"Oh my God..." — Arturo, but which one?
Review by Mike Truman
I’ve always felt that sliding would eventually cause you to lose your grip on reality, because for all intents and purposes, your reality has ceased to exist. Everything you think you know can no longer be verified. Forget a line to one of your favorite songs? You can’t exactly look it up. Even if you can, the song may not be the one you remembered. There is no way to ground yourself, no ironclad facts or truths. This is the situation Rembrandt finds himself in as the episode opens. Things have gotten so bad he has sought out professional help. This sets the stage for one of the best overall episodes in the series.
Told almost entirely as a flashback, “Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome” (PTSS) takes place on a world so close to our own that everyone believes they are home — at least at first. But unlike the happy reunion everyone envisioned, the group immediately disintegrates as pride, fame and fortune tear them apart.
Everything looks fine in the beginning. The gate squeaks, the four have been missing, the blackboard is in the basement (actually that should have been a clue right then and there, but more on that later). Despite the urge to tell everything immediately, Arturo convinces the others that it’s best that they sit on their discovery until he and Quinn can perfect it. Everyone is so happy just to be back that they never see Arturo’s betrayal coming. He declares himself the true inventor of sliding, cutting Quinn out entirely. Arturo’s moral compass had been subtly questioned throughout the season to this point, but it’s still a shocking development. To compound the situation, both Rembrandt and Wade effectively sell out as well. Rembrandt uses the publicity to jumpstart his music career and Wade breaks through by publishing her diary. “The cat was already out of the bag,” says Rembrandt in defense of himself.
The two urge Quinn to fight Arturo for his share of the credit but Quinn refuses, maintaining that they are not really home because of a football score. Wade and Rembrandt begin to believe he’s going insane, but mutinous Topps and an Azure Gate Bridge finally convince them of the truth. It turns out Arturo knew all along they were on the wrong world, but he has decided to make his stand here. After breaking into Arturo’s house to retrieve the timer from him, the three find Arturo tied up in the basement. It was not he who betrayed them, but his double! On this world, Arturo chickened out at the last moment and never slid. Rather he had devoted himself to discovering the secret to sliding and claiming it as his own. Poor Arturo. In all his travels, he never seems to be able to find a good and honorable version of himself (see the pilot, Prince of Wails and Eggheads for more lecherous doppelgangers).
We now have a serious problem. Here are two Arturos, both claiming to be the real one. The rescued Arturo knocks out the other. With little time until the slide, the others hope for the best. Rembrandt remarks to Arturo, “You’d better be the right one.” Arturo responds, “Of course I’m the right one, you blistering idiot!” So far so good.
But the other Arturo catches up to them just before the slide. The two fight again, and it is unclear who wins the battle. The victor slides leaving the loser to mutter those now infamous words, “Oh, my God…”
The first time I watched this episode, I didn’t know what to think. It was nothing like a previous episode. With the lone exception of the pilot, every Sliders episode that aired prior to PTSS always began with the group sliding in to somewhere. You never caught them mid-adventure. This one starts with one of the four seeing a psychiatrist. You’re not even quite sure where the others are. For all we know, Rembrandt is relating his adventures on this world, not a previous slide. Others I’ve talked to find the episode so disorienting that they feel like they’re watching a completely different set of Sliders. Is this a bad thing? I think not. I don’t mind being kept in the dark so long as it all clicks in the end.
Far more troubling for me initially was the implication that the true Arturo may have been left behind. This is the second profound shock to the system thrown at the poor unassuming fan by the show this season, the first coming in the opener when the four find home and don’t realize it. The obstacles to getting home are becoming greater and greater — it makes for compelling stories, but it is trying for those who have become invested emotionally in the show.
So which Arturo did they take? Only Tormé knows for sure and he’s not telling. I suspect they got the right one as maintaining that sort of subterfuge in such close quarters would be damn near impossible. The false Arturo wouldn’t even know Rembrandt or Wade beyond superficially. It would be hard for the false Arturo to just step in and deal with these total strangers twenty-four hours a day. Even if he had read Wade’s diaries, he’d be missing the intricate details of the past year that would make the memories truly his. He’d slip sooner or later, probably immediately.
But it’s not only the Arturo twist that elevates this ep above the rest. The re-telling of the tale through Rembrandt’s eyes is a nice touch. Rembrandt is the everyman and doesn’t always understand exactly what’s happening to him. He’s a fitting voice as the viewer also has no idea what’s going on for most of the episode. The directional work is exceptional, smoothly segueing between the present (Rembrandt’s therapy) and the past (the core episode).
We are also treated to fine performances from all involved. John Rhys-Davies plays the scoundrel impeccably. Sabrina Lloyd does a great job getting across Wade’s conflicting emotions and eventual breakdown when she learns Quinn was right all along. Even the actor who played the psychiatrist shined. As an added bonus, two old faces return to play the Topps — the Reverend from Last Days and Maurice Fish from The King is Back.
There are just no weak points in terms of production. Even presumed production flaws make sense in the end. The first time I watched it I was a little shocked to see Quinn’s basement unaltered. After all, hadn’t the FBI paid a visit in Summer of Love? Do you think they’d have left this equipment behind? I chalked it up to selective continuity at first. But they are not home, and it is possible Mrs. Mallory never called in the feds on this world. Even the smiley face can be explained away. If Alt-Quinn from the pilot put one on the board, why wouldn’t any other Quinn who solved the equation do the same?
Finally, “PTSS” lays down a timeline, and a potentially troubling one at that. Rembrandt tells his psychiatrist that they have been sliding for eighteen months. That would mean it is about March as they first slid in September. But what year is it? Sliders debuted in 1995, but the pilot was created with an intended airdate of September 1994. For that reason, many (including myself) believe 1994 is the year the group first slid. However, Summer of Love takes place just days after the pilot. The hippies tell Rembrandt that the year is 1995 and an offhand reference reveals the month to indeed be September. Therefore, if the group has been sliding for 18 months, “PTSS” takes place in 1997 — ten months into the future from its air date. I’m not buying that. Maybe those hippies from Summer of Love had taken one too many hits. The end result is that the Sliders slid out in 1994 and any continuity suggesting otherwise has just been overruled.
Of course, the show isn’t perfect. While the Azure Gate Bridge provides the irrefutable proof that this is not their Earth, it seems like a really obvious thing. If it’s that visible from the museum, I’m surprised Wade and Rembrandt didn’t notice it driving in. I guess they approached from the other side. We also have another convenient window of opportunity from the timer. As has been the case this season, the time spent on any earth is contingent on whenever it is convenient for the group to leave. But who cares? These little things are easily ignored in such an engaging episode.
“Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome” proved that a weird or wacky alt-world is not necessary for Sliders to succeed. The characters themselves have become compelling enough to watch them just for them. This episode changed the nature of the game and re-ignited excitement in the show’s possibilities. Truly, they don’t get much better than this.
|Previously: Review: Invasion||Next: Review: In Dino Veritas|