There are two ways of reading this episode. One is the emotional, fan-community, character-driven angle:
WADE TALKING ABOUT QUINN/NOT YELLING:
EVERY CHARACTER GETTING SOMETHING TO DO:
AN ACTUALLY INTERESTING WAY TO DEAL WITH A LUDICROUS IDEA FOR AN ALTERNATE HISTORY:
And then there’s the FOX way of seeing the episode:
HOLY SHIT DINOSAURS:
OH FUCK DINOSAURS:
DINO DINO DINOS:
So there you go. This episode has Dinosaurs. Technically, it only has one dinosaur. An Allosaurus, which, y’know, points for not just making it a T-Rex.
But this episode is really tricky. Because, yes, they slide into a world where San Francisco is an animal reserve for the endangered species of Dinosaurs. The entire city is just wildlife and forest—all thanks to a really good cave set (which is the last time I’m ever going to say that about the show), and inspired location shooting.
But that’s only part of it. That cave set is inhabited by two persons— a forest ranger and a dino poacher. It’s here that I step back and lay loose the inspiration behind this episode:
Right. First: dang, trailers sure have changed since 1996. Second: not that you’d know it, but there’s a character in that big-time Hollywood movie played by a nice young man named Jerry O’Connell.
Right, so we have to engineer an excuse for Quinn to disappear. But that wasn’t even the original reason for crafting this episode. Sliders, being (now) ostensibly an ‘action/adventure’ show, is an expensive show. Location shoots! Guest stars! And countless shots of a vortex! Corners need to be cut. And instead of pulling a pre-BSG BSG and literally cutting the corners off of the paper, they go to the tried-and-true TV trope of a ‘bottle show.’
For people who don’t read thousands of blogs about TV shows all the time, a bottle show is an episode where the majority of the action is filmed on one set to cut costs and rein the budget in.
So that was the original intent of “In Dino Veritas.” But Jerry O’Connell’s need to go shoot a big-ass movie necessitated a re-tooling of the plot. So instead of everyone sitting around a campfire, we get three quarters of the team and a subplot involving Dino-Poaching. The whole “poacher/ranger” plot is pretty ingenious. O course if there were dinosaurs, there’d be poaching. The list of potential medical uses fo dinosaur parts is inspired, as is the retort about the dino-sex glands. Imagine the dino-furry porn on this world! “Pterodactyl Sex”, but real!
I digress. The idea was always to have a dinosaur, but it was going to be a background threat. Somehow, though, the FX team found they could make a CG Dino on the cheap. So there’s another level— dinosaur action.
It’s the latter that complicates things. FOX didn’t know what the fuck to do with this show, but here, in this episode, they’re handed ratings on a silver platter— Jurassic Park on TV. BAM. Primetime. Money. Revenue. Whatever.
The thing is, this episode couldn’t be any less about Dinosaurs if it tried to be. It’s actually the third episode in a row that I’ve watched that cements the idea that this show is less about alternate histories than it is about friendship. I mean, that’s incredibly corny. But the middle of this episode is dominated/defined by an extended conversation between Arturo & Wade about Quinn.
Wade starts soft, saying how she used to have a crush on him. But it’s different now.
“I just really love him, you know? Without condition. I’d give my life for him.”
So there’s that. You could hang the entire series on that one line. All that she puts into that line: the delivery, the look in her eyes. And the fact that the lie-detecting-truth-collars (long story) don’t electrocute her.
But’s it’s the thing I’ve been arguing for weeks: that this show isn’t the story of four people travelling from universe to universe. It’s the story of four strangers becoming a family. Wade’s declaration of love effectively closes the book on the whole ‘will-they-or-won’t-they’ non-plot, but in a more satisfying way than any single episode could. These people, they’re more than just companions. Like I’ve said, they’re all they’ve got.
Arturo follows it up with a heartwarming story about the first time he met Quinn, an impetuously intelligent nag of a student. Arturo’s excitement about the memory is moving, and serves to inspire the gang not to worry about Quinn. That’s the thing— not only is Quinn important to them, as a friend, he’s also a symbol of instigation, the impetus for belief in themselves.
It’s probing to be a little hard to explain at length what the importance of Quinn Mallory is to these people. I mean, certainly, he’s the “one who got them into this.” It’s his job to “get them out of it.” But he’s also the one character who hasn’t changed very much since this journey. I mean, he might be more sullen every now and then, but he’s still more in it for the sights than anyone else. Wade, when she’s not shrilly yelling at people (though her shrillness in this episode is a deserved moment and services her character rather than diminishes), is morose about their dwindling prospects of getting home. Rembrandt has calmed down remarkably as well. But the key thing is that they’ve undoubtedly started to look to Quinn as the de facto leader of the group in a way they never had before.
I’m rambling. I’ll table this discussion for later— there’ll be more opportunities to bring it up.
We have to talk about the fact that the scene that informs the emotional underpinning of every adventure from now on comes in the middle of an episode with a fucking dinosaur in it.
I’m supposed to be nice (I guess). I should be nice. It’s 1996. It’s a television show that doesn’t have a huge budget. But let’s be honest: this dinosaur looks really bad. Like, really bad.
I mean, it’s feet don’t even look like they touch the ground. The whole thing is preposterous. But, like I said, I have to be honest: this dinosaur is the reason Sliders got a third season. There is no analogy well-enough fitting to describe how much of a double edged sword this dinosaur is (see what I did there?) “In Dino Veritas” netted Sliders it’s highest ratings ever. And while this is more or less undoubtedly because FOX promoted the shit out of it, putting it in the sweeps and devising s “SLIDERS IN JURASSIC PARK” campaign. No shit it had high ratings. Half of those ratings probably came from people who had never seen the show before. But those people were only going to be confused about why they should care about these strangers complaining in a cave. “The fat dude wants to be left behind?” They’d say. “Sure, I don’t care. Leave him.”
But those ratings, while not as honest as they might otherwise be, mean that no matter what, FOX has the ratings to prove that action will sell. So this episode secures and seals the fate of the show. Nothing can really be the same after this. Any ground Tracy Tormé had won just won’t matter anymore.
I’m going to be in an alternate dimension where I don’t write this blog next week (IE, “vacation.”)
But the week after that… Sliders fanfiction is born (Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome).