The Future Is Here
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Saturday matinee: the post-apocalyptic library education show Tomes & Talismans

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In 1986, Mississippi Educational Television created Tomes & Talismans, a poorly acted 13-episode educational program designed to teach children how to use microfiches and the Dewey Decimal System. It also took place in the post-apocalypse. Huh? Read on...

What's wonderful about Tomes & Talismans is how the program uses an end-of-the-world scenario (an invading, mustachioed alien species!) to explain a horribly mundane topic (uh, card catalogs). The show's premise is such — in the year 2123, the Wipers — the aforementioned species of information-hating aliens who act like hillbillies — invade Earth, forcing humanity to relocate in the White Crystal Solar System. Despite the pending human evacuation, Ms. Bookhart, the protagonist librarian, goes out into the wastes in her Bookmobile to find a missing library book. That's dedication.


In Tomes & Talismans, incredibly dull lessons in library navigation are juxtaposed with scenes of post-apocalyptic barbarity. When Ms. Bookhart goes to retrieve the lost library book, she encounters a mad squatter screaming and tossing books in a fire. Imagine being in elementary school and desperately trying to stay awake, when — all of a sudden — this all-ages version of The Road pops on.

Eventually Ms. Bookhart and her bad acting give up on finding the book. At this point, "The Universal Being" shows up and traps her in the Bookmobile for 100 years using some sort of stasis magic. The apocalypse, aliens, space gods...and this is still the first episode!


So the first episode ends with this poor librarian sleeping in a Bookmobile for a century while all her loved ones teleport to another galaxy and die of old age. The second episode totally flips the script and introduces us to the Users, a race of good, knowledge-seeking aliens who wear headbands. They find Ms. Bookhart, and she teaches them to use high-tech audiovisual equipment you can buy at yard sales nowadays for a nickel.

How does Tomes & Talismans end? I honestly have no clue. Barring the awesomely heavy-handed intro, sundry moments of terrible acting, and the Wipers yukking it up like astro-rednecks, the show is mostly dry lessons in archiving technologies the internet's made obsolete. I barely made it through the second episode. You can watch the whole series here if you desperately need a crash course in writing a bibliography.

Thanks to LB for the heads up!