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.