Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tremors: The Series - Water Hazard

Beware the creature from Melvin's lagoon.

The people of the tiny desert town of Perfection, Nevada are having water worries - their water tower is only 1/3 full, and they're going to continue having seasonal water issues until the town well is deepened from three hundred feet to twelve hundred feet... a process that would cost around $30,000. Way out of this group's price range.

Meanwhile, former Perfection resident turned unscrupulous land developer Melvin Plug is having water issues of his own. He's building a golf course and housing development called The Oasis near the city of Bixby, and there's something in the water of the property's man-made lagoon. And it's not the dancing waters of the fountain Melvin is having installed as the place's signature feature. No, it's some kind of creature with a voracious appetite for human victims.

Las Vegas showgirl turned Perfection Valley rancher Rosalita Sanchez becomes aware of Melvin's problem while meeting with him about a potential hostess job at The Oasis. Since Rosalita doesn't want Perfection's resident hardheaded survivalist and occasional monster hunter Burt Gummer knowing that she's entertaining the idea of working for Melvin, who Burt has despised since Melvin was a teenager, she advises Melvin not to seek out Burt's help in dealing with his creature problem, but to go to the man who tends to be Burt's sidekick - tour guide Tyler Reed.

Burt's out of town for a few days anyway, so Tyler takes the job because it pays. Through investigation, research, and dumb luck, Tyler, Rosalita, and geneticist Doctor Casey Matthews are able to figure out exactly what's going on at Melvin's golf course...

Some members of the Tremors fan base have long been wanting to see the franchise characters go up against an aquatic variation on the Graboid/Shrieker/Ass-Blaster species. In the late '90s, there was even an unsubstantiated internet rumor that the third Tremors film would be subtitled The Aquatic Species... Of course, that was untrue, and the third film had nothing to do with underwater monsters. Around the time of Tremors 3: Back to Perfection's release, I even wrote a treatment for a sequel that would find Burt Gummer taking on an aquatic monster.

An aquatic creature finally made its way into the series with this episode of the TV show, although it's not quite what I had in mind. The thing lurking in Melvin's lagoon is actually a googly-eyed prehistoric shrimp, brought into the modern age by the water Melvin hauled in, which happened to be stolen from Perfection Valley's Dry Gulch Spring, and thus laced with the gene-altering compound Mixmaster. That water was poured into a dry lake bed, washed over a dormant brine shrimp, and the shrimp was revived, with Mixmaster triggering the DNA of its Jurassic ancestors and causing this shrimp to grow to a really jumbo size.

This shrimp isn't as cool as a swimming variation on a Graboid would be, nor does the low budget of the television show allow for much in the way of thrilling water-based adventure, not even when the shrimp gets free of the lagoon and dives into another body of water, but Water Hazard is an entertaining episode despite its limitations.

Franchise producer Nancy Roberts received sole writing credit on this episode, which was directed by Chuck Bowman, who previously introduced the Mixmaster element with the episode Project 4-12 and was also at the helm for the first episode to feature a hybrid creature to be created by Mixmaster in the wild, Flora or Fauna?

Although within the story it makes sense for Burt not to be around very much, the real reason why the character is only in a few scenes is because actor Michael Gross was busy working on another project - Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, which he also starred in, went into production while the TV series was still filming. Burt is the star of the show, but these other characters have by this point proven to be worthy of following also, and with this episode show that they are capable of carrying episodes on their own as well.

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