Welcome to the Freak Show (Desert Storm).

Last week I said there was a problem. But I was wrong. Last week might have been misguided, but held up to this week’s episode, “The Dream Masters” proves itself to be an elegant disaster. It had an idea, and while it was flimsy and had absolutely nothing to do with Sliders, it stuck to its guns and followed through with that idea the best it could. Think of it as an experiment.

You may wonder how I could stand up and defend “The Dream Masters” so thoroughly. Well then let me tell you that I would quite frankly watch “Time Again & World” twice before watching “Desert Storm” again. I have a fair amount of an open mind when it comes to Sliders. My relationship with it has changed over time. It means a lot to me, and while I wouldn’t say it means less to me today, I would say that its meaning has changed.

I would say that I still have an incredible fascination with the show. A bit of pity, and a huge amount of wonder. Sometimes this wonder is good: it’s the awe of the infinite. But more and more it’s becoming me wondering how this shit gets made.

LOOK AT THIS FUCKING CAVE.

So this, then, is the moment when a huge amount of laziness injects itself into the show. “Electric Twister Acid Test,” as you may recall, was a parody/homage/rip-off of the movie Twister and mid-90s twister-mania. As commenters have pointed out, “The Guardian” has a fair bit of Back to the Future, and “The Dream Masters” is a strange take on Nightmare on Elm Street. Not to mention the hodgepodge of popular culture than went into “Rules of the Game.”

But there’s a difference, a uniqueness to those episodes. “Twister” is obvious, but only really because of the basement scene. Otherwise, it has nothing to do with Helen Hunt & Bill Paxton. Likewise with “The Guardian” and “The Dream Masters.” They use their movie “inspirations” as a starting point, and build an episode from there. There are new ideas in each episode. Fresh concepts on tired tropes.

But then we come to this. I can imagine the pitch meeting for this turd: “guys I just watched Mad Max last night.”

YYYYYYEAHHHHHHHH

Tracy Tormé hangs himself.

I mean, really. There is absolutely nothing in this episode. I suppose the major problem with it (literally every scene is a major problem) is similar to “The Dream Masters'”: what does this have to do with Sliders? There’s absolutely no explanation of how this world became drought. There’s no explanation of the history of Aquarius, of the Sand Pit, of how a shitty gay-stereotype-barkeep could have made it so far in the slave-trade (so, yes, I’m saving my “Elston Diggs” post for later). The sliders are just plopped into some hamfisted bullshit about “Water Priestesses” and “Love,” and then a midget feels up Arturo.

Show me on the Professor where the Bad Dwarf touched you.

And yes, I guess I should be happy that there’s a sense of continuity and praise the show for remembering that Arturo is ill— BUT THEY DONT EVEN GET THE ILLNESS RIGHT. So there, no one cares. Also everyone in this episode is terrible. Take the idiot Water Priestess, resplendent in her cutoff jeans:

Can we agree that Wade’s face is saying it all here?

Her devoted brother//OH WAIT NO THEY’RE BETROTHED WHATEVER

The moment arrives when I am embarrassed to work on this blog in public. Also that dude’s hair would NEVER BE SO PERFECT.

And the dangerous Cutter, a ruthless ninny:

Dude looks like he’s about to EAT.

Or wait, is this Cutter?

Can we agree that Remmy’s face says it all here?

Okay, that joke is probably Too Soon. Ken Steadman, the actor portraying Cutter, died during the making of this episode. That’s tragic. I don’t mean to diminish that tragedy. But the fact is that this episode isn’t changed by that death. If anything, it’s the only thing that defines both the episode and the name of Ken Steadman. But that definition is moot, because both of those things are still nothing. I’m sure he was a nice guy. But he wasn’t a great actor. And this isn’t a great episode.

Wait, so they actually had this deleted footage of Ken Steadman looking thoughtfully off into the distance? In case something bad was going to happen to him? Do they do that? Is that a thing?

