In Search Of… S04E01 Tidal Waves
Hello again, my tens of readers! My life’s taken a busy turn of late and so my In Search Of updates have been a little sporadic. But they’re back, with a new, shorter format.
Yay and so on.
I’ve been looking forward to this one. It’s one of the episodes that I remember most strongly from when I watched this show as a kid. Like a lot of Australian youngsters, I spent as much time as I could at the beach. Unlike the shows about Bigfoot or hurricanes, the idea that tsunami could get me seemed real. I actually remember completing a sandcastle one time and looking nervously out to sea, wondering if an underwater earthquake might mess it up.
A lot of that comes to this show. I don’t think it introduced me to the idea of tidal waves, but it did explain to me what they were. A lot of this episode is just good, factual information about tidal waves, how they are caused, and what early warning precautions existed in the late 1970s. It goes quite a lot into a tsunami in Hilo, Hawaii. There’s some slightly misleading graphics as large waves are shown as if they were tsunamis (they look quite different). Otherwise, pretty good. Shorn of its drama, this is one of the most straight down the line factual episodes of In Search Of…
But. The drama.
You see, this episode is cut like a narrated horror film. The visuals and music cut suddenly from idyllic beach life to terrible waves, screams and tense music. The soundtrack abounds with tension stings and jarring chords. Nimoy’s narration actively asks when tsunamis will strike next. This impersonal natural phenomenon is made to sound like a serial killer, lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike. It’s surprisingly effective, even given that at any given time you’re probably not, like, actually in the path of an oncoming tsunami.
And like a serial killer movie, it has cops on the hunt, in this case in the form of tidal experts checking teletexts in in short-sleeved tropical shirts. There’s even a subplot in the form of a guy waiting to take pictures of the Hilo tsunami, who dies in the waters.
The visuals of the tsunami aftermath are nice, but the wave itself is clearly a montage of quick cuts from old B-movies. A Hilo restaurant owner shows two lines painted on the wall of his dining room showing the different height of two tsunamis to affect his establishment.
As is often the case in disaster porn episodes, actual disasters are deemed insufficiently scary, so we have a hypothetical about a tsunami hitting LA, much like we worried about an earthquake hitting the city during the earthquake episode. A few minutes research shows that my initial reaction – that it is a load of crap – was incorrect, and a tsunami ‘attack’ on Southern California is a real possibility. So… for once In Search Of’s pointless drama actually has a point, I guess?
Nimoy – “Once born a tsunami cannot be stopped or controlled.”
Dun dun Duuuunnn!
Disaster porn: 8/10, Horror movie: 9/10, Nimoyness: 8/10, Music: 10/10, Scaring the crap out of me at the age of 10: 10/10. Overall: 45/50. High Distinction