All My Friends, Nothing But Blood & Meat (Slidecage).

Screen shot 2013-02-08 at 6.55.37 PMThis week on Sliders:

The Slidecage changes you. But it’s changed the Kromaggs for the better. The humans— the people we’re supposed to root for— they’ve devolved. Which would be fine, but I’m not sure that’s really what we’re supposed to take away from this episode.

 

Still, there’s the quiet moment where Rembrandt watched Jules and Kolitar embrace, and he is clearly moved, but also equally ashamed and confused by that swell of emotion. Which sets us up for actual progress in the ‘arc’ of Rembrandt getting over his captivity. Which, frankly, should be the entire arc of the season. Instead, we’re ‘treated’ with another tag in Leisure World, where Rembrandt is sad that he tried to kill Quinn.

Which is a pointless, irritating scene. After all, Rembrandt was brainwashed when he tried to kill Quinn. When the spell wore off, he clearly had no memory of it. So what the tag implies is that the other sliders told him about his ‘betrayal,’ in a way that still allowed him to feel guilty about it. Which is A) cruel. And B) it denies us the opportunity for a killer scene down the road— imagine if Rembrandt’s revelation about Kromagg Love inspired an about face of feeling in him, only to have it undermined by the revelation that he had been brainwashed into murdering his friend?

 

Plus, the Leisure World tag is bizarre because it seems like it’s written by someone who didn’t watch the episode. Sure, the line about Rembrandt’s heart being too strong for Kromagg Influence is cute, but it had nothing to do with Rembrandt’s heart. Jules broke the spell. Jules and Jules alone. Rembrandt was powerless. Which is wayyyyy more interesting than a shitty “power of love” message that the episode tries to force down our throats.

This episode isn’t really about love. It’s kind of about hate.

 

That’s what this entire show has become.

 

READ IT AT EARTHPRIME.

 

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.

READ IT AT EARTHPRIME.

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.

READ IT AT EARTHPRIME

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.

READ IT AT EARTHPRIME.

Floating On The Same Piece Of Driftwood (World Killer).

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This week on Sliders:

 

For so long, there’s been a lack.

 

A lack of clear definition. What is this show we’re watching? What kind of show is this? What is it trying to tell us— about people, about the world, about the universe, life itself, itself. Sliders has never known what it really wanted to be. It had all these ideas, all these things it thought it wanted to say, and this great mix of social satire, black comedy, and compelling drama.

But then it could never decide what exactly the mix was going to be? How much black comedy? How much drama? Who are we supposed to care about, laugh at, cry with? The show couldn’t decide. There were too many people with different interests all working to make the show they wanted— but all those different visions didn’t add up.

 

So we get “The Comrade Rap” and “The People’s Court” in the same episode as Soviet Thugs gunning down people in the streets. A meta-joke about Devo in the same episode as a man threatening to slit Rembrandt’s throat. Season One being the same show as Season Three. “Time Again & World” airing in the same season as “As Time Goes By.”

 

So what is this show? It’s whatever it wants to be in whatever given minute you’re watching it. And that’s fine— our memories probably do this show a better service in memory than our eyes do in viewing. As long as we remember the best moments of the show, we can forget that “The Weaker Sex” is the episode that has the “Yellow Plastic” line.

 

But behind all this, there’s always the question of “what should it be.” What should Sliders really be? What is this show about? What should this show say about The Human Condition? When someone asks you what Sliders is, what do you tell them? What is this?

 

Put simplyit’s this.

 

The best episode of the series.

Read the rest at EARTHPRIME.

Reality Hasn’t Done Much For Me Lately (Virtual Slide).

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This week on Sliders: VIRTUAL REALITY!

Maggie turns out to be in desperate need of Lovemaking, and sublimates heavily.

Also, the best dick joke ever of all time!

(Really, though, this one’s a lot better than you remember it being.)

READ IT AT EARTHPRIME.

We Could At Least Be Civil (Common Ground.)

The humanization of the Kromaggs, or the De-humanization of Rembrandt Brown?

This episode isn’t about Kromanus. It’s about Rembrandt.

Of course, it’s hard to actually see that without looking very, very hard. There’s subtlety in the script, but once it leaves the page it’s lost in an ugly miasma of overscored and overdirected nonsense. Every shot seems to last too long, like it’s waiting for a voiceover that will never come. It reminds me of that quote from Chapterhouse: Dune that I quoted in my review of “Slide Like an Egyptian”—

Intentional detail in everything although sometimes you had to dig for it. Budget dictated reduced quality in many choices, endurance preferred over luxury or eye appeal. Compromise, and like most compromise, satisfying no one.

In honesty, this is the only way to appreciate Sliders as it’s become. It isn’t a show for everyone. But below all the painfully dated decisions and lack of cohesion, there’s a wonderful show. It’s hours like “Common Ground” that underline this fact so completely. If you want to watch a show that actually has a lot to say about humanity and how we deal with extreme tragedy, then you can find all that in Sliders. But if you want to see emotionless schlock, that’s up to you too.

But I’m choosing the former. And I think you should, too.

 

READ IT ON EARTH PRIME.