WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the pilot episode of Krypton, which debuted Wednesday on Syfy.
Superman's Fortress of Solitude has traditionally been depicted as situated in the Arctic, serving as a place of solace and scientific discovery, isolated from civilization. But in the series premiere of Syfy's Krypton, we travel to another fortress, located on the other side of the galaxy, two centuries earlier.
Hidden among the planet's icy wastes, it's the sanctum of the Man of Steel's great-great-grandfather Val-El (played by Ian McElhinney of Game of Thrones), a brilliant scientist and Krypton's resident Cassandra, whose warnings about other life in the galaxy, and an approaching doom, lead to his branding as a traitor by the new ruling theocracy. Faced with (seeming) execution and the downfall of his family, or else pledge allegiance to the mysterious Voice of Rao and abandon his principles, Val-El chooses the former. Yet Val-El has the last laugh, because the authorities are unable to find his storehouse of forbidden knowledge, his Fortress of Solitude.
Although Val-El's son (Rupert Graves) and daughter-in-law (Paula Malcolmson) knew the location of the fortress -- in the side of an icy cliff, its entrance conspicuously emblazoned with the familiar "S" symbol on the House of El, and its first appearance accompanied by the heart-swelling opening notes of John Williams' "Superman Theme." The problem is, they had no idea how to get into it.
That's where, 14 years later, the time-traveling Earthman Adam Strange comes in, delivering a Sunstone Crystal, and a warning, to their son impulsive son Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe). The crystal, as fans of Superman comics and movies well know, is a building material, a database, a key -- virtually anything the story calls for. On Krypton, at least for now, it's the latter, providing entry into the wondrous Fortress of Solitude, which is sure to be a key setting for the setting. And not only because it looks like it was expensive for the show's producers to create, but because, of an object among Val-El's boxes, specimens and statues (the latter being a nod to the tribute to his parents that Superman later erects in his own Fortress): a Phantom Zone projector.
In traditional DC comic book continuity, it's Jor-El (Seg-El's son, and Superman's father) who discovered the Phantom Zone, the interdimensional plane eventually used by Krypton to banish its worst criminals. However, it appears the Syfy series is changing history a bit. Presumably, Seg's exploration of his grandfather's collection -- seriously, what's that worm-thing under glass? -- will play a part in the first season, perhaps providing him with information to save his planet from Brainiac, "the Collector of Worlds," and as a result preserve the legacy of his future grandson, the Man of Steel.
Airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy, Krypton stars Cameron Cuffe as Seg-El, Shaun Sipos as Adam Strange, Georgina Campbell as Lyta Zod, Elliot Cowan as Daron-Vex, Ann Ogbomo as Alura Zod, Rasmus Hardiker as Kem, Wallis Day as Nyssa-Vex, Aaron Pierre as Dev-Em, Ian McElhinney as Val-El and Blake Ritson as Brainiac.