Out Of This World: SciFi, Sitcoms and the Best Superpower Ever | Tor.com

Out Of This World: SciFi, Sitcoms and the Best Superpower Ever

There are great debates in life which are ever-present, weaving themselves in and out of your conversations, your relationships, your general existence, and resurfacing just often enough that they never slip entirely from your consciousness. Of these epic, recurring existential questions, perhaps my favorite is the classic “If You Could Have Any Superpower, What Would You Choose?” conundrum—it’s a big one here at Tordot headquarters (perhaps unsurprisingly). The smart money usually goes with teleportation. (We’re stuck in New York City, dealing with subways all day; teleportation is an extremely popular fantasy, if not an obsession, with most people I know.) There’s also invisibility and telepathy (Omega-class only, of course). There’s the power of flight, which would certainly be a good time, and then super-speed, telekinetic capabilities, etc…but I’m not interested. I know what I want, because I have seen it in action. Once upon a time, in the sparkly, neon-pink light of the 1980s, I glimpsed the possibility of life at its most perfect, and it involved alien-human hybridity, Burt Reynolds, and The Power To Stop Time. It was…Out Of This World.

Seriously, does anyone else remember this show?

In my hazy, Super Mario-addled memory, Out Of This World was on for a brief season or two sometime in the late 80s…I was actually mildly shocked to learn that the show actually ran in the U.S. for five full seasons, from 1987 to 1991. Here’s the thing—let me come out right now and say it—this was not a good show. Even a naive little grade schooler like myself could smell the fetid stench of mediocrity all over this thing…and yet I loved it. And here’s the reason: the series centers on a seemingly ordinary girl named Evie, who reaches her thirteenth birthday and finds out that she’s NOT LIKE OTHER KIDS. She has special powers. Why, you ask?

Well, turns out the dad she’s never met isn’t some lame old “Secret Agent” like mom said, after all. He’s an alien. Who also happens to be…Mr. Burt Reynolds. Old Sex-Moustache himself. (At least that’s what we called him. Back in grade school).

So: Evie’s parents met when her father’s spaceship crash-landed on Earth; Troy and Donna fell in love, married and (ahem) “merged lifeforms” in the early 70s. Soon after Evie’s birth, Troy was called back to his home planet, Antareus, because war had broken out. After her Alien-Bat Mitzvah-esque coming of age, Evie is able to communicate with Troy through a glowing cube-shaped device (cleverly dubbed “The Cube”), which usually sits on the nightstand next to her bed. Because what teenager wouldn’t want her all-powerful alien father, voiced by Mr. Burt Reynolds, lurking next to her bed…at all times?


Moving on. To be honest, the rest of the show was either a big, boring blur, or else I’ve just blocked it out. Evie was saddled with an overprotective mother, the usual sitcom-teenager problems (boys, homework, boys, Burt Reynolds in cube form, etc.), and a crappy supporting cast of none-too-memorable friends, family and neighbors, but none of those details actually mattered, because (as I may have already mentioned) she had the amazing ability to freakin’ stop time! Just by pressing the tips of her index fingers together, Evie could bring life to a standstill. People? Animals? Inanimate objects? Utterly frozen, for as long as she needed to sort things out. Time and space bowed to her every whim.

It was truly awesome (and not just because it was the 80s, when everything was theoretically “awesome”). In all seriousness, what could possibly be greater than the power to control time? Teleportation is nice, sure, but what’s the rush? Just tap your fingers together, and get there however—and whenever—you feel like it. Take the slow boat. Fix yourself a drink and set up a giant Slip ‘n’ Slide to your destination of choice—take all the time you need! Steal a sports car, who’s gonna find out? They’re all FROZEN. Frozen, and clueless.

It’s genius. It’s beautiful. It’s perfect. Which is probably why Out Of This World still has a small but rabid fan-base on the Internet; you can apparently sign a petition to bring the show to DVD, but it’s really not the show I’m invested in. It’s the concept. Not only does Evie’s existence fulfill the classic childhood desire to be someone extraordinary (in the tradition of the Harry Potter school of “Surprise! You’re actually superior in every conceivable way to all the boring, crummy people around you!”) but I’ve envied her particular superpower for over two decades now. Every looming deadline, every interminable meeting, even every elevator door closing entirely too quickly—all perfectly solvable, in Evie’s world. In Out of This World, life is just a great big game of freeze tag that you always win…and I want it. And so, hands down, this is my vote for Best Superpower Ever.

As long as Burt Reynolds doesn’t get to live in a cube next to my bed. (Because that’s just weird).


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