As Time Goes By

"Wow." — Quinn, observing the destruction of a dimension.

Review by Mike Truman


A
Essential

This was the episode I had been waiting for. It’s high concept — a world where time goes backwards. It has great alt-worlds — finally the tables of race are turned in California. It’s got deep characterization — we learn a lot about Quinn. And it all happens inside of one hour. Response on this episode is varied from adoration to total bewilderment, but it is one of the true 4-star episodes of the series.

“As Time Goes By” is so unlike any of the previous efforts that we need to start right there. Whereas most Sliders episodes start with the four sliding in and ends with them sliding out, this one features three slides over four worlds. The usual fare also has the world dictating the adventure. Not so here. The major story is Quinn’s relationship with a long lost friend and what he goes through as he repeatedly encounters her. The worlds are sculpted to fit the story. It’s an important step in the series’ development and shows there is far more to the show than just its initial premise of “what if?” The characters truly matter.

We learn more about Quinn in this episode than in any other since the pilot. At long last we get a glimpse inside of his heart and we find something completely unexpected — Daelin Richards (Brooke Langton). Who is this mystery woman? Daelin is Quinn’s first love who moved away when they were in the tenth grade. They dated for a few years in high school and it broke his heart when she left. So at its core, “As Time Goes By” is a story about second chances. What will Quinn do when repeatedly faced with the girl who got away? But it’s also a story about fate and how some things just aren’t meant to be.

Let’s take this episode world by world.

The Republica de Nueva Espana starts innocently enough. It’s an alt-world I had expected to see long before now. Here the Spanish rule and the illegal immigrants are the Caucasians, in this case Canadians. While standing on a street corner trying to find work, the team is sent scurrying from immigration police. Quinn manages to escape but the other three are captured. He makes it to a Spanish mansion where he encounters Daelin for the first time.

Daelin is a housemaid living under the foot of Spanish rule. Despite the fact that this is not the woman he knew, Quinn does not hesitate to ask her to slide with him. Typical Quinn recklessness? Sure, but there’s something more going on. Quinn clearly hasn’t gotten over her.

When it’s learned that Daelin’s fiancé is being deported with the others, she and her brother Kit (played by Charlie O’Connell) agree to help Quinn. The bus carrying the group is intercepted and the others are sprung loose, but the Spanish are waiting. Daelin’s fiancé, Dennis, sold the group out so he and Daelin could get their green cards. In the ensuing melee, Kit is shot. Not wanting to leave her injured brother, Daelin misses the slide. And that’s just Act One!

New Spain, while a cool concept, is somewhat wasted here. It’s too bad the series only spends one act on this world as reverse discrimination lends itself to the particular brand of satire that this show can provide in a full episode. Instead, all we really get are some really bad Mexican stereotypes and Canadian in-jokes that are passed off as humorous. Oh well, at least we get Charlie O’Connell attempting to be cool. I still laugh out loud every time he tells Quinn, “No sweat, homey.” That’s humor you just can’t script.

The second act opens in Nothing Particular World. We know that not every world the Sliders visit is worthy of a full hour of television, but we do know these places are being visited. This is one of those worlds. It’s pretty normal except here the Lions play in San Francisco and Quinn moved to Seattle. There are probably other differences, but not enough to base an episode on. But I do like seeing it as it shows that sliding is not always a race against the timer just to stay alive. There is down time when the four can pursue things that matter to them. This is a “Day in the Life” of a Slider, and it’s just one of the things that really appeals to me about this episode.

With seven hours to kill, Rembrandt encourages Quinn to look up Daelin on this world. He tells him, “What have you got to lose?” That’s a pretty loaded question when you think of it. While Quinn has little to lose, he could cause a serious disruption in this Daelin’s life if he jumps in. But Quinn isn’t thinking about that now, and he takes Rembrandt up on his suggestion. Quinn finds her married to Dennis, who is an abusive musician here. Again Quinn offers to take her away, but can’t when he finds out Daelin has a baby girl. He does manage to set up Daelin with his double before sliding, so all is well and good, right? No, that’s just the end of Act Two!

I guess we should have been clued off that something was up when the standard sliding bumper was shown in reverse, but no one could have predicted what the next world would bring. This is undoubtedly the most bizarre world yet, a world where Time is Running Backwards. If that’s not strange enough, the four continue to move forward as everything else goes in the opposite direction. It’s both a crazy and wonderful concept. The four start in prison and must work their way forward… or backward through time to slide out… or in. Rembrandt sums it up best when he says, “Oh man, I’m so confused.”

The four quickly learn they have been sentenced for the murder of Daelin. Once they figure out what’s going on, they’re able to get out of jail. And here’s where Quinn’s obsession gets the best of him. He is so wrapped up in saving her that he blindly destroys a dimension. While the situation was beyond bizarre in the extreme, Quinn still should have had the presence of mind to not do anything to affect the timeline of the dimension. After he prevents Daelin’s murder, a rip in the fabric of space-time opens up. You really need to see this scene to believe it. If you thought this episode was nutty before, a second earth with a moon in hyperdrive really puts it all over the top.

And what is Quinn’s response to the situation? “Wow.” This is the same guy who was completely broken up when he believed he killed a man in The Good, The Bad, and the Wealthy. He sends an entire dimension to its doom, including the woman he was trying to save, and all he has to say for himself is “Wow”? It makes you shake your head.

After the four escape the last world when their window conveniently comes up, they land on the most enigmatic world of them all, a world affectionately known as Phone Booth World. All we know of it is that there’s a phone booth in the middle of a field beckoning Quinn to call Daelin. And the episode finally ends.

I adore this episode. Daelin Richards is a revelation into Quinn’s life. Who’d have thought him capable of such devotion to one woman considering the near shameful way he treated Wade at first? Maybe it explains it. Quinn is carrying a considerable torch for Daelin. It makes you really wonder who holds the spot closest to his heart. He’s so far gone that he’s willing to take ANY Daelin he can with him, and he would have if something hadn’t always gotten in his way.

And that brings up the underlying theme of fate in this show. On the three worlds where Quinn runs into Daelin, he finds her attached to Dennis MacMillan. The first time Dennis betrays the group; the second he beats on her; but the third time around he proves to be the good guy. In those waning moments of the episode, Quinn has to consider that it’s just not meant to be for him and Daelin. This is brought home by Arturo’s poignant tale of the “Appointment in Samara”, a parable on how you cannot cheat fate. Even Rembrandt says that maybe the destruction of the dimension is for the best, like it was somehow inevitable.

This story is the brainchild of Steve Brown, who is one of my favorite writers of the show. He also wrote In Dino Veritas and co-wrote Obsession with Jon Povill. Notice a trend in the three episodes? All focus on characterization. Brown really is able to get inside the heads of the four and provides more motivation for their actions than merely making it to the next slide. He also is unafraid of breaking down formats. Time’s Arrow World is a major leap. And though upon closer review I’ve found a slew of continuity problems, I’d still like to see more episodes taking on such matters. The writing here is just so sharp and engaging I didn’t notice the errors the first time through.

If there’s one thing I’d change about this episode, it would be Sabrina Lloyd’s screen time. She’s just not a presence in this episode at all. And that’s too bad. In Obsession, we do get to see everything Quinn goes through as he watches Wade with another man. I’d have liked to see more of Wade’s reaction to Quinn’s quixotic quest for Daelin. It doesn’t seem to bother her, but it would have certainly ticked me off in her shoes. For all of Quinn’s speeches to her about not getting involved, he repeatedly refuses to heed his own advice when his interests are at stake. I’d have expected more friction.

“As Time Goes By” completely sold me on the show. This episode left me hungry for more and optimistic for what was to come. Sliders just has so much potential on a weekly basis to blow the viewer’s mind away. This story fulfills that promise and will always remain a personal favorite.

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2 responses to “Review: As Time Goes By”

  1. Brennan Barrington says:

    Are you kidding? I agree the Spanish stuff is great, but there are more physical, logical, and literary problems with the backwards-time universe than you can shake a stick at. Just one: for the equations to work, a time-reversed universe also has to have parity and charge reversed. In other words, as far as that universe is concerned, the Sliders are pure antimatter. Assuming their total mass was three hundred kilograms, 600 kg of mass would have been annihilated. Plug that into E=mc^2 and compare the result to an atomic bomb. Yep.

  2. NDJ says:

    “And what is Quinn’s response to the situation? “Wow.” This is the same guy who was completely broken up when he believed he killed a man in The Good, The Bad, and the Wealthy. He sends an entire dimension to its doom, including the woman he was trying to save, and all he has to say for himself is “Wow”? It makes you shake your head.”
    This is typical Quinn: he always sweats the small stuff without looking at the bigger picture. In “El Sid” he saved Michelle from a beating by Sid but was ready to abandon her to worst beatings later because of that rescue; in “The Young and the Relentless” he agreed to help out alt-Wade, even though the problem would still exist after he was gone; in “The Prince of Wails” he turns over the prince and Arturo to the raiders because he wanted to keep everybody together, but what would happen to the prince after he was gone?; in “Invasion” he and the professor search the ship and mess around with things that set off an alarm to satisfy their curiosity this later leads to them indirectly getting caught. Even in the pilot, he suggested the raid and using Arturo as a means to make it happen, only to think it might have been a bad idea when he believes his Wade is dead. The consequences have to affect him before he learns his lesson. As he is leaving this world unscathed, he can only see the probable destruction from a scientific point of view.

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