Phat, Fresh, & Dope (The Alternateville Horror).

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Memory Cheats, they say. Well, I never said that. Someone did. Oh God, was that a Ghost? It was? Tight.

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You would imagine that I would bristle at the fact that all of the action in this episode takes place in the Chandler Hotel. Which, at first blush, would seem like it’s the laziest bit of anything ever. But really, though, this episode (and certainly the next) are just examples of the show getting awesomely creative at penny-pinching.

It’s not the lazy kind of budgeting, it’s the kind that underlies an actual care going in to the show. “Okay, how do we make the best show we can?” The same thing went into “In Dino Veritas,” too— that was a bottle show to both save money and give a reason for Jerry O’Connell to be missing from the action. In both that episode and this, humble beginnings begat noble conclusions.

Well, maybe "Humble" isn't the right word...

Well, maybe “Humble” isn’t the right word… nor is “Noble,” for that matter.

Plus, it’s a meta-wink on the ever-present Chandler Hotel. It’s the kind of wink that Season 3′s god-damned Cave Set really needed— an episode that uses the Cave as a Character, instead of a constant presence that made less and less sense the more we saw it. Here, the Chandler is a Character, and it’s one you’d actually want to spend some time with. That’s kind of amazing, when you think about it. If anything, it makes me wish this episode came earlier (though I understand that’s an impossibility, as Colin is central to this episode [even more central to it than he was in his own introduction]). After this, having spent this much time with the Chandler, we’ll be more willing to accept it. That’s impressive.

I know what you're thinking— that I would now call this shot "Not Impressive." But y'know what? No— this shot is awesome. It looks terrible. I know that. We all know that. THAT'S THE POINT. FOR ONCE, THAT IS THE GOD DAMNED POINT.

I know what you’re thinking— that I would now call this shot “Not Impressive.” But y’know what? No— this shot is awesome. It looks terrible. I know that. We all know that. THAT’S THE POINT. FOR ONCE, THAT IS THE GOD DAMNED POINT.

So there’s a pretty obvious antecedent to this episode. That would be, of course, “The Dream Masters,” Season 3′s foray into horror. Sure, you could make the argument that “The Breeder,” “Stoker,” “Sole Survivors,” and “Slither” are also forays into horror, but you’d be wrong. You’d be wrong because while they each have one or two elements of horror in them— be it Vampires, Snakes, Dick Monsters, Etc.— they aren’t really dedicated to ‘horror’ as a genre. They were indebted more to Monster Movie Tradition than Horror Movie Tradition, and while there’s certainly some overlap there, it’s plainly not the same.

“The Dream Masters” threw itself whole-hog into the tropes of Horror. At the time of viewing, I slagged it pretty harshly. Considering “Desert Storm” was the next episode, I spoke too soon. But I also spoke too soon in the greater scheme of Sliders. “The Dream Masters” isn’t the worst episode by a far margin, and it’s more just a case of a show stretching it’s boundaries and going a little bit too far than it is a case of “DANGER! DANGER! COURSE CORRECT IMMEDIATELY!” That episode was marred by budget constraints/restraints and the larger issue of the titular Dream Masters being completely ridiculous and devoid of tension.

But here, we have a return to “Horror.” But, we also have the show being smart enough to realize that horror doesn’t have anything to do with “sliding.” The episode makes the incredibly wise choice to play the horror elements, the tropes and clichés as funny. It’s not asking us to be scared (though the “Rembrandt is Shaving” scene is a little on the creepy side), it’s asking us to laugh. It’s asking us to chuckle and wonder what’s really going on. Because after the first act gets rolling, it seems less and less like there are actually ghosts running around. So it becomes a mystery— to the characters, who need to de-haunt a hotel and get their Timer out of the “Astral Plane” (where’s Gillian when you need her!), and for us the audience, to figure out who’s at the center of this genre-mashup.



I Need A Drink (Just Say Yes).

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This episode is basically a re-tread of “Narcotica,” the comic that Jerry O’Connell wrote for Acclaim. At the time I reviewed the comic, I praised it for it’s grey-area emotional tone, and the fact that it’s clearly meant to be ambiguous whether or not the sliders ‘succeeded’ in ‘overthrowing the government.’ All of that is missing from “Just Say Yes,” which, in case you didn’t get it, is a joke about the whole “Just Say No” anti-drug message, which is about as preposterous as this episode.


But there are parallels here. In “Narcotica,” Wade’s arc details her descent into drug addiction. It’s slow, and scary, and the toll it takes on her is obvious and horrifying. “Narcotica” uses real drugs as a means of Body Horror, where in “Just Say Yes” it’s used for dopey stoner jokes. If there was anything bad to say about “Narcotica,” it was that the idea that ‘everyone can use cocaine in the streets’ took it out of the realm of reality— that plainly wouldn’t be allowed in society. Also you can’t really operate your life normally whilst on Cocaine.


But “Just Say Yes,” at least on paper (if you black out the rest of the episode), is more believable. No, you wouldn’t be shooting up before you go to work— this world is about regulation, not stimulation. Which is a small but crucial difference. Which is why the joke of Alt-Quinn in “Just Say Yes” talking about not doing drugs doesn’t work— because these people aren’t “dropping out.” They’re just living.


Yet at the end of the day, “Narcotica” was smart because it showed an undercurrent to the ‘blissed-out’ nature of the world. There was evil, and it was worth fighting. But having Quinn & Rembrandt break in to an office with ease because the doors weren’t locked leaves a sour taste.


Especially when Rembrandt highlights it by saying “with everyone so blissed out maybe they don’t have a huge crime problem.” Which, excuse me for pointing it out, I guess, but isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that a huge and awesome example of this world improving upon our own? I write this from Chicago, where the homicide rate is so ridiculous that it almost is impossible to look at. There are so many gun-deaths in the poor, non-white parts of this town that the headlines become numbing. So when I hear Rembrandt (of all people) say that this ‘drug world’ has basically no crime— no crime to the point that no door would be locked— my first reaction is “right on.”

This week on Sliders: drugs and casual sexism.


Five In The Hand, White Soul Man (O Brother, Where Art Thou?)

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This week on Sliders: we meet Colin, Quinn’s brother, who has a vast intellect and an amazing sense of style that’s not dated at all, whatsoever, why do you ask?

I understand it was going to be hard, no matter what, to follow something like “World Killer.” I stand by my wild assessment of last week— it’s simply the best. Here’s the good news: this episode isn’t the worst. The bad news is, it’s not… I don’t know, good? 


I mean, we’re not even really playing to the cheap seats here. I’m not even sure we’re bothering to play at all. It’s just so easy. The thing is, I’ve always enjoyed when the show goes down the path of “New Slider Learns The Ropes.” And sure, the good ol’ comedy trope of Country Bumpkin Hits The Big City can sometimes work (read: sometimes).


But the problem is that this isn’t just any old New Slider. This is Quinn’s Brother. This is one of the big hinges of the new season. This should be the defining episodes of the show. But instead we’re treated to a parody of a parody of a rube bumbling his way through city life. It just seems like a waste of a new character.


Actually, that’s not even the big problem with the episode. The problem is that this stupid way to introduce a character is grafted (all puns intended) onto an already decent idea about bone grafts and DNA banking and a pretty clever idea for criminal behavior. Both of these ideas are totally decent— they’re good enough for their own episodes, even! But it’s just… off here.