It doesn't take a Brainiac to see that Clark Kent has his hands very full this fall. Even Smallville executive producer Al Gough wishes Superman could do that "world-spinning" trick and turn back time to when the series had a cozy time slot. But until that happens, Smallville is prepped to take on Survivor, The O.C., Alias and the new-but-buzzworthy Everybody Hates Chris in its new Thursday home (Season 5 premieres Sept. 29 at 8 pm/ET). What's the plan? Well, it involves a space princess, the reunion of some good ol' boys and, last but not least, some super sex.
TVGuide.com: What was your reaction when you were bumped from Wednesdays to your new, most unenviable time slot?
Al Gough: Well, look, I still wish we were on Tuesdays at 9 — I think television is about habit and people knowing when to tune in to a show. That being said, am I upset to be out of the Lost-America's Next Top Model vortex? Not really. [Laughs] Lost was sort of our left jab, and then Top Model went right to the gut. So I'm not upset to be out of that frying pan. Now, whether we're into a bigger frying pan or the actual fire, I'm not sure.
TVGuide.com: Do you think WB's expectations are in check?
Gough: I do, actually. David Janollari [WB president of entertainment] called us and said, "We want to form a beachhead on Thursday night, and we think Smallville can do that for us."
TVGuide.com: Which, of course, is flattering....
Gough: It is flattering. They've been terrific about supporting the show, and I think once Supernatural premieres, they will start to focus the marketing campaign on other shows. When David came in [prior to Season 4], if he had no interest in Smallville I wouldn't have been surprised. But the fact is, he has been a huge cheerleader for us. It's not like they've shuffled us off to Thursday night and the crickets are chirping. The [network mascot] frogs are dead, but the crickets aren't chirping.
TVGuide.com: What's your formula for Kryptonite to lob at the other shows? Guest stars like James Marsters, Carrie Fisher, Tom Wopat...?
Gough: Exactly. It's the only thing that you can do. Whatever show you are, going into a fifth season — I don't care if you're Lost or Desperate Housewives or our show — the challenge is to keep mixing it up, and that's what we have tried to do. Season 5 is the season you have been waiting for. Things are really going to change. The Lex-Clark-Lana dynamic is going to be played. Clark and Lex are basically going to be enemies, which means it's only going to get uglier. This is the year where Clark is sort of "Superman in training" — you'll see the Fortress of Solitude, you'll meet Brainiac, you'll meet Aquaman....
TVGuide.com: It sounds like a recipe for better payoff.
Gough: Absolutely. For the loyal audience that has been with us the whole time, they will really feel like their investment in the show is now paying off. But there is something for people [new] to show as well. We're not an overly mythologized show — more or less, if you drop into an episode of Smallville, you can kind of figure it out — and that has been a strength of ours. It's not like if you drop in Season 5, Episode 4, you'll be like, "What the heck is going on here?!"
TVGuide.com: It's the story of Superman, darn it!
Gough: It's Superman! Superman, good. Lex, bad — and if he's not bad yet, just keep watching. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Fans want to know: Will Clark and Lana finally do the deed?
Gough: They are going to do the deed. Clark and Lana will be together, and not just for an episode.
TVGuide.com: Now I have to ask: Is it "super" for them both?
Gough: [Laughs] We certainly hope so. It will be as "super" as the tasteful television censors will allow.
TVGuide.com: How is James Marsters doing as Brainiac?
Gough: He's great. It's a really good character for him, because he's evil but you don't know what he's up to. It's a lot of fun to watch him and Michael Rosenbaum together; you don't see many scenes where Lex doesn't have the upper hand, and James really does in this. We have a very clear idea of what his agenda is — it won't be revealed to the audience until the end of the season — which James said was great, because as [Buffy the Vampire Slayer's] Spike he said he never knew what he was doing in Sunnydale! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: What kind of look is Brainiac going with?
Gough: He's basically in disguise as a college professor at Clark's university, with dark hair and no English accent. James is a very striking person, and the camera loves him.
TVGuide.com: What can you tell us about Aquaman?
Gough: He's being played by Alan Ritchson, a terrific newcomer who falls into the Smallville mold of being unbelievably hot and very charming. When watching the dailies, the writers go, "My god, he looks like an action figure!"
TVGuide.com: My "problem" with Aquaman — and this also twigs me when watching Entourage — has always been, how much happens underwater?
Gough: In this conception of Aquaman, sort of like we did with the Flash last year, he's a marine-biology student/environmental activist at the University of Miami. Lex is up to no good at Crater Lake and [Aquaman] has come to find out what's going on. His agenda is all about the environment, and he's going to teach Clark that he needs to use his powers on a global level, and not just at a local level. And he has a fling with Lois Lane.
TVGuide.com: Let's talk about Tom Wopat, who's playing an old friend of Jonathan Kent's, and Carrie Fisher.
Gough: Frankly, we wanted Tom on the show for years and finally found the right story where he has a really good role and a lot of scenes with Jonathan (played by Wopat's Dukes of Hazzard cousin, John Schneider). You don't want to bring on Wopat and then have him be in a story with, like, Chloe. [Laughs] He and John have a history, so you play on what I call "the good TV baggage" that relationship brings to the show. Carrie is playing the editor-in-chief of the "Daily Planet," sort of the boss before Perry White. We had always been big fans of her, and always liked the idea of a Katharine Graham-type woman being editor-in-chief of the "Daily Planet." Carrie is a fan of the show and friends with Michael Rosenbaum, so we were able to make that happen.
TVGuide.com: Will there be "winks" to the camera with either actor?
Gough: With Wopat, there are many winks to the camera; Carrie, not so much, because its hard to cross-pollinate Princess Leia and Superman. But Tom's character drives a Dodge Charger.
TVGuide.com: Why, that's not subtle at all!
Gough: [Laughs] That is not too subtle. It's... slightly subtle.