I’ll tell you this— generally, I watch this show alone. I talk about it so much anyways, there’s no need to include any of my friends in the actual viewing. But I did watch “Desert Storm” with someone, and their reaction reflects all that is wrong with the episode. They were so bored and struck by how bad it was, that I’m going to have a rough time convincing them to watch another episode with me. It’s not even that they hated it. It’s that it was so undeserving of opinion.

And that is just about the worst sin an episode of television can commit. The willful ignorance of what anyone wants to see. People don’t need to see a husk of a Mad Max parody. They’ll just watch Mad Max. I’m not even talking about Sliders fans here— they already know that they don’t want to watch this. Imagine, though, if this was the first episode anyone had seen of the show. They would never watch it again.

It’s fine that FOX wants this show to be more “accessible” and less “cerebral.” But that still require actual work to go into a show. A logline is not an outline. “The Sliders land on a desert world” is not a script. The fact that this absolute shit was allowed to be on TV is very much a bad sign for the show.

I could have just used this screenshot as my entire review and it would say everything I wanted to.

But there could have been a story somewhere here, right? This could, in some utopian ideal alternate dimension, be an episode about roughing it out, the vagaries of desert trading, the hardiness of humanity. A parable about commodity, about the intense problems that arrive when people become property. A story about home and what home is and what it means to different people. A story where the two guest leads aren’t betrothed (and seriously, let me go on a tangent about that— Devin’s been kidnapped since she was what, 8? 9? 11? There’s no indication that he’s seen her since then. So at night, this dude is masturbating to an 11 year old). They’re brother and sister, because it’s less creepy that way (except for the fact that there’s only, like, ten people in Aquarius, so everyone is probably inbred to high-heaven anyways). It could have worked. It could have been, it could have. Could could could have.

But this episode is none of those things. It’s a monkey pissing in its own mouth.

Next week: Let the dragon ride again on the winds of time and relative dimensions in space (Dragonslide).

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She Was Aroused As Never Before (The Dream Masters)

So here we are.

I’ve been very, very forgiving to this season so far (as if you hadn’t noticed). But now I can’t be nice any longer. Because here we have the first ‘problem.’ I mean, there are problems all over the season. But this is the first glaring one. The first one that really makes you wonder “oh no.” Where are we going from here?

So of course, in honor of the first problem, I present the next thrilling installment of “Ian’s Notes as Post with Annotations.” BRING IT ON, DREAM-NERDS.

Women on Balconies?

Did I mention that the episode just starts with them on this world? As in, we don’t see them slide in. REMEMBER THIS.

What?

I’m assuming the “WHAT” is referring to the “Napoleon never met his Waterloo” line.

SERIOUS Z’s

he’ll be surprised when i come back from the bathroom

LOOK OUT THERE’S A NERD ON A BIKE!

OH SHIT

WHAT

Okay, now bear with me here, but if you think about it, this guy is actually really good. Like, as in, he is a talented actor doing his best with ridiculous material.

PENTAGRAM??!?!

I am going to love this episode!

I once saw some performance art where this girl dressed in an Amish Girdle had a dude brand a Pentagram into her bared thigh. It was pretty awesome. (TRUE STORY)

What’s going on here?

This scene is all the more hilarious since they’re wearing beads.

Though due to Jerry’s ridiculous “serious grimace,” it would already be pretty silly.

THE DREAM OF THE 90s IS DEAD

NARLO HAIRCUT RIP

Oh shit that nerd’s got the hawts for Wade?

NICE SPORTS BRA PO PO

Rembrandt actually just found a prostitute on the harbor.

“Send The Meat Wagon.”

Okay, so already this is a problem. Is this Sliders? What does a dude with a pentagram on his hand have to do with alternate dimensions? I mean, it’s the teaser— I’m sure it’ll be explained. But right now this reads way more like an X-File than an… S-File?

WHAT ARE THEY HIDING?

Sup, bro?

What is wrong with his eyes? They’re like upside-down or something.

