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Screentime Project: Martha Kent in S6

As part of my ongoing screentime totals project, I've decided to go back to S6 and count the totals for Jimmy, Lionel and Martha, which I hadn't done when the season was ongoing.  After that, I'll be going back to S5 to do the totals for Lionel, Martha and Jonathan.  But in the course of this latest phase of this ridiculously obsessive endeavor, I couldn't help but feel outraged on behalf of AOT when it comes to how Martha was used on S6.  According to K-Site Craig, TPTB (meaning goughlar, I'm sure), were surprised when AOT opted to leave once her contract expired at the end of S6.  And then they seemed to think she'd come back for guest appearances, while it seems that AOT has never looked back.  All I can ask is....have TPTB actually watched season 6?

Type your cut contents here.

Last night, I finished with S6.  Surprisingly, speedwatching through S6 in the space of 1 week made me like it more then I originally did.  Having now gone through ep by ep, I think I'd have to say I might like it slightly more then S7.  And I think one of those reasons was that Martha Kent was still in the house.  Appallingly used by the show, but nonetheless her presence makes a big difference on the show.  Its become clear to me now that one of the problems with the Chlark dynamic as it was in S7 was that they gave Martha's previous role to Chloe.  I know I'm not the first to suggest this, but this became quite obvious to me during the rewatch.  And frankly, its not a role Chloe is really qualified to have.  Not to mention that its one more hat that Chloe shouldn't be expected to wear.

But anyway, back to Martha.  Martha appeared in 18 episodes in S6.  More then Lois, Lionel, Jimmy and Oliver Queen.  Her overall screentime was LOWER then all of them individually.  Now, let me say that again....even with 5 more eps then Lois, 6 more eps then Lionel, 8 more eps then Jimmy, and 11 more eps then Green Arrow, she still had less screentime.

How is that not completely messed up?  How is that not completely marginalizing a good actress who has been with your show from the very beginning?  You expected her to keep coming back for this?  Can there be any doubt that SV actors, at least some of them, have to put up with some awful shit?

Here are the numbers for Martha:  

18 episodes, total screentime 62m, 20s
The highest screentime total she had in any episode was 8m, 36s in Zod, the season premiere
The lowest was....wait for it...28 seconds in Progeny.  Slightly up from the 31 seconds she had in Justice

They actually had AOT come to the set to film scenes that lasted seconds?  And gave her nothing else to do?

Here's the contrast for you:


10 episodes, total screentime 77m, 54s
The highest screentime total, 28m, 18s in Noir
The lowest screentime total, 2m, 29s in Zod


12 episodes, total screentime, 71m, 22s
The highest screentime total, 10m, 12s in Phantom
The lowest screentime total, 3m, 46s in Justice


13 episodes, total screentime, 120m, 18s
Highest: 18m, 1s in Crimson
Lowest, 4m, 37s in Zod


7 episodes, total screentime, 84m, 39s
Highest:  18m, 48s in Reunion
Lowest:  2m, 46s in Hydro

I think those contrasts speak volumes.

And lets go over how she was used.  Outside of Zod, where she has a wonderful scene in the FOS while speaking to Jor-El, the season seems  devoid of any particularly memorable Martha scene.  Even her exit scene is just 2m, 1s long.  

In Arrow we get no set-up to Martha being at a fundraiser arranged by Lionel, wearing jewelry he lent to her, nor do we get any follow-up reaction directly from her about it being stolen.

In Labyrinth, she gets one scene in Clark's delusion, and no scenes once he comes out of it.  Her importance is clearly placed behind Lana and Chloe as important people in Clark's life.

Martha finally gets a bit more screentime in Crimson, but we have the abomination of her smiling beautifically at Lana at her engagement dinner, celebrating her coming nuptials to Lex Luthor.  And we really get no follow-up at all from Martha on the revelation of how Clark really feels about her closeness to Lionel Luthor, not to mention her being at the party.  Anyone who read the S6 companion book knows the completely messed up story of how Martha ended up at that dinner (which made AOT livid!), but even if you corrected that, you still have Martha not really addressing Clark's anger and resentment over her closeness to Lionel.  She acknowledges that these are feelings he truly carries, but doesn't acknowledge their validity.  

In Trespass, Martha is used for only one reason...to support Lana.  Are you kidding me?  Coming one week after Crimson, and the whole "...just leave her alone"?  Isn't that hard to do when Martha is setting Lana up in his bedroom?  

Then we have Martha front row at the Luthor wedding in Promise.  Why?

We know from the deleted scenes on the DVD, that there was a nice Clark/Martha moment in Progeny where Clark tells his mother just how much she means to him, which is a lovely scene given the subject of the episode, and Chloe losing her mother again.  It should've remained.  However, for those of you that haven't seen, Martha seems a bit stand-off-ish in this scene, and perhaps thats why it was cut.  Intentional to suggest tension and distance between Clark and Martha, or AOT on a bad day?  I don't know.  Or maybe AOT was already halfway out the door, and no longer trying.

They didn't even give AOT the chance to have some fun and participate in the AU Noir.  Whatever your personal feelings about that episode, you know it had to be fun for the actors to play dress-up.  I'm sure AOT would've had a blast.  Except she wasn't included.

The season ends, of course, with Martha going off to DC.  And I can accept that ending for Martha, though I still find it incredibly hard to believe that Martha would be content to be so far away from her home, and her baby.  But then again, Clark and Martha's relationship throughout the season was treated as such a backburnered issue, maybe there was some intent to show an estrangement between them?  I don't know.  I still say Martha's absence left a big void in S7, but there's also no denying that she was completely pushed aside in S6.  

Also, one of the big problems with the storyline that Martha has gone to DC is that it doesn't really address why she doesn't come to visit, or Clark doesn't go visit her.  Can you imagine Martha not calling Clark every other day?  Can you imagine her not coming home for Christmas?  Not rushing to his side after he's been kidnapped and tortured?  Or does Clark just not tell his mother anything going on in his life anymore?  And Martha lets him get away with that?  This isn't a situation like Alicia's death, where you can ignore it the following week, and while it bugs, it doesn't create a huge hitch in the show.  This is Clark's MOMMA.  Clark is Martha's beloved only child.  And apparently the 2 of them no longer play any role in each others lives.

And frankly, there is no excuse for that.  Not AOT leaving the show, not the distance between Kansas and DC.  None.  The writers chose to handle it this way because they are lazy, and creatively stunted.  And because, frankly, its Clark, and his mother, and they just flat out don't care.  You come to your own conclusion of what that says about SV's showrunners and writers.  I know I've come to mine.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 24th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC)
I miss AOT/Martha' presence in the show too. :-(

//Surprisingly, speedwatching through S6 in the space of 1 week made me like it more then I originally did. Having now gone through ep by ep, I think I'd have to say I might like it slightly more then S7.//

Before season 7, I rewatched all of the series, and I found myself enjoying season 6 more as well. I think as full seasons, both 6 and 7 are lacking, yet each contain some really stellar eps. On the whole though, I think I just found 6 a tad more enjoyable. And ultimately, I suppose, the enjoyability/repeat value factor is important to me.

Getting back to Martha though, I couldn't agree with you more. I cannot fathom why the writers/producers botched up the character so bad in season 6. It's not even the heinous lack of screentime, but even more appalling, as you point out, is the ::way:: the screentime was botched up. I think part of it may stem back to the focus shifting to other characters more and more, and when the main guy - Clark gets affected, of course a supporting player like Martha will be, too. Having said that, there's really no excuse for it. Martha Kent has been an integral supporting character in the show, and like you, I'm still bitter too, about how her character was squandered away in season 6. And the inconsistency! She was written all over the place, with no regards whatsoever to any kind of logic or coherency. It's mindboggling. Why there has been this utter lack of respect for such an integral character, I will never understand. But then again, I'll never understand the lack of respect for Clark' character either. At times, it really feels as if the writers have clear set favorites, and that's where all the writing attention goes. And even then, the results are so hit and miss, that imagine what it's like then, for fans of characters who clearly, the writers have very little interest, or respect for. It's immensely frustrating.

//This is Clark's MOMMA. Clark is Martha's beloved only child. And apparently the 2 of them no longer play any role in each others lives.//

May. 25th, 2008 01:38 am (UTC)
How they handled Martha really DOES make no sense. Many things about how this show has been handled confuse the heck out of me, but this is definitely right up at the top of the list. I mean, its like they completely disregarded her as the important character that she is, and then tossed her away completely once the actress left. CLARK'S MOTHER is now, basically, a non-entity. And why? I'd love for someone to tell me why. I can only conclude that she's an extension of Clark's character, and these writers have a hard enough time bothering to write For Clark!
May. 24th, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC)
Their treatment of AOT, and the character of Martha, has been outrageous. As a longtime Superman fan, I've always loved Clark's relationship with his mother as one of the most important components of the Supes legend. She loves him unconditionally, always sees him only as her beloved son, never an alien, and he can always come to her with his problems and find comfort. The farm is a haven for Supes, a place he can escape to for a moment of respite when carrying the world's troubles on his shoulders makes him weary and discouraged. It especially rankled to have Lana move in this season! I felt her presence sullied what should essentially be a sacred place.

