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March 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Smallville - “Rosetta”  (Season 2 Episode 17) 
Review by Don Smith
Official Smallville Website: The Smallville Ledger
Our Pick For More on the Man of Steel:
www.supermanhomepage.com
Christopher Reeve's Organization: http://www.christopherreeve.org/

image © Warner Bros.

Twenty five years after playing Superman in the movies, Christopher Reeve appeared again as part of the man of steel's legend...this time as a Stephen Hawkings like physicist, confined to a wheelchair in body, but exploring the universe with his mind...and sharing what he has learned with a new generation of super-hero. I remember the tagline for the original movie..."You will believe a man can fly," and it was true; Reeves and the special effects crew took the superman special effect light-years beyond where it had been and made believers of us all. Listening to Reeves talk, I'm sure I'm not the only one who now believes that we will see him walk too.

But that may not be the most important thing about Reeve's life. Whether he walks again, and actually, he already has, using electrical stimulators, or not,  he's shown us what super-spirit looks like, how to live a full life with whatever gifts you're given. Whether you're able to jump over a tall building in a single bound or can barely hold your head up to speak..the postive, determined, indestructible nature of Christopher Reeve serves as a genuine beacon for all, and nothing could be more fitting for a man of steel. - Ed

Earlier This Season - a cave was discovered with odd markings on the walls.  According to legend, it told tell the story of a man falling to Earth with “green rocks” and developing amazing powers such as strength, speed, heat vision, and the ability to fly. The twist is, there is a hexagonal shaped hole in the cave wall, shaped like disk that powers up the space ship that brought an infant Clark Kent to Earth. 

"Rosetta"  -  Clark dreams of the cave and the hexagonal shape in the wall until he wakes up in the middle of the road.  Apparently he has been sleepwalking (or flying). Despite being warned by his Earth father, Clark decides to grab the disk, go to the cave, and see what it will do. When he does, there's a bright flash of light followed by a red and blue beam of light, which begins to download information into this head. Soon Clark finds himself scribbling an odd language and uncontrollably carving symbols into the side of his barn with his heat vision. 

Word gets around, and Clark starts receiving messages from Doctor Virgil Swann, a billionaire turned astrophysicist played by Christopher Reeve. Swann knows how to speak Clark’s newly found language, he  explains because of a radio transmission sent with Clark’s rocket, and tells Clark his birth name, home world, its fate (Kal-El, Krypton, and destroyed).  

The kicker comes when Clark and Pa Kent check the rocket over for more messages...and find out more than they bargained for about Kal-El's father's wishes for his orphaned son.

Wow!  This was the best episode of the series – hands down!  I could not believe all they packed into one episode.  The writers put in “throw away lines” about Christopher Reeve.  “He was voted ‘Man of Tomorrow’ back in 1980’s by this science magazine,” says Clark (Superman’s nickname is the Man of Tomorrow in the comic books) to the character’s name.

“The naming of Reeve's character ‘Swann’ is a tribute in itself to the late-great Curt Swan, one of the most beloved Superman comic book artists,” Steve Younis, editor-in-chief of  www.supermanhomepage.com, says in an e-mail interview. In his book, Superman the Complete History, Les Daniels describes Swan as “the key Superman artist for a generation,” starting in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.  “By his own reckoning, Curt Swan drew more Superman comics than any other artist,” says Daniels. 

However, what forced me to my feet cheering in front of the television set, was when Reeve comes into frame and simply says to Clark, “You are Kal-El from Krypton.” It just gets better when John Williams ‘Fortress of Solitude’ score (from the original “Superman” soundtrack) swells behind them. That same haunting melody plays in 1978 when a young Clark Kent leaves his mother and travels to the frozen North, where he learns of his origin from the holographic head of his father Jor-El (played by Marlon Brando).  Now in 2003, the score echoes across as a new Clark Kent learns of his origin, not from Brando but from Reeve, the man who still defines and re-defines Superman.

But the episode broke new ground as well as honoring old. I was shaken by the ending and the challenge that Clarke/Kal-El is faced. Knowing where he comes from, it seems isn't going to make where he decides to go any simpler.

As the ‘Rosetta’ episode of  Smallville proves, Reeve and Superman are still a hot property.  This year it being the 25th anniversary of  Superman – the Movie, It would be great for Warner Bros. should consider re-releasing it and maybe donate a portion of the proceeds to Christopher Reeve’s Paralysis Fund, certainly having Reeve's on the show has been a step in the right direction. According to Reeve’s website (www.christopherreeve.org) the ‘Rosetta” episode apparently has had a positive affect. 

“The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (CRPF) is thrilled to report that we received support and donations from many Smallville fans!  We would like to thank those supporters and the WB for helping achieve our mission which is committed to funding research that develops treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders,” says in an online press release. 

In the documentary “Taking Flight – the Development of Superman,” Richard Donner, director of the 1978  Superman movie, praises Reeve’s spirit and determination.  “He convinced me, when I first met him, that he would fly.  He has also convinced me he will walk again.  I have seen him fly, I will see him walk again,” says Donner.      

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