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Series / 10.5

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"Prepare for the new West Coast."
The tagline sums up the whole thing pretty neatly.

10.5 is a Made-for-TV Movie Mini Series for NBC Disaster Movie about a series of increasingly damaging geological events first on the West Coast of the United States and then into the Midwest.

The two-part miniseries opens up when an earthquake strong enough to bring down the Space Needle strikes Seattle. Later a bigger earthquake devours a train and catches some suspicions from our resident Ignored Expert scientist Samanta Hill. She suspects the quakes are only going to get bigger and will eventually sink the entirety of the West Coast. She plans to counter said problem by detonating nukes at precise locations to weld the fault closed.


It spawned a second part titled 10.5: Apocalypse which took the audacity of the first movie and took it Up to Eleven.

Now say the mantra again and again until you finally regain your faith in humanity.

Tropes used by this series include:

  • Artistic License – Geology: Never mind geologists crying; they're probably using this movie to beat themselves to death.
    • For one thing, it is literally impossible for an earthquake with a magnitude of 10.5 on the Richter Scale to occur through normal geological processes,note  because there aren't any faults long enough.
    • A major detail about this trope; an earthquake of high magnitude is A LOT of shaking, and above 6—7 on the scale you cannot run, much less walk. at 8 - 9 you can't even stand up. Yet in the referenced 10.5 events you have people running for their lives. There's even someone on a bike during an earthquake powerful enough to knock down the Space Needle! It's as if the Screen Shake was really just a visual effect. Which, uh... it kind of is...
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    • The ultimate cause of the disasters was described near the beginning of the movie as being below the asthenosphere, i.e. in the mantle itself.
    • While the south of the Golden State is certainly due for a big earthquake any day now, it won't be a 10.5, but most likely in the 7-8 region, as if that wasn't deadly enough in such a heavily populated area.
    • The San Andreas fault isn't that kind of fault. If anything, its plates are getting closer together.
    • In the sequel, it is theorised that seismic events speed up when continents are moving towards each other. Yeah, but aren't the continents only going towards each other at a rate of 2-8 centimetres a year? Going by the sequel's logic, L.A and Tokyo would be next door to each other in less than a month.
    • In the sequel, there would be no way that a single earthquake would be the direct trigger for hundreds of other events, even if the Earthquake was that strong.
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    • Extinct volcanoes will usually never erupt again, even if they're hit by an earthquake, because the magma is no longer close enough to rise out of the crust. However, both Sun Valley and King's Peak do just that in the sequel, despite this glaring flaw.
    • In the sequel, the fault line which is moving towards the Gulf of Mexico is doing just that. However, at the end of the film, it has somehow gone north into Canada as well. And the USGS didn't care, nor did they comment on the fault doing this.
    • While weather can certainly make earthquake rescue efforts harder, there's no such thing as "Earthquake Weather".
    • When one scientist asks another why this earthquake is different to others, she just replies, "It's more volatile". They're not even trying.
  • Artistic License – Physics: The massive tsunami which hits Honolulu in the sequel is able to take out the windows of the buildings, but it somehow just glides through the concrete skyscrapers without doing anything serious to them.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the climax of Apocalypse, Sam Hill and her father Earl are able to successfully prevent the fault line from hitting a large nuclear plant, in turn saving 75 million people from radioactive fallout. But by the end, millions of other people are still dead, everything west of the Mississippi River is ravaged, Houston gets destroyed, and the entire North American continent still gets physically split in half from the fault.
  • Buried Alive: The second earthquake in the first movie does this to an entire town.
    • During the final Big One in the original film, some of the people in the refugee camp can be seen in the background being buried in sand, probably because a sinkhole opened up underneath them.
  • Captain Ersatz: The sunken casino scenes in the sequel are a massive Expy or rip-off of the original Poseidon Adventure film, just set in a building instead of a ship.
  • Conspicuous CGI: When the tsunami hits Honolulu in the sequel, it appears to phase through the buildings and keep on going up the island, with no effect on the strength of the wave being observed from it hitting the objects.
    • Also in the sequel, a USGS Chopper can be seen flying around without its rotor blades moving. It seems unusual as to how they had enough money to hire 12 Black Hawks for the Gas Field scene, but didn't have enough money to animate a single helicopter.
  • Deadly Gas: Earthquakes in both movies rupture underground gas pockets.
  • Deus ex Nukina: In addition to their traditional roles as weapons of mass destruction, nuclear explosions can also apparently stop earthquakes. Who knew?
  • Disaster Movie: In more than one way.
  • Doomed Contrarian: As seen in the sunken casino scene in Apocalypse.
    • Averted in the first movie.
  • Dropped A Dam On Him: Jordan Fisher and the helicopter pilot keep too close to the Hoover Dam even as they realize water is pouring over it like a waterfall, until the dam collapses on them.
  • Earthquakes Cause Fissures
  • Genre Blindness / Genre Savvy: In Apocalypse, Jordan and the pilot see with their eyes that the Hoover Dam is mere minutes away from breaking, yet they stay too close and are killed for it. Later, two Rangers on an helicopter check on Mount Rushmore and, seeing Washington's face cracking, they understand it's time to get outta there.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Roy Nolan has to set off the last nuke manually. He had already been mortally wounded by it falling down the drill hole on him after it got damaged.
    • Rachel, the assistant of the Governor of California, shields her from the collapse of a roof when they are caught by an earthquake in San Francisco, and is mortally wounded.
  • Market-Based Title: When this was screened on Channel 4 in Britain it was called Earthquake: 10.5 (presumably because Britain isn't prone to earth tremors so viewers there aren't as familiar with the Richter scale). It was also renamed Earthquake for the DVD release in the UK.
  • Monumental Damage: The Space Needle, Golden Gate Bridge, US Bank Tower and the Hollywood Sign fall in the first film. Monument Valley gets flooded, the Hoover Dam breaks, Las Vegas sinks, and Mt. Rushmore gets destroyed outright in Apocalypse.
  • Nuke 'em: The government sets off a chain of nukes in an attempt to quell the quake, including one in what's alleged to be "Gilroy, California". No more Garlic Festival...
  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: A bicyclist is victim to this trope in the Seattle earthquake with the Space Needle falling behind him.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: President Hollister. He encourages Nolan to become this after the latter was skeptical about Dr. Hill's theory.
  • Regional Redecoration: 10.5 ends with the titular earthquake, which turns Los Angeles into an island. The sequel series, 10.5 Apocalypse turns things Up to Eleven with an ancient fault line that proceeds to split North America in half.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Jordan Fisher, who barely survives the end of the first movie, dies halfway into the second.
  • Title Drop: The magnitude of the climactic earthquake is... 10.5.
  • Up to Eleven: The writers seemed to think the real worst case scenario - note  - simply wasn't enough. They had to break off the entire city of Los Angeles.
    • The second part does this to the premise of the first.
    • Serial Escalation: The first movie splits Los Angeles off into its own island. The second movie splits the continent in half.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The crew of the Queen Mary 2 knockoff could ride out the tsunami if they headed straight for it, but they turn so that they are facing side on to the wave instead, with predictable results.


Example of: