Data World

"This perfect world exists simply because it doesn't exist at all." — Archibald Chandler, blowing your MIND!

Review by Mike Truman

Really Bad

If you’re American, you must be familiar with the ubiquitous Eagles’ ballad “Hotel California.” There’s not a classic rock station in the United States that doesn’t still play it twice a week (and that’s on low rotation). For the uninitiated, it’s a song about a man who stops at a hotel that caters to his every desire only to find out he is imprisoned there. The hotel is an allegory for the excesses and frightening downsides of fame and fortune; it’s not supposed to be taken literally. Unfortunately, no one told that to the people at Sliders. I can see the pitch meeting eventually coming down to this: “Don’t you get it? You can check in any time you like, man, but you can never leave. You can never leave!”

Welcome to the Hotel Chandler, or as the pathetic title informs us, “Data World.” You see, that’s the twist. Though it shares the same set as all the other Chandler Hotels we’ve visited this season, this one is a simulation made up entirely of data. The Hotel Chandler “is a very sophisticated computer system” designed by one Archibald Chandler (Roy Dotrice), where guests check in by having their brains scanned into the system. Within the hotel, they appear to live normally; it’s a virtual paradise where they never age, never get sick, and never die… so long as they play by Chandler’s rules. Like the song says, it’s both heaven and hell. For us, it’s mostly the latter.

Let’s start by how our Sliders enter this environment. Here there’s no shimmering light up ahead in the distance. Our crew inadvertently enters this system while fleeing what appear to be zombies. “What is this, a Michael Jackson video?” asks Rembrandt. These zombies turn out to be the shells of humans who have taken up residence in the Chandler Hotel. Despite no visible means of functioning, these “empties” now wander the street of Los Angeles aimlessly. To call it poorly thought out is charitable, especially when brain dead is so much more appropriate given the circumstances.

Once inside, things stabilize a bit as the show exhausts its premise. The first act sets up what the hotel is and what our Sliders have become inside of it — files. They are represented by their icons, but they can be modified or deleted at a moment’s notice by Mr. Chandler if they don’t obey his eccentric rules. You know our Sliders. If there’s one thing they can’t abide by, it’s the rules of parallel societies. By the end of the second act, Maggie gets deleted and Rembrandt is rendered partially mute; only Quinn has the good sense not to threaten the malevolent computer. If they’re going to get out of this, they’ll have to trick it.

They have one ally inside the hotel, a little guy by the name of Mac (Phil Fondacaro, last seen as the bounty hunter from Into the Mystic). Mac’s been able to cobble together an icon representing a computer that allows him to affect change within their environment. Quinn hopes to distract Chandler by engaging him in a game of chess, because what computer would ever turn down an offer to play chess? Instead of looking for a backdoor out of the system, Mac wastes time repairing Rembrandt’s damaged virtual voice. Chandler sees through Quinn’s ruse, and Quinn is forced to retreat to the Recycle Bin.

Like any corrupted program, the episode rapidly devolves into gibberish. After Quinn retrieves Maggie, Chandler sends in two goon files to eliminate them. This results in a slapstick showdown reminiscent of the fight in The Dream Masters; once they realize they can control their environment, the Sliders start pulling up skills and weapons to fight back. Rembrandt ends up with a canned ham, declaring, “If he ain’t kosher, this isn’t going to stop him.” At no point does it occur to anyone to conjure up a gun.

With momentum on their side, it is up to Quinn to yet again save the day, which he does in the same conspicuously easy fashion as in Common Ground, Virtual Slide, and Slidecage. He punches a few keys and voila, everything is fixed and the bad guys get what they deserve. Chandler is deleted and everyone trapped in the hotel is magically returned to their zombie bodies outside. No one can remember what happened; press reset and start over.

“Data World” is bad, and worse, it more or less acknowledges that fact. I would find that, moments after I noticed a massive logic flaw, a character would address and dismiss my concerns. Why would Chandler allow Quinn to see the true outside world beyond the virtual hotel? Because he chooses to. The same answer is given as to why Chandler would disrupt his cherished order by sending a rampaging Thor and Freya to capture Quinn. It’s senseless and we know it, but we’re doing it anyway. Deal with it.

Too much of the episode feels like it is being improvised or poorly edited. Chandler asks Quinn if he’s heard of Cortez on his world before discovering that Quinn is not of this world. This weakness is exposed again when Chandler decides he will slide by viewing Quinn’s memories. Wouldn’t he already have them when Quinn was scanned in? Worse, the clip show that passes for Quinn’s memory exceeds what he could possibly know including scenes he was not present for — or in the case of Virtual Slide, never happened.

The climactic fight scene is embarrassing. While the men go into the fight, Maggie and Mac are huddled in the corner giggling as they keep changing the surroundings. After Kung Fu Colin dispenses with Thor, Maggie is then sent in to fight Freya dressed like Xena. There’s no reason for it other than to show off Maggie’s assets. I thought we’d moved past this juvenile behavior.

And yet, I can’t bring myself to take a strong disliking to this episode. I think it’s because the actors are making an honest effort at taking this manure and making fertilizer out of it. Roy Dotrice’s performance as Chandler is pretty solid, and I concede I miss having a British guy on the show telling everyone what to do.

Still, it’s really bad. Alarmingly bad. It shows the telltale signs of disinterest that resulted in a string of horrible television that got the show cancelled once before. There’s not much time left in the season. Let’s not waste any more of it in virtual worlds.

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