"Is there anything she doesn't think of killing?" — Wade, on Maggie's first response to dealing with dinosaurs.
Review by Mike Truman
One year ago, Sliders scored a surprise hit on the strength of everyone’s favorite prehistoric reptiles — dinosaurs. Who doesn’t love those green, CGI-rendered, pea-brained killing machines? With tens of millions of Americans preparing to plunk down cash to see Jurassic Park II, Fox bet Sliders fans would be entertained by their far cheaper imitation. Or at least be willing to sit through it.
“Dinoslide” is not just a return to dinosaurs, it’s also a return to the Rickman storyline, and a return to the world Maggie’s people fled to at the end of The Exodus, part II — a world with no prior traces of dinosaurs. Oh well, so much for the crack scouting team of Quinn and Maggie. Why return? Because Rickman is in desperate need of brain fluid matching his own. In fact, I think that’s how TV Guide explained it:
Colonel Rickman (Neil Dickson), in need of a stable supply of brain fluid, leads the Sliders back to a world populated by dinosaurs. ‡
We also have a return to a touching subplot between Rembrandt and Malcolm (Wes Charles, Jr.), the boy he befriended while the others were trying to save the planet. Rembrandt must teach Malcolm to keep from growing cold and cynical… before he abandons him again. It’s powerful drama. It’s a fight to keep the tears from forming.
While all this back story is quaint, the real star of the show is a T-Rex with an insatiable appetite for humans (the other white meat). It seems the settlers had the terrible misfortune of arriving at the exact moment the wild game had given out. Starvation has killed off all the other big carnivores, leaving this aggressive, cannibalizing T-Rex the king of the plains. He gets by raiding the scattered camps and picking off the occasional idiot traveling alone through coverless territory. Needless to say, our crew concludes this T-Rex needs to be taken down. Before they can do that, however, they must deal with that other freak of nature — Colonel Rickman.
Using the tried and true strategy of divide, divide, and get ambushed, Quinn and Maggie end up trapped in the T-Rex’s feeding cave by Rickman. Despite his clear victory over the only two adversaries who pose a minor threat to him, Rickman slides. This gives Wade and Rembrandt the chance to distract the dinosaur with such vicious taunts as ‘chicken!’ and ‘your mama!’ Hey! Nobody talks about Mr. T-Rex’s mama like that!
With Rickman out of the way, the four concentrate all their efforts on defeating the dinosaur. In a rare moment of realism, Quinn’s Mousetrap scheme of firing a canister of pressurized gas into the dinosaur’s mouth via a crossbow apparatus fails miserably. This is quickly rectified by a miracle toss of the canister by Quinn and Rembrandt. Maggie’s and Wade’s erratic gunfire manages to inadvertently hit their marks and boom! Bye, bye T-Rex head! If you fail to laugh out loud, you’re just not jaded enough.
Victory is snatched from them when Rickman returns and abducts Gretchen (Rainer Grant), Malcolm’s surrogate mother. Malcolm unconvincingly tries to lure the Sliders into Rickman’s trap, but is instead taught a lesson in courage by Rembrandt. Malcolm gets Rickman’s gun to his back for his efforts. As the colonel tells the others, even a clean head shot won’t prevent him from killing the boy. Things certainly look bleak. And then, for no good reason at all, Rickman gives Maggie an opportunity by taking his gun off of Malcolm to fire a warning shot at Quinn. Maggie must have had the sun in her eyes or something. In the end, Rickman escapes and the four end in no better shape than when we began. But on the plus side, T-Rex barbecue tonight!
“Dinoslide” is a passable adventure. It’s not as off the wall awful as some of the last few episodes we’ve endured and the attempts at character development aren’t nearly as random. Perhaps it’s because the man himself, executive producer David Peckinpah, was writing the script. He’s not nearly as derivative of the films he’s paying homage to as some of his staff writers and seems capable of building up plots and subplots independent of the hook. That’s not to say he doesn’t have the capacity to creep us out. The entire scene where Maggie eats worms and then needs to share her body heat with Quinn scored a solid 7 on the Creep-o-Meter™.
Peckinpah also presents us with a fair share of bewildering dialogue. One of my favorite lines is Quinn’s declaration that “we’ve gone backwards through the interdimension!”, a reference to their return to a world they’d previously visited. It’s the first time Quinn’s trotted out that bit of lexicon, and his earnest delivery cracks me up. Equally amusing is the soldier threatening to cut Quinn and Maggie to pieces with his gun. But no one tops Neil Dickson’s over the top delivery of Rickman’s lines. I suppose when you have bits of dialogue like “The boy will die, Mallory!” you have to summon the inner cartoon villain inside all of us. One can only hope the next slide takes us to an Industrial Era America where Rickman can tie his prey to a railroad track in proper fashion.
In our exec producer’s favor, there is some fun in-fighting between Wade and Maggie to start the show and Wade gets a few good lines off. I’m not the kind of person who waves his fist in circles and cries out “You go, girl!” but I am happy to see Wade standing up for herself. I’m a little disappointed in Quinn and Rembrandt for trying to stay on the fence with the “this isn’t helping us” argument. As Wade says, tell that to Maggie. Wade didn’t start it and has no reason to keep taking it. Unfortunately, we have yet another kiss and make-up between the two of them when they combine to destroy the T-Rex. It’s so shallow because we know that next week they’ll be at each other’s throats like nothing had happened. That’s just how the show works these days. At the end of the episode, press the reset button and everything is as it was.
We’re also asked to accept a higher dose of coincidence and convenience than the usual contrivances we let go in the name of moving the plot. It’s quite fortuitous that the Sliders manage to catch Rickman just before he slides out in the teaser. It’s even more amazing that their window to follow is an uncharacteristically short seven minutes. More astounding still, Rickman is able to slide off of dino-planet, slide back, and slide out again before it’s time for our crew to go. We haven’t had a vortex this accommodating since Gillian of the Spirits.
And what is with the unlikely union of humans and dinosaurs living peacefully side by side? This creationist’s wet dream just doesn’t seem to be a very good arrangement for humans. Sacrifices aside, why would you build your village in the midst of a pack of unstoppable carnivores? If the foreign disease hadn’t killed them off, their lack of survival skills would have done them in soon enough. As to the disease, it is a fair representation of what can happen when you introduce one society to another, particularly one that is ‘civilized.’ The arrival of the Spanish to the New World decimated the native populations as small pox and other diseases encountered humans with no defenses against them. But it does make you wonder about the swath of destruction our Sliders may be cutting across the multiverse. How are the cannibals of Fever, the pygmies of Season’s Greedings and the various other undeveloped earths faring? Perhaps we can go backwards through the interdimension and find out.
‡ Actually TV Guide‘s logline read: “Rembrandt (Cleavant Derricks) is reunited with Malcolm, while Maggie (Kari Wuhrer) swears revenge against Rickman when the Sliders find the colonel on a world ruled by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.”
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