We’ve Seen Stranger Things
(The Unstuck Man).

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 4.04.37 PM

Premiering tonight on The Sci-Fi Channel is a brand new show that’s out of this world.

Or should I say… worlds?

Traversers is an exciting new adventure that deals with a team of unlikely heroes embarking on a new adventure into the Multiverse— that’s right: not just the Universe. These are parallel dimensions we’re talking about. Now, let’s meet the cast…

Must've been something it ate...

29.7 years of indigestion.

Okay, sorry. But I’m not wrong, am I?

Season Four of Sliders had to prove that it was a brand new show, different from the dreck that came before it. But Season Five of Sliders simply is a different show. It has to be— despite the depths of hatred the character of Quinn Mallory deserved by the end of Season Four, he was still the “main character.” It’s very, very hard to rebuild a show around the lack of that center of gravity. So, yes. This isn’t Sliders anymore, not quite. Yet somehow, this time that seems like a good thing.

For starters, it’s the show’s willingness to wink at its construction without being too obvious about it. It knows full well that the only thing more ridiculous than replacing a main character is recasting the main character. But Sliders has its cake, and eats it with a smirk. It threads the problem into both the plot of this episode and the nature of sliding in general. Just as Logan St. Clair opened up the possibilities of doubles in the gender department so does “Quinn Mallory” open up the idea in a different way— same dad, different mom.

So now Robert Floyd plays Quinn Mallory. He doesn’t play Jerry O’Connell. That’s important. Now the main character is at least trying to act.

Floydbot Setting #1: Bewildered.

Floydbot Setting #1: Bewildered.

But then, he’s not the main character anymore, is he? No— he’s a guest star. One of the only redeeming qualities of Season Four was the lengths it went to prove once and for all that Cleavant Derricks was actually a ridiculously good actor who was being wasted on a show like Sliders. If you show someone the pilot and say, “which of these characters will be the only one left by the end of the show,” literally no one will say Rembrandt. If they were joking, they’d say Wade. But show them “Asylum” and ask them the same question. Night and Day.

And, as it should have been halfway through last season, Rembrandt finally takes his place up top— and can I say, for the first time in years, the opening credits monologue gave me chills.

Rembrandt "yeah, whatever" Brown.

Rembrandt “yeah, whatever” Brown.

Yet that’s neither here nor there. Last season started with promises— The Kromaggs were the Big Bad, and They’ll Be Back, and We’ll Find Quinn’s Brother and Go Home, and then Go To The Other Home and Blah Blah Blah. The show crammed a bunch of story ideas into a 45 minute span that already had too much going on in it. But here we’ve got nothing but potential— sure, we’ve got the “save Colin and fix Quinn” angle. But even within the show itself, those things aren’t promised. They’re said because they must be. But there’s the feeling that these things are hopeless before they even jump into the vortex.

A spin around the universe... OF DEATH.

A spin around the universe… OF DEATH.

About which, whoa.

Sliders has never been the most cheerful of shows— that’s basically the main thing that’s soured me on it through these last two years. But I’ve never quite seen anything so totally horrifying as the initial trip through the vortex. “Another rough one,” they say. So it’s not out of the ordinary. Which basically sets up the vortex as a thing of terror, instead of the thing of wonder it should have been all along.

And that’s before we watch Colin explode.

It’s brief, and unclear, and could have been anything. But it’s said, clearly, by “Quinn,” that he watched a man explode inside the tunnel. Colin’s departure (as unseen as Quinn’s) is horrific— unstuck in time, cast into the multiverse without a tether. We don’t even get to say goodbye.

Well, not that we really needed to.

Because that’s the thing— this season premiere gets rid of all the problems the show was just suffering from. The O’Connells were weighing down this show. They were actively making it worse. Even the worst episodes last season were at times watchable because Cleavant Derricks tried to make them so. But Charlie didn’t have the acting ability to, and Jerry had long since given up.

“The Unstuck Man” takes the weight of the failure of Season Four and actively destroys it. I mean, look at the teaser— they’re fighting in the most nondescript “war torn world” imaginable. It’s a mockery of “The Dying Fields,” “Common Ground,” and “Roads Taken.” The show begins at the tail end of Season Four, and we watch it literally explode. Colin— the biggest change to the way the show worked— is destroyed.

