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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Smallville 1x01

Next up: Barely post-puberty would-be Superman discovers teenage angst.

What we have here is a 65-Page First Draft written by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar, dated December 20, 2000 (download here).  This draft comes complete with a Prologue and four acts (9/16/16/14/10).

As far as first drafts go, this isn't half bad -- Mr. Millar and Mr. Gough really try to cram a whole heck of a lot into 65 pages... and I think that's where my complaints with this script really start.

The first 10 pages are actually quite strong here.  We see the meteors, along with Kal-El's ship, rocketing in the depths of space toward Earth, we're introduced to the Kents, the Langs and the Luthors and we have the fateful moment where, in the comics, the Kents find a spaceship and a baby boy in a small field.  In this pilot, the spaceship grazes Jonathan and Martha Kent's truck, sends them rolling and a 3-year-old Kal-El finds them and saves them (by tearing the door off the truck).

It's destiny.

And it's a great start.  But then we jump forward 12 years.  Kal-El, now 16-year-old Clark, is a freshman in high school.  He's all teenager-y and full of angst, especially about this feeling that he has that he's just not 'normal' (aka, welcome to puberty, kid).

Of course, considering how he then spends the next few pages running side-by-side with a school bus though a corn field (ow. ow. ow.) the whole thing just seems sort of moot.  He's markedly, obviously not like everyone else.  Even his dad makes quiet warnings about why he can't join the football team -- and Clark talks about running at half-speed and not hitting anybody.

That said, there is, however, an interesting moment that comes after a young Lex Luthor accidentally slams his Porche into Clark and sends them both careening off a bridge and into the water.  Clark saves Lex (by peeling the roof off the car like a sardine can) then realizes that he should be dead... and then faints.  Essentially, realizing all of his internal fears have come true, that he's not normal.  It's kind of a nice point to note that Clark's first 'heroic' save is his future nemesis.  I'm sure that fact is not lost on the writers.

Getting back to my main complaint, this draft really doesn't seem to know what it wants to be.  The first half is almost a character study of young Clark and his friends while the second half is a 'monster of the week' type of tale, but played very broad.  To their credit, they do seed the bad guy in right in the first 10 pages of the script... but then, 30 pages later it's like "Remember that kid from the first 10 pages? Well, he's back and he can electrocute people!!"

The monster-stuff is easily the weakest part of this script but it's well offset by the relationship here that Clark has with his father.  Right off the bat we can see that there's a connection there, a mutual respect.  It is, by far, the strongest element here -- which is good because it goes on to become a cornerstone of the early seasons.

*cough* so I hear *cough*

The script itself clips along at a decent pace and sets up the world and the rules pretty quickly -- even establishing, rather cutely, Clark's allergy to Kryptonite.  It turns out that Lana Lang, Clark's first crush, wears a piece of the meteorite that killed her parents around her neck.  He's already a nervous wreck around her, but add in the power-sapping of the Kryptonite and he's basically a weak, sweaty doofus.

It's a pretty clever way to work that in.

There are also a few fun bits where Clark starts to get access to snippets of his other abilities -- finding out he's got X-Ray vision, and can see into the girl's locker room, at a rather inopportune time.

On a technical point, there's a technique here that, while I've seen it done in other scripts, it gets used here almost to the point of annoyance.

Using a whole separate line to draw

ATTENTION

To the one thing you really want people to look at.

It's a useful tool to have, but this script just goes wild with it -- literally, it happens eight times on the first page.

Over here we see a flaming

SKULL

That streaks across the sky and the crashes into a

HELICOPTER

That

EXPLODES

Okay, okay, I'm being facetious here but it does start to get old pretty fast.

Just sayin'.

All-in-all, there are some cute moments in this script and some nice nods to established canon however the 'what you're coming back to see every week' part of the script feels sort of tacked on in comparison to everything else.  That said, this is a first draft... who knows how much this thing changed before it made its way to air?

Tomorrow I'll be checking out Community 1x01 - Pilot.

I originally wasn't a fan of this show when I first saw it, but a lot of people have told me that it's insanely good now.

Knowing that, I almost feel bad that I'm reading the pilot.

Until tomorrow!

Cheers,
Brandon

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