The Seer

“Some people have way too much time on their hands.” — One of writer Keith Damron’s final attempts to inject “humor” into this dying franchise.

Review by Matt Hutaff


C
Average

The-Seer-ends“Now what do we do?”

The final words of “The Seer” – and Sliders, in particular – are oddly appropriate. It harkens back to something similar Quinn Mallory says at the end of the pilot, only the context is so different the comparison serves as a perfect litmus test for what’s happened to this series in the past five years. Context, it appears, is everything.

The look on Quinn’s face when he asks his new friends where they’re “going tomorrow” is full of impish curiosity. He realizes the unimaginable wonder behind each parallel universe and he can’t wait to take full advantage of his discovery. Contrast this with Mallory’s muted response to Rembrandt’s final act of sacrifice; it sounds like someone suffering through post-traumatic stress disorder. He knows what they’re going to do – nothing. He’s seen the end result of stepping through the looking glass – pain. The wonder behind sliding is gone, stripped bare and replaced by an ever-expanding roster of unrelatable characters and low-budget storytelling by writers incapable of (and uninterested in) using Sliders’ premise to its full potential.

87-001And so Sliders ends with a whimper, a medium shot of three people on a nondescript, poorly-lit sound stage. But is the final hour of that journey just another tremendous misfire or something more?

I’ll make the case that “The Seer” is decent. It’s not going to enrage you like “Requiem,” bore you to tears like “The Great Work,” or make you think about how strong the fifth season concept was like “Applied Physics.” It’s a pedestrian outing that, in many ways, encapsulates the Sci-Fi Channel era and serves as a fitting epitaph for the past two seasons.

Does it feature the Chandler set redressed for the umpteenth time? Yes. Does it rely heavily on the use of the back lot? Of course. And, for good measure, it even features a number of nasty digs against the fan base keeping this show on life support.

How do all these gaffes still land “The Seer” two stars, then? For me, it boils down to concept and characterization. Keith Damron has a knack for building quiet character moments into his high-concept scripts, and I found the idea of a world following the Sliders’ exploits with rabid devotion an intriguing one.

87-002Yes, the Sliders finally land on a world where Sliders is a television show. A world where a poor man’s Professor Arturo slides back into our lives (with a Rickman timer, no less!) for a few moments and fans stage a demonstration in downtown Hill Valley (or Fresno or wherever the production wants the courthouse square to be this week) demanding the show bring back Wade Welles. Our Sliders, now in full command of the coordinates to return them to their respective earths thanks to the chip Geiger gave Diana in “Eye of the Storm,” find themselves here instead. But how?

The welcoming party includes Claire LeBeau and her father Mark, the titular Seer. Thanks to a power-granting heart attack, the Seer has the ability to pierce the dimensional veil and glom on to the adventures of our fearsome foursome. In the wake of a Kromagg invasion on this world, his visions are parlayed into a cult phenomenon providing a level of hope and resistance that ultimately defeated the Dynasty.

More important, the Seer wants the Sliders to stay. Not because it will spike his Nielsen ratings, but because his visions also gave him a grim glimpse into the future; if they leave, the Sliders will die the moment they exit the vortex on the next world. He’s seen the deaths of the Professor and Wade – and he’s never been wrong.

87-004Roy Dotrice (the best part of season four’s embarrassing “Data World”) plays the Seer with great understatement and conviction. As the head of a burgeoning cultural movement, he could be all bombast and ego, but Damron wisely paints LeBeau as genuine and caring. When the Sliders decide he’s hijacked their slide to profit on their appearance, he waves off the accusations as meaningless; the Seer just wants people he’s grown to care about for the past few years to be safe and loved. (I can empathize with that situation.) And, though it pains him, he will help the Sliders leave if that’s what they want.

His daughter, however, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Performed by Jennifer Hetrick (you might remember her from the superior “Last Days”), Claire is all about the bottom line. Sure, the Sliders will be celebrities on this world, but that’s of secondary concern to her real goal – establishing a bona fide religion based on the Sliders. If the parallels to L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology aren’t on the nose enough for you, they want to call this new revenue stream Slideology.

Thus the main plot is born. It won’t shatter anyone’s brains, but it’s a functional and new way to generate story for this show succeeding and failing based on how our characters react to these circumstances. Maggie and Mallory chew up the scenery; Rembrandt and Diana, not so much.

