Tomes & Talismans: Post- apocalyptic ‘Edutainment’

BookhartMy wife recently got a job at one of our local libraries. This is a job she has wanted for a long time and I couldn’t be happier for her. We are a reading household and both of us were raised to believe in the power of the written word, as well the necessity of the public library to act as the hub of our society. This job also means that I get to finally achieve my dream of making out with a hot librarian…so, win!

With this new connection to the world of libraries, I caught myself looking back at my previous library experiences. Being a child of the 90s, I may be one of the last of my generation that recalls using the card catalog and the Dewey Decimal system (823.087 forever, mother F***ers!). I remember sitting in my elementary school library, where everything was meticulously covered in rough carpet, and listening to Mrs. Walker read Strega Nona in an Italian accent. I also remember watching public television specials. A LOT of public television specials.

It wasn’t until recently that I thought of one of these programs, because somewhere, in the recesses of my brain there were trace memories of a post-apocalyptic television show that took place in a public library. In my quest to prove that I wasn’t crazy, I discovered the program developed by Tennessee Public Broadcasting in 1986; This show was called Tomes & Talimans.


The premise of Tomes & Talismans is that in the year 2123, humanity is abandoning Earth because an alien race known as the “Wipers” are destroying Earth’s communication and data technology. In response, group of people have developed a complete library of all human knowledge that is housed underground. In search of the underground facility, stranded librarian Ms. Bookhart, is put into suspended animation for one hundred years by a force known only as “The Universal Being”. When she awakens, she encounters a group of alien children known as “Users” who help her discover the underground library. Through the course of the thirteen 20 minute episodes, Ms. Bookhart teaches the kids how to use the library and its stored information.

If you think that this concept is extremely elaborate for a show meant to teach children how to use the library, you’d be right. However, it’s this detailed science fiction world building that gives Tomes &Talismans its charm. “Edutainment” has traditionally been a difficult enterprise, so a show all about libraries set in a polluted hellscape run by hillbilly aliens, should get some credit.

I won’t lie to you, the show looks like a cross between Nickelodeon’s The Tomorrow People and the Tom Baker’s run of Doctor Who. The aliens do wear futuristic headbands, the music does sound like a George Romero zombie film score* and the writing is stilted and overacted, but the seed of their idea for this show is solid.


As dated and hokey as Tomes & Talismans is, I’m impressed at the imagination that went into creating a show about card catalogs and constructing sentences that is as engaging as it is. We could probably learn something from Tomes & Talismans that might save us from the swath of shows featuring “toddlers, ducks and pawners” on channels that are meant for education. It’s the post-apocalypse for crying out loud, that is a great starting point for a show. And let’s face it, if the grid ever goes down and we can no longer access the internet, the most important place on Earth will be the public library. For even as the mutant bandits roam the wasteland in search of food and gasoline, they still have to learn how to maintain their vehicles. They would do well to look under the 600s (Technology).

*I actually view this as a selling point.



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