How Syfy’s Krypton brilliantly solves the prequel problem

SyFy’s Krypton tells the story of Superman’s grandfather and life on the doomed planet 200 years before the existence of the world’s greatest hero. But to do this, they brilliantly solve one of the biggest problems when it comes to doing prequels.

A prequel is reliant on the original story that makes it relevant in the first place. However, by doing a prequel, continuity and canon come into question, and the concern is always that the original work will somehow be tainted and that a look behind the curtain will somehow take away from the original.

This presents an interesting problem for any creator doing a prequel; how to tell originally compelling stories that new fans will engage with, but that also somehow connect to the original for loyal fans of the franchise, without ruining established continuity. The creators of Krypton are able to solve this prequel problem wonderfully, but also incredibly subtly.

Krypton

(Photo by: Gavin Bond/Syfy)

The Pilot

The pilot episode of Krypton established its world, most notably the city of Kandor. After the major characters are introduced and the dynamics set up, we’re introduced to the premise of the show, and the major conflict; the impending arrival of a collector of worlds called Brainiac.

While Brainiac is seemingly the big bad of the season, there’s another aspect of the reveal that may have bigger significance for the story of Krypton and its future.

When introducing himself to Seg-El, (Superman’s grandfather) the time traveller Adam Strange, reveals that someone from the future has travelled back in time to destroy Krypton in order to prevent the birth of Superman himself.

Let that sink in for a second. The past is being altered, in order to create a different future.

Krypton

KRYPTON — “Pilot” Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Rupert Graves as Ter-El, Paula Malcomson as Charys-El, Nicholas Witham Mueller as Young Seg, Ian McElhinney as Val-El, Elliot Cowan as Daron-Vex — (Photo by: Steffan Hill/Syfy)

The J. J. Abrams of it all.

When burdened with rebooting the Star Trek universe with a new film in 2009, director J. J. Abrams and his writing staff created an in-story time travel element that allowed them to take the story in a new direction, without disrupting decades of established continuity.

Similarly, Krypton creators David S. Goyer & Damian Kindler have seemingly created a loophole by which Krypton can tell stories that bring in recognizable characters and introduce plot points that may not adhere to the established canon of Superman stories… and totally get away with it.

If someone from the future has arrived in Krypton to prevent Superman’s birth, they seem to have already effected the timeline enough that Superman’s cape from the future is shown by Adam Strange as slowly being erased from existence.

Depending on which theory of time travel, as depicted in fictional storytelling, that we want to go by, the world being shown in Krypton seems to have already deviated from the events that may have played out in Superman’s canon. So anything that happens beyond this point, could possibly exist in an alternate timeline.

Now, even if (or rather when) the series concludes this particular Back To The Future-ish story arc and the past is set right ensuring the safety of the future, it may be too late. Things may still have deviated enough for the past to be slightly different from what other iterations of Krypton’s history have been depicted as in other mediums.

Therefore, the events of Krypton during its series-wide run, don’t necessarily have to adhere to the existing Superman canon or continuity. The writers of Krypton now have the freedom to create stories and arcs that are in setting to this world, without being encumbered by over 75 years of fictional history to restrict their storytelling.

But more importantly, without upsetting fans of the original who will inevitably complain about ‘that’s now how it happened’.

What do you think about this in-story loophole that allows Krypton writers free rein? Let us know in the comments below.