Over there is an Elephant. Look at it. Accept the fact that it is in the room with us. And as we look at it, we will discuss it. We will name this Elephant, and attempt to dissolve it’s power. This Elephant that shares space in the room with us casts a very long shadow. We are stained by the knowledge we share of the future— this Elephant is the embodiment of this knowledge. We must kindly ask the Elephant to leave. We have work to do.
Welcome to Season Three. I’m making all of this elephant talk because Season Three is probably the most loathed season of television ever to be produced until Season Six of LOST (or basically until the internet got really big and people started caring about TV shows). Us Sliders fans are prone to big reactions, huge emotional baggage, a lot of dramatic talk about a very tiny show. Which is to say: If we know what’s going to happen, our enjoyment can easily be tainted. If you don’t know what’s going to take place, I’m not going to spoil it, but I will tease with this: by the end of the Season, one of these four people will be dead. A new Slider will join the team. And nothing is ever really the same again.
But here’s the thing— if you don’t know exactly what happens, isn’t that exciting? Tragic, sure, but it means that there’s going to be real change on this show. A lack of stagnation! A new character to get to know! On paper, this kind of radical change is terribly exciting. It’s something to look forward to while biting our nails in anticipation.
So here’s why I’m rambling about all of this. I’m not going to review Season Three the way you’d expect (I guess). I’m not going to say things like “this is a first example of this show being full of shit just like it ends up being.” I mean, if it’s a piece of shit, I’ll say it’s a piece of shit. But I’m going to feign ignorance on this shit. For Season Three, it’s going to be like I haven’t seen this shit before.
Because you know what? We can bitch and moan about what this Season does to ‘our‘ show, but the fact of the matter is we can’t just deny it (no matter how hard we try). It’s a part of Sliders, and it’s a part of TV as a whole. So it’s high-time for someone to attempt a defense of Season Three. (I’m also going to save the nitty-gritty behind-the-scenes info for next week, in case you’re wondering).
So, now that the Elephant has fucked off— what do we have here?
First off, holy shit the “ass-end of the Vortex” budget went through the roof!
It’s looking like something’s a little different about this Season. It’s like a longer time than usual has passed between seasons. One and Two had all of three days between them. But here we see our characters, and they look a lot different. Quinn got a haircut!
Rembrandt is back in his gaudiest best!
Wade got a haircut, too! And also is way into Leather now?
And OH MY GOD PROFESSOR PLEASE CUT YOUR HAIR
So our team’s looking different. That’s fine. They can dress how the want. And of course none of it will matter when they get crushed by a shit CG train.
Yeah, that Train is basically this episode’s equivalent of the Pilot’s Shit-CG Tornado. Anyways, once they escape the Tunnel of Love, we’re greeted with the actual dirt on this world, and also ROLLER BLADING BUSINESSMEN!
Okay, so I’mma lay it out here and say that dang this is some good stuff here. San Francisco is a borough of a Mega-City called San Angeles! Natural Resources are on a decline! Horses are endangered! Power blackouts are mandatory! Gas is hella pricey! Hot Dogs are extinct!
The thing is, I kind of really like how the sliders don’t just “find an almanac” to find out every little thing about this world’s alt-history. Because let’s be real: the “almanac” was bullshit. You can’t just “find an almanac” and be able to piece together every single little tiny deviation in like, two minutes. That’s ridiculous. Here they use their eyes, walk around, read a newspaper, look at a map. It just seems like a more natural way to get the lay of the alt-land. Good-bye, Almanac! We hardly knew ye.
Anyways, before we can get too interested in alt-history, two things happen. First, Rembrandt gets assaulted by a hooker.
I’m not going to say I’m surprised that Rembrandt would go for this. But getting into a car with a total stranger is universally known to be a bad idea, right? Like, it was still an unspoken/spoken rule in 1997, wasn’t it? I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to end up well for him, but for now at least The Professor is supportive.
After Rembrandt fucks off to the B-Plot, the rest of the sliders run into JANITORS ON MOPEDS!
They run for a little longer than I’m sure the audience cares to watch them for (including an excruciatingly gratuitous “drive over the camera” shot), and eventually they’re caught in a dead end that visibly isn’t actually a dead end. But LO! The head Janitor, in a reveal that’s ruined by obvious costuming, is a WOMAN! And she calls them SLIDERS!
But thankfully that’s not what we cut to commercial for. We cut to commercial after she’s like “whoa, Professor.” Probably because his hair is atrocious.
So here’s the skinny on this Logan St. Clair. She works for Prototronics, a company of scientists that’s working on their own Sliding project. They’re having trouble making their wormholes link up with their coordinates. All of their test-probes (/basketballs) come back as fried chicken. The Alt-Turo on this world apparently got restless and Fried-Chicken’d himself.
So the Sliders agree to help Logan to fix her Sliding Gear so they can use all of her dope-ass Eniacs to do that ‘auto-set’ thing they used to be totally into. But wait— there’s complication. This crappy computer readout drops a revelation on us:
I know you can’t tell, but that means that Quinn and Logan are doubles. But alt-alt-doubles, seeing as Logan is, y’know, a woman. But that’s a pretty amazing thing for the show to do. It’s another great example of the widening nature of Sliding and the different ways you can apply the concepts. This episode, actually, does a lot in that regard. We have talk of ‘tracking wormholes,’ and a whole lot about ‘coordinates’ and how they apply to safe Sliding, and of course, we have a little thing called a ‘geographic stabilizer,’ which I am pretty dang sure hasn’t been mentioned on the show before now.
