Season 2 Episode 17


Aired Friday 8:00 PM Feb 25, 2003 on The CW
out of 10
User Rating
779 votes

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Episode Summary

Clark travels to New York to meet Dr. Swann, a brilliant scientist who holds a message for Clark from his home planet. Meanwhile Lana decides to move out of Chloe's house after they get into an argument about Clark.

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  • this was a good ep

    in this ep of smallville clark goes to the cave to put the thing in and he becomes a rosetta stone like thing for the kryptoiana langugae and he can now read the symbols and lex is trying to figure out why he can now read them except he shoots a symbol on the barn and its hope .and everyone the news and everything are taking stories cloey gets inerested and clark says it was just a prank. and clark keeps getting these weried emails and a package and he goes to see doctor swan and he comes alone and doctor swan show him a message from that he got from space and its in the krptoyan language clark walks away and the then swan says you walk out that door you will never see the second message clark comes back and he finds out more info and how his planet was gone. and then also in this ep the scientist that lex hired goes and finds the key to put into the slot and he gets put into a koma.and was over loaded with information.moreless
  • Clark finally learns where he came from, via Dr. Virgil Swann (Christpher Reeves).

    Rosetta is by far one of the best episodes Smallville has ever produced. This is one of my favorite episodes of any show I've ever seen. Even though they waited till Season 2 to reveal to Clark where he came from, they couldn't have done it any better then here.

    Having Christopher Reeves, who portrayed the Man of Steel in 4 feature films, be the one to tell this incarnations Clark where he came from is a touch of brilliance on the shows part and it's something that if you think about couldn't be topped in any other way. One of my favorite moments in the episode, and the series, is when Swann reads the message from Jor-El to Clark. In the backround the trumpets can be heard playing the Superman theme song from the movies. A very nice touch to a truly amazing episode.moreless
  • Clark is lured to the caves by high-pitched tones, but Lex and Dr. Walden suspect Clark of knowing much more. Christopher Reeve appears for the first time as Dr. Swann, who has a special message for Clark.moreless

    In the caves, a hovering Clark (learning to fly?) inserts a key into a glyph, and in a flash of light he comes to in the middle of a dark Route 8, almost run over by Lex in his Porsche 911. Was it a dream about the cave calling him?

    Dr. Walden and Lex dispute how to deal with the caves. Clark alone hears a high-pitched tone, leading him to the key in the barn, now intensely bright - Clark must go back to the cave. As the key inserts itself, a strong beam is activated through Clark, then Dr. Walden and Lex discover him unconscious again.

    Lana violates Chloe's trust when she discovers the Chloe-Clark prom photos on the Torch iMac, continuing a higher level of tension between the two. Back at the Kent farm, Clark's heat-vision suddenly becomes erratic, burning a Krypton symbol on the barn. Hard to hide that one when Chloe's right there, but no one tries to discourage her from writing a story on it.

    Lex discovers Clark's Krypto-doodles, and suggests to Dr. Walden that Clark "might be the Rosetta Stone we're looking for." Clark inexplicably waits until Chloe's new article is published, then he scolds her, so here's some weakness in the story line.

    Christopher Reeve, appearing in the series for the first time as Dr. Virgil Swann, sends a Krypton-script message to Clark reading, "I'm a friend." Back in the cave, Dr. Walden finds the key imbedded in the cave wall, inserts it and suffers a nasty reaction just as Clark arrives - leaving Walden hospitalized in a catatonic state.

    Another message from Dr. Swann is from Room 54, 939 W. 54th St, New York, presumably the New York Planetarium, according to Chloe. She's onto something, but encourages Clark to visit Swann, and Jonathan and Martha's misgivings are set aside as they agree to let Clark go. How odd to see one of the best Superman film actors greet Clark with "Hello Clark, I've been expecting you." Swann's deciphered message from space reads, "This is Kal-El of Krypton, our infant son, our last hope. Please protect him and deliver him from evil." Swann delivers a theme which runs through the entire Smallville story - "You must write your own destiny, Kal-El." Fom this revelation, Clark feels totally alone.

    Jonathan and Clark activate the spaceship - it opens - Clark inserts the main control panel, and a message appears from his father - he was sent to rule the earth. But Jonathan reassures him about free will. Tom Welling and Reeve make a post-script appeal for the Christopher Reeve paralysis foundation. This is an important episode, both for Clark's development and for the historical value of Reeve's appearance. Re-run rating B+.moreless
  • Passing of The Cape

    Rosetta-Clark travels to New York to meet Dr. Swann, a brilliant scientist who holds a message for Clark from his home planet. Meanwhile Lana decides to move out of Chloe's house after they get into an argument about Clark.

