Electric Twister Acid Test


When the timer’s connection to a series of mysterious tornados sends the Sliders to a rural community, they discover the town’s leader might hold the key to sliding out, if they can survive his despotic rule.

Written by: Scott Smith Miller
Directed by: Oscar L. Costo
Edited by: Michael B. Hoggan, A.C.E.
Music by: Stephen Graziano

Broadcast History

Original Airdate: October 4, 1996
Production Code: K1809
Network Code: SL-304

Synopsis

The timer is malfunctioning in a charged environment where tornadoes run rampant. Searching for a safe haven, they accidentally draw the twisters into a safety zone, wreaking havoc on the small village. The three men are banished to the badlands for their crime and the timer is dismantled. With the help of other exiles, they sneak back in to rescue Wade and recover the timer. It turns out that the town’s elder is responsible for the twisters and he sent his own children away to protect his terrible secret. Once exposed, he agrees to try to undo what he’s done, but the Sliders must still erect a stable field for the timer to function in if they’re to escape.

Timer Status

Rendered useless by this Earth’s shoddy electromagnetic system. The timer can only function in a region with a stable EM field. Unfortunately it’s dismantled by Franklin Michener and later reassembled by Arturo.

Worlds Visited

Bobsled World

It may be summertime on Earth Prime, but bobsledding in California means it's likely a lot chillier here. Prize for winning the race? $10,000. Read the full Travelogue entry »

Twister World

Thar be twisters here! A scientific experiment gone awry has screwed up the electromagnetic spectrum on this Earth, giving rise to huge electric twisters that roam freely except in places with large lodestone deposits. Read the full Travelogue entry »

Details

  • The Sliders’ green and red bobsled has the words “The Last Ride” written along the front — a term that is brought home by the skull and crossbones logos on either side of the saying and on the nose of the sled.
  • Had they won the race, the Sliders would have collected a cool $10,000.
  • Jenny says that she spoke to a woman named Mrs. Backus who informed her that someone was stealing food from her.
  • A person cursed with “the shunning” is ostracized with a chant that is spoken as follows (for a female): She moves among us and we do not see her She cries out but we do not hear her She is but a shadow among us forever.

Character Information

  • Wade doesn’t like the film The Wizard of Oz because, while she was growing up, her parents used to make her watch the film every year when it was on television. It seems that the flying monkeys, poison poppies, tornadoes and witches used to give her nightmares.
  • The last trip Quinn took with his father was two months before his death when he, his dad and his mother went to visit Quinn’s Aunt in Minnesota. Before that, he’d never left San Francisco.
  • When Rembrandt was in the Navy, a hurricane once capsized his destroyer in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Rembrandt once played a concert in Abilene, Texas. It doesn’t seem that his act went over too well. “Those cowboys just didn’t get Motown,” he says.
  • Rembrandt says he didn’t get along too well with his father (Hilton Brown, from Invasion).
  • Arturo once worked with a man named Tom Malone who was trying to harness the elements.
  • Wade says that her father worked so much that she didn’t see very much of him. They promised to spend more time together once he retired, and one month after he did, she went sliding.


Money Matters

  • The Sliders had a chance to win $10,000 in a bobsled contest on their last world but the vortex activated before they could complete the race. It is likely that they had to put up money to enter the race and rent or buy the suits and the sled.


Cultural References

  • Watch the “handshake” between Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell at the end of the episode done in reference to their 1986 film Stand By Me in which the “skin it” shake was often shared between their characters.


Notable Quotes

  • “Well, if a building does drop on us, I hope its a ‘Burger Burglar.’ I’ve been hungry since the last world.” — Rembrandt, in response to Wade’s reservations about her fear of The Wizard of Oz.
  • Who’re we supposed to be, freakin’ Lewis and Clark?” — Rembrandt in response to Quinn’s determination to explore Twister World.
  • “She’s poor stock — skinny, narrow-hipped.” — Franklin, on Wade’s usefulness as a child bearer.
  • “I never thought I’d be a bigger blowhard than you, professor.” — Rembrandt, to Arturo after he gets zapped by a lightning bolt.
  • “Finally? You give us too much credit.” — Rembrandt, to Caleb, who says that the tied up male Sliders finally looked like they could use some help.
  • “Tastes like frogs frappéd in a Cuisinart.” — Rembrandt review of the algae drinks served by Reed.

Arturoisms


  • "Harsh environments create harsh people." — in reaction to the man hanging in the stocks.

  • "Where there's humor, there's life." — in reference to Rembrandt's joke about getting electrocuted.