And I can’t say I’m upset. It’s what needed to be done. It sets up stakes for the characters that we can believe they’d want, even if we don’t want them ourselves. Oh, right, and it sets up two brand new characters that we’re actually going to see next week after they go through the vortex.

The "nicer" Maggie meant there wasn't enough SASS on the show anymore.

The “nicer” Maggie meant there wasn’t enough SASS on the show anymore.

The thing that no one remembers about “The Exodus Part One” is that it actually gave us a whole wealth of character depth about Maggie. It gave us the grounded fighter pilot angle, the ‘difficult to get along with’ angle, the disabled husband angle. But those are just one-liners. The fact is that the episode actually did things with them. The dynamic between Steven and Maggie was really interesting, and set up themes of ‘strength’ and ‘weakness’ that were followed up on in almost every episode.

Diana Davis is a little bit of a blank so far, but she’s supposed to be. It looks like it isn’t actually supposed to be clear within the confines of the episode who the sliders will actually take with them. Obviously they’ll take “Quinn,” but the way that they kind of half assedly say “well, you should come, too” is interesting. It doesn’t read as lazy writing, it reads as purposeful. Diana works for Geiger. That’s really what we know about her, and it’s all we need to right now. But that simple fact (and the fact that she’s super smart and super young) are enough right now. We actually get the rest from “Quinn,” which is a new way for this show to give us character information. Even in the Pilot we only had Quinn’s opinions to really go on. Even Rembrandt was painted in with the absolute broadest strokes.

Floydbot Setting #2: SASSY

Floydbot Setting #2: SASSY

But here’s the thing, y’know. This is a new show. A brand new show. And it’s way better than the “new show” that Season Four promised us. For starters, somehow, it’s more believable. Here’s a new thing I want to do— little live-tweets I made while watching the episode that talk about small things I don’t really have room to expand on:

There’s just more care in this, somehow. I guess that’s because Season Five was already sort of a gift to begin with? Or maybe it’s because the writers really wanted to rise to the challenge of an O’Connell-less Sliders. I don’t know what it is. But this is good. It’s not 2013 good. But it’s 1999 good— and that’s worlds better than we’ve had for years. I’d flat out call this the best episode since “World Killer.” Which seems like faint praise, but that was almost 20 episodes ago.

This stasis-world is a metaphor for the banalities of last season. (No. No it isn't.)

This stasis-world is a metaphor for the banalities of last season. (No. No it isn’t.)

Look. This is the last season of Sliders. The end of this project is in sight. I’m more relieved than excited. You’ve all got the chance to watch me fall out of love with this show. But you know what? I’m through with the funereal tone. I want to enjoy this show one last time. I know it’ll be hard. Sometimes it will be impossible. But there’s also two episodes in this season that i’ve never even seen before. Think of that. New episodes of Sliders. Incredible.

So I’m going to enjoy Season Five of Sliders, no matter. And then I’m going to say goodbye. But before I do, I’m going to make this fun. So let’s have fun. Let’s take one last spin around the universe. Because you know what?

That is so cool.


Next Week: HOLY SHIT IT’S STILL GOOD (Applied Physics).

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2 responses to “We’ve Seen Stranger Things (The Unstuck Man).”

  1. durkinator27 says:

    You know, a long time ago when reading this, I remember thinking, “I hope he gives season 5 a good review.” I’m ecstatic that you see this season positively (or the early ones at the very least.) Season 5 gets a lot of flack–and rightly so, I guess–but it did honestly feel like they were trying harder in the face of so many problems. I remember watching this premiere and being surprised that I wasn’t actually bored out of my mind like I had been for the back half of season 4. It’s wacky technobabble and borderline nonsensical sci-fi, but it’s fun! And really, the combine stuff is about the most imaginative way you could write off such central characters. It’s just a fun season, even if it’s not particularly good quality-wise at times.

  2. pete5125 says:

    I guess this is the best way to go into season #5, I’m kinda surprised that you didn’t go into the behind the scenes action that forced the team that made this show into killing off the hero and his brother in one big swoop…

    Season 5, I can go both directions on, the thing that drives you nuts is that they have a huge laundry list of problems to solve and they actually do go about knocking the list out, just in the most depressing way possible, you understand why our team is hanging out at The Chandler bar every chance they get.

    In saying that once they hit the midstream of season #5, some of the episodes are closer in tone to season #1 and 2.

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