    A true milestone episode for Smallville and one for the old and new generations of Superman fans to cherish! "Rosetta" features the long anticipated appearence of Superman legened himself, Christopher Reeves. Hard to believe that Christopher almost turned down his guest spot as he wasn't impressed at first with Smallville's take on the Superman mythologu, but luckily he reconsidered and came on to the show to create one of the most memorable moments in TV history.

    Who could forget the scene where Dr. Swann shows Clark the message his father sent him? Finally Clark finds out about Kryption and learns that his Kryptonian name is Kal-El. Christopher Reeve is expectional throughout as Dr. Swann and the character fits the story perfectly. Tom Welling holds his own against the iconic actor and gives a wonderful performance as Clark's anticipation over finding about who he is builds. The Superman score playing behind that scene was so moving and very inspiring. I love the use of the Kryptonian language and the caves, especially how Clark uses the octagon key to gain the knowledge of the Kryptonian. the scene in which Clark unknowlingly creates the Kryptonian word for "hope" on the side of the barn is haunting and well played. Also, there's a creepy development as Dr. Walden, falls under a strange atatonic state after using the key. The way his eyes look so demonic during his state is errie and makes you wonder what will happene to the character.

    There is also a sub-plot with Lana and Chloe as Chloe finds Lana looking through her stuff. It's petty storyline that just gets lost in the brilliance of the rest of the episode. "Rosetta" isn't just a classic episode for Smallville, it was a TV even that brought tons of old and new fans together to watch one Superman pass down all his wisdom and legacy over to the next. Complete Perfection!moreless
  • This episode was one of the best so far in Smallville. I loved it.

    There are two things that made me love this episode so much, the first one is the presence of the great Christopher Reeve as a perfectly made tribute for the great work he did portraying Superman. The second one is to actually hear the Superman score several times.

    Being that said, I really liked this one because Clark finally learns that he comes from Krypton and his name is Kal-El. We all know that, but he didn't so far. And also, for what we see in next episode, he learns that the "meteor rocks" are actually kryptonite. Also, he can read kryptonian now. It's cool to finally be able to call the things by their names. There's still a lot that Clark needs to find out about his roots, he doesn't know yet that Krypton has exploded, or that his parents are called Jor-El and Lara-El, but I hope that will come soon.

    Another great piece of this episode was the revelation that Jor-El sent him to Earth to become his ruler. The part that Jonathan tells him that he's his kid and he knows him more than anybody, that he's a force of good, it's great. And it's completely in line with the Superman mithology, he wouldn't be so noble if it weren't for the education that the Kents gave him.

    A really really good episode.moreless
Tom Welling

Tom Welling

Clark Kent/Kal-El of Krypton

Kristin Kreuk

Kristin Kreuk

Lana Lang

Allison Mack

Allison Mack

Chloe Sullivan

Michael Rosenbaum

Michael Rosenbaum

Alexander ('Lex') Joseph Luthor

Sam Jones III

Sam Jones III

'Pete' Ross

Annette O'Toole

Annette O'Toole

Martha Clark Kent

Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve

Dr. Virgil Swann

Guest Star

Rob LaBelle

Rob LaBelle

Dr. Fredrick Walden

Guest Star

Barclay Hope

Barclay Hope


Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (24)

    • Trivia: Clark's e-mail address is, and Virgil's is

    • The website to which both Virgil Swann and Clark Kent have their e-mail addresses registered is The site, however, is actually a web design firm, and do not offer e-mail accounts to the general public.

    • Lex wakes Clark in the cave, advises him to go to the hospital, then says he doesn't want him down in the cave alone. Except why doesn't Lex just offer him a ride?

    • Clark and Jonathan stop hosing the side of the barn, everybody stands in a line to look at the barn, then we see the Kryptonian symbol still burning. Why didn't they finish putting it out?

    • Moments before he is blasted into a coma, Dr. Walden finds 'the key' imbedded in the cave wall. Watch carefully as he struggles and then pulls it free. The cave wall... wiggles.

    • When at the hospital Lex asks Clark whether he is going to open the letter, even though it's clearly a personal letter. Despite that, Clark tries to claim it's junk mail.

    • How does Chloe know that the emails are for Clark, when all she can see is Swann's name and urgent in the subject line. Nothing indicates that it is for Clark, we only know this after opening the email. But Chloe apparently hasn't opened it before, since she is surprised to find it there ("what's this?").

    • The line that Pete says when he leaves the Torch office is horribly dubbed. He says, "Is it? Later", as he turns around, and he's not even moving his lips. Furthermore, his voice should be somewhat less clear since he's not facing them and headed into a hallway with noisy people getting out of class.

    • Why does Chloe have personal files on a computer that's pretty much open for anyone to use? Even though she's editor of the Torch, the computer in the office isn't for her sole use, so why would she keep so many files on it?

    • In "Rush" Lex tells Dr. Walden that Clark Kent is to be granted full access to the caves at all time. In this episode, however, Walden is confused how Clark got around the guards to get into the caves. Obviously, doc, they let him in like Lex asked.

    • From the first shot of Lex's car going at full speed, it seems very unlikely he could have braked in time to stop just inches short of Clark, as we see in the second shot.

    • On the cover of The Torch the headline says "Burning Question - Alien or Arsonist" but there's no question mark to make it a question.

    • In the opening sequence you can pretty clearly see the back-wire supporting Tom Welling in the air in the first shot where you see his entire body from the side.

    • Swann speculates that "war, famine, disease" may have made Krypton disappear - how do the latter two make a planet disappear?

    • Chloe mentions all of Swann's accomplishments and much of his life history, but doesn't say anything about the fact he's a quadraplegic or how he became that way - this seems a little odd (it's hard to tell if Clark is surprised to see him in a wheelchair when he arrives at the planetarium). It's a nice statement by the writers, but it seems a little unrealistic.

    • Why does Swann send his initial e-mail for Clark to Chloe? All she did was take the photos - why does he risk bringing her in without knowing she may or may not know Clark personally? Clark has his own e-mail address, you can look such things up on the Internet, and Swann had Clark investigated extensively anyway, so why didn't Swann just contact Clark directly from the get go? (Chloe later gives Clark Swann's history but she may have done it on her own without Clark telling her he contacted Swann himself.)

    • Maybe high schools let students skateboard through the halls (as we see one kid do as Clark & the gang talk about their family trees) but would the famed Principal Reynolds that we saw in "Redux" (and is still there according to more recent episodes) let them get away with that kind of stuff?

    • The delivery boy's claim that Smallville is a "small town" and Clark was easy to find is kinda goofy - it had a population of 45,000 according to the premiere episode and the Smallville Soundtrack. You try finding someone in a town of 45,000 people when they're just hanging out at a hospital visiting someone with no indication that someone told anyone where they were going.

    • Swann says that he traced the signal for "millions of miles" (or maybe "billions" - it's hard to tell). Either way, that wouldn't even let him track it out of the solar system, much less to another star. A single light year is 5,865 billion miles, and the closest star (Alpha Centauri) is four light years away. Why doesn't Swann just say "light years"? (Some contributors thought Swann was referring to a British Billion, which is a 1 followed 12 zeros and would be a little closer to the possible 13 light years away Krypton might be if Clark's ship traveled at light speed. However, Swann is American, Reeve was born in New York City, and the conversation is with Clark who probably wouldn't know what a British Billion is, so this seems kinda unlikely.)

    • Clark makes to leave after calling Dr. Swann's name only once (with the excuse "What am I doing here?"). Why would he leave after so pitiful attempt at finding his quarry when he's come all the way to New York for this? Even superspeeding it's quite a trip.

    • If Clark wants to avoid his parents or Chloe seeing him contact Swann, why does he sneak off to his barn and use a laptop? He says it's so Chloe isn't looking over his shoulder - does she really have the only computer in Smallville? Even if every other computer (besides Lana's) at Smallville High is out, can't Clark go to the public library or something?

    • Where was Clark between when Lex found him in the middle of Route 8 in near-pitch darkness and when he walks into the Kent household in pretty broad daylight?

    • Where would Lana go if she left? Didn't her aunt move out of town? Or is Lana planning on moving to Metropolis and abandoning The Talon?

    • The space ship opens up when Clark puts the key in...yet every other time someone puts the key in, it powers up, turns white, and does its healing thing (editor's note: except in "Tempest", where it did a great deal more). Granted, it might only do that if people who need healing are in the proximity. Or it might have opened up instead of its healing mode because of the key...but it seems inconsistent. (editor's note: one viewer noted that Clark may have put the key in symbol-side down, and thus differently than before)

  • QUOTES (17)

    • Clark: (to Pete, referring to a family tree assignment) Why are you so excited about this?
      Pete: Because it's gonna be a piece of cake.
      Chloe: Yeah, because your family's been in Smallville since the Jurassic era.
      Pete: What are you so worked up about?
      Chloe: There's just so many variables to take into account, like what if your mother abandoned you? Is that branch of your family tree technically cut off?
      Lana: Yeah, and what if your biological father comes back into the picture? Which family do you claim?
      Clark: What if you're adopted?
      Pete: Hey, okay, I get the point. But is it my fault that I'm part of a nuclear family?

    • Chloe: You know what, Clark? This is one time Lana doesn't need you to come to her rescue.

    • Jonathan: Clark Kent, you're here to be a force for good, not a force of evil.
      Clark: How can you be so sure?
      Jonathan: Because I am your father. I raised you, and I know you better than anyone.

