrow was almost Aquaman
Alan Ritchson made a popular appearance in the season 5 episode, "Aqua." The producers were so enchanted, they decided to make an Aquaman pilot. (But cast Justin Hartley as Aquaman, instead, go figure!) Okay, hold the bus here. Shows about young Batman and young Superman sound fantastic. But there's a point where you go from "creative backstories" to "Muppet Babies," and we think that point is Aquaman.
Networks agreed with us, as no one wanted to pick up the Aquaman show. Seriously, one has to wonder about how exasperated network execs were. Smallville producers pitch a Batman show, you reject it, so they come back with another show about ... Aquaman!
When no one wanted Aquaman on their hook, Hartley was written back into Smallville. Not as Aquaman, though (it makes you wonder when producers won't even put the character on their own show). Hartley was revealed to be the Green Arrow: vigilante and most accurate marksman of all superheroes named "Green."
Lois Lane was originally a bit character
With Lana, Lex and Clark driving the show, producers didn't feel a need to bring Lois Lane into the picture. As the story goes, they only planned to write Lois into a few episodes, as a huge nod towards Superman's future. The chemistry between actress Erica Durance and Clark Kent-portrayer Tom Welling prompted the show's makers to offer her a longer contract. Because of this, we've gotten a huge look at the early romantic tension between these two, and it's been breathtaking.
When we think about what Smallville could have been, it's kind of absurd. An Australian-set show about Batman, with Wonder Woman running around doing her best to ditch Aquaman. That's not a formula that would lead to what has become the longest-running North America science fiction show in history. No, the show wanted to showcase the younger, more human side of Clark Kent, and it did so with all the beauty of a priceless painting. Tonight the series will take a bow, and it deserves it: for it seems all the right choices were made.