87-003Maggie and Mallory’s stories intersect at Amanda Mallory (a returning Linda Henning), vanilla Quinn’s mom. After her convenient appearance in “Genesis,” we’ve been left to wonder what happened to her. Long story short: the Kromaggs shipped her here as forced labor. This has the unexpected side effect of granting her safe harbor on a world that lets her know, in real time, that her son’s life is slowly slipping away. When she meets Mallory at a Slideology event, she stares vacantly at his eyes, hoping to see something of her Quinn in him. Mallory, understandably, wants nothing to do with her; Mrs. Mallory isn’t his mother, she’s just another unfailing reminder that he’s the wrong Quinn.

Maggie, meanwhile, wants everything to do with her. Wants to bring her with them when they slide. Wants to comfort her. Wants to (and does) call her “Mom.” The bubble universe still looms large in Maggie’s psyche, and this is her final chance to have some part of Quinn in her life.

87-007I’ll make a confession: it took me more than ten years to watch the scene between Maggie and Mrs. Mallory. I’d gotten a copy of the script in advance of the episode airing and the scene left a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t feel the need to watch it, and when I finally sat down and committed to this review, my initial impressions were borne out. I get where the production was going with it, and I appreciate the emotion involved, but Maggie’s analogy with the dead uncle makes no sense, and if you pull it out and plunge right into Mrs. Mallory’s monologue, the scene works much better. Mallory’s moments with his ersatz mom are much more appropriate, and show Robert Floyd is as, if not more, capable of handling these types of scenes than Kari Wuhrer. Too bad he didn’t get more of them throughout this season.

Meanwhile, Diana gets a little bit of character work during the teaser. Sliding has grown on her, and thoughts of getting a Nobel Prize or academic respect on her home world are now secondary to the life of adventure she’s forged in the past year. It’s a poignant conversation she shares with Mallory alone, and it’s all she gets for this episode before plunging into technobabble mode, so if you’re only in this ride for Tembi Locke, you can turn off this episode before the credits roll.

87-006Rembrandt wraps up Sliders as the same stoic believer we’ve grown to know over the past 87 episodes. He knows he’s going home without a magic cure for the Kromagg occupation, but he’s got faith. When they arrive on the Seer’s world, his quest to get home with the weaponized virus concocted there becomes all-consuming. He’s not interested in a cushy lifestyle as a prophet; Rembrandt will inject himself with another person’s blood, fire up a broken Kromagg sliding device, and plunge alone into a decaying vortex if it will save his world. He is a man who will not be denied.

The stakes rise as the Sliders butt heads with the Church of Slideology. First, the organization uses Kromagg technology to cap all outgoing wormholes. When that doesn’t deter our crew, Claire’s henchmen break into the Chandler Hotel to try and steal the timer. When that fails, they destroy it. Undeterred, the Sliders break into Claire’s storehouse to use her sliding technology and she intercepts them, ready to kill in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

87-005

Rembrandt decides to cheat fate. As the Seer lies dying nearby, he steels himself for a trip home, hoping the solo trip will change LeBeau’s vision. Rembrandt slides, and our last shot of Sliders is his friends – all of whom he’s picked up along the way by accident – staring glibly into the distance. There’s no end to the story. No finality, just Maggie holding Diana and Mallory while Mrs. Mallory cradles a dead man a few feet away.

It’s not how Sliders was supposed to end. It certainly not how Quinn Mallory or I envisioned things going when we sat down and began this wild ride together in March of 1995. But we rarely get the end we want.

So, instead of ranting about the ridiculous plot problems, bad science, and continuity-breaking elements that leave this show on a cliffhanger, I’d like to propose a toast.

87-00A

To wherever you live.

87-00D

And whatever your struggle.

87-00B

To the revolution.

87-00C

And to the end of a journey.

87-00E

Previously:

13 responses to “Review: The Seer”

  1. pete5125 says:

    I agree completely with what was said, the toast if only their was a moment in this episode to look back at the past or explain where they have been…this was one of the least emotional finales that I have ever scene.
    The production staff knew that these last 18 where made on the very cheap so that they could hit the magic 88 for syndication purposes, coming back for a final 13 was unlikely, and they could of made a more emotional final and still left it somewhat open ended, or not hey they wrote around the Brother O’Connell no longer being a part of the show so they could write around anything.
    I just don’t get the hatred of the fans enough to make jabs at them on screen and no final happy moment.