HA HA HA GOOD ONE WADE

“Don’t you know what this hand can do?”

FISTING JOKES!

Seriously, though— from this far away it really looks like Sharpie.

Quinn is less impressive than Wade— I mean, she actually had a handle of this situation.

I use to draw Pentagrams on my napkins too… LAST WEEK AT THE SEANCE. Also, your dreams? That dude wasn’t asleep on the beach.

OUT OF CONTEXT SCREEN CAPS.COM/AWKWARD

Okay, but seriously, the bartender is like “HEY LET ME TELL YOU JUST ENOUGH ABOUT THE PLOT SO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS BUT NOT EVERYTHING BECAUSE OF COURSE NOT.”

Okay, now I know there’s a precedent for “dudes they meet on almost every world” (Miss you, Will Sasso), but so far this “Diggs” dude is kind of a bore. More on him later, I guess (probably next week).

SHE WAS AROUSED AS NEVER BEFORE

This is literally the best scene the show has ever had. (Also, damn Wade how short is that dress?) LOL PROFESSOR’S “PORN” FACE IS HILARIOUS.

YES I AM CERTAINLY AROUSED BY THIS (seriously though an erotic novel read by John Rhys-Davies? MAKE IT HAPPEN)

“Here we go!” Quinn is so dumb sometimes.

HA HA LOOK AT THIS DOOD

No comment.

WINSOME WADE… Dude the more you make these Wade jokes the less likely she is to sleep with you. Y’know, if it wasn’t for the whole “I KILLED A DUDE” thing, she’d probably be TOTALLY in love with him.

Dude he already touched you.

LOL sound effects.

Wait what’s happening?

Okay, remember when Wade was tripping in “Fever” and it was genuinely terrifying? Not so here.

What is this energy?

Okay, actually, with a slighter hand, this sequence would have been pretty good. They’re playing with Dream Tropes here. Unseen enemies, running in place, the uncanny. It almost, almost, almost works.

HA HA HA HA  HAHA

WOW that thing with Quinn was kind of awesome!

One imagines this was the same thing he did when he quit the show.

Can’t a girl have some ketchup with out it being a thing?

PSYCHOTROPICALLY INDUCED STIGMATA

Just sayin’, guys, I don’t think waking up to the sight of you UP IN HER FACE is going to chill her out much.

HA HA HA HA “when he touched her she felt a tingling sensation” um… duh?

Okay, so the only reason this isn’t the dumbest thing ever is because the actors are doing their best to sell it. Arturo’s got conviction— so, then, do we.

These guys are so cute. Best friends forever.

The best part is that they actually DO have orange juice and liver. Also NAVY REMMY GO AWAY.

Y’know, the thing is I feel like this entire concept would be less ridiculous if they weren’t called “THE DREAM MASTERS.”

That acid coffee is pretty cool, though.

Yeah maybe don’t drink that.

Okay, but seriously, calling someone a “Dream Master” is stupid.

Yeah yeah, blame it all on REM.

Nice Camel Toe, Doc.

Doctor Whats-her-name, MD. Also yes, Netflix, I hate you.

Wait, why is there a secret wall. AND WHY DOES IT LEAD TO A CAVE?

LOOK AT THIS FUCKING CAVE.

Is that moonlight in the background? What if someone just fell into this fucking cave?

Yeah, just show any two strangers the lab.

Arturo’s shirt is pretty awesome.

But also what is with Quinn in this shot? He looks like he just remembered how bad the rap verse in “Radio Song” is.

HERE COMES THE INFODUMP. Actually, she’s doing a pretty good job of it. “Eliminate them?” Damn, Quinn. (Also Arturo agrees with me on this one.)

OH SHIT SO MUCH FOR LIVER.

AWW SWEEPY WEMMY

LOL FRIGHTNENERERS

Actually, that dude coming through the door is so dumb it’s terrifying.

Oh shit all that blood!

WHO YOU GONNA CALL?

This is unsettling! I kind of like this guy! These parts are fun!

The only thing keeping this episode back at this point is the dumb scream noises.

Hey Wade, I can see your squibs popping! AW NO NO NO NO NO.

OH SHIT THEY PULP FICTION’D WADE.

Sliders as Gerhard Richter painting.

Oooh, pack your bags, Remmy. YOU’RE GOING ON A GUILT TRIP!

You’re going to let her down far worse than this, Rem. Don’t worry about it.

LOOK AT THAT FUCKING CAVE.

Ha ha ha. WTF is this.

This is the best they can do? Why aren’t they just floating on top of a Dragon with huge Breasts or something?

Okay, so this sequence is like how I feel about Bauhaus: I always want to listen to Bauhaus. I like looking at Bauhaus. But when I listen to Bauhaus, I’m always disappointed.

BELA LUGOSI’S DEAD

I think it’s really just the dumb fake screaming sound that drags this episode down.

This would also be terrible if that dude’s crazy grinny face wasn’t totally awesome.

THE MAN WHO LAUGHED.

NICE UVULA WADE!!!

Whatever it takes to pay the bills, Sabrina.

Okay, so remember in “Love Gods” when it was like a silly action adventure and it was troubling because we were having fun watching it but it wasn’t really what we expected Sliders to be? Like, it opened the door for more whimsical stories that had less of a tether to reality? Well, this episode is basically the farthest end of that reality-prism. It’s pretty fun to watch, if you divorce it from your expectations.

But I guess that’s the problem, right? At this point, we aren’t watching Sliders. We’re watching something that’s fun— a television show that couldn’t be more mid-90s if it tried (though I think it’s trying really really hard). It’s action packed and has enough of a plot to justify it. But it isn’t Sliders. When I said it’s more X-Files in the teaser, I didn’t really know how right I would be. The difference is that Our Team knows so much less than Mulder and Scully would. They’re going in way blind. They’re like a team of detectives. Interdimensional detectives.

Except that brings in another issue: there is no sliding in this episode. We don’t see them come in, we don’t see them leave. What does that make the show? What is this episode? I don’t know— I really don’t have an answer. I’m sure that I’m enjoying myself, since my expectations are zilch. But it isn’t Sliders.

THe pentagram inspires terror”? I mean, I don’t know, it just makes me think of hipsters.

I love the nerdy dude’s Kristen Stewart-esque “hair fidget.”

This isn’t what I was talking about, but it’s still really funny.

Y’all weren’t hip so you took drugs, put on a SHIT TON of eyeliner and wore the stupidest sport coats EVER. The lead nerd is the coolest because he’s wearing the sharpest suits.

Number One Dalis Car fan in Heaven.

NEXT IN LINE FOR THE THRONE. THE DARK THRONE. BLACK METAL YEAHHHH.

I’m not sure how to react to this “they’re really nerds” “reveal.” It almost would be better if they were simply nut jobs with delusions of grandeur.

“Where can we find some geeks this time of night?”

ORPHANINE.

Wow, look at that wash over Arturo’s face. That’s why we watch this show.

NOW WHO’S THE ELEPHANT

Here comes the powerhouse. EMOTIONS ARE A GO.

Even the “elephant” part is great. See, it is Sliders!

The Dark King of Context Disappears Again.

AWWWWW. I love these people as much as they love each other.

I guess that’s the difference— it’s these people, their bond.

Their bond of wacky-ass Laugh Faces.

Why did Quinn keep those glasses on for so long.

No, really, why?

I’m really into the image of these guys holding their tatted hands up.

Ew, creepy!

GLOW STICK MEDICINE

What is her face! When would an intravenous drug EVER be black-light friendly?

Why are the lights strobing?

This scene is shot like Season One. Too bad it looks the most like “Fever.”

RAVE UN2 THE DREAM WORLD

Coffee Shop of Terror.

I’m not impressed.

“WAAADE” get used to that, bros.

SMOKE MACHINE OF TERROR.

NoooOOOooooOOooO!!!

Seriously, could you make that Squib any more obvious? No shit it’s not real.

Like, I know that isn’t a shoulder pad.

Stop yelling, Quinn.

WHOA THE DREAM IS SHARED. Too bad there’s no such thing as “Residual Self Image” for those fools.

Stuck in a Dream-World in your PJs. At least they aren’t trapped in their Middle Schools naked, AMIRITE?

HA HA HA SNAKE ROOM IS SO GOOFY

WTF is Wade’s Shirt?!

THIS IS A FORMICA TABLE. GREEN IS ITS COLOR.

Cool snake, bro.

They did SUCH a good job aligning Rembrandt’s eyes with the CG snake, didn’t they?

BWWWWAAAHHHHH, he said.

LOL. Jerry, let’s get a second take on that “Quicksand” face, huh?

KNOWLEDGE COMES WITH DEATH’S RELEASE OHH OHHHH OHHHH OHH

“DAMN IT.” This chick is the worst stop screaming ugh.

But like, this is paced briskly.

DREAM BFFS.

COWLICK OF TERROR

OH SHIT. BACKLOT OF TERROR. Also, why does it sound like energy? Man, get a different, like, “sound effects” CD or whatever.

Dig that logo. Was that too complicated to copy in Palm-Sharpie?

LOL CG KNIVES CAN’t HURT YOOO.

At least they weren’t thrown in agressive slow-mo.

LOL NICE GLASSES READJUSTMENT.

They probably hired this guy out of a Lenscrafters catalog.

SICK FIREBALL BRO.

SSSSSMOKIN’ (that is my 37th Mask reference this year)

Not so sick quip.

YEEAAAHHHHHHH!

I did that with a shuttlecock once. In real life, not a dream.

Is he laughing?

DERP.

I know I am.

Why is that wall red?

I see a red door… wall… whatever?

That dude is so chill about being on fire.

Why did that happen? Why is he awake now?

I went to sleep and woke up in this shitty cave set. WHAT A NIGHTMARE.

HOW DID YOU STOP IT?!?

HOW DID YOU FIX ANYTHING?!?!?

AND THEN THEY WENT TO SLEEP AND MISSED THE SLIDE AND SPENT 29.7 YEARS ROLLER BLADING.

FUCK THIS CAVE

Okay, so this is ridiculous not because it’s totally ridiculous, but really because of the “World President” problem I’ve been talking about. Like, there are what, 20 Dream Masters? You seriously can’t get enough tear gas and taxpayers to get rid of 20 nerds? If it’s really so much of a problem, can’t you call the National Guard? Except no, that solution is ridiculous because the problem is ridiculous (so ridiculous in fact that there’s literally no solution that makes sense). There’s no way that anyone would be allowed to get this far in their “pentagram terror tantrum” plan. No amount of eyeliner can stop a gun in real life.

I mean, I’m not saying you have to kill these nerds. But this show isn’t asking me to think that far.

But I’m not stupid. None of us are that stupid. But we’re not supposed to ask any questions here. We’re supposed to take this nonsense at face value. And no matter how reduced our expectations are, something like this just can’t fly. Take it as a showing of the goodness of Sliders, but we want more out of our show than this. We expect to be challenged. Not much— Sliders isn’t Mozart, it isn’t Mensa. But it’s smart. At it’s best, it’s intelligent in a way that respects its audience. So as much as I think the lead nerd’s face is funny and maybe yeah, even a little scary, it’s still a little insulting.

And yes, it’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: there isn’t any Sliding in this episode. I don’t need to see the Vortex every episode. But there’s something about the image of the four of them running off into the blue light off screen that integral to the experience of the show. If you take that away, what are you left with?  Not Sliders. Not anything, really. A garish husk.

This husk insults me and entertains me at the same time. Is that enough to build a show on?

Next Week: It was hot we stayed in the water (but there wasn’t any [Desert Storm]).

Remnants of Ancient Suns (The Guardian).

I think everyone here is aware of the hype surrounding this episode. It’s the last televised stand of Tracy Tormé, the last time the creator of the show gets to put his mark upon it. So this should be the be-all-end-all of Season 3 scripts, right? This episode should be the benchmark of all that comes after it.

I’m not sure if this is a real conception, but I feel like there’s an expectation that the work for a show by its creator must be inherently better, assumed to be the best. This kind of really isn’t true for the most part. To take modern examples, both Fringe and Lost both got hugely better once JJ Abrams took his hands off those shows (I mean, I love you JJ, but for real). And to use more contemporary to Sliders examples, Star Trek: The Next Generation improved hugely after Gene Roddenberry stepped back from it, and Chris Carter’s X-Files episodes ended up being bogged down with boring continuity porn (this is me actively refraining from bringing up Doctor Who again). Tracy Tormé is not an exception to this. His episodes are never the best of the bunch. “Into  the Mystic?” “Summer of Love?” “Invasion” is probably his best solo script outside the Pilot, but even then its more impressive for its new ideas than its actual storytelling.

This train of thought, of course, is limiting. Tormé certainly had a hand in crafting every script that came through the show. In most cases it’s impossible to know exactly what he added or rewrote. But it isn’t hard to imagine that his interventions ended up making the difference between a Sliders script and a script of any generic sci-fi show (and, if I can break my rule, is exactly what’s going to happen to the show once he leaves). So he knows what he wants out of the show. But by himself, he never seems to know quite how to get it.

The science behind this makes no sense.

Or at least he didn’t until he seemingly pulled one of the best episodes of the show out of his ass. Gone are the unnecessary explosions. This week, we get a reprieve from needless escapes and recaptures. We’re treated to an episode that reveals not only a lot about our characters, but also a lot about the nature of sliding.

The real meat of the episode is a strand of storytelling we haven’t seen on the show in a rather long time: Sliding as wish-fulfillment, and specifically how doubles figure into it.  We’ve had doubles before, and not too long ago (hello, alt-Wade from Double Cross!) But the most recent use of double have been plot-driven rather than character-driven. That’s not necessarily a bad thing— Alt-Remmy in “Greatfellas” was a non-entity, but he was an exciting non-entity. Alt-Wade from Double Cross is a little more insidious. If it’s that easy to infiltrate the group, shouldn’t they be more nervous about it happening (yes, I’m willfully ignoring “Post-Traumatic Slide Syndrome” here)? Doubles are ourselves, with minor divergences leading to major differences in personality (Fringe did a great job with this a couple of weeks ago, with two doubles discussing their childhoods and finding no difference between them). When the team encounters doubles, they’re encountering their past, but changed— a left instead of right. Sliding is an interesting micro/macrocosm in this way: not just the Earths that change, it’s ourselves.

You can wear all the leather jackets you want, but it won’t change your soul.

This episode takes that concept and makes it real— showing Quinn the moment that could change his double, and giving him the opportunity to be the force of change. Quinn is forced to relive a terrible moment form his past- a huge fork in his life’s road. Quinn’s never been much of a Man of Faith, but this is too much of a coincidence for him— first it was Daelin, now this?

IN A WORLD WHERE EVERYONE IS SEPIA.

Sliding, for Quinn more than anyone else, has been a grueling moral gauntlet, exposing a guilt-ridden introvert in the place of this increasingly macho persona. Of course, as the universe proved, intervening with the lives of others in disastrous to yourself and others. But again, this is too much for Quinn. His past is so raw and un-dealt with that it blinds him.

