Smallville-The Complete First Season (2001)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Pilot: Alfred Gough,Miles Millar (Exec Prods)& David Nutter
Audio Commentary-Metamorphosis: Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Exec. Prods)
Deleted Scenes-From Pilot and Metamorphosis, with optional commentary
Featurette-Interactive Tour Of Smallville
|Year Of Production||2001|
|Running Time||886:13 (Case: 882)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (6)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4,5||Directed By||
Warner Home Video
Sam Jones III
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, mild Pepsi placement|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Smallville - Season 1 is a wonderful television series, combining the teen-angst of Dawson's Creek with the mystery of the X-Files and wrapping it all up cosily in the Superman mythology. The show follows Clark Kent through his High School years as he struggles to come to terms with his ever-increasing array of super powers, whilst facing the more mundane human trials of dating, friendship and mid-terms.
The series begins with the pilot episode, in which a meteorite shower falls on Smallville, Kansas - the Creamed Corn Capital of The World. This meteor shower forms the origin of everything that follows, shaping the lives of many of the major characters and the foes that Clark faces in battle. Jonathan and Martha Kent discover a small boy emerging from a meteorite crater in the corn fields, a trail of ash and smoke billowing behind him, as they drive back to their farm from a day in town. They take the boy under their wing, raising him as their own son and naming him Clark. During the same meteor shower, a young Lana Lang watches as her parents are killed in a fiery explosion, leaving her to be raised by her Aunt. Lex Luthor meanwhile, the redheaded son of a billionaire, is knocked unconscious by the shower...only to awaken with a (trademark) permanently bald head. And so begins an outrageously entertaining series...
This huge six disc collection presents all twenty-one episodes of the first series including the previously released pilot. There are four episodes on each of the first five discs, with just one episode on the final disc:
Smallville - Season 1 is a series with tremendously high production values. From the initial meteor shower, through each of the special effects-laden episodes, the show plays more like a Hollywood movie than a television series. The main actors - Tom Welling as Clark, Kristin Kreuk as Lana and Michael Rosenbaum as Lex are all excellent. The supporting cast includes a surprisingly good performance from John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard) as Jonathan Kent and a totally appropriate portrayal by Annette O'Toole (Lana Lang in Superman III) as Martha. The Superman story is given a proper dusting off by being set in the present day and incorporating a really rocking modern soundtrack.
The scripts allow just the right amount of exposition in each episode as Clark gradually uncovers each of his new powers. Whilst they can seem a little repetitive with a new foe appearing - and disappearing just as quickly - each week, the story arc ramps up the frustrated love triangle between Clark, Lana and Chloe to provide a little more depth and continuity. The possibility of Clark's secret identity being uncovered increases with each episode, as school newspaper reporter Chloe unwittingly edges closer to the truth behind the meteor shower, and the still benign Lex Luthor tries to discover the secret behind Clark's miraculous ability to unerringly save the day in just the nick of time. Similarly, there are witty nods to the established Superman mythology scattered throughout the series - the "S" painted on Clark's chest in the cornfield, red ambulance blankets being worn like a cape, Clark's red and blue sweater when in a rush Clark says "I gotta fly", Clark dabbles in journalism for the school paper and the list goes on. It can be great fun just spotting these references as the series progresses. This is top notch popcorn television, and will be a must-buy DVD set for fans of the television show. Highly recommended - I cannot wait for the second season to be released on DVD.
The video quality of this transfer is overall very good. From my memory of watching the series on digital television when it was originally broadcast in 2002, the transfer on this DVD collection appears to fall slightly short of that standard, however.
The series is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. This is the original (digital) televised aspect ratio.
Colours are vivid, fully saturated (occasionally verging on oversaturation) and cleanly rendered throughout the series. The glow from the green Kryptonite lights up the screen, whilst the blue skies and green cornfields look as fresh as a daisy. Colour bleeding is not a problem despite the heavily saturated colour palette and with a large number of bright red items often on the screen. Skin tones do tend towards the orange end of the spectrum, particularly on interior shots, but this often seems to be the case with US television series. Black levels are always deep and solid with sharply contrasting pure whites. Shadow detail is invariably fine.
So...all good news so far. Unfortunately, the transfer is let down slightly by some MPEG compression artefacts. There is some mildly annoying digital grain or pixelisation present quite frequently in bright backgrounds. This is a little disappointing and the larger your screen the worse it gets. On my computer monitor and 68cm television it is mildly noticeable. On my 119cm rear projection TV it is mildly annoying. If you have a large front projection system then this may become quite distracting. I gave up taking notes after the first fourteen episodes, but significant examples can be found at the following episodes/times: episode 2 at 12:30, 3 at 12:35, 5 at 5:34, 8 at 22:57, 10 at 4:05 or 13 at 10:44...I think you get the gist? Interestingly, on my set-up, for the first time the PAL progressive image seemed to make the grain worse rather than better than in an interlaced image.
