CREDITS: Written by Mark Evanier and Steve Gerber (famously Howard the Duck's creator, but one of the most influential comics writers of the late 70s); directed by Dan Riba.
REVIEW: I was very much looking forward to a follow-up to Tools of the Trade and set-up to the major Superman vs. Darkseid arc threaded through to the end of the DCAU material. Alas, Father's Day isn't very good. Much of the fault lies in the animation and music, which are sluggish and boring. Whether it's Superman fighting DeSaad's big round robot ship, or the extended sequence witn Kalibak, the choreography is unoriginal, the environments boring and repetitive, and there's a serious problem with the pacing. Superman seems to walk everywhere, as if he didn't think there was any reason to hurry to, for example, rescue Pa Kent from a crumbling building. The musical cues don't enliven things enough, and I swear, Kalibak's theme sounds like it was ripped off from the 60s Batman show.
Since this is mostly a big fight, there's not much plot to it. Any contrast between Pa Kent and Darkseid as fathers is over-obvious and the episode doesn't do anything with it. The Kents are particularly indiscreet around Lois. Pa doesn't throw himself into a tornado or anything, but his standing up to Kalibak is really rather silly. There's ALMOST something with a New God attacking a restaurant named after a Roman God, but not quite, and the sequence just makes me wonder how many coincidences we must suffer before the episode is through. That DeSaad's drone lands near Lois in a park makes sense as part of a plan to lure Superman, but Kalibak walks into the restaurant where the Kents and Lois have just sat down by pure chance. Not great. I realize this was 1997, but that still seems wayyyy to late to take time out to explain what the Internet is, even if the Kents ARE rubes. And Manheim STILL isn't returned to Earth? Who's running Intergang while he slaves away in the Fire Pits?
The episode's redeeming value is in Darkseid. Gerber and Evanier write him to perfection. We recognize him, of course, in the way he tells DeSaad he has failed him, and I love the line about the technicality of Kalibak's birth no making him a "son". Wow, harsh. Darkseid puts his deadbeat dad money where his deadbeat dad mouth is at the end and Omega Beams the hell out of Kalibak. Comic book fans know that's not the end-end, but it's still a cold thing to do to your progeny. And then Superman and Darkseid meet, and the Man of Steel is almost beneath the Ruler of Apokolips' contempt. Superman's questions are at first answered only with a cruel smirk, and when they do exchange words, they are properly ominous. Darkseid is definitely set up well, even if the rest of the episode falls down on the job.
IN THE COMICS: DeSaad and Kalibak are classic Fourth World characters, the former first appearing in Forever People #2, the latter New Gods #1, both in 1971. The way they are presented is right out of the comics, though Kalibak's look has been updated (from brown and lion-crowned to green and more hunchbacked; he also doesn't use his trademark Beta-Club). The remote drone is called the Scream Machine, which I don't recognize from the comics, though it sort of sounds like DeSaad's Fear Machine. He sticks to his rules of nomenclature, I guess.
SOUNDS LIKE: Robert Morse (Bertram Cooper on Mad Men) plays DeSaad, while Kalibak is voiced by Worf himself, Michael Dorn.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - But barely, thanks to Darkseid's badassery. Otherwise a slugging and dull fight episode.