It's week two of our World Without Supergirl (that is, midseason hiatus), so we're continuing our trot down memory lane with a look at the second episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
Titled "Strange Visitor (From Another Planet)," this episode is the one where Lois and Clark first encounter Bureau 39, the clandestine government organization determined to bring Superman down -- and where Clark first learns that he's an alien from a world called Krypton.
And there were -- especially for that time and the way comic book TV was done -- a shocking number of Easter eggs. For anybody who thought maybe all that stuff was a function of the pilot, and that it would all get out of the writers' system shortly...well, maybe. But not yet.
So...what did we see? What did we miss? Read on, and comment below.
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STRANGE VISITOR (FROM ANOTHER PLANET)
Title of the episode is itself a bit of a callback. The reference reference to Superman as a “strange visitor from another planet” has been used over and over again through the years, but notably appeared in the opening to The Adventures of Superman on both radio and TV.
The same title -- minus the parentheses -- was the name for a season 1 episode of Supergirl, which dealt with the arrival of a White Martian.
In the comics, there was actually a character who briefly went by the name "Strange Visitor" and wore Superman's "electric blue" costume for a while in the late '90s and early 2000s.
In Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Clark didn't yet know who his parents were or where he came from when he elected to become Superman.
That's something that was true in John Byrne's The Man of Steel reboot, too, although there when Jonathan Kent brought Clark to the buried rocket, the rocket was still there, not stolen by the government.
As we progress through the first season, the Bureau 39 stuff and discovering the "truth" about his birth planet becomes a big plot point for Superman -- and others.
JIMMY AND LUCY
Jimmy Olsen scores a date with Lucy Lane this episode, playing out an idea that was pretty well-explored territory in the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman comics.
The pair were reliably on-again/off-again, and seemed destined to either end up together or at least for their breakup to be a big deal...until it just kind of fizzled. Eventually, writers had other things they wanted to do with both characters and much later, Lucy actually ended up marrying Ron Troupe, a new reporter who joined the Daily Planet staff during the death of Superman storyline to fill in for (a missing, presumed-dead) Clark Kent.
Their on-again, off-again romance was dealt with in more detail on season 1 of Supergirl. Funny enough, here we get Jimmy on the defensive when she makes fun of his name: "I've been thinking about going with James." It would be anothe 20 years and a whole different TV show before he got around to that.
In the episode, it's revealed that Lois Lane is working on a novel, and that idea amuses Clark quite a bit.
We can't for the life of us remember if the Lois Lane of this era was a novelist or not, but we do know that Clark Kent wrote a novel around this time in the comics -- Under a Yellow Sun, which did alright for him but also ended up on a remainder shelf at one point, a scene that gave Lois a chance to make fun of his book a little bit (not unlike the way Clark responds to the revelation that Lois is writing one at all here).
When Clark answers the polygraph control questions that he is 1) Clark Kent, and 2) Superman, Trask complains to the operator that either the machine is malfunctioning or Kent is "so mild-mannered he hasn't got a pulse."
"Mild mannered reporter" is, of course, the way Clark Kent is most frequently described, particularly going back to that The Adventures of Superman intro we referenced earlier.
"A LITTLE PIECE OF HOME"
When Cat says that Clark is looking for "a little piece of home," she doesn't realize how right she is; she figures he just misses small town life and might be seduced by her going casual and low key for the evening.
He, on the other hand, is on the trail of the truth about Krypton for the first time in his life.
Interestingly, "A Little Piece of Home" is also the title of a Superman: The Animated Series episode -- where Superman encounters Kryptonite (a literal "little piece of home") for the first time. A similar episode, coming up later in Lois and Clark's first season, was titled "The Green, Green Glow of Home."
THE ACE O' CLUBS
The fact that Clark's coffee mug features an ace of clubs playing card is likely no coincidence.
A major supporting character in the Superman titles around this time was "Bibbo" Bibbowski, a down-and-out ex-fighter who ended up a boozehound at a local tavern called the Ace O' Clubs. After winning the lottery, Bibbo bought the bar.
It can't be anything but a reference to DC's leather-clad antiheroine that Jimmy refers to Cat as "The Catwoman" after he believes she and Clark hooked up.
After all, nobody talks like that.
Just to get this out of the way:
Operation Bluebook was a real thing, and it did more or less what's implied here: it was an official government resource to look into the massive glut of UFO sightings in the late '40s and beyond. It officially closed, as Lois notes in the episode, decades ago but there continue to be conspiracy theories around it, and it's generally held that even after it was shut down, there were elements of Project Bluebook that made their way into other clandestine parts of the government.
Weirdly, that's a big part of Mark Frost's new novel The Secret History of Twin Peaks.
As far as Bureau 39, it doesn't have a direct corollary from the comics, although some fans have noted its similarities to the DEO on Supergirl, with Travis standing in for the pre-J'Onn J'Onzz version of Hank Henshaw.
Campanella, who plays Thompson in this episode (the high-ranking intelligence official murdered by Trask), was at the time making his third and final DC appearance.
In 1989, he had appeared briefly in an episode of Superboy, and then in 1993 -- one week before this episode of Lois and Clark aired -- he voiced Matthew Thorne, the Crime Doctor, in Batman: The Animated Series.
Bessolo Boulevard was one of the most frequently-referenced streets in Metropolis around this time in the comics -- something that carried over to the TV show.
It's named for George Bessolo, the birth name of the actor who would go on to be called George Reeves, who played Clark Kent and Superman on The Adventures of Superman.
"YOU REALLY DO READ MINDS"
When Superman catches Lois in midair and she declares that "you really do read minds," it's hard to read it as anything other than a wink-and-a-nod reference to the "Can You Read My Mind?" musical sequence from Superman: The Movie.
I'M HERE TO HELP
When Lois asks Superman what his mission is, his first instinct is to say "I'm here to help."
That's the kind of understatement that the "aw-shucks" Superman of the Richard Donner movies would be prone to.
In this version of the mythology, there's no Lana Lang to speak of, so when Superman learns about his alien heritage, the first person he reveals it to besides (probably) the Kents is Lois. That's worth noting, although it's not really a reference. In most takes on Superman at this point, it's Lois he first "comes out to" publicly.
There's also the "truth and justice" (nee "truth, justice, and the American way") reference in the episode, in that same conversation...
...which ends with a "this is a job for Superman" callout.
Lots and lots of representation for classic Superman catchphrases here.
This one is kind of crazy, given the timing of our retrospective.
When Lois heads back into the Daily Planet after having been rescued from the plane, she stands there for a minute talking to Perry.
Behind her, as she's talking to Perry, you can see one of the many Daily Planet newspapers mounted on the wall behind her.
In this case, the headline? "Invasion!"
That, of course, is a nod to the 1988 event miniseries from writers Keith Giffen and Bill Mantlo with artists Todd McFarlane, Giffen, and Bart Sears. That miniseries was the basis for the three-night, four-show crossover on The CW two weeks ago.
We're working on getting a better/clearer photo of the newspaper, but the one above shows you enough to recognize it, if you know what you're looking for.