The Exodus, part II

"Help...me..." — Arturo, reduced to drooling incompetence (arguably more intelligent than FOX executives, though).

Review by Mike Truman


F
Awful

“I will unabashedly tell you I thought it was one of the worst pieces of television ever produced, and the low point of the entire series,” co-creator Tracy Tormé said of this episode in 1997. “If you look at it, there are signs of the lack of caring, lack of thinking; lack of everything. There are giant logic holes, scenes that don’t edit together well, poor production values, poor performances, poor writing; it was an absolute utter embarrassment.”

Now ask him how he really felt.

I wish I could accuse him of hyperbole, but this show is every bit as rancid as he described. I’ve seen high school theater productions better produced and better acted. The only thing professional about this is the hit it carried out on a once-great series. It’s not just a bad episode; it dooms every future episode by its callous removal of Professor Arturo. One of the Sliders is never coming home… and for this?

While the first installment of The Exodus went to great lengths to show contempt for reality, this story concentrated on contempt for the fans. Anything and everything good about the show is destroyed, often without any reason. Contempt is the running theme of the episode, from Colonel Rickman’s obvious contempt for his own unit to the manufactured crisis between Quinn, Wade, and Rembrandt. So it shall be with this review.

Braindead Decision #1: The slide home. While technically we can credit this to the first part, part two opens with Quinn returning from what we’re supposed to believe is Earth Prime. Let’s be generous and forgive the sheer randomness of this happening, especially with a foreign timer. Why won’t Quinn let the others just go home? They did not volunteer to help Rickman and company; they were coerced into it by threat of execution. Nothing is owed; they’ve done all that was reasonably expected of them. They certainly don’t need Quinn to scout worlds, Wade to compile lists, or Rembrandt to wander the base aimlessly. Thanks for the help, bon voyage!

There’s not even a need to swap timers as Rembrandt suggests. Jensen’s timer does not have a tether attached to it. Its gateway is opened at will, as evidenced later in the episode where Quinn declares they won’t be returning to base after each slide. If that’s the case, set the thing for ten seconds and have the Sliders accompanied by a soldier wearing a gas mask. It’s just that easy, but apparently no one recognized this. Why? It’s painfully evident no one put any thought into the device they created. The Sliders’ timer has all these odd quirks because it’s broken! A perfectly functional timer may be a lot easier to wield, but it’s also a storytelling nightmare.

Braindead Decision #2: The portrayal of Colonel Rickman. The only way they could make this character more cartoonish is if they had him chasing down the Roadrunner. We get that he’s a villain! We don’t need him walking into churches and killing his men in plain sight. It’s not necessary to have him playing with his vials of brain fluid in front of his receptionist. He doesn’t have to order his men to take the natives of a new dimension as slaves for us to comprehend the guy is no good. The man murdered Arturo. Really, that’s enough.

What’s truly villainous is his command ability. This unit has got to be the worst trained bunch of bozos since the Maginot line fell. They’re defeated by civilians armed with nothing more than sticks! Rickman thinks so little of them that he doesn’t even bother to go off base to get brain fluid. His infirmary is doubling in size by the week with coma victims and no one bats an eye. He’s so brazen that he even keeps clippings of his disease in his office!

Braindead Decision #3: The Quinn-Maggie Romance. You thought Quinn hitting on Wade’s sister Kelley in Season’s Greedings was inappropriate? Top this! Maggie is a married woman — married to a wheelchair-bound man who’s trying to save his fellow soldiers while inadvertently discovering the Sliders’ home world! You’d show this man some gratitude; Quinn tries to make it with his wife.

Maggie’s not much better. After Jensen tells her that he loves her, she makes some slight gesture to her chest before giving Quinn a look that says, “See what I have to put up with?” It’s extremely difficult to like this character. When she’s not screaming at our Sliders, she’s trying to make out with them.

Braindead Decision #4: Arturo’s slow, lingering death. It’s a given that killing him off is a terrible mistake. John Rhys-Davies is not just beloved among the fan base; he’s the glue that holds the cast together. With Tormé gone, he seemed to be the last man who still cared about quality control. His removal can’t be good for future stories.

So to rub it in, let’s do as much to shame and degrade the man as humanly possible. We’ll have Rickman remove his brain fluid which, instead of putting him into a coma like everyone else, will reduce him to a mechanical man winding down. We are subjected to tortured scenes where it takes Arturo five or six tries to say words like ‘needle’ as his idiot companions play charades with him to discover the obvious. When he finally does die, it’s ambiguous. Arturo steps in front of Quinn to stop a bullet, but it’s shot in such slow motion that it appears like everyone is standing around watching Arturo get gunned down. There’s also no blood. You have to watch it twice to be sure he’s hit.

These examples are just the most egregious offenses, but not a minute goes by where we don’t witness something mind numbing. The soldiers, in what ought to have been a dramatic moment, open fire on civilians to protect the base. Except again, no blood! These people have been ripped apart by bullets and they all look like they’re taking a collective nap. Later these very same dead civilians (because extras cost money) would storm the camp again and this time succeed, with their aforementioned sticks.

Want terrible acting? No shortage here. Just stay focused on Kari Wuhrer. It appears co-hosting “Remote Control” didn’t prepare her enough for actual acting. I’ve never known anyone put so much emphasis on conjunctions as this woman. Roger Daltry isn’t a heck of a lot better, all the extras are total jokes, and our own main cast is so despondent that they need cattle prods to get through their scenes. Have you ever seen anything as lifeless as Arturo’s funeral? Or written worse? Quinn, who is never at a loss for words when starting an uprising, has essentially nothing to say. Rembrandt declares that he’s gonna write a song for him, something classy — as opposed to the schlock he usually writes I guess. And Wade, well, Wade hates goodbyes and says so. Then she tells Arturo goodbye. Friggin’ brilliant.

And so with Rickman escaping their cunning plan of “divide, divide, get ambushed,” Maggie declares herself part of the team and recommits them to finding and killing Rickman. No one objects. And I suppose this is The Exodus’ legacy: three listless characters being led by someone no one likes, through adventures so utterly implausible that they make Lewis Carroll look sober.

As John Rhys-Davies told Starlog, “I just wasn’t very happy with the show.”

Previously: Next:

8 responses to “Review: The Exodus, part II”

  1. Helen says:

    For the 1st time, yesterday, I watched Exodus I & II. I watched the 1st two series when they aired in the ’90s & apparently caught all of those eps either in their premieres or subsequent FOX network repeats. I missed, however, the latter half of 3 & mistakenly thought that the show was gone for good after series number 3. ( I have never had cable & never switched to digital TV. ) Imagine my surprise when I switched on a telly at a motel during a business trip in the late ’90s & encountered an episode from some later season with no professor & no Wade, my 2 favourite characters : I can’t recall in all honesty a single thing about that ep. A couple of years ago, I purchased the combined series 1 & 2 set & have watched them occasionally, especially & particularly the 1st series, with nostalgia plus delight. I recently decided, hesitantly, to at least travel ( slide ) into the 3d series in order to sample the ‘ new order ‘ & give it a ‘ fair shot ‘ . The earlier episodes still had John Rhys-Davies, the heart & soul of the show, & the true quartet kept the show’s spirit alive, albeit with difficulty.

    But nothing could prepare me for the most disgraceful pair of eps which I have seen ever in my long life. The contempt which the new producer, Peckinpah, had for the early fans, was evinced in every conceivable fashion, viz : the absence of any common sense by the characters, the absence of character consistency, the F-grade supporting cast, the F-grade final script with its parade of indignities showered upon the Professor, & the awful Maggie character with her instant flirting even whilst her husband is alive & in a wheelchair. Mr Truman details these soporific elements brilliantly, supra, & I shall not rehash them here. I shall NEVER, NEVER, NEVER watch those episodes again.

    But do you know what really angers me more than anything else about this regime change at Sliders ? It is the disgraceful treatment of Sabrina Lloyd, the performer of the character Wade Welles. In the 1st Exodus episode, I could see that the real-life person was distraught. You can tell that, in real life, she had been crying at length : the unmistakeable raspy voice, the puffed-up eyes ( concealed somewhat successfully ) . This was in the 1st episode, before the injury & loss of the professor, so it was not a plot-induced point of the wretched script. She is manifestly exhausted. The wonderful joy, charm, joie de vivre, which shone from her eyes formerly has been replaced with exhaustion, both spiritual & mental. I don’t know what Peckinpah & that Wurer girl were doing to her, but it was destroying her.

    I tried watching more episodes last night but can’t. I gave the next ep on the DVD, something about zombies, a chance for about half an hour but then gave up. You can clearly see the exhausted, puffed-up eyes on Sabrina once again & the dispiritedness, the despondency, the dejection, of the old cast, as well. Apparently, with Rhys-Davies gone, there was no bulwark against Hollywood inanity & greed left. The next ep on the DVD was about the dreadful Maggie being infected with an alien parasite, & that episode I abandoned after only 10 or 15 minutes : frankly, I find her to be unwatchable.

    I shall return to the 1st 2 series & shall never return to anything post-Vancouver, post-Mel-Torme, post 2d-series ever.

    Ciao !

    –Helen

  2. Donna says:

    agreed, it was absolutely awful & unbearable. The makers of these shows have a contract with the viewers. This contract is that the regular crew will be held together through their adventures. They may not make it back to home, consider Lost In Space for a good example of this! the LIS crew never returned to Earth!, but they will at least always have each other. You don’t kill off the Professor & Mary Anne in Gilligan’s Island & then have everyone else return safely. You don’t have the 2 youngest kids killed in Lost In Space & then have everyone else return to Earth safely. You keep the crew together & you show respect for them & the viewers & the fans. Gilligan’s Island, Lost In Space, & countless other shows have shown this simple respect & sense. Peckinpah can rot in, well, you know…

    Save a place for me on the 1st & 2nd season sofas, for I shall venture no further, either.

  3. bob says:

    I hate they killed off Arturo. IMO, he was/is the best character in the show. Obviously Kari was put in because she looks nice.

  4. passenger says:

    was visiting the internet archive’s wayback-machine and looked up a long-dead site called jump-the-shark, a site of reviews and arguments concerning when previously good shows went bad, or jumped the shark, and the consensus was that the loss of the professor was the disaster for this show. can’t hot-link this, but if you go to the internet archive and then seek the wayback-machine and type in www dot jumptheshark dot com, with the dot replaced by a . , you should see an archived page for the site and then choose tv shows a-z and choose the letter s and then choose s and then scroll to sliders and select that one by clicking, you will encounter an old survey dating to circa 2007 and lots of discussions concerning the sliders.

  5. Maurice Adelmon says:

    Wow… Just WOW.

    As a kid I watched Sliders up to season 3… I FUCKING LOVED IT and I always wondered what had happened after they stopped showing it on TV in Europe.

    Recently I downloaded it in full and oh boy… Little did I know the show went to SHIT SO FUCK FAST AND SO FUCKING MUCH that the french TV people decided to cut it to spare the fans.

    I’m now glad I didn’t get to see this as a child, whoever took over is a TV criminal and should be shot.

    Rest in peace Professor.

  6. NDJ says:

    I don’t think the crisis between Quinn, Wade, and Rembrandt was manufactured. Why couldn’t they just go home? The real reason is that it would take away the premise of the show, but that can’t be the in show reason. The idea was too obvious (we’ve already helped these people, let’s go home) not to bring it up as part of the dialog. And Quinn also brought up a good point- “What about Malcolm?” Rembrandt was willing to abandon the kid as soon as home was in sight!

    The real problem I had with this was the resolution- the professor is dying, all is forgiven. How about, if you had told the powers to be to just let us slide, the professor would not have found himself in the path of Rickman’s needle (although the professor didn’t seem to mind staying behind until the last minute). They should have let Quinn be uncharacteristically emotional and have him explain that he didn’t want to break up the group right at the end of the journey. That sort of selfishness would been more excusable that “because I said so.”

    Actually, I thought the passing of Professor Arturo was not that bad. WAIT- not the actual death scene which was disrespectful and and just plain mean (to both the actor and the fans)- but the idea of him dying for Quinn. That’s better than dying slowly of a terminal disease. Also, the stoicism of Rembrandt and Quinn (I’m ignoring that fake crying scene Jerry O’Connell just could not pull off) links to the fact that they knew the professor was going to die and had time to prepare. Apparently, they never told Wade (although airing the “Last of Eden” after this episode in flashback form suggests Rembrandt told Wade after the professor died).

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