It’s the blindness that makes this episode difficult to watch at times. Quinn snaps at his friends for not understanding his actions, but refuses to take the time out to explain them. The more I think about it, though, the more that Quinn’s behavior actually lends a sort of realism to the episode. These are people who spend way too much time around each other. There’s not much left to hide between them. Quinn’s going to protect what’s left of him. It’s weird though that it’s only really now that I get this sense of “earned pricklyness” from the show— Wade’s shrillness in Season Two made no sense at the time— but the team’s tension is much more believable now, simply by dint of the length of this journey. The fact that Quinn and Arturo decide to hide Arturo’s secret from the others is going to cause trouble later— but I’m actually kind of looking forward to it.

The way Quinn’s mom just let this handsome young stranger into her home, you’d think this scene would take a much different turn…

But the thing is, at least in this episode as scripted, we don’t understand Quinn’s intentions either. So we, as an audience, side more with Quinn’s mother, who is worried that this “Jim Hall” is going to weaponize her son. We also, hopefully, are a little disgusted by Quinn’s ‘romance’ with Heather Hanley, his third-grade teacher. I mean, sure, she’s attractive or whatever, and it’s clear that Quinn has always wanted to get with her— but is this what Sliding is for? When I speak of “Sliding as Wish-Fulfillment,” this really, really isn’t what I’m talking about. Plus, it gets more to the irresponsibility of Quinn’s actions, as he’s making a tangible mark on this woman’s life for purely selfish reasons. The end of the episode has Quinn throw off a quip at Heather as she catches them sliding: “By the way, my name’s not Jim… it’s Quinn.” So Heather, after getting over the shock of seeing a dude disappear into a fucking hole in the universe, is going to shudder with the realization that she just made out with a 12-year old. HOW IS THAT GOING TO HELP LITTLE QUINN? She’s going to look at the young Quinn and be terrified by the fact that he’ll one day put the smarmy moves on her. Ugh so gross.

What teacher would be allowed to wear that top!

But still, one must give kudos to the episode for having the event Old-Quinn’s trying to prevent be so horrible (by which I mean hitting a kid in the knee with a baseball bat [JESUS CHRIST, QUINN]). By showing Kid-Quinn how to prevent himself, he gives him an alternate outlet for the rage he feels. It’s commendable but I still feel… uncomfortable, I guess, about it. Even if he changes that moment for the ‘better,’ how can he know how it’s going to Butterfly Effect out? Kid-Quinn, from this point on, is a different person— Old-Quinn can’t know what kind of person he’ll be. Will he still invent Sliding? Will he still need to? Old-Quinn’s actions are wholly selfish, as much as I’m sure he’d deny it. But he, more and more, is defined by his guilt. Was Sliding a way to run away from this guilt? If so, it’s proving that you can never run away from yourself, no matter how hard you try. The universe will always be there to hold a mirror against you.

A super ultraviolent mirror, maybe.

It’s interesting, then, that for something that’s ostensibly about infinite possibilities how few possibilities there seem to really be. You can’t escape your past, and you can’t escape your death. This episode doesn’t satisfy itself as just a morality tale about the importance of your past decision. It’s also a meditation on the relentlessness of mortality.

We don’t start the episode with the revelation of Quinn’s impending introspection. We start with a quieter revelation: The Professor is sick. Very sick. He’s got a terminally (and impossibly vague) illness that will kill him, and kill him soon. (The opening hospital sequence is a minor masterpiece in the way that it starts out as if it’s some sort of cyber-dystopic lab, but really is entirely mundane, and all the more horrible for it.) Arturo’s B-plot, as we see it, is his “thirst for life” in the wake of this news. But the focus is really on a couple of hugely moving moments.

Tender.

There’s a moment in the middle of the episode where the Professor physically restrains Quinn from intervening in stopping his Past-Double from getting beaten up. In it he chides Quinn for using his double as an excuse for running away from all the pain and loss at hand. He drops a heavy blunt load on him:

“You’re angry at me because I’m going to die, and I’m going to leave you all alone.”

This ties in with the scene in the teaser where Quinn confronts Arturo about his illness. Arturo is convinced that he’s got to leave the team, go on and die alone. He’s walking away when Quinn slays him with this: “We need you, Professor.”

The gravity of Quinn admitting this floors Arturo. But it isn’t really until the end of the episode, where we truly see the way that Quinn and Arturo are each other’s emotional glue, that it floors us. The need each other—they’re the two scientists, the two de-facto leaders. Neither of them are equipped for the job. They complement each other. Quinn needs Arturo to be an anchor of adulthood in his life. Arturo needs Quinn to impress him with the goodness in people. His tearful of admission of pride (he says that it’s Quinn’s Dad who would be proud of him, and while that may be true, it’s obvious he means himself) at the end of the episode cements this.

Not even Arturo’s weird polar-tek can distract from the power of this scene.

So we have a powerhouse of emotions here. This is truly a ‘big’ episode. We have a script that’s worthy of the cast, and a story that’s worth remembering. If this is Tracy Tormé’s last stand, then so be it. It’s his best work for the show. We haven’t had an episode like this yet this season. It’s proof that not every episode has to be action-packed—as much as watching the show struggle to mix action and emotion has been entertaining thus far— there’s still room for quiet, moving moments.

This scene is really sweet until you remember that Quinn is talking to himself and is being wayyy too chill about it.

But this episode also lays down a gauntlet. Because even if Quinn and Arturo argue that they need each other, it doesn’t matter. No amount of love in the multiverse can stop Death and save Arturo. He is dying, and they are going to have to deal with that. From now on, there’s a countdown. This group of friends was brought together by extreme circumstances. It will be broken the same way.

Their days are numbered.

Next Week: Get out of my dreams, and also out of my car (The Dream Masters).

Same Planet, Different Dimension (Season Three Intro)

Another season, another theme song. (Also, apologies for having a Polish-Dubbed youtube video. If someone can score me a better link I’d be much appreciative. But also a Foreign Dude saying “Sliders” sounds really funny, so enjoy it.)

I do feel that Sliders’ lack of, let’s say, ‘brandable identity’ is not wholly unrelated to its mild unpopularity. Season One’s theme song, for all its techno-fueled bluster, was pretty uncatchy and completely unrelated to the tone of the show. Season Two’s was very catchy, but ultimately too dated to the mid-90s that it would never be memorable enough.

Season Three now, is by far the catchiest. You can hum along to it— it’s fair to say it could get caught in your head. That’s a good start. But just being catchy isn’t enough. You’ve got to back it up with some strong imagery. You’ve got to represent the show. Sliders often suffers from misleading or boring teasers. So more than most shows, Sliders has to work harder to re-convince its audience that they’re watching the right show.

Season Three’s intro, it must be said, does the best service to the show. First off, it trims down the opening monologue to something much more concise and exciting. Here, we have the makings of something that could actually become iconic.

What if you found a portal to a parallel universe?

What if you could slide into a thousand different worlds,

where it’s the same year, and you’re the same person,

but everything else is different?

And what if you can’t find your way home?

Jerry O’Connell’s reading of it is brilliant, but there’s something more at play, here. It de-specifies the story. It’s no longer the “story of Quinn and the Sliders.” It’s not saying “hey, look at this awesome thing did.” It’s “what if you did this,” or “what if it was you.” It welcomes the audience into the adventure, asking us to participate in a way that we haven’t been before. It isn’t that we wouldn’t have come along on the adventure before. It’s just that we haven’t been asked. And so down the rabbit hole of a Vortex we go, happy to at last have an invitation.

You can make the grumpy argument that the montage that follows cherry picks all the flashiest moments from the first two seasons and makes it seem like all Sliders is is one long explosion/DINOSAUR/explosion. But let’s be honest— Season Three is all about explosions. If they could find an excuse for another dinosaur episode, I’m sure we’d see it (nyuk nyuk). So by choosing the most ‘exciting’ moments of the show, we’re greeted with the most honest representation of the show thus far.

So, good job, team. Now I’m sure that next week’s episode will be completely devoid of explosions and spend its run-time putting the characters through an emotional gauntlet.