Repost: Why not terraform another planet?

As a collateral matter not directly asked but related… if you wonder why Zod couldn’t simply terraform another candidate planet, I’d ask you to consider the following:

  • If terraforming is easy, why were there no living colonies or sister planets for Krypton to evacuate to?
  • If the Phantom Drive allows for infinite attempts at terraforming, why did Krypton continue to mine its core unto its own destruction? Doesn’t it seem more likely that Phantom Drives are therefore finite?
  • The Scout Ship (18,000 years old) does not have a Phantom Drive (invented by Jor-El) and required hibernation pods in order to make the journey to Earth. Unlike the World Engine, the Scout Ship does not appear to mate with the Black Zero. Even if Zod found another candidate planet, how was Zod going to bring the Scout Ship’s Genesis Chamber to the new prospect?
  • If there was any possibility that Zod wasn’t going to terraform Earth, how could the plan that Jor-El conveyed to Lois have worked? That Jor-El predicted it, doesn’t it seem likely that the individuals who understand the technology could predict that Earth wouldn’t be passed up?

In sum, Zod was coming to roost on Earth, one way or another. Apart from his programming, he didn’t have to terraform it or subjugate it, but he didn’t have any alternative locations to work with.


  1. Terraforming the planet is a pretty logical move militarily and tactically. If you recall, Zod only deploys the World Engine after asking whether Kal-El needs to be alive to retrieve the Codex. Therefore, successfully terraforming the planet takes care of the human resistance, weakens or kills Kal-El without direct combat, and creates a perfect environment for the next generation of Kryptonians all in one move.

Zod’s only real alternative move was to field every Kryptonian aboard the Black Zero, at which point the Kryptonians would be utterly unstoppable, but he would also sacrifice his vision of Krypton in the process. If Zod was willing or able to make that kind of compromise, he would have resorted to natural birth, cloning, or agreed with Jor-El’s plan of coexistence… but Zod’s programming and toolbox was limited… the exact thing that Jor-El didn’t want for Kal-El and Krypton’s future.

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Repost: Why no superhuman society?

Zenation asks, “Why would anyone want to terraform a planet that gives their people god like powers in order to protect them? This just seems counterintuitive.”

Finding the terraforming of Earth odd tends to be based on a few misconceptions. Primary amongst them is the idea that Zod is flexible enough to accept alternatives. Instead, after you’ve thought it through, you may come to see that Zod was a man of conviction willing to die for a specific vision of Krypton and rather Krypton go extinct than see an alternative.

Let me run you through some things to think about to get there.

  • Zod had 33 years and a ship full of Kryptonians of both sexes and a brilliant geneticist aboard. If he was willing to accept a different vision of Krypton, could he not have procreated or began cloning?
  • Zod’s part of the warrior caste and thus his toolbox is limited. Up to the last minute, Jor-El was petitioning the Council, suggesting that Krypton’s foremost scientist and most brilliant mind considered that a viable tactic worthy of his time… but Zod didn’t petition the Council. Instead, Zod betrayed the ones he had a duty to serve and follow, based on a vision of eugenic perfection he was willing to risk treason for.
  • When Zod tells Superman that, “If you destroy this ship you destroy Krypton!” That’s not factually accurate. Kal-El was specifically sent to Earth to bridge two people and co-exist. Destruction of the Scout Ship would only remove the Genesis Chamber and Zod’s ability to continue the Ghost of Eugenic Krypton, rather than Jor-El’s Best of Both Worlds Krypton, which Jor-El pleads with Zod to accept before Zod deletes him. So again, Zod’s concept of Krypton is narrow. It doesn’t include co-existence, it doesn’t include natural birth, it doesn’t include anyone controlling the eugenics but him… and thus it is fairly intuitive that it shouldn’t include a super-human society that he cannot fully control.

Admittedly, the last part is speculation, but it is backed by strong circumstantial evidence. However, let’s go over what the fear is first. The fear is that after you give all the Kryptonians on the Black Zero god-like super powers, you’ve suddenly democratized New Krypton… and despite Zod’s narrow vision of him controlling the bloodlines, Zod fears that some- like say, Jax-Ur of the science guild, not loyal to the warrior caste- might not be willing to forfeit that god-like power out of pure loyalty to Zod’s plan. Zod was himself a betrayer to the Council. Is it any wonder he suspects or fears betrayal? Now the evidence to consider:

  • Note that the Black Zero wasn’t designed for Zod. Jor-El said he designed it. Jor-El died in Zod’s coup attempt. Therefore, Jor-El designed the prison ship for prisoners other than Zod. Jor-El says that they’ve exhausted their resources so the Black Zero wasn’t built for fun… it was built to house pre-existing prisoners during a time of unrest. That means that it is highly likely that not all the prisoners were revolutionaries. They were not all part of Zod’s coup who can be trusted absolutely. After 33 years, Zod certainly has them in-line… however, not so in-line that Zod can trust everyone to be on Earth. Indeed, while Zod is on an away mission, during Lois’s escape, we see no less than five different armed guards. If your prisoners (Kal and Lois) are depowered and secured, why do you need armed security guards on a 100% loyal ship when they could be a dramatic force multiplier on Earth? Simply put, you don’t… the guards are Zod’s continued show-of-force, military might and loyalty aboard the ship to maintain his 33 year long rule. With a New Krypton and everyone depowered, that rule would continue so long as Zod lived.
  • Note too that Zod leads from the front in a classic loyalty pyramid. Zod may be able to defeat Faora 1 v 1 and command her loyalty. Zod and Faora may be able to defeat Nam-Ek 2 v 1 and command his loyalty, thus he fields Nam-Ek. The three of them can defeat any three other Kryptonians and thus risk of mutiny or rebellion is low so long as Zod never fields more than 6 Kryptonians on Earth at a time… and that is exactly what we see. Even with Zod himself is forced to withdraw, he allows only Faora and Nam-Ek to remain, even if he could command or field more Kryptonians… precisely because he wants to limit the number of Kryptonians with access to these powers to the few he can trust absolutely.

tl;dr: Zod did not want to risk democratizing New Krypton, he would rather it go extinct than compromise his vision, which is why there was no natural birth on the Black Zero for 33 years.

“Reposts” are republication of informal forum replies addressing relevant topics but not up to typical site standards.

Repost: How was Zod powered in Smallville?

The Man Of Steel Answer Insight Commentary (MOSAIC) Podcast Episode 6 covers this topic in more depth.

MOS Kryptonian super powers are powered entirely by Earth’s Sun (this includes sensory abilities). That is the only mandate on having their powers. Thus their powers can persist in a vacuum, underwater, in an oil rig fire (which isn’t normal Earth atmosphere), or in all the environments in between Earth and space.

Jor-El describes this using the metaphor of “drinking” and like water, you aren’t only hydrated while you are drinking the water. You can also store the drink in your body to keep you hydrated while not drinking. This means Superman can exhibit powers even when not in direct sunlight.

Thus, a more apt metaphor is of a laptop with a removable battery and a power plug. The laptop will run on either battery, or plug, or both… but not neither.

The Kryptonian Atmosphere acts to unplug (but not drain!) the battery. Additionally, space ships are shielded against radiation. Therefore, being exposed to Kryptonian Atmosphere disconnected his battery and being on the Black Zero unplugged his power cord. So Superman lost his strength. After the Kryptonian Atmosphere was replaced (either by Earth Atmospherics OR vacuum), Superman’s battery was reconnected and thus his strength immediately returned. He was NOT empowered by Earth’s Atmosphere (otherwise vacuum would have weakened him). As for what Zod and company were breathing on Earth, we can’t be certain, but even if they were breathing Kryptonian Atmosphere, they would still have power in the form of direct sunlight or a power cord (irrespective of a disconnected battery).

This theory is fully consistent with the entire film and the Podcast reconciles every instance (including the helmets and sensory “weakness”; and Superman briefly losing flight while fighting the World Engine) except one panel of the Prequel comic (but also explains why that example can be excluded).

As for why, mechanically, Kryptonian Atmosphere weakens Superman, it’s a combination of two general factors: 1) He has organs that work; 2) It’s a biochemical reaction.

We know Superman tends to follow biological rules for a number of reasons, not the least of all is how Zod is stopped. Additionally, even with all his powers, it is likely that Clark still biochemically reacts with the world: he drinks beer while watching football, implying that it is reacting with his body so that he can taste it. It is unlikely that Kryptonian Atmosphere is radiological simply because of how much was spewed into the air and Lois’s exposure to it.

Therefore, it is possible that in breathing in the Kryptonian atmosphere, it reacts biochemically with his lungs and interferes with the organ or process that allows him to metabolize and access his stores of solar energy. Just as sour may cause you to involuntarily pucker, bitter to gag, spicy to pant, Superman’s reaction to “tasting” Kryptonian air was temporary weakness.

Under this theory, if Superman had held his breath the entire time he was on the Black Zero, he would have been fine… but he also wouldn’t have been able to speak and he would have had no reason to think to do so. Additionally, it’s likely he would have eventually adapted. He did, nominally, in the sense that he didn’t remain passed out and coughing, but merely powerless.

These are gone into more depth in Episode 7.

“Reposts” are republication of informal forum replies addressing relevant topics but not up to typical site standards.