In almost every screen version of the Superman story, at some point an alien race that should damn-well know better than to ruin their planet RUINS THEIR PLANET and the smartest scientist among them puts his only child in a rocket and crosses his fingers that he isn’t raised by assholes. All of these scenes come with their own interprutation of the rocketship infant Kal-El journeys in. However, even taking all others into consideration, the Lois & Clark spaceship is bar none the coolest of them.Warning: If you’re easily bored by one geek’s obsession with a large piece of fiberglass with an “S” on it, look away now!
It’s a very strangely shaped prop. The piece has two, egg-shaped “eyes” with a rounded front and curved wings. A ridge runs along the center and spills out into the iconic “S,” with some Kryptonian gibberish etched into either side for good measure. Unlike the film versions, this ship is a practical size for transporting an infant and thanks to its bright metallic blue color, is consistent with the unabashed whimsy and fun the show is dependent on. While I’ve never been able to get anyone to claim involvement with designing or creating it, the ship is vaguely reminiscent of the Kenner Superman Spaceship toy produced in the 80’s.
Though Superman only arrived on Earth in one spaceship, it is my belief that three different props were created for use on the show. Two of these are incredibly similar in appearance, while the third differs significantly for no good reason.
This ship is first seen in the second episode of the series, “Strange Visitor,” when Clark and Lois break in to Bureau 39’s secret warehouse. It is also seen several episodes later in “Green Green Glow of Home” (both episodes written by Bryce Zabel. Coincidence?) when Bureau 39’s resident crazy, Jason Trask, reveals that he has brought the ship back to Smallville just for funsies.
“Foundling” is the first episode on which we see the ship actually open so that Jor-El and Lara can place a real, employed human child in the thing before they close it up. This prop is then slightly reworked to attach the eyes permanently to the ridge for my personal favorite episode, “Tempus Fugitive” and also appears in “Home Is Where the Hurt Is.” While the design is basically spot on with Ship 1, I believe this ship to be different for three main reasons.
- Ship one has no place to put the navigational globe that Jor-El places on the ship in “Foundling.”
- Size matters. Especially when a prop team creates a perfectly cool looking spaceship out of solid foam and fiberglass and doesn’t realize that a few episodes down the line a script would call for them to fit an actual child in the thing. Though Ship 1 is a pretty big prop, judging from screen caps, episode stills, and behind the scenes footage, it is a few inches smaller than the second iteration.
- Functionality. The second ship is made to open, and as such there is a seam in the ridge to allow the piece to fold up. From what I can tell, there is no such seam on Ship 1.
Oh my God, you’re still reading? Are you okay? See me after…
Last and least, the bastard child of Kryptonian space travel, Ship 3 was used in the season three finale “Big Girls Don’t Fly,” and is the last ship to be seen on screen in the series. The reason? Well, according to urban legend, prior to filming this episode Ship 2 was removed from the Warner Brothers lot. Whether this is true, or it was damaged, somewhere between the 11th and 22nd episode of the third season, something happened to Ship 2 that made it necessary for the prop team to redesign the ship for it’s final appearance.
Ship 3 doesn’t even seem complete when it is on screen and varies so greatly from its predecessors that is feels more like an abstract interpretation than a faithful replica, likely because the original piece was no longer around to base any new props on. Sure, there is a small story element that may have been the cause for the change. In the scene, Clark and Zara place their hands on the ship to learn their destiny. However, it seems unlikely they would redesign the entire ship for this one small element.
So there you have it. Everything I know about the ships. I would love to now present you the wonderful behind the scenes information I have found on the prop, but sadly, there is none! After tons of searching, emailing, and begging I have yet to come up with a single person who remembers the pieces or knows of one that still exists. I’m dying to know what happened to these pieces so the search will continue until I can find something.
I would also love to find the time, resources, and space to make a legitimate replica of this prop. I made one several years ago with the help of my father, a wise man, though that one is about as abstract as Ship 3. Really more a proof of concept for when we can really find the time and put one together.
Til then, the search lives on and the adventure continues! Thanks for reading, and on the slim, slim chance you have information that could be helpful to the search, there is a lifetime of Thank You’s and praise waiting for you after you SEND ME AN EMAIL!
Thanks For Reading!