Mild aliasing is also present from time to time, but it is only sporadic and never severe enough to become really distracting. Edge enhancement is a much more frequent concern and is occasionally mildly annoying. Once again, the larger your screen, the more of an issue it is likely to be. Examples can be seen as a bright halo around characters at the following episodes/times: episode 2 at 14:19, 3 at 1:29, 6 at 10:37, 8 at 23:19, 12 at 31:02 or 15 at 12:21...with similar examples to be seen in any episode you choose.
The first series of Smallville was shot on standard definition videotape, but the second season was shot in High Definition. Fingers crossed that this allows an even better transfer onto DVD for the second season.
The transfer is free from significant film (video) artefacts, with only the occasional fleeting speck cropping up, and in that respect this is a very clean transfer.
The English subtitles are legible, well timed and true to the on-screen dialogue, albeit with very minor edits for brevity. They change location on the screen to ensure that they are not obscured by the episode subtitles.
The first five discs are all RSDL formatted. I did not notice the layer change on any of them however, so I assume that the layer changes are wisely placed between episodes. The final disc is in a single sided and single layered (DVD 5) format.
The overall audio transfer is pretty good for a television show and there really are no major defects worthy of comment.
The English audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo encoded at 192 kbps, which belies the impact of the track. Sure, it would have been wonderful to have a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track, but nevertheless, this one is jolly good.
Dialogue is always perfectly clear and there are no problems with audio sync anywhere to be found.
Original music is credited to Mark Snow, and is slightly evocative of the Superman film score. The most notable music however, comes courtesy of the rocking musical numbers which feature in each episode, including songs from artists such as U2, John Mayer, Stereophonics and Weezer. Most notable is the excellent theme song Save Me by Remy Zero, which has my toes tapping every time I hear it. The band actually feature in the final episode, as they play live at the Smallville High School dance.
As might be expected for a television series, the surrounds are largely unused. The sound from the front speakers is highly serviceable with some decent panning effects. However, if you are lucky enough to possess the magic of Dolby Pro Logic II, the audio transfer can be really quite impressive. There is a nicely immersive surround presence generated, although localised effects are obviously limited.
Depending on your set-up, the subwoofer will be used to carry some redirected bass, but this series is really crying out for a thumping bass track to support the great special effects - meteors, helicopters, gunfire and explosions. The track as it stands simply does not do justice to the visuals. What wouldn't I give for a great LFE track - perhaps in Season 2?
|Surround Channel Use|
Encouragingly, there are actually a few extras available in this extensive collection:
The menus all feature video clips of the meteor shower in the pilot episode, accompanied by the great Remy Zero title song. Each episode can be played independently, or they can be played in sequence. Chapter stops can be selected for every episode (typically six each) and subtitles can be turned on or off. The following extras can also be found:
David Nutter (director) is joined by executive producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar to provide an insight into the making of the pilot and the choices made with respect to casting, creating a younger Jonathan and Martha along with discussion of the special effects. The digital effects and set design used to make a wintry Vancouver into a believably sunny Kansas are impressive. An interesting and worthwhile extra.
Once again the director and producers provide an informative commentary. They discuss the time spent on casting the lead roles, the location and sets - and reference the fact that they have snuck various Superman visual clues into the series. This is again well worth a listen and is certainly a worthwhile addition to the collection.
Running for 6:42, these seven deleted scenes from the Pilot and Metamorphosis episodes are available with or without a director's commentary. They are presented at 1.78:1 and make for interesting viewing. Audio is courtesy of a Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 192 kbps.
This is the best storyboard extra I have seen. It runs for 7:06. Each segment is introduced with titles, and the storyboard is presented with some nice overlaying of the final footage. It is presented at 1.33:1 and has a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.
This is a quaint extra, and very enjoyable, allowing you to select one of seven locations around Smallville. On selection each one plays a 1.78:1 clip from the show, accompanied by an audio commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 kbps) explaining the choice of location. The clips available are:
For once the pesky Interactual software almost works on my system. This section allows you to access Smallville.net (although the link didn't seem to connect for me), or get to a Luthor Corp network login screen. I haven't got past the password entry yet, so I'm not sure what's behind it!
The Region 1 release of this series appears to be the same as our own (bar some minor language and subtitle variations and television spots for Smallville, Fearless and Tarzan and Jane). Comments on the video defects seem to suggest that we have been given the same transfer. Buy whichever is cheaper.
Smallville - Season 1 is marvellous television. It melds a number of genres together and dresses them up in blue and red - albeit without the Lycra - with a dash of green Kryptonite thrown in for good measure. If you are a fan of the show, then this collection will be a must buy. It is a shame that the video transfer suffers from some mildly annoying compression artefacts, but do not let this deter you from making a purchase - this show is simply too good to miss. Let's hope that the second season DVD is given the perfect video and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio transfers that the storyline, acting and special effects deserve.
The video quality is generally very good, with the most significant flaw being the pixelisation present in several light backgrounds and the edge enhancement which crops up every now and again.
The audio transfer is better than expected for a television series - indeed it is hard to believe at times that it is only a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack as it can be very immersive with Pro Logic II enabled.
There are a few reasonable extras on the disc, especially the entertaining audio commentaries for the Pilot and Metamorphosis episodes.
|DVD||Harmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output|
|Display||Panasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES|
|Speakers||JensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer|