Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tremors: The Series - The Key

The television series reaches its finale.

Tremors 4: The Legend Begins went into production at the same time that the Tremors television series was filming. Given the fact that Tremors 4 had been announced to be a prequel set in 1886 that would feature Hiram Gummer, the great-grandfather of Perfection, Nevada's resident survivalist Burt Gummer, taking on Graboids in the Old West, despite the fact that their existence wasn't discovered until the events of the first film in 1990, I thought there might be a storyline running through the first season of the television show wherein Burt slowly figures out his ancestor's monster fighting secret. When the titles of the show's episodes hit the internet, I thought the last episode, The Key, would somehow lead into the prequel film. I speculated that the titular key is what Burt would use to unlock the secrets buried since 1886.

My speculations were way off base. There is no connection of any sort to the events of Tremors 4 in the episodes of the TV show, the modern day characters remain ignorant of what happened more than 100 years ago. In fact, Burt Gummer is, unfortunately, not even in the final episode of Tremors: The Series' first and only season, because actor Michael Gross was busy working on Tremors 4, playing Hiram Gummer.

The Key of the title is actually the key established back in the fourth episode, Hit and Run. The key to a vault in Las Vegas that holds twenty million dollars in negotiable bearer bonds. That key seemed to be lost forever when the man who had it in his possession was devoured by Perfection Valley's protected Graboid El Blanco. But Frank, the dead man's partner in crime, and the dead man's girlfriend Delores, now Frank's girlfriend, have hopes that they can somehow still retrieve it from El Blanco's guts. A Graboid's digestive process, they say, takes several months.

Frank, who has been having nightmares about El Blanco ever since the death of his pal, reluctantly returns to Perfection with Delores in tow, as well a man named Helmut Krause, the inventor of the weapon they plan to use to incapacitate El Blanco so they can gut him with a chainsaw: a soundwave gun that blasts out an 800 decibel beam of sound, causing its target eighty times the human threshold of pain.

While Perfection tour guide Tyler Reed and cattle rancher Rosalita Sanchez work with Department of the Interior agent Twitchell to stop the Vegas criminals and save El Blanco's life, Larry Norvel, the giddy sci-fi fanboy who moved to Perfection in the preceding episode, discovers another creation of the gene-splicing compound that's loose in the valley, Mixmaster. This time it's a creature Larry names Invisibat, some kind of bat/bird/chameleon hybrid that is able to blend into its surroundings. Nobody but Larry believes the thing is flying around.

Although both Frank and Larry are highly annoying to me and both play a large role in this episode, The Key still manages to be a great episode, and one that, like several of them throughout the season, actually makes a sympathetic character out of El Blanco.

Vivica A. Fox and prolific character actor Richard Riehle, in the roles of Delores and Helmut, make welcome guest appearances in the Tremors world and, like Michael Rooker before them, it's fun to see these actors interact with El Blanco.

Hit and Run director P.J. Pesce returned to wrap up the story, with the teleplay coming from the combined minds of Tremors co-creators S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock along with John Schulian (writer of the Project 4-12 and Night of the Shriekers episodes) and Hit and Run/Graboid Rights writer Christopher Silber.

As the season and series finale reaches its end credits, the door is left wide open for the characters to go on further adventures. The citizens of Perfection continue to cohabitate with El Blanco, and Mixmaster is still loose in the area, making who knows what sort of hybrid creatures out there in the wild. There was plenty more for Burt Gummer and his cohorts to do, but unfortunately the SciFi Channel, whose decision to air the episodes in a completely random order likely hindered it, chose not to renew the show for a second season. The ratings were good, it just didn't hit the numbers Sci-Fi wanted it to. If it had aired in a different year and in the proper order, it might have had a better chance, but after it finished its run in the summer of 2003, Sci-Fi decided that the show wasn't what they were looking for.

Ideas for things that could have come into play in season two episodes included an appearance by local hippie Nancy Sterngood's rocker ex-husband, perhaps some information about Tyler's strict military father, more details on the life of Twitchell, shocking revelations about Rosalita, Burt having an online romance, and more about the abandoned and destroyed underground Proudfoot laboratory where Mixmaster was created. The lab may not have been completely destroyed after all... One monster the writers had in store for a future episode was an octopus-like creature that lived in trees. Another possible scenario would've found characters trapped in a cave by an Ass-Blaster during the winter.

I would've been very happy to have seen Tremors get a second season, and keep going for as long as possible, but despite being disappointed that it didn't continue and its story runs into a dead end, I am very grateful that we got the thirteen episodes that were produced. I love the Tremors world and characters, so to have this nine hours plus worth of episodes to spend watching Tremors stories in addition to the movies is a wonderful thing.

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