AOT is such a talented actress, it is simply appalling that they wasted her gifts the way they did. I saw someone speculate that the show would try to get Michael McKean to come back and play Perry White in S8. I can't imagine a scenario where he would work for the show that treated his wife so poorly. It also disturbs me that the show has systematically eliminated every "adult" character. I don't know if that is a misguided attempt to make Clark look more independent, or fear that anyone over 40 will alienate the 18-34 demographic that the network is seeking, but it makes the show less interesting and less rich to me. Conflicts between older and younger generations speak to us all, I think, and are at the center of many good stories.

I would love to read a frank interview with AOT about all her years on Smallville. Or better yet, an interview with her, JS, and JG. I'd love to hear their perspectives on a lot of things, especially coming to the show the way they did, with a wealth of experience in the business, and a bit of wisdom about the fleeting nature of fame and success. I think it would be fascinating to find out what it was like for them to be involved with a show on a network like the WB/CW, and to hear their observations on how the younger actors on the show grew and changed over the years (I imagine JS in particular had some words of wisdom to share with TW and MR about being a pretty boy on a popular show). Not that I would ever expect any of them to be that indiscreet, however. But can you imagine the stories they could tell? :)
May. 25th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
I don't think they'd ever get Michael McKean again. Even if they didn't screw over his wife. They simple can't afford him, and the man is too busy to bother with that show in Vancouver that treated his wife as insigificant.

I'm also very unhappy that they've eliminated all the "adult" characters. I don't think it was to make Clark more independent, since they had him become more dependent on Chloe, who've they put into parental/guidance mode. Even though this is a position she is totally unsuited for, and a burden she shouldn't have to carry. The older actors of SV helped to ground the show, and give it a certain respectability. Its a shame they squandered it.

I can guarantee you that JS was not happy with the way his character was used in S4, and how he went out in S5. I don't believe he was overly fond of goughlar.
May. 24th, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the hard work!

I totally agree with your comments! I loved the relationship Clark had with his mom in SV, prior to season 6, where they messed up, neglected and hurt Martha's character badly. I now realize I started to fall out of love with the show from Reckoning and one of the reasons is the total absence/destruction of the Kents/Clark dynamic. The show has become something totally different and I'm not enjoying it even a 10 per cent of what I used to.
I was watching "Craving" yesterday. There's a scene where Lana comes to the farm to see Clark and while they are talking you get see Martha's reaction to her boy's words. It's so sweet and funny at the same time! Then, when Lana leaves, she and Clark talk. You can tell how much she loves Clark, how much she cares about him. AOT was so wonderful and she and Tom were so good together! Clark is alone and wretched without his parents and, to me, the show has lot a big chunk of its soul since they are gone, particularly Martha.

And I agree that we can’t expect much from writers and producer who disrespect and neglect their main character. The Clark Kent/Superman mythology deserved much better!
May. 25th, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)
Clark and Martha used to have such a beautiful relationship. The scene in Solitude when he tells Martha that she's his heart and his soul, and you can see that she gets emotional is such a lovely moment. And with the death of Jonathan, there was really the opportunity to have Martha step into the more dominant partental role, that she had never held. I always thought of Martha as a mother lioness, fiercely protective of her only cub. Whether he was superpowered or not, he was still her "baby" (something she calls him several times throughout the series). But in S6, they had Martha just not seem all that concerned with Clark, and then she was eventually erased from his life. Its left a void in the show. I don't think I realized how big it was until last night.

These writers are really, really limited. Thats why I'm always amazed that people expect some big, well executed twists from them. After 7 seasons with these writers, what the heck would convince you they were capable of that caliber of writing?
May. 24th, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
i agree that they wasted her, so badly. her presence at the lex/lana engagement dinner was a WTF moment, as was the thanksgiving dinner scene with lionel in attendance. they lost sight of what she was supposed to be for clark.
May. 25th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC)
They totally lost sight of it. But I really think that this is an extension of their general disinterest in Clark. More interest in Mionel, then Martha's relationship with her son. More interested in Martha being there for Lana then being loyal to her son. Martha not wanting to disappoint Lexana then staying with her son.

It all seems far more about their disdain for Clark, and Martha just got shredded by association.
May. 24th, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for saying this. They wasted Martha during season six. There were so many prime opportunities. It's like they started something with her being a senator and her relationship with Lionel and on top of that how obvious it was that she was lost w/o Jonathan and ignoring Clark. Jesus! Just thinking about it pisses me off but noooooo. They had to focus on other characters and not even Clark. God. As much as I think season six has some stand out episodes it did really burn me up that Martha was squandered. Any way. Let me tell you how cool I think it is that you do these screen totals.
May. 25th, 2008 01:53 am (UTC)
Wasted is an understatement.

And its even more distressing when you factor in that AOT didn't live in Vancouver fulltime, and went home to NY on weekends, and apparently asked them to be more accomodating when she was required for scenes, and they wouldn't. Can you believe that?

I'm glad you find the screentime totals interesting. I sure think they've been enlightening. I think going to the earlier seasons is going to really blow our minds.
May. 25th, 2008 03:15 am (UTC)
and apparently asked them to be more accomodating when she was required for scenes, and they wouldn't. Can you believe that?

You know I shouldn't be surprised but I am. God the showrunners on this show are really a bunch of assholes (sorry in advance if this offends you) but whatever it's not like anyone even knew she was Lana in the Superman movies. Sometimes I wonder why these people even invested so much time in doing a show on Clark Kent if they weren't going to recognize that Clark's parents are essential to him. I don't blame Annette for leaving.
May. 25th, 2008 04:15 am (UTC)
Not offended at all. Assholes is probably far more polite then what I would call them.
May. 25th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
I am still stunned to read that Jimmy had a 28 freaking min episode!

OK...back to Martha.
I say it's the lazy writers. The show was so gung-ho about killing off Jonathan and thought it would give Martha more storylines, but it seemed to have the opposite effect.

Craig even asked how we would feel about Martha being re-cast and you know I had to post that would be a STUPID idea! She can never be replaced. I still wonder if the show gets it's revenge by acting like she fell off the face of the earth.

I do think that Annette made the right choice and now Michael too. There is just so much an actor can take of going all the way to Canada and just sitting around doing nothing.
May. 26th, 2008 12:19 am (UTC)
Yeah, that total for Jimmy is something of a shocker. To put it into better perspective, the only 3 characters that had over 25m in an episode for S6 were Clark, Lana and Jimmy. No Lex. Unreal.

I suspect that Craig out that question out there because it was probably being discussed as a possibility at one time, and he was putting out the idea for feedback. If thats the case, it certainly says something about how they respect their actors...or don't, as the case may be. And yes, I do suspect that ignoring Martha is there immature way of acting as though AOT wasn't needed anyway.
(Deleted comment)
May. 26th, 2008 03:20 am (UTC)
But it's not surprising considering that the writers obviously don't care all that much about Clark. If they don't care about the main character then I'm not shocked that his mother has become a distant afterthought.

This really does feel like the issue, doesn't it?

Now, I've always felt it was obvious that goughlar were fascinated by the relationships between fathers and sons, and mothers were sort of an afterthought. Dead mothers for Lana, Lex and Lois. Crazy mother in the home for Chloe. Surrogate mother for Lana all but forgotten once she left. But somehow, I didn't Martha Kent fell into this sad situation. But obviously she has. You know whats even sadder? I think Nell has gotten more mentions post-leaving the show than Martha Kent. Insane!

I think Chloe is just wearing too many hats these days, and by doing that with her character they've placed an unfair burden on her shoulders, and soured the once fun Chlark dynamic.

I have all the respect in the world for AOT. I'm sorry that she couldn't have walked away under better circumstances.
Jun. 1st, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC)
IMO Martha & Clark/Martha is yet another casualty when it comes to TPTB's incapability in prioritizing the characters and relationships on the show. Too much emphasis is put on damaging, dysfunctional relationships, and too much unnecessary focus given to certain characters. It's the same with Chloe/Lois, although the neglect is on a lesser degree compared to what they've done with Martha/Clark.

Instances of genuine familial bonds and warmth are a rarity on Smallville these days. And with Kara gone next season, there's really no one left for Clark anymore.
Jun. 1st, 2008 07:35 pm (UTC)
ICAM. How hard could it possibly be to show Clark, with a phone next to his ear, saying "Love you too Mom, talk to you tomorrow"? Really, how hard? Thats one line of dialogue, 5 seconds of screentime. And what it does for the audience is tremendous. Its neglecting little things like this that make it impossible for me to consider the SV writing staff as good writers. Because good writers are as much about the detals, as they are the main event.

And you're right about Chloe/Lois. Why has this relationship been neglected? Its not a positive for either girl. And frankly, I think they are really missing the boat on this one. I think the 2 of them having a genuinely warm relationship, and working together (ala Solitude) would be very entertaining.

I'm almost done with the S5 screentime totals for Jonathan, Martha and Lionel, and I've come to the conclusion that getting rid of the Kent family, for all intents and purposes, has been a huge detriment to the show, and to Clark's character.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )



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