    • Clark: It was probably just a prank.
      Chloe: Or maybe aliens thought crop circles were passé, so they moved to barn burning.

    • Chloe: For us, the nuclear family was nuked years ago.

    • Clark: I told him I was sleepwalking, but I'm not sure how much walking was involved.

    • Lex: Looks like we've been abandoned.
      Lana: Story of my life.

    • Clark: How's Mom feeling?
      Jonathan: Pregnant.

    • Lana: You're a lifesaver.
      Chloe: Of course.

    • Swann: (to Clark) You won't find your answers by looking to the stars. It's a journey you'll have to take by looking inside yourself. You must write your destiny, Kal-El.

    • Clark: Why are you doing this to me?
      Swann: We all have our windmills, Clark - I need to know I'm right.

    • Chloe: Why is this guy so interested in you, Clark?
      Clark: He's not interested in me - he's interested in my...umm, barn.

    • Walden: Lex, I may decipher ancient languages, but cryptic phone calls don't amuse me.

    • Swann: The one thing I've learned about science is the value of faith.

    • Swann: You're probably wondering why a billionaire scientist lives in the back office of a planetarium.
      Clark: It had crossed my mind.
      Swann: I find it peaceful. Besides, I own the building.

    • Clark: You can't protect me all your life!
      Jonathan: I'm not ready to give that up yet!

    • Clark: Can I tell you a secret?
      Lana: That would be a first.

  • NOTES (16)

    • Christopher Reeve played Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El in four films during the 70s and 80s.

    • Although credited, John Glover doesn't appear in this episode.

    • Music: "The Scientist" by Coldplay, "Satellite" by Kid Lightening, "Leaving Town Alive" by Pancho's Lament, and "Nuclear" by Ryan Adams.

    • This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

    • Smallville producers used the same Kryptonian writing/language as the Superman comics did long ago. DC Comics provided it to the Smallville staff.

    • The scenes with Dr. Swann were shot on the set of Third Watch.

    • When the key is placed in the cave wall, the symbols on it glow in red, yellow and blue - the colors that comprise Superman's costume.

    • In the initial airing and subsequent easy-view reairing, the show's creators air a brief ad promoting Christopher Reeve's Paralysis Foundation and filmed with Tom Welling and Christopher Reeve making a joint plea. It is also on the DVD release of the episode.

    • The "I will be with you all the days of your life" message that Clark translates from his father echoes a line that Jor-El (Marlon Brando) says in the Superman '78 movie. Purportedly it was a line Brando wrote himself (according to the movie's DVD commentary).

    • For the first time we find out Clark's real/alien name ("Kal-El") and planet of origin ("Krypton") in this episode - both, of course, are long-standing parts of the Superman mythos.

    • The description of Dr. Swann as "The Man of Tomorrow" is another in-joke reference to a common nickname for Superman in the comics (and one they used to describe Clark last year in "Drone").

    • On the cave walls and in Swann's laboratory we see the traditional Superman "S"-and-crest symbol that Superman wears on his chest. There's an infinity symbol (rather then a "S") with the crest on the key itself. Also, the opening that the beam fires out of is the same five-sided crest shape.

    • Little music clips from John Williams' Superman: The Movie score are used during this episode during Christopher Reeves' on-screen moments - including the main Superman theme, the Krypton theme, and the Fortress of Solitude theme.

    • This is the first time for a real city, New York, to be used on Smallville. Typically they refer to various DC Comic cities such as Metropolis, Edge City, Gotham City, Bludhaven, etc., although New York City appears in the DC Comics too.

    • Annette O'Toole costarred with Christopher Reeve in Superman III as Lana Lang, although the two are not reunited on-screen here. Given that Reeve's scene was filmed in New York, they may not have even met.

    • Reeve's character's name is apparently a nod to artist Curt Swan, who penned many Superman and Superboy comics in the 60's and 70's.


    • Clark: I'd like to thank you for turning our farm into Area 51.
      According to various rumors, the U.S. government hides UFOs on this American millitary base (in Nevada).

    • Dr. Swann: We all have our windmills, Clark
      The cultural reference has me a bit baffled, here. It seems to me that the line is in reference to "Don Quijote," a mad nobleman who reads too much Medieval literature and eventually goes crazy. During his lunacy, Quijote has a famous scene where he mistakes windmills for giants. The phrase "Tilting on Windmills" came about. Here's where it's cloudy: tilting on windmills can either mean attempting the impossible, or trying in a venture that can't succeed. Now, attempting the impossible means that what you're doing is really hard but you still do it because you don't know if you'll succeed. Trying in a venture that can't succeed implies that you're basically banging your head against a brick wall. There's a fine line, and I have no idea how this reference applies to Dr. Swann, as he already has his answer to the unanswerable question. So why is he "tilting on windmills?"