In Dino Veritas

"I just love him you know, without condition. I'd give my life for him." — Wade, referring to Quinn.

Review by Mike Truman


B
Really Good

Finally, the truth comes out! Actually, a whole lot of truth is on the way as the Sliders encounter a world where telling lies is a crime. To enforce this law, all people must wear truth collars. These ingenious devices shock the user whenever they fib. Lie enough and it will kill you. This is the underlying plot, but many people seem to forget about it when they think of this episode. It might be due to the fact that the Sliders next land on a world with dinosaurs.

As every good network executive knows, dinosaurs equal ratings. The FOX execs must have nearly wet themselves when the so-called action show Sliders finally delivered them a script they could promote. And promote they did! The episode was placed during sweeps week accompanied by a Jurassic Park-styled advertising campaign. The end result was the show’s highest ratings to date.

“In Dino Veritas” was originally planned as a bottle episode and would put all its emphasis on characterization. With truth collars strapped around their necks and a hungry dinosaur wanting to eat them, the four would hole up in a cave and be forced to come clean with each other. Two things eventually worked against this. First, Jerry O’Connell scored a role in Jerry Maguire and needed to film the movie. Quinn had to be written out. So after arriving on Dino World, the timer is conveniently left behind and Quinn goes after it. Second, the dinosaur was a lot cheaper to make than anticipated. Since they had a dinosaur available, they might as well show it off a bit. So while we do get some character development from Wade and Arturo, we also get a lot of running from the dinosaur.

There’s not a lot of plot to review. Arturo injures himself and loses the timer. Quinn goes after it. They learn they’re in a nature reserve from a holographic park ranger. A poacher saves them from the dinosaur, but demands they help him smuggle out his ill-gotten gains. Fortunately the dinosaur eats him, ending that ethical dilemma. Eventually Quinn returns and the four make one last run from the dinosaur before sliding out.

This episode is very dark — not in terms of theme, in terms of lighting. You can barely see what’s going on. As expected, there is little attention paid to alt-history details as it’s unnecessary. We do know that dinosaurs are an endangered species here, but the rest of the world could be perfectly “normal.” Our need for social satire will have to be sated by the presence of poachers. Regardless of the species or how fearsome it may be, there will always be people trying to kill them for profit. We’re even treated to a little humans vs. animals debate, but the death of the poacher enables them to escape without reaching any definitive conclusions.

The most fun comes from Arturo being shocked repeatedly for lying. My favorite moment comes when Quinn declares he’s going out into the dinosaur’s territory for the timer. The injured Arturo says he wishes he could go with him — and is promptly zapped. Oddly enough, Arturo is the only one getting zapped. Rembrandt and Quinn get off light and Wade is buzzed when she intentionally lies to prove she’s telling the truth to the park ranger. What message are we trying to get across here? That Arturo can’t be trusted? It seems to be a recurring theme this season.

Wade’s admission of love for Quinn is tempered by the unconditional clause. I think by now the group has proven they care deeply for one another and would risk all to save one another. Wade is forced to prove it here by luring the dinosaur away from the others. It’s just too bad Quinn couldn’t be in this episode. The dynamic between Quinn and Wade would have been far more interesting than having Arturo at the center. Chalk it up as a lost opportunity.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the original subplot of this episode featuring none other than Geraldo Rivera. Tracy Tormé was good enough to elaborate (for full commentary, see the episode capsule). Originally, Rivera was scripted to follow the Sliders through the vortex in the interest of getting an exclusive. When he realizes he can’t go back, he becomes irritable and whiny. Naturally, the dinosaur eats him. This would have made the episode for me. It would have brought an otherwise decent show up to the surreal levels not seen since Rembrandt was held on trial at the “People’s Court.” It is not explained why this angle was scrapped. Perhaps FOX was scared that their dinosaur episode would be ruined by comedy; maybe Geraldo wasn’t too keen on the role given him. Or maybe it was just blue sky in on the scriptwriter’s part from the very beginning.

At this point the P-codes, intended order and actual order of airing are so screwed up that it’s hard to tell when this one was supposed to air. We do know that the episode takes place a few weeks after Gillian of the Spirits due to Wade’s reference to Nude World. But the key question is where does this episode belong in terms of the shows that impact continuity, such as Invasion and Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome?

I think FOX actually made the right call putting this episode in front of Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome. Otherwise, I believe the truth collars would have ended the great debate then and there. There’s no way the false Arturo could have made his way through a week of the truth collar without slipping, assuming the false Arturo slid with them. I could praise FOX for its foresight, but I believe the correct analogy would be akin to a blind squirrel finding an acorn every now and then.

On the other hand, there are two moments that scream “false Arturo.” When he’s alone nursing his injury, he says to himself “stupid old man.” Why, for falling? Or is it for replacing his double and getting himself into this mess? We also see the first instance of Arturo telling the others to leave him behind. It won’t be the last time — not by a long shot.

The success of this episode was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing came in the form of increased ratings; the curse is those ratings came the FOX way. Now whenever Tormé and network management argue over who knows what’s best for the show, FOX has numbers it can point to supporting its argument that action sells.

Officially the mid-point of the season, “In Dino Veritas” effectively stopped the skid of sub par episodes that Sliders had been mired in at that point. It also exposed a whole new group of people to the show who watched it for the first time. Those who stuck around for the rest of the season would be greatly rewarded. The corner has been turned. Make way for the episodes that made the second season unforgettable.

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