Where television series are concerned, Smallville is quite an achievement. What started out as a fantasy take on the 90210 genre has survived eight seasons and matured into a multi-layered, character-driven adult science fiction spectacle. The original concept of a high school drama with a superhero as the central character may initially have made the show most appealing to teens. Yet, it could also be one of the keys to Smallville‘s longevity. Character development can make or break a series. In Smallville’s case it has been unavoidable. The central figures are living through the formative years that encompass graduation and first steps into adult life. That’s a character building transition. The show also has other things going for it, though. Its core audience has aged and grown with its characters and can relate to many of the personal issues that underlie the fantasy elements of the show. In addition, it is built upon – and has successfully acknowledged – a comic book mythology that has broad appeal, as well as a history of respected film and television incarnations that it can respectfully reference.

Numerous such references occur in Smallville’s seventh season and are chronicled in Titan Books’ latest guide to the series, Smallville – The Official Companion Season 7.  They include guest appearances in the show by Helen Slater, who played the title role in the 1984 film Surpergirl, and Dean Cain, who was Krypton’s favourite son in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.  The seventh season also had the debut of Smallville’s own Supergirl (played by Laura Vandervoort) and appearances by the DC Comics characters Green Arrow, Black Canary, Zor-El (played by Sanctuary‘s Christopher Heyerdahl, whom we’ve interviewed on CinemaSpy) and Braniac (James Marsters). In addition, there was a farewell to one of Smallville’s most complex characters, Lionel Luthor.

These appearances are described in outlines of all of the episodes of Season 7, which take up the largest portion of this 160-page softcover book. As is common in Titan’s Companion volumes, each of these outlines includes a half-page synopsis of the episode, with an additional two-and-a-half pages of background material on production issues and bringing to life the episode’s most important characters. This material is accompanied by quotes from the people involved and black-and-white pictures. Each synopsis also lists the principal cast and crew and has a sidebar with “Did You Know” snippets and, in many cases, notes about music from the episode. Some outlines also include a section on how events link to Smallville or Superman history.

Smallville – The Official Companion Season 7 also includes a Foreword by Vandervoort and an open letter to the show’s fans from creators and executive producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. This letter accompanies an article in which the pair reflects on their years running the show, which they left at the end of the season. In one of the most touching comments, Gough recalls bringing a much loved actor into the Smallville universe.

“For me, one of the highlights was working with Christopher Reeve,” Gough says. “Once we got him on the show it was like a generational passing of the torch from one Superman to the other.”

One thing this book lacked for me when compared with some of Titan’s Companions for other series (such as Stargate Atlantis, reviewed here), was enough pages dedicated to interviews with production personnel.  There is a six-page stretch in which property master Aleya Naiman and costume designer Caroline Cranstoun get a few paragraphs to describe the challenges they faced in Season 7. Executive producers and new show runners Todd Slavkin, Darren Swimmer, Kelly Sounders and Brian Peterson also discuss taking over from Gough and Millar. I would have like to have seen more material like this rather than the subsequent four pages dedicated to the actors reactions to the fans and “20 Things I Learned This Year” by Chloe Sullivan. In fairness, however, the balance of material in the book may be indicative of a desire on the part of the publisher’s to appeal to all sections of the show’s broad fan base.

If you are a fan of Smallville or the other shows for which Titan has published a Companion series (which include Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis) you know what you are going to get with this book.  Even though I am not a regular viewer of this series, I found the episode outlines and production material interesting. Concomitantly, I find myself wanting to see more of the ongoing eighth season. Some of the other material was less satisfying but it broadens this book’s appeal to Smallville’s followers and will doubtless by enjoyed by many dedicated fans.

Smallville – The Official Companion Season 7 was written by Craig Byrne. Byrne runs the unofficial Superman website, kryptonsite.com and wrote the Official Companions to seasons 4, 5 and 6 and Dorling Kindersley’s Smallville Visual Guide.

Michael Simpson is the Associate Editor of the Vancouver-based film and TV website CinemaSpy and a freelance writer on a wide range of topics (CinemaSpy; Home).

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