Panic in the Sky (Adventures of Superman)

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For the early 1990s DC Comics storyline, see Panic in the Sky (comics).
"Panic in the Sky"
Adventures of Superman episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 12
Directed by Thomas Carr
Written by Jackson Gillis (screenplay)
Production code 38
Original air date Saturday, December 5th, 1953
Guest appearance(s)

Jonathan Hale
Jane Frazee
Clark Howat
Tom Moore

Episode chronology
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"The Man in the Lead Mask"
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"The Machine That Could Plot Crimes"
List of Adventures of Superman episodes

Panic in the Sky is the thirty-eighth episode of the 1950s television series Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves. The series was based on the DC Comics character Superman.

The episode is one of the least typical in the series, incorporating two flights into outer space, a vulnerable Superman, and a threat to the entire world, rather than the usual last-minute rescue of Lois and Jimmy from thugs.


  • Superman, an alien being from the planet Krypton masquerading as a mild-mannered news reporter called Clark Kent. Played by George Reeves
  • Lois Lane, a reporter at the Daily Planet. Played by Noel Neill
  • Jimmy Olsen, a cub reporter and associate of Lois Lane. Played by Jack Larson
  • Perry White, the editor and publisher of the Daily Planet. Played by John Hamilton
  • Professor Roberts. Played by Jonathan Hale
  • Assistant to Roberts. Played by Clark Howat
  • Farm woman. Played by Jane Frazee
  • Shopkeeper. Played by Tom Moore


An asteroid 5 miles wide is headed toward Earth, and humanity is powerless to stop it. At an observatory near Metropolis, Professor Roberts explains the situation to Superman, but warns him the asteroid may contain Kryptonite or some unknown element which could harm him. Grimly saying goodbye to the Professor, Superman flies into space and collides with the big rock, deflecting it into an orbit around the Earth. While the relieved world celebrates, Superman manages to fly back to Earth and instinctively change into his Clark Kent business suit. The collision has given him a severe concussion and amnesia. To make matters worse, the now-orbiting asteroid has upset Earth's climate and gravitational balance, wreaking worldwide havoc. It must be completely destroyed somehow but Superman is nowhere to be found.

The rest of the episode has Clark/Superman trying to figure out who he is, several times coming perilously close to inadvertently revealing his secret identity to his friends and colleagues (who are baffled by Clark's strange memory loss). At a critical point in the show, and for the only time in the series, the superhero is seen wearing his Superman costume as well as Clark's horn-rimmed glasses, appearing very vulnerable. In a moment of frustration, he bangs his fist on an end table and shatters it. As he removes his glasses, he realizes that he must, in fact, be this "Superman" everyone has been talking about. "Professor Roberts!" he exclaims. "The observatory!" Again acting on instinct, he leaps out of the window and flies to the observatory. The Professor has a small but powerful atomic bomb which might utterly destroy the asteroid, but no guided missile can reach that far into space. Knowing the risks, Superman flies to the asteroid again and sets the device. "Well, no matter who I am," he says to himself, "here goes." The dangerous planetoid explodes into countless small pieces, and Superman, with his memory intact, returns to his adopted planet in triumph.

Reviews and ratings[edit]

Production details[edit]

Visual effects[edit]

The show contains more original special effect shots than any other of the 104 episodes because using stock footage was out of the question. The flying effects combine Reeves "flying" against back-projected images, matte work with Superman flying through space; the glowing, fiery asteroid; and the explosive impact of Superman hitting it (done in cartoon animation). Although the quality of the composites is variable, the episode contains some of the most dynamic springboard takeoff sequences in the series. It also gives Reeves a rare chance to expand his acting range and dual characterizations beyond their usual formula.

Influence and adaptations[edit]

On the DVD commentary, Noel Neill (Lois Lane) points out that she used "Panic" on her college lecture circuit. Jack Larson (Jimmy Olsen) mentions on the DVD that it was Superman aficionado Jerry Seinfeld's favorite episode. Seinfeld does mention this particular episode (as well as other Superman-related things) in a number of episodes of the 1990s sitcom Seinfeld.

Also, aside from the obligatory story of the infant Kal-El's arrival on Earth, "Panic" was the sole episode re-made for future Superman series, first in the 1980s-90s Live-Action Superboy (TV series) as "Superboy...Lost", and again in the 90s Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: the January 2, 1994, episode All Shook Up, an irreverent reference to what happens to the Man of Steel, and also a play on words, as that series' Perry White was obsessed with Elvis Presley, one of whose hit songs was All Shook Up.

Bryan Singer, an avid George Reeves fan, adapted some elements of Panic in the Sky for a climatic scene in his 2006 film Superman Returns.

The same story was also told as "Menace from the Stars" in World's Finest Comics #68 (February 1954).

One of the many "bloopers" in the series (mostly due to tight budgets and the cost of re-shooting a scene) detected by sharp-eyed viewers occurs in a scene where Clark stumbles into his apartment and begins to take off his shirt, revealing his Superman suit underneath (just out of Jimmy Olsen's line of sight). As George Reeves opens Clark's shirt to reveal the familiar "S" emblem, viewers can see a SHORT-sleeved (actually sleeveless) costume underneath.

See also[edit]


  • Grossman, Gary H. Superman: Serial to Cereal. Popular Library, 1976.
  • Adventures of Superman. DVD, 2006.