  2. Bobby Singer says:

    Hi there Matt. I’ve been a Sliders fan for 10 years. For awhile, I thought I was the only one who remembered this show. Then I found this website. It reminded me of one of my favorite childhood shows, and for that I am incredibly grateful. In the last few months, I’ve re watched every episode, read every one of your reviews, and read every “Think of a Roulette Wheel.” I started the show with season 4, and for that reason, while I acknowledge there are plenty of stinkers, I love the first four seasons immensely. I had hoped that I’d remembered season 5 wrong, but alas, it was just as bad as I remembered. The Seer is probably one of season 5’s better outings, but it does a terrible job as a finale. They knew this was the last episode, and they still wasted their money on “eye of the storm.” This website is a testament to the greatness that was Sliders, and it’s good to know the shows legacy will live on. I basically pester everyone I know to watch it and tell others about it. In several months, on my youtube channel, I will be releasing a video in which I analyze every aspect of Sliders; be it from a literary perspective or a critical one. You guys have inspired to do this, and if you’d like to see it when it’s done, just ask. I hope to see more articles from you soon.

  3. Travis Else says:

    Ugh, this episode. I can’t disagree with your rating. It deserves some props for being an interesting episode. It deals with Quinn’s mom, it has some good character stuff and it’s a very good SEASON finale. It isn’t, however, a good series finale, and because of the bitter taste it ultimately leaves, it doesn’t deserve more than two stars…

    One thing I will disagree on, however, is the idea that this episode makes fun of the fans. Yes, Maggie says “Some people have way too much time on their hands,” but this is in character. How else would she react? These people are living an adventure, they don’t exactly watch a lot of TV. Of course they don’t understand the obsession with a simple show. Why would they? This moment wasn’t meant for them, it was meant for us. The production did, after all, want a season six, so they are trying to encourage the fans to write in and demand more. This is why I see this as a wink to the audience and not as making fun of the fan base.

    Ugh. This show was so great at times…every season, even this one, had good memorable episodes. It deserved an ending. The Seer is sort of like the spirit of the show. He, knowing time is short, wants the characters to stay and have a happy ending. They want to continue, in spite of the odds (opposite season 4 finale). He dies, and then the show dies. So disappointing…

    • matthutaff says:

      It’s a scene where three characters shoehorned into the series because of bad production management goof on those watching the show for launching a campaign to bring back a beloved character. It’s not in good taste, and it’s not very funny. The other comments about Diana’s bad acting, the intentionally bad SFX, and Maggie’s comment about there not being five of them at one time is fine.

  4. Matty Phillips says:

    Count me as one of the Sliders fans who is absolutely outraged that Keith Dingdong would include the “too much time on their hands” comment. It’s a gigantic F YOU to all the fans who kept the show alive by continuing to watch in the hopes that the magic of the first season would return. Way to bite the hands that fed you, a$$hole.

  5. Daniel Pollak-Qveller says:

    I think that the problem with this series was, especially after season 3 and after Tracy has left the show (or rather was kinda forced to leave) is that nobody really cared about Sliders Not the writers, not the producers. And the lack of caring came from the lack of understanding. I mean, Peckinpah’s remark that he sees Maggie in leather and bikes and what-not… it just an example that goes to show how much thought went into the series. True, there were writers who actually cared and tried to bring the series to it’s former glory (like Marc Scott Zicree for instance) but that didn’t last long (and as I recall he didn’t came back as executive producer for the fifth season).

    “The Seer” is a great example for the lack of caring and understanding (like most of season five). They knew this was the last season, they could have go with a bang, give us fans something to remember at least. They could’ve tried. But they didn’t. They chose to make yet another horrendous episode (I don’t like The Seer, not as an episode and not as a season finale… I mean, was it really even a season/series finale???) in a last ditch effort (and hopeless one) to keep a show that went nowhere, had no story arcs left and no character development and had destroyed every kind of magic it had, alive.

    It’s a shame really, because Sliders had the potential to be one of the best, classic, memorable Sci-Fi series (and the first two seasons were. Tracy’s vision was solid, the characters grew and the story lines were clear, and fun). But lack of understanding (especially by Fox and Peckinpah) of the nature of the series and its characters, and the lack of caring for this show- that’s what killed it. That’s why we got a horrible season 4 ender (despite a great start, but the promise was broken fast), and that’s why we got a horrendous fifth season that showed that no cared at that point (notice that most of the time, the actors themselves are lifeless)… and that’s why we got a terrible ending (if you can call that an ending).

  6. bob says:

    I think maybe you take it too seriously. It’s just a TV show. Those involved most likely have long forgotten about it. It doesn’t really matter if it’s boring or stupid because it’s just a fantasy. It’s not real. It’s not as if seasons one and two were perfect. There were many errors in the first two seasons.

  7. NDJ says:

    Why are you here? And Jerry O’Connell did a funny as hell parody video for a Funny or Die about a Sliders movie a couple years ago so he hasn’t “long forgotten about it”.

  8. NDJ says:

    I agree. I have seen this episode a grant total of two times- once in 2005 on Netflix (I was so angry with the season 3 finale that I did not follow the show to Sci-fi) and once in 2015. When I originally saw it I wasn’t that angry because I already knew what happened- nothing I wanted. Quinn and Mallory weren’t returned to themselves; the “real” professor didn’t create his own timer and go looking for his friends; and it wasn’t the wrong Wade that died (or better yet it was a Kromagg mind control trick that backfired and no Wades died). Hell, I even wanted Colin “stuck” and placed back on the planet where he was raised (after all this had happened to me, I ‘d just want to go home).

    When I saw it again earlier this year, I could appreciate it as a decent episode. I liked the show within a show concept and the in joke about the letter writing campaign (hint hint). I didn’t think the line about having too much time on their hands was over the line- even William Shatner told Trekkies to “get a life- it’s just a t.v. show” for a skit on Saturday Night Live. It was joke told in good fun and an attempt at the social satire that defined the show in the golden years (Do you not remember “The Weaker Sex”?). I guess the somber nature of the episode overshadowed what they were trying to do.

    On an even sadder note, I read a review somewhere that implied this was the perfect end. Sliding was dangerous and ALL the original characters died because of it. You’ve NEVER seen that on a television show!

  9. Matt says:

    Personally, I find I’m more forgiving of most episodes of Sliders than you are. This one, however…As a midseason episode it would have been perfectly acceptable but when it’s an end to the series it really raised the question of what the point was of any of it.

    I think the bit that really defeated this episode for me was the ending. Nothing seemed to build to this. It wasn’t like the decision Remy made at the end was something the characters had struggled with throughout the episode. It didn’t represent anything or have some significance to the meaning of the episode.

    More importantly though, it had no significance to the series.

    A show doesn’t always have to end with everything working out for everyone. A dark ending for a show can work. “Blake’s 7” ended with all the characters being shot. In a show which had always focused on the futile struggle against a powerful government it was a fitting end. An ambiguous ending can work. “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” which is one of the first (and finest) disaster films, ended with it being unclear whether the world was saved or destroyed. It worked because it was really the story of the journalists reporting on the events of the story and not of the scientists working to save it.

    However, Sliders on the other hand had always been a show about adventure and larger questions about “what might have been” (which this episode certainly didn’t ask, unless you consider “What if heart attacks gave people interdimensional psychic powers?” to have been a genuine question of alternate history). It was a show about a close group of people travelling everywhere together with only each other to rely on. An ending where the characters found themselves unable to go home and instead once more venturing out into the multiverse would have worked with that. An ending where the characters chose one world but a world where they were together would have worked with that. An ending where one of the characters goes off on his own while the others just stand there with nothing to do is completely unsuited to everything the series was about.

    This ending was so generic and unsuited to this series that maybe the writers really had just forgotten by this point what the show had once been about.

    • NDJ says:

      I think they wanted a 6th season. Barring that, they wanted to scorched the earth so no reboot or restart could grow. So far, do good.

  10. ScionStorm says:

    The Syfy era of Sliders ended without having solved a SINGLE goal it set out to at the beginning of season 4-save for finding Collin…and then effectively killing him after one season.They never found the Mallory Prime world, never saved Wade Wells, never conclusively found a weapon that could defeat the Kromag occupation on Remy’s world, never separated the Quinns, never recovered Collin. 18 episodes of season 5 and virtually all major problems set forth for this era of the show couldn’t be bothered with resolving by the writers. This season just muddled around, and at the end I was just left feeling like I’d wasted a large amount of time expecting… something. At one point on Pirate World Maggie tells Pirate Captain that she lost her way and was again reminded what her quest was, what her “job” was. Even as she said it, the show had gotten so muddled and plodding and pointless that I couldn’t see what exactly her “quest” was to be at this point in the show.

    And I still can’t believe they ended the series with a pitiful meta-episode. The entire series ends on a meta show and ZERO closure for anything.

    The 2010 Nikita series did more with it’s 6-episode final season than Slider was able to do in 18!

  11. Russ says:

    I’m wondering what it would have taken to get Jerry, John, Sabrina and even Charlie back just to have an appearance in the very last episode.

    A 10-minute coda at the end to say the events of Season 4 were a deception, Earth Prime is OK, Quinn is separated from Mallory and the real Arturo and Wade are waiting for them would have at least given us a happy ending.

Join the conversation