Neatpicks

  • Wade expresses her dislike for The Wizard of Oz, but in reality Sabrina Lloyd appeared in local productions of the play when she was starting her career.
  • With regard to the Feldman-O’Connell handshake at the end of the episode, it’s interesting to note that O’Connell’s character in that film, Vern Tessio, never actually performed the handshake on screen, he was the only one of the four that didn’t use it.
  • As the tornadoes are bearing down on the four, Wade asks the professor how long until the slide. “Twenty seconds,” he yells. Exactly 21 seconds later, Arturo hands the timer to Quinn who then opens the vortex.

Nitpicks

  • The tree branch wedged into Quinn’s jumpsuit leaves no marks on his neck despite the force that would be needed to get it there.
  • Quinn dives to save Caleb from the twister but when they land, the film is obviously sped up to make it seem as if they landed harder against the rock.
  • Though Franklin is so concerned with electrical devices being introduced into the village, and confiscates the timer, he does not take away the prominent watches worn by Arturo, Rembrandt and Quinn (although it makes a good case for why Rembrandt was hit by the electrical bolt).
  • Arturo tries to explain his experiment to Caleb by using a pencil to draw a continuous circle on the paper beside him (evident via the uninterrupted scrawling sound the pencil makes). But when the drawing is show to the camera, it is a series of single line arcs that depict the electric field of the earth, not the circle that he’d so obviously been drawing.

Parallel History

In the 1960s a groups of scientists headed by Thomas Malone began experimenting with natural electromagnetic dynamos located under their facility at Concord Air Force Base. The goal was to create electromagnetic tornados that could be manipulated via computer to carry out specific instructions like leveling a slum or digging a canal — all without explosives.

However, while the goal of the project was to pursue peaceful applications of the technology, the military tried to co-opt it as a means of subversive weaponry. Malone attempted to scrap the program but he and Franklin Michener, one of his partners in the project, got into an argument about the loss of funding. The argument got physical, ending when Malone fell, hit his head and died.

Left to head the program himself, Michener quickly let things get out of control. The technology was unleashed on the world by mistake, wreaking havoc with the magnetic alignment of the Earth’s core. The twisters laid waste to much, if not all of civilization. Only regions with dense pockets of lodestone in them escaped destruction.

Michener was able to establish an agricultural colony in one of these pockets and established a draconian society that forbade technology. Things came to a head when his son Reed discovered his father was to blame, and he and six others were exiled from the community. These outcasts live underground in ruins of the Air Force base where all of this started.

The Inside Slide

Were the similarities between the movie Twister and this episode intentional? Yes and no, Tracy Tormé explains. “Somewhere early in the going, the idea of doing a show with tornadoes was sparked — I don’t know whether it was the network or the studio — but somebody liked the idea and so then the idea of doing it was there, obviously based on the fact that Twister had just been out and it caused a stir,” Tormé says. “Then, the effort was to try to do it so that it wasn’t too much like Twister. So, in other words, to do a Twister show about tornadoes but try to not make it too much like the movie.”

Derivative concepts like this drew criticism from John Rhys-Davies after being fired. “[Sliders] could have been one of the best shows on television but you cannot evolve these things if what you’re doing is, ‘Ok, the network wants a grand concept. So we’ll do a Twister episode but our twisters will be different because they’ll be big at the base and small at the top.”

All this did to Rhys-Davies was show the lack of knowledge in the writer pool. “But of course our twister is man-made and is upside down, which reveals a remarkable ignorance about the physics of twisters!”

· · ·

Many fans immediately noticed the handshake between Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell — a hand shake identical to the one they performed in the film Stand By Me a decade earlier. So was it planned? “I’m sure they just cooked that up themselves,” Tormé says. “I think that was something that they wanted to do after just hanging around the set. Personally, I’ll tell you what, I didn’t like it. Personally, I thought it was too inside, it was too much of a reference that takes you out of the show itself so had I been on the set that day and it had been run by me, I would have said ‘no.'”

· · ·

“I’d gotten the offer and I don’t do a lot of TV,” notes Corey Feldman. “Every once in a blue moon, I’ll do an episodic appearance, and I’ve done a few TV series, but they’ve been, uh, very short-lived.

“But when I got the offer to do it, I thought, ‘Oh, it’s really great that Jerry’s grown up, he’s become this good-looking guy, and he’s so far from the character he once played,’ and I remember being really excited about the opportunity to work with him again. And as it’s turned out, aside from doing Lost Boys with Kiefer [Sutherland], I think Jerry and I working together on Sliders is the only time that anyone from the Stand By Me cast worked together again.”

· · ·

Digital Muse’s Brad Hayes created the killer tornado that ravages the town and the surrounding wasteland.

Guest Stars

Unaccredited

  • The unfortunate actor playing one Eddie Costas who hangs dead in the stocks.