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The Complete 7th Season

Out of the ashes of last year's Writers' strike, one show managed to be almost invulnerable. Though slightly truncated by months off, Smallville still managed to get twenty episodes produced and reach a reasonably satisfying cliff-hanger and farewell to its founding producers, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar.

The Season Seven DVD set of course gathers those episodes, but also has a pretty classy farewell letter from the original producers to fans (a new team carries the current eighth season - and perhaps a ninth). And though Smallville itself can be a maddeningly uneven series, this set serves as a reminder that it has always been respectful to its fans and the heritage it carries.

That's not just proven by a good featurette on the history of Supergirl. In fact, that one does tend to lean toward legitimizing the version portrayed on the show by Laura Vandervoort. It's that Helen Slater, the movie Supergirl, shows up in season 7 portraying Kal-El's mother, Lara. (And looking strangely like the last big screen Lara, Susannah York.)

Slater's co-star in Supergirl, Marc McClure, guests as a Kryptonian scientist, while also sitting in on a great roundtable discussion of most of the living Jimmy Olsens. Having original TV Jimmy Olsen Jack Larson sit down with his heirs, McClure (Richard Donner's Superman), Sam Huntington (Superman Returns) and Smallville's Aaron Ashmore, works better than you'd think. The conversation flows easily, and all of the actors seem genuinely grateful to have enacted a part of the myth.

Though I'm still waiting for Gerard Christopher from the Superboy series to play a part on Smallville, Lois and Clark's Dean Cain gets his nod playing a character not unlike Vandal Savage, even if for whatever reason the show decided not to call him that.

And therein lies the strength and the weakness of Smallville. On a weekly basis, it's a pleasant enough dip into the DC Universe, and on a good week, it's pretty fun. Those who haven't read a lot of Superman comics (like star Tom Welling) get to accept every new character at face value. The rest of us agonize over changes in characterization and continuity -- Bizarro's as smart as Clark? --, and almost sprain our eyes rolling them every time Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) flips moral alignments.

Weekly, that's probably not as annoying. In a DVD set, however, with which you're more likely to watch clusters of episodes, the demands of soap opera really start wearing thin. Characters have relationship problems either easily caused or fixed depending on the need to stretch some drama out over several episodes. Lex Luthor (the underrated Michael Rosenbaum) purses his lips and whines about how Clark Kent keeps hiding something from him.

And then you get an alternate reality episode. Or the appearance of the still-luminous Slater. Then all is forgiven until the next time an episode does something to annoy you.

Yet Season Seven really does have more than a fair amount of great moments. The Supergirl stories are really no more confusing than the last two years of the character's comic book, and any time the show finds an excuse for James Marsters to show up as Brainiac - even though he doesn't look a thing like the comic book character - it's a very good thing.

Season Seven also gets closer to the Superman in Metropolis mythos people have waited for. Though I do think the producers are now personally taunting me by not having Clark fly, watching Smallville does remind me of why I love the character so much.

Not even a shortened season can hurt the Man of Steel.

Smallville - The Complete Seventh Season

Derek McCaw

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