Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tremors: The Series - Blast from the Past

A creature from the third Tremors movie returns to terrorize the third episode of the TV show.

The third episode of the television continuation of the Tremors film series begins with a man hang-gliding over the desert outside of the tiny, isolated town of Perfection, Nevada, the protected habitat of the Graboid known as El Blanco. The hang-glider should be safe in the sky, the prehistoric subterranean creature can't reach him up there.

But it's El Blanco who intially gets the blame when the hang-glider's mutilated remains get scattered all over the road into Perfection.

This incident interrupts the inaugural session of Burt Gummer's forty-eight hour Survival School, which Perfection's most intense resident recently started up, at the encouragement of local store owner Jodi Chang and Desert Jack's Graboid Adventure Tour owner Tyler Reed, in an effort to recover from the destruction of his house in Tremors 3: Back to Perfection.

Knowing that El Blanco couldn't possibly be the guilty party, Burt heads into town to investigate... just in time to see a topless Jeep come riding into town, driven by the lower half of a man's body. The top half has been devoured by something, and Burt is quickly able to deduce just what that something was. There is "launch residue" on the vehicle's passenger seat. An Ass-Blaster, the third and final creature in the Graboid-Shrieker-Blaster life cycle, landed in the Jeep, ate half of the driver, then launched itself back into the sky with the flammable chemicals it secretes from its rear end, gaining air and gliding off to another location.

How can an Ass-Blaster possibly be in the area? No Graboid other than the sterile El Blanco has been around to turn into a Shrieker that would become a Blaster. With Tyler's help, Burt goes on a hunt for answers and the Ass-Blaster, while Jodi and hippie single mother Nancy Sterngood take over the Survival School classes.

Showgirl-turned-cattle rancher Rosalita Sanchez also earns a teaching position after capably escaping an Ass-Blaster attack. Guys who wanted to learn fire starting, lizard catching, and gun loading end up doing arts and crafts.

Before Burt and Tyler can blast the Ass-Blaster out of the equation, further information is revealed about where this creature came from...

It is indeed, as the title of the episode says, a blast from the past. This particular Ass-Blaster was featured in Tremors 3, and circumstances demand that he be captured rather than killed. This creature is owned by Siegfried and Roy-esque Vegas entertainers who have named him Messerschmitt, and they want him back.

Since Nancy and her daughter Mindy (currently away at college) were the ones to capture Messerschmitt and sell him to the showmen in the first place, she blames herself for the recent deaths. Messerschmitt must be caught before his bodycount climbs any higher.

Tremors production company Stampede Entertainment had been hoping to make a Tremors television series for nearly ten years before it finally happened. During the days when hope for the series being made was low, some episode ideas and concept art were posted on the company's website. Fans who saw those may recognize the tactic Burt uses in his attempt to capture Messerschmitt from a story idea called The Awful Winged Thing, which featured Burt going up against a flying creature before the aerial Ass-Blasters were introduced into the franchise. Most of the episode ideas that were posted online were not turned into episodes of the Tremors series when it actually came into existence, maybe they would have been if the series had continued on beyond its one season, but Blast from the Past is basically The Awful Winged Thing.

Tremors co-creators S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock received story credits on the episode along with the writer of the teleplay, Babs Greyhosky, whose television writing career stretches back to Magnum P.I. and The A-Team. The director of the episode, Michael Shapiro, had also directed episodes of CSI and The Dead Zone.

An entertaining 42 minutes with a nice mixture of dramatic and comedic elements, Blast from the Past also features moments of Ass-Blaster special effects that look better than most shots of the creatures that were in Tremors 3. The standout is a very realistic shot of Messerschmitt gliding through the sky, his fins fluttering in the wind. Ass-Blasters typically seem to have been created through CGI, but that gliding shot looks like it might have been achieved by swinging a practical creature from a crane. CG or practical, it's impressive.

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