"My name is Mary and you are prisoners of...guests, of the Kromagg dynasty." Mary, the human voice of the Kromaggs.
Review by Mike Truman
Imagine you were lost between dimensions with no way to locate your home. To exacerbate the situation, you are no longer sure you could recognize your home even if you found it. Things couldn’t get much worse, now could they? How about if we sent a telepathic, highly technologically advanced species of primates after you? It would make you long for the good old days when you were just lost.
“Invasion” introduces the first villain capable of recurring in the series — the Kromaggs. The Kromaggs are not aliens, but fellow Sliders. They’ve simply taken a different evolutionary track. But unlike our rather docile group of interdimensional wanderers, the Kromaggs are hell-bent on conquest of every world they encounter. When Quinn inadvertently kills one of their soldiers, he makes himself an enemy of the Dynasty.
This episode is a jaw-dropper. The first time I watched it I was riveted to the screen. It’s not your typical Sliders fare. It’s far more sci-fi oriented. The show has always had its technical aspects to it, but it hasn’t really pushed the envelope of the consequences of sliding to this degree. Throughout history, there have always been nations or empires that have thrived off of war, but they have always been limited to their terrain. But give them a transdimensional vortex, and the horrors become… well, infinite.
This story wastes no time getting to the good stuff. By teaser’s end we already have what is seemingly a spaceship bearing down on the four. When Quinn manages to down it (more on that later), he and Arturo investigate the wreckage and discover a half-man, half-ape pilot. An alarm is triggered when they attempt to remove the equivalent of a Kromagg dog tag, and the four are once again on the run. As the four are about to make the slide, Quinn and Wade see another ship emerge from a sliding vortex. Now the situation is much, much worse.
Their escape is short-lived. The dog tags taken off of the Kromagg soldier act as a homing device, leading another ship right to the four on the next world. They are apprehended and slid off to an outpost to be debriefed. And here is the meat of the episode. The four must hold out against formidable interrogation techniques to protect the location of their own home world from the Kromaggs.
Each is treated in such a way to yield the best possible results. Arturo is killed with flattery and promises; Wade’s feelings for Quinn are used against her; Rembrandt’s longing for home is embodied by his father. But the key to victory is Quinn and the Kromaggs immediately find his weakness — a Chick of the Week. That’s perhaps being a bit harsh on Mary, who’s a pretty decent character. Mary is a human face of the empire. Raised among Kromaggs since a child, she has become a faithful servant despite being universally reviled. Mary apparently falls for Quinn and gives him the means to escape. The four manage a breakout but Mary is shot in the course of action. Quinn is forced to leave her behind.
And here comes the twist. If you haven’t seen this episode, skip to the next paragraph as a major spoiler is on the way. Mary was working with the Kromaggs all along. They let them escape. Having concluded that Quinn and company truly had no idea what their home co-ordinates were, they placed a homing device on one of the four. Who has the device? Only time will tell.
I don’t think there’s been any episode yet that gets across such an acute sense of danger from start to finish. It seems like the four are nearly killed every week, but not like this. The episode begins ominously in perfect quiet and ends even worse with the knowledge that this is not over. In between, all four are put on the emotional rack. While this story makes for good television, I can see why they can’t do this every week. The four would be broken in no time.
Despite the very dark overtones, “Invasion” still manages to keep its humor. Arturo’s reaction to Versailles West in New France is priceless. The entire world is portrayed like something out of a Monty Python sketch, complete with a condescending French waiter. Tracy Tormé’s comedy roots shine through; the brief visit here is the source of a slew of great lines. Here’s Arturo on:
The French people: “Nasty French planet filled with shifty, back-stabbing, croissant-sniffing nitwits.”
His waiter: “What? That frog eating mendicant? I wouldn’t waste good material on him.”
And on informing the natives of the impending Kromagg threat: “Excuse me, very shortly, an army of killer apes will be descending in your vichyssoise.” Hearing John Rhys-Davies say it makes me laugh every time.
And Conrad Bennish, Jr. finally returns! Well, it might not be Bennish, but it certainly is Jason Gaffney. In the Kromagg prison, there is another prisoner who gives out useful tidbits of information, but we do not see him for awhile. As the four are escaping, they decide to break him out too. But he turns on them. He’s been blinded by the Kromaggs and can never return home. In his bitterness, he decides no one else will as well. It’s a pretty nice scene and it was very cool to slip Bennish back into the action. He’s been missing in action since Last Days.
But for all its strong points, “Invasion” is riddled with inconsistencies that shatter the illusion of the episode at inopportune times. Though it seems like Arturo and Quinn are only in the Manta ship for about ten minutes, hours go by as day turns to night. We can only assume that there was a problem with set availability as there seems to be no reason to do that otherwise. There’s also the problem of money. Arturo loses his watch because Rembrandt has lost the group’s cash, but in the scene just prior we see Rembrandt whip out a wad of bills and give some to an accordion player. And what about Arturo’s watch? I thought he lost it so that the four wouldn’t be able to tell how much time was going by while they were imprisoned by the Kromaggs. But it turns out Quinn is also wearing a watch throughout the entire episode. Did it stop running on Outpost 113? Nope, Quinn later declares they’ve been there three days when before he told us all the hours bleed into one. They’re just little things, but they’re highly noticeable.
The biggest “What the hell?” moment occurs in Act 1 when Quinn brings down the Manta ship with the timer. I thought it couldn’t be activated until the window came up? Even then, I didn’t know it could shoot energy beams. I do buy Quinn’s explanation that activating the timer would be akin to turning on a laptop in an airplane, I’m just not really impressed in the way it was executed.
Then there are the Kromaggs themselves. There’s no doubt they are a fearsome enemy. The producers could have made this invading army human, but they opted to go for the additional horror of making them monsters. Little touches of disgust are sprinkled throughout, such as the Kromaggs’ taste for human eyes as a culinary delicacy. Rembrandt sums it up nicely when he says, “She’s supposed to be a monster? The Kromaggs ever look in the mirror? The eye eatin’ freaks!”
But despite all their technological brilliance and mental capacity, they can’t really be as bright as we give them credit for. If they can control sliding and are “masters of gravity”, how come they couldn’t use the timer to find Quinn’s home? They know they were sliding erratically and randomly; that implies they were able to determine where they had been, right? The other thing that really can’t work is the homing device. Think about it. As soon as that homing device was planted, an infinite amount of dimensions formed with an infinite amount of devices. Which one do you track? I suppose dimensional formation may be relative (in fact, it’s one of the more confusing things about the show’s mythology), but something tells me they’d never find our group of sliders again short of a miracle. And maybe that’s the rub. The threat of the Kromaggs returning is there, but the producers never have to follow through if they don’t feel the need.
There’s no getting around it. “Invasion” is a big episode for Sliders. It is far darker than anything we’ve seen yet and casts a very long shadow over the series. They can no longer just go home for that would mean potential devastation to their earth. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of the Kromaggs.
|Previously: Review: Obsession||Next: Review: Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome|