Electric Twister Acid Test

"Corey Feldman with a beard? It goes against the laws of nature." — Me.

Review by Matt Hutaff


If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, it’s a safe bet that some of those cobblestones are melted down tapes of “Electric Twister Acid Test.”

I can hear the pitch meeting now:

“So, Twister made $100 million in three weeks.”

“We should throw the Sliders in the same situation! It stands to reason people will flock to their televisions on Friday night to watch poorly rendered tornadoes! ”

“And here I thought people were going for Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton…”

“Shut up, Tracy.”

· · ·

“Electric Twister Acid Test” is an episode where a detailed alternate history works against it. It just rubs you the wrong way, and since it’s more about weird cult-like communities and running away from electronic tornadoes (really), I’m left wondering why Scott Smith Miller even bothered.

In summation: man-made tornadoes. Ooookay. Apparently scientists can tap “underground electric dynamos” and produce electric twisters capable of serving as a cheap alternative to demolition. Naturally, this technology goes awry. Naturally, almost everyone on earth pays the price for science marching forward. When will we ever learn? If we follow the survivors of this holocaust, probably never.

Does anyone care about this? The writers don’t; it’s unnecessary exposition to bolster special effects that are secondary to the main story. It adds nothing to the overall flow of the story except for the flow of the viewer’s head as it crashes into a table in frustration. The bobsled hovering 18 inches above the ground in the teaser is a clear indication that the laws of nature are not going to play a huge role in this episode, but science anomalies aside, what really sinks this story are the derivative plot and poor supporting actors.

Upon landing on this parallel earth, the Sliders find the timer doesn’t function because of the electromagnetic imbalance caused by the twisters. (This begs the question: why would the timer dump them in a spot where it doesn’t even work?) Wade finds a sheltered valley that appears to be safe harbor from the disturbances around them. Coincidentally, the timer works in this area, so the Sliders make their way down the mountain and into the small rural community ensconced there. On the outskirts, the Sliders find a dead man in the stocks… clearly not a good sign.

I’m all for showing the Sliders in a fish-out-of-water situation. An Amish community that shuns technology is an intriguing idea, one that could have very easily played out with technocrats Arturo and Quinn. Wade seems a natural choice to be “adopted” into the village… with Rembrandt off doing something, like talking about the Navy or something else contrary to his character. The point is that a story like this could have worked without the guise of technology gone haywire. Interesting character situations can work without special effects; unfortunately, this story was made to bend around the CGI.

The Sliders themselves aren’t given much to do except react to their situation. One brief shining moment comes when Quinn, sitting in the barn, reminisces about a family trip to visit some relatives. The smile on his face when he tells the story brings real warmth to the scene, especially in contrast to the out-of-character dialog given to Rembrandt. Again, we are treated with a line about his retconned Navy heritage, a line so out of place and unrelated to the story it could have been cut with no one the wiser. As the story progresses he’s struck by lightning, mumbles and is in the background, but that’s about it. Give Cleavant Derricks something to do, please.

As I said earlier, the supporting cast was weak. Jenny Michener’s (Julie Benz) voice is very high and whiny, and her inflection makes every line she speaks seem like it’s the most important thing she’s ever said. Her speech to Jacob (Tim Griffith) in the jail makes me scratch my head, because their “love,” up until then, struck me as an arranged marriage and not a true relationship. What’s to love about Jacob, anyways? The man is a blockhead.

Leaving only Corey Feldman as Reed Michener and Bill Bolender as the town despot, Franklin Michener. Now, a quick word: I love Corey Feldman. He’s my favorite Goonie and the string of completely unbearable movies he made with Corey Haim in the 80s are a staple of Saturday afternoon lethargy. But c’mon, casting him in a serious role? Has anyone in casting seen Blown Away? Reed Michener is supposed to be a tragic character, a man fighting his father for nothing more than food, cast away from his community for learning the truth. Instead we get Mouth with a 5 o’clock shadow.

Franklin is your typical one-dimensional villain, someone that cannot be reasoned with under any circumstances. Instead of being curious where four people they had never seen before pop into their village (“Are there more survivors?” is a logical question to ask in such circumstances), he has Quinn beaten and refuses to accept Arturo’s explanation of their arrival. Franklin dismantles the timer, sends the men into exile and forces Wade to tend a garden. Wade tries to escape and he throws her in jail. She tries to escape again, and he tries to drown her? Please.

Eventually Quinn, Arturo and Rembrandt meet Reed and he reveals his father is the origin of the tornadoes, giving them enough time to rescue Wade, have a dramatic showdown with Franklin and slide. I’d elaborate but if you’ve read this far you know to steer away from this episode.

There are several plot holes which, try as I might, I cannot get out of my head. First, Jenny’s “are you from Reed’s camp?” speech to the Sliders during their first encounter. Strictly speaking, Reed’s “camp” is Reed and a little boy (as far as we know). It’s also comprised entirely of people that have been thrown out of the valley, so why would Jenny even ask such a stupid question? Of course, she is in love with Jacob, so maybe stupid is as stupid does.

Second, isn’t it mighty convenient that these electric tornadoes demolish the whole of human civilization except for four properly placed Tesla coils above ground? Reed says where they’re at used to be the Concorde Air Force base. Look around; you’re only seeing desert, but a weather monitoring station (which does NOT require four Tesla coils) remains unhurt? Please. In truth, Tesla coils would provide no null space for a stable wormhole — they EMIT electromagnetic energy when powered. Speaking of power, where’s all that power in the underground base coming from?

Oh yeah, did those guys grease Quinn down after ripping off his shirt so he’s easier on the knuckles?

I’ve got to stop. I’m getting a headache.

Standard direction and substandard music from Stephen Graziano, tacked on to this boring and predictable outing for the Sliders, adds up to a fundamental mistake in production. Even the golden egg of detailed alternate history isn’t enough to save this one from being a total dud.

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