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The Big FreezeEpilogue
by Tom Nichol

Based on the episode of the same name from the
Adventures of Superman

[IMPORTANT NOTE: Since the filming of this episode in 1956, the temperature known as “absolute zero”—that is, the point at which all molecular motion ceases—has been determined to be -459.76 degrees Fahrenheit (-273.15 degrees Celsius). Thus, the temperature of -2,000 degrees mentioned by “Dr. Watts” is a physical impossibility. This is one more instance where the scientific principles mentioned in the episode were stretched beyond the limits of plausibility. As I have mentioned in several other epilogues, this was a common practice in Hollywood at the time, one which is still, to a lesser extent, in existence to this day. In writing this epilogue, I have opted to bring up this point, and to resolve it by the use of the “Mr. Kelso” computer featured in another episode.]

A week had passed since the most tumultuous municipal election in the history of Metropolis. A gang of hoodlums, led by Duke Taylor, had come frighteningly close to forcing the election of their candidate, James Buckley, as Mayor of Metropolis. Through the efforts of Dr. John Watts, an expert in what was then the new science of cryogenics, Superman’s powers had been nullified. Only when Dr. Watts found out that Taylor had never intended to pay him for his efforts, making him as much of a victim of the Man of Steel himself, did he reveal that by exposing himself to the intense heat of a blast furnace, Superman’s powers would be restored. To the dismay of Taylor and his cronies, and the joy and relief the law-abiding people of Metropolis, Superman’s powers had immediately returned when he had followed Dr. Watts’s suggestions. As a result, Taylor and his candidate Buckley had been resoundingly rejected by the voters of Metropolis, while the reform candidate, Donald Wilson, had been voted into office by the proverbial landslide. In the aftermath of the election, Taylor and his entire gang had been arrested, and were now awaiting trial on a variety of state and Federal charges, including racketeering and criminal intimidation.

Perry White, himself a former Mayor of Metropolis, and the owner/publisher of the Metropolis Daily Planet, was now discussing the situation in his private office with Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Clark Kent, in preparation for a special edition of the Daily Planet which would wind up the newspaper’s official coverage of the election.

“So what’s going to happen to Dr. Watts?” Jimmy asked.

Much to their surprise, Perry replied, “Nothing! The District Attorney agreed with me that Dr. Watts was as much a victim as Superman was. When he realized what a mistake he'd made, he did everything in his power to make amends. Thankfully, he turned out to be absolutely right!”

“I still don’t understand why that fiendish freezer didn’t kill Superman outright!” Lois put in.

“I can explain that, Lois,” Clark replied. “You need to remember that Superman came to Earth from Krypton, a planet with much greater gravity than that of Earth. Because of that, his molecular density is at least twice that of a native Terran. As a result, while his powers were nullified, his body continued to function, although at a much lower power level than it normally would.”

Yeah!” Jimmy, an amateur scientist in his own right, piped up. “That would help to explain his super-strength and his invulnerability as well—especially when you add in the energizing effect of our Sun!”

“Yes,” Perry mused thoughtfully, “And once he got thawed out, it would have taken only a few seconds of exposure to sunlight for his super-powers to kick right back in!”

Exactly!” Clark replied, as Lois and Jimmy nodded their agreement with Perry’s statement.

“Will Dr. Watts be testifying at Duke Taylor’s trial?” Lois inquired.

“You’d better believe he will, Lois!” Perry shot back in a voice of steel. “The District Attorney made Dr. Watts’s testimony a condition for his being granted immunity from prosecution, and he was only too happy to agree!”

“Boy, if that doesn’t seal the case against Duke and his underlings, I don’t know what will!” Jimmy said, as his colleagues nodded their agreement.

As it turned out, Jimmy’s observation was squarely on target. Over the next several months, Dr. Watts testified at several trials, not only of Duke Taylor, but of James Buckley and several of their top underlings. In every case, Dr. Watts’s testimony proved to be nothing short of damning. The result was that Taylor, Buckley, and their entire gang were sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. Dr. Watts was rewarded by receiving an appointment to the faculty of Metropolis University as Research Professor of Physics and Cryogenics.

One minor point in his research did require correction, however: In his interview with Duke Taylor, Dr. Watts had stated that his cryogenic freezer would reach a temperature of -2,000 degrees, a level of cold that most of his colleagues had declared was an impossibility. To settle the matter, with his permission, Clark submitted his calculations to their mutual friend Professor Oscar Quinn, who in turn ran them through the computer he had named “Mr. Kelso.” The resulting readouts uncovered a miscalculation sufficient to throw his results off to a considerable degree. Once this error was corrected, however, those results promptly fell into line with those achieved by the vast majority of Dr. Watts’s professional colleagues. Even Watts’s harshest critics agreed that the mistake had been an understandable one, the kind that was almost inevitable in the kind of pioneering research in which Dr. Watts had been engaged for so many years. From that time on, to the great satisfaction of his friends at the Daily Planet, Dr. Watts enjoyed a high degree of esteem and respect in his field until he died peacefully in his sleep several years later at the age of 85.

Posted: September 15, 2022

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