The Multiverse is a lonely town.
Think about it. In all these adventures, we’ve only met two people who were also sliders, and they were both Quinn. Sliding thus far has been an isolar world, with the only familiarity able to be encountered being dark mirrors of your soul. So imagine if suddenly your little island of a life suddenly blows open? if you realize you aren’t alone, there are other people who share this life?
Now imagine if these people you encounter were terrifying ape-beasts who devour human eyes and are hell-bent on conquering every alternate Earth in the Multiverse?
“Invasion” is probably the most important episode of the series, and not just because it introduces a villan that would ultimately shape the future of the show. “Invasion” is a true crossing of a line. It’s genuine Sci-Fi in away that the show rarely resembles (and yes, I know the premise is that a dope-ass cellphone opens portals to parallel dimensions). It has elements of Sci-Fi/dinosaurs every now and again, but here we have basically some mother fucking UFOs shootings some mother fucking lasers.
And to be frank, it’s awesome. Seriously (and this is a moment where I am writing on a use.net board in 1996), but the idea of the Kromagg Dynasty is totally amazing. It opens up the world of Sliding in a way that we didn’t even know was possible—even necessary. And it’s frankly brilliant to have the first non-double sliders be not only hideous, but also purely evil.
We’ll start with the ‘hideous’ part first. It’s long been something we’re forced to willfully disbelieve, but it is awfully convenient that every world they slide to is inhabited by humanoid bipeds that have the same language as the sliders (Star Trek has half of that problem, too— the latter half being hand-waved by ‘Universal Translators’). There’s a way to ‘fanwank’ this that doesn’t require religion— we haven’t had it explained yet, I don’t think, but the reason the Sliders are always in San Francisco is because there is a thing in the dope-ass cellphone called a ‘geographic stabilizer’ that gives them a four-mile radius (wow, good thinking, Quinn!) To connect this to humanoid dimension, let’s say that (here’s where the fanwanking comes in) if you were to map the —which we’re defining as all the universe that splinter off for every choice made— it would probably look like an infinite fractal (you should be stoned while you are reading this). And like any given Timer most likely has a Geographic Stabilizer, I feel like it’s safe to say that this Stabilizer makes it so that each Timer can only slide to a finite amount of Universes— only one arm of the Fractal, if you will. Y’all better quote me on this shit, yo.
So it’s important that the Kromaggs are not Aliens. It would deflate there inherent terror. To have them really be another evolutionary possibility of Homo Sapiens makes them scarier for the same reason all the ugly mirrors of the Sliders’ doubles are— the Kromaggs show us the absolute of our dark sides.
And in a way, the Kromaggs are a superior evolutionary chain. They seem to have, in addition to being ‘masters of gravity,’ an incredible telepathic power— able to create hallucinations and probe for information. They’re more technologically advanced, clearly. I mean, obviously, there are problems with a species that’s set on conquering the multiverse, but one gets the sense that, like their closest S-F brethren, The Borg, they are conquering Worlds to better them. It’s easy to read their refusal to speak English as egomaniacal, but if we’re being honest, English is a crap language that’s really hard to translate most of the time. Other than, say, Maths, pure thought is certainly a highger form of communication. Gotta make way for the Homo Superior.
And then they put a tracking device on one of the sliders. Why? What’s the big deal about Quinn Mallory (or whoever). Is it just because he managed to deflect them, outsmart them? Because he successfully weaponized his timer into becoming a dope-ass cellphone/gun (don’t even get me started on that, because UGH)? At this point in the “Kromagg Arc,” such as it turns out to be, the team are a bunch of nobodies. Flies, gnats, air. What’s the use in conquering their/our Earth?
See, for as much as the Kromaggs are an amazing idea, after watching the entire episode, they really are only that. An amazing idea. Once again, the show bites off more than it can chew, and just like “Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome,” turns in a clumsy hour of TV that represents something far more incredible than it presents.
I don’t know if I’ve watched a more awkwardly paced episode of television. “The Young & The Relentless” had egregious errors in terms of internal continuity, but it was paced well and gave ample time to both it’s A & B plots. “Invasion”‘s pacing is oddly start/stop and herky jerky. I’m usually a fan of multiple slides in an episode, but the detour to French World here just serves to effectively and narratively stop the episode dead in it’s tracks. And of course the conversation that they have there— about the dangers of the Kromaggs and the difficulty inherent in warning everyone— is important and has to be in the episode. I give the writers points for creative structuring, but the shift in mood is so jarring that it really seems like the conversation should move to the end of the episode, bookended with the “tracking device” reveal.
And of course, there’s the Manta Ship Exploration Scene, where Quinn & Arturo explore the same six by six area of a space ship for eight hours straight. They try to save it by dubbing in an “it’s getting dark” from Rembrand, but it’s just so obvious that they didn’t have enough money to build more than one room of the spaceship. The whole sequence reads like the worst kind of lowest-budget Doctor Who, with Arturo & Quinn as The Doctor and Adric exploring something exciting (with Adric/Quinn complaining unnecessarily about something The Doctor/Professor shouldn’t be doing/looking stupid), and Wade & Rembrandt as a sort of even less dignified Nyssa and Tegan, complaining about how the dudes get to have all the fun.
The other element of the episode is just as much of a mixed bag. The Kromaggs have an emissary of sorts, a human by the name of Mary. First, major points for her not just being a dumb white blonde girl. And I guess points for having a twist ending that is sort of hard to see coming. But the twist (in which Mary isn’t actually helping the sliders escape, but is actually helping the Kromaggs track them to our Earth), is only hard to see coming because by the end of the episode you’re surprised they actually tried so hard.
The thing about the twist is that it undermines anything that she’s said about herself or the Kromaggs. We can’t now know for sure if Quinn’s really the first sliding human they’ve encountered (he’s not, sort of). We can’t trust her “tragic” backstory (but who cares). We can’t even trust the totally fucking awesome idea that the Kromaggs live in giant-ass tree-villages. Though this trading card (yes) would have you believe it:
(Also about the idea of a tree-world: doesn’t it sort of imply that the Kromaggs respect nature a helluva lot more than we do? I’m not sayin’, I’m just saying that it’s not hard to disagree with Alt-Poppa Brown.)
I don’t know. It’s hard to be hard on this episode. But as an episode of Television (which, at the end of the day, is all it is), it’s sort of boring and tedious. It’s totally devoid of tension (like we really think that they’re going to kill Quinn? I seriously believe that’s what the episode wants us to think— and I’m smart enough to know the rule of cliffhangers, guys). The only truly horrendous moment is when the other prisoner on Earth 113 turns out to be an eyeless Conrad Bennish, Jr. But A) what are the odds of that?? and B) at this point in the serious, we haven’t seen Bennish in over a year (which was actually FOX-mandated- Tracy Tormé had to sneak in even this bit part). It’s weird how many of the bad ideas in this episode make it look like the worst of the John Nathan-Turner era of Doctor Who (about which, sorry I keep mentioning it, but I just watched “The Visitation,” and it sort of totally blew in a lot of similar ways as this episode).
Still, there’s something to be aid for this episode entrenching itself to thoroughly in hard-ass science-fiction. It opens up the show to new avenues of storytelling. The show doesn’t have to rely on silly “alternate government in need of overthrowing” tropes. It can be more. It should be more. The fact that these characters now know that they aren’t alone and that it’s a bad thing is fantastic. The show just got so much bigger, and it’s so exciting. They can’t follow up on this soon enough.
And despite the show’s track record for abandoned plots, they will (for better or worse [worse]). But everything change between now and then, and the power of the Kromaggs with change with it. For now, though, their power—and the shadow they cast of the multiverse— is absolute.
Next week: Quinn fucks up (As Time Goes By)! The end of Season Two ! AHHH!