To Catch a Slider

“The way I see it, we might as well forget about sliding because jail time is gonna add up to a lot more than 29 years.” – Rembrandt, making a good point.

Review by Mike Truman


D
Bad

To Catch a SliderTwenty-nine years. Since Summer of Love, it’s been the cost of missing a slide. It’s one of the hard and fast rules of timer operation established over the series’ run – there is but one window of opportunity to open a gateway between dimensions, a window that cannot be advanced or detained and that opens and closes within a determined sliding radius. As the show winds down the fifth season (and potentially the series), however, the producers have decided they’re not going to play by Tracy Tormé and Robert Weiss’s arcane rules anymore. From now on, any crazy idea they have is in play. Freedom!

With batteries still unchanged from Heavy Metal, the timer starts malfunctioning wildly. The sliding window advances a full day and the timer suddenly has as much difficulty counting down from 30 to 0 as an internet download. The four make the slide, only to have the vortex re-open and suck them right back in. As the teaser ends, the four have lost all forward momentum and find themselves stuck in the sliding tunnel. The issue resolves itself off screen and the four are dropped into another dimension, timer seemingly back to normal, to begin the main adventure. Take that, Alexander Helix! (Assuming anyone on staff remembers who he is.)

To Catch a SliderTheir faith in the timer lost, Diana finally sets out to gather as much data as possible about it from Rembrandt and Maggie only to be informed this is not Quinn’s original timer, that it is the technology of Egyptian royalty. Pressing Rembrandt for more information, all he can recall about the timer is that Arturo and Quinn mentioned scarabs. Okay, I’m sure we all recall the poorly rendered CGI scarab that chased our crew around the pyramid, but what does it have to do with the timer? Turns out scarabs are also jewels, and once the guts of the timer are exposed, sure enough – there’s one lodged inside. Despite openly admitting she has no idea what the heck she’s doing, Diana concludes the jewel must be replaced to repair the timer.

Coincidentally, the Chandler happens to have a display of Living Gems on hand as part of a film festival it is hosting. And what do you know? The bigger ones are exactly what the Sliders need to repair the timer. Asking price? $81,000. That’s a bit more than Rembrandt will be able to withdraw with his ATM card. There’s only way to keep on sliding; this calls for a caper. Cue the sepia film and strike up “The Entertainer!”

To Catch a SliderAlas, this no Sting. After dismissing Mission: Impossible style stunts as wildly improbable (and no doubt budget busting), the team resorts to good old safe-cracking. This is accomplished by Diana, who downs the entire security system by rebooting the computer at the front desk. All Maggie and Mallory have to do is claim the goods while Rembrandt keeps a lookout. They fail, losing out to another burglar. But… as it so happens, the jewel dealer who’s been courting Diana is secretly an insurance agent hired to protect the jewels. In order to catch the real thief, he decides to lay out larger bait – and our Sliders – people he’s never met before and has no reason to trust – are key to his stupid, stupid plan.

Damn it! I was trying to write this review with a straight face and not make a mockery of the whole idiotic enterprise, but I just can’t do it. To Catch a SliderOver the years, I’ve come to accept coincidence as critical to the sliding experience, but there are limits. If Rembrandt doesn’t luckily check the timer for no good reason, they miss the slide and the story ends. If there isn’t a Living Gems tour taking place – items we’ve never heard of before and are not even native to Egypt – then there’s nothing anyone that can do about the timer and the story ends. If Monique Mansfield (Lisa Stahl Sullivan), Goddess of Sex, doesn’t enter the Chandler and take an irrational interest in Mallory, the story ends. But most importantly, if Grant Curtis (Todd Kimsey), insurance agent, isn’t a massive idiot, the story ends.

Let’s take a brief look at the mind of Grant Curtis. He’s on assignment to protect the jewels; jewels which have been stolen at two prior festivals. He has a suspect, but he doesn’t know how the job is being done. To Catch a SliderCoincidentally, he meets a pretty scientist studying up on the jewels who claims to have an academic interest. Said pretty scientist gets up and leaves dinner and while she’s gone, the entire security system collapses. No reason to be suspicious…

After losing one jewel, he decides to double down and show off an even nicer jewel around the neck of pretty scientist. Then what does he do? He lets her put the jewel in her safe… and looks away while she’s doing this. And who does he assign to keep watch on the safe? The friends of pretty scientist. After it all goes down and the jewel is missing, pretty scientist suddenly remembers she didn’t put the jewel in the safe after all and would like the $100,000 reward. “Wow, good thing she betrayed my plan or I’d be in big trouble! Now where’s my checkbook?”

To Catch a SliderSpeaking of stupid, how friggin’ dumb is Diana? After agreeing to Curtis’s plan, she doesn’t have the good sense to take the timer and PDL out of the safe they’re using as bait for a jewel thief. Diana makes Mallory look intelligent this week, and he got scammed by a transvestite.

Yes, rules make many of us bristle, especially creative types like scriptwriters. Even Tormé often struggled to abide by his own rules and was held in check by his fellow producers or blocked outright (often for entirely different reasons) by the FOX network. But they exist for very good reasons. Science fiction is already on the outside of reality – there is currently no plausible means of interdimensional travel – so we rely on rules to provide structure and stability to the fantasy we’ve created. When you throw them out entirely, you undermine your in-show universe. I had thought we’d reached the nadir of this in the third season, but there’s been a renewed push, perhaps not as silly as telepathic snakes and flying amoeba pancakes, but equally ill-thought out.

So, with new jewel in timer, we’re ready for another adventure where literally anything can happen – even if it shouldn’t.

To Catch a Slider

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One response to “Review: To Catch a Slider”

  1. NDJ says:

    “It’s one of the hard and fast rules of timer operation established over the series’ run – there is but one window of opportunity to open a gateway between dimensions, a window that cannot be advanced or detained.”

    There are caveats to this because properly constructed and non-refurbished timers allow sliders to travel at will.

    The execution was sloppy but the idea was sound. There was never really any discussion about how the Egyptian timer worked when Quinn and the Professor were around. It only makes sense that these four have no real idea what they are doing. Even their resident expert, Diana, was not that well versed in sliding before. She had less knowledge about it than Arturo and he had issues with a timer he was familiar with (Gillian of the Spirits).

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