But let’s get back to Logan being an alt-Quinn. This revelation is followed by another revelation in which we find out that she’s actually not very nice of a lady, and tries to get Quinn to ditch his Bros and help her Slide by any means necessary. Which includes MAKING OUT.
WOW. No, seriously. Wow. This scene, to it’s merit, isn’t really played for titillation. It’s creepy, and disarming. It’s a lot more adult than I’d usually give this show credit for. Logan is a manipulator. She’s a worthy human adversary. We’ve never actually seen one of those on the show before. And this episode is kind of making it seem like she’ll actually make it past this episode.
Of course, there’s more mystery and excitement to be had! It turns out that Logan St. Clair is not working in anyone’s best interests. Prototronics is inventing Sliding for the purpose of razing Worlds for their natural resources! She pushes Alt-Turo into a Death Vortex (which is the name of my new Metal band) because he discovers her plans! She’s trying to make love to herself to get what she wants! So she’s a villan. But she’s kind of remarkable in her ruthlessness. When you boil her down, you’re left with a Mad Scientist, but that complication about her being a Secret Mallory gives her a connection to the rest of the team that’s extremely compelling. I don’t know if what this show needs is a villan, but if this is what we’re going to get, then I’m satisfied.
Oh, yeah. Rembrandt definitely exists in this episode! Actually he gets a good amount of screen time, and his B-Plot is funny, but for the interest of time, I’m just going to post this picture:
At the end of the episode, it’s revealed that Logan switched the geographic stabilizers in their Dope-Ass Cellphones, so now the Sliders are going to be Sliding in a 400 mile radius around San Fran. It’s a bold move in an episode that’s full of them. I mean, that’s the thing you get from watching this episode for like, ten minutes. The show is different. It’s louder, it’s flashier, it’s a hell of a lot brighter. It’s the “make it more action” tract that haunted Season Two, but this time somehow, they’re doing a better job of it. At the very least they’re writing scripts that are designed for action. The pacing is remarkable, especially for this show.
But the thing that makes this still Sliders and not anything else is that there’s still weight to it. The characters are still there, even if Quinn is getting a little more aloof than he’s been in a while, and they’re all dressing a little more Summer Beach Party. But the camaraderie’s still there. Also important that the big plot of this episode is about a ‘radical approach to Sliding.’ It has huge consequences, but it’s actually kind of small. Small things, huge stakes. It’s a really important detail that we spend time with Alt-Turo’s bereaved Wife— she’s collateral damage in a scheme that, frankly, we wouldn’t have even spent time with in earlier episodes.
But, of course, it’s not perfect. Wade is suddenly the best computer hacker in the world, which, I mean, fine, she worked at a computer store, so it’s not totally inconceivable. But the plucky little poetry major Wade from the Pilot doesn’t really seem like the “Hack the Planet” type. Plus, she spends the episode in a leather jacket and mini-skirt. It’s a little weird.
The worst part is that the show is still plagued with the laziest of production team fuck-ups. I mean, usually I’m not one to make “firing” jokes, but please tell me someone lost their job for this:
Don’t see what I’m talking about? Enhance.
UGH. That’s totally inexcusable (even if it is totally hilarious). But you just know that no one even noticed it until Sliders fans started making fan sites. And of course, the CG is still atrocious, and it looks like literally all the budget goes into making Vortexes look awesome.
Yeah, that’s bad. But still— these are nitpicks in what otherwise is a stellar opening to a season. If this is what you’re coming out of the gate with, then bring it on.
But here’s where I have to burst bubbles, and drop the real world back into it. This wasn’t the season premiere. It was supposed to be, sure. But FOX wanted the next episode, “Rules of the Game,” to open up the season. That episode has about five billion more guns, and is basically The Hunger Games for Horny Adults. So that’s a troubling idea, because obviously this should be what we should be trying to do, right? A perfect mix of action excitement, and science wonder. But no, we want guns, and girls.
And yes, girls. Logan St. Clair, a villan worthy of the show, never returns. Which seems like a colossal waste of effort on buildup. So what’s the deal? Where did she go? We could fan-wank it and say that Quinn’s act of giving her random coordinates in her Timer ultimately burnt her to a crisp. Or we could use the real reason: FOX didn’t think Zoe McClellan was attractive enough to warrant a return appearance.
Read that again:
FOX didn’t think she was attractive enough to be on the show.
I can’t really explain how that grates against every fiber of my being. And not just because it means we won’t have the character on the show again— which is tragic and unjust and a complete disappointment. But because that’s a hugely offensive and misogynistic decision. And it doesn’t even matter if it’s not true (which, of course, it isn’t), because that’s not what we’re watching the fucking show for. If we wanted Baywatch Babes, why the hell would the Professor be allowed on the show? For that matter, why would Rembrandt? Why would Wade? Why would Quinn have that dorky haircut?
It smacks of trouble. But like I said, I’m going to pretend I don’t know what’s going to happen. But a decision like that means that this episode is unimportant to the greater mission of Sliders. And that’s a problem, because this episode is awesome. Truly one of the best we’ve seen. We can’t have enough of episodes like this.
And, of course, we won’t.
Next Week: May the odds be ever in your favor! (Rules of the Game).