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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Superboy - The TV Series Pilot

By Rennie Cowan

There are two different versions of the TV Pilot to Superboy the TV Series. The first version is the one that originally aired on November 5th, 1988 (and was the 5th episode that aired - the Pilot was not aired before the first 4 episodes). The first version of the Superboy TV Pilot is available on the Superboy season one complete DVD set which has been distributed by Warner Brothers. However, the second version which aired much later within season one, and contained new footage is not on the season one DVD set. This second version had finished FX work that was not in the original version that is not available on the DVD set we currently have for season one. The final scene of the first version was cut out for the second version in order to make room for the new footage. You can watch the two extra scenes that appear in the second version of the TV Pilot below:

"I'm called Superboy. I fight for truth, justice and the American way...." -- John Haymes Newton, 1988 'Superboy' TV Pilot

"Countdown To Nowhere" was the pilot episode for the 'Superboy' TV series. Only twenty-four minutes long (without commercials), it successfully accomplished to introduce the three leading characters of season one: Clark Kent/Superboy (John Haymes Newton), Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk), and T.J. White (Jim Calvert). All three characters were first year college students at Shuster University in Florida. It should be noted that there are two different versions (cuts) of the original 'Superboy' pilot that was aired on television back in 1988/89. Though many have this notion that the original "cut" never aired, this is simply not the case. The original "cut" (without the Shuster Herald sequences) didn't particulary air everywhere across the world; it definitely aired in California in the USA (the webmaster of this site recorded both versions onto VHS off of television - so both versions definitely aired).

The story of the original (first version) 'Superboy' Pilot (1988): The United States Government has created an experimental laser weapon (The Laser Gun) and plan a demostration at Shuster University, Florida. Many students at Shuster join together and march against it, displaying picket signs that read "No Nukes" and "No Lasers". Clark Kent, reporter for the Shuster Herald, trails behind the peace march, covering the story and tries to interview a student excercising his democratic right to protest. T.J. White (Perry White's son), photographer for the Shuster Herald, excitedly takes photos for Clark. Lana Lang joins her friends (Clark and T.J.) and criticizes them for not protesting. Clark replies, "I don't get involved in issues, I only report them."

This photo of Clark is actually from a scene in the second version of the TV Pilot.

Lana wants to get too involved, however, and we sense that she is taking the issue too seriously. Lana continues to encourage the protest and meets up with the football team. Unbeknowest to her knowledge, the football players are a group of imposters; a group of saboteurs who plan to steal the Laser Gun from Shuster University (and sell it to an arms dealer).

A Space Shuttle launch which will occur later that day at the Kennedy Space Center (in Florida) will be the distraction they need. Lana is persuaded to help the football guys into the university building, where the laser weapon is being stored, and place a picket sign right next to it. But once inside, the team (with guns blazing) attack the security guards, drop a smoke bomb, and then bust out with the Laser Gun. Lana Lang is taken hostage during the escape in a large van.

Meanwhile, back at the demonstration, Clark and T.J. realize that the main security guard at the front entrance is simply gone. Clark uses his x-ray vision to glance inside and sees smoke flowing through the halls of the university building.

He rushes inside, breaks a locked door down with his super-strength, and then swallows the smoke with his super-breath. He helps a guard to his feet and asks him what happened. The guard explains that a group of guys dressed as football players took the Laser Gun and kidnapped Lana Lang. Clark tries to get him to remember anything that they could have said that would clue him in on where they could have taken her. There was one clue; the sabotuers mentioned that they had 20 minutes to get to the "main event".

Clark rushes outside and is about to turn into Superboy until he sees far too many people standing around campus. He stomps his feet, frustrated, realizing he'll have to wait until he can attempt to save Lana. After things cool down in the escape van, the football team changes into regular clothes and Roscoe (the Leader of the saboteurs) admits that Lana will eventually be killed. But for the time being, she would be a bargaining chip if they needed one.

Back at Shuster, in Clark and T.J.'s dorm (they are roomates), Clark and T.J. try to figure out the puzzle of the so-called "main event". What could it be? The phone rings and Clark picks it up. It's Ma Kent. She asks him, "Are you thinking of becoming Superboy?" Clark replies (lowering his voice so that T.J. won't hear him), "I don't think I have a choice." He gets off the phone with Ma Kent, and only moments later, a countdown for the shuttle launch is being premiered on the TV set. Clark and T.J. exchange excited glances with one another. The main event is the space shuttle launch! They rush out of the dorm and Clark convinces T.J. to meet him there while he goes to the authorities for help.

With T.J. gone, Clark is free to leap behind a tree where he changes into Superboy! He flies up into the sky above Shuster, heading for the Kennedy Space center. The sabotuers finally reach Kennedy Air Force Base, just outside of the space center, which is their rendevous with the arms dealer. They park the van inside a hanger bay then waltz out with the Laser Gun. Roscoe drags Lana along (with an evil grin) and decides that he wants to test the laser weapon. Lana is appalled when Roscoe fires on a group of unsuspecting American soldiers! The weapon is quite effective. Roscoe breathes victoriously, "What do you works!"

In mission control, at the space center, a radar operator discovers an unidentified flying object on the blip screens. A few moments later, that same unidentified object lands near the shuttle pad. NASA authorities are told, and causiously, they approach the unidentified flying object; a young man dressed up in red and blue tights (with an "S" on his chest). "Who are you!?" Yells out one authority. Superboy folds arms like a superhero and seriously pronounces, "I'm called Superboy. I fight for truth, justice, and the American way."

A helicopter lands near the hanger at the air base (for Roscoe's rendevous). Roscoe and his gang prepare to take flight until Lana wiggles free from Roscoe's grip and runs for her life. Roscoe pursues after her and eventually tackles her to the ground. He sheepishly slaps her clear across the face. Lana screams! The scream echoes loud enough for Superboy to hear it (with his super-hearing). Superboy takes flight again, leaving the NASA authorities and they are baffled.

Lana gets strapped down to a seat inside the helicopter before the helicopter rises to the sky. After it gains high altitude, Roscoe notices a red and blue flying object approaching. Superboy reaches the helicopter and Roscoe yells, "He's after us!" Lana corrects him, "No, he's after you!" Roscoe laughs, "Not anymore." He pushes Lana out of the helicopter and she drops down through the clouds. Superboy averts his attention and swooshes out to catch her. Roscoes laughs again, believing he'd gotten rid of the flying boy.

As Lana spins in the air, Superboy gently scuttles her up into his arms. Lana's eyes widen in disbelief (and awe). She tells him: "Whoever you are, wherever you came from, thank you!" Superboy smiles and takes her softly to the ground where T.J. just happens to be waiting for Clark.

T.J. rushes up to Superboy to ask for an interview. Superboy smiles again, "Excuse me." He heads back to capture the sabotuers. T.J. asks Lana who the flying person was. Lana is still a bit awe-struck, "He said he was called...Superboy." With some serious afterthought, she adds: "He reminds me of somebody."

Superboy returns to the helicopter, but Roscoe powers up the Laser Gun and uses it against him. Superboy deflects the laser bolts with his hands. Roscoe is dumbfounded, "I don't believe this guy!" He shoots more laser bolts at Superboy but obviously, Superboy is unaffected by lasers and reaches the landing rigs of the chopper. With his super-strength, he steers the chopper downward, angling it back to the air base. Roscoe is amazed. Knowing he's been defeated, he puts down the laser weapon and raises his arms in the "I-give-up" position.

Superboy veers the chopper to the landing pad of the air base where several military authorities are waiting. The saboteurs are taken into custody. Superboy salutes a General, then heads back into the sky.

Lana and T.J. idly sit outside where Superboy had dropped off Lana earlier (waiting for Clark). Just some distance behind them, Superboy quietly flies down behind a bush and changes back into his Clark Kent clothes. He then jogs, with an awkward gate, to met up with his good friends Lana and TJ. Immediately, Lana hugs him and begins to babble on about this Superboy-guy who saved her. Lana exclaims: "Oh! He was so incredible and so unreal!" A sly grin appears on Clark's face. He looks at the camera (directly at us, the audience) and quietly adds, "I'm sure he is."


There are two versions of the 'Superboy' TV Pilot:

There are two different versions of the 'Superboy' Pilot. Let it be noted, that the SECOND VERSION IS NOT ON THE CURRENT DVD RELEASE PUT OUT BY WARNER BROTHERS in 2006. Unfortunately, the only way to view this alternate Pilot episode is by bootleg fan copies/or youtube (the net). The original version is the story you just read. It aired on November 5th of 1988. The second version was actually a repeat of the original footage from the Pilot (with the last scene cut out), that aired in early 1989. But it was a re-telling of the story (by Lana herself) with a slightly different slant. Rather than simply repeat the pilot on the air, the Producers decided to shoot two more short scenes in which Lana would lead the audience into the first story of the PIlot. The second version to me makes more sense because the original Pilot didn't air first anyway. And some of the FX was not finished, but for the second version, it was finished.

The new scenes took place at The Shuster Herald (the offices of Clark's school paper). T.J. was setting up for a photography shoot of Superboy who was due in at any moment, and ironically, Clark was going to do the interview but made up the excust of stepping out to get a cheeseburger. Clark made an excuse to leave the room and T.J. and Lana were left alone. That's when Lana reflects on the first day Superboy saved her, which leads us into the original story of the TV Pilot.

The episode title was still called "Countdown To Nowhere" and interestingly enough, about 3 extra minutes of footage was cut to fit in the two extra scenes. For the most part, it was merely a shorter version of the original Pilot. The helicopter sequences were shorter (cut tighter), and some of the music was mixed differently. An FX shot was added in with an old shot that really didn't make sense before. There was a shot of the roof-top of Clark's dormatory with the sky as a background. Obviously, in the original Pilot, it is fair to assume that the FX team didn't have the time to add Superboy into the background (as he flew away to save Lana). But in the second version, we finally get to see Superboy flying past the dorm rooftop and we realize exactly what this original shot meant.

After Superboy saved the day, the flashback ceases and we are back at The Shuster Herlad, we see Lana with a glazed look in her eyes. Superboy is ready to have his picture taken until he senses danger. He splits (leaves the photo shoot) and the next thing we know is that Clark appears in the hallway, only miliseconds after Superboy zips past the screen. Lana and T.J. tease him about missing Superboy in person (like always). Ha. Ha. So what else is new?

This is a clip from the first version of the Superboy TV Pilot. If you notice, there is a shot after Clark turns into Superboy and flies off where all you see is the empty portion of the top of a building. In version two, we actually see Superboy fly away out of the building. The FX work wasn't finished for the first version of the Superboy TV Pilot.

SPECIAL NOTE: According to the tie-in comic book "Superboy: The Comic Book' issue #1, Superboy made his first appearance on the first day of school at Shuster University. It was about an alien who lived inside of a metoerite and it had clued Superboy in on the idea (or knowledge) that he could be a lifeform from another planet as well. In the Superboy TV Series, Superboy/Clark never found out his real heritage and he didn't know he was from Krypton. This was consistent through the entire series.

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