"I've been to the other side. Nothing you do can scare me." — Quinn, back from the dead.
Review by Mike Truman
Give the new executive producers credit. When they go big, they go really big. In this one episode we will see Quinn die, the afterlife revealed, and the last slide of the beloved timer. It could have been among the greatest stories of the series. Unfortunately, logic holes and terrible special effects knock it back down to a strong if underachieving adventure.
We begin in New Alexandria (presumably Los Angeles) on a world where the Egyptians are a world power and the United States as we know it is under the control of Cairo. Arturo theorizes that this Egyptian empire is the probable result of Alexander the Great being defeated over two thousand years ago. If so, it is strange that they would name such a great city after a vanquished foe (Alexandria is named for Alexander), but I digress.
Like most of our stories this year, this one gets underway when the Sliders get involved in a situation they could have easily walked away from. Wade spies a young woman being sort of attacked by something in a box. I say sort of attacked because the CGI of the creature’s arm doesn’t really line up with the actress. Wade should have probably been clued in that this was a situation best left alone when none of the very large men made a move to intervene. Thus it’s left to Wade and Quinn to jump in while everyone stares at them grim-faced. Only after the rescue is complete are they informed that the creature is a sacred genetically enhanced scarab, and that any one who touches it is effectively sentenced to death.
Don’t get the wrong impression about this culture. They don’t let giant bugs eat people on a daily basis. This is a special occasion, as the pharaoh has just died (the Sliders’ timing is once again impeccable.) This scarab is to be the guardian of his pyramid to discourage potential grave robbers. Since scarabs need to eat, all of pharaoh’s servants are to be entombed with him — alive. Wade now has the honor of joining them. Quinn, who suffered a minor injury, gets shipped to the hospital.
Arturo, taking advantage of a shocking lack of security at the pyramid, busts Wade out of captivity but they are unable to save Sheilah, the girl they stick their necks out for in the first place. Rembrandt heads for the hospital to retrieve Quinn, only to discover the unthinkable. He’s dead.
Of course, he’s not completely dead, just mostly dead. What Rembrandt doesn’t know is that Quinn is in the necrology ward, where experiments are done in order to learn about the afterlife. We are treated to a surreal moment where Quinn enters the next life and meets up with his father (sadly played by another actor.) This is a daring maneuver. Sliders has had no trouble showing what other worlds look like, but the world of the dead? It turns out to be pretty banal. After playing a game of catch, his father tells Quinn it’s not his time and repeats his mantra, “If you can touch it, you can catch it.” To this day, I have no idea why this was deemed significant.
The others, distraught over the loss of Quinn, resolve to honor his death by saving the girl Quinn gave his life for. This takes them back to the pyramid, where they once again overwhelm the crack security squad. As they’re freeing Sheilah, she informs them of the afterlife experiments and suggests Quinn may still be alive. Trouble is, if they go back for Quinn they’ll miss the slide. Arturo tells the other two to go without him, but they won’t. The slide is missed, and as they’re reeling from that, the scarab escapes and the pyramid is sealed — with our three remaining heroes trapped inside.
Meanwhile, upon being revived, Quinn blackmails Dr. Deera Mubaric (Appollonia) into taking him to their hotel. Quinn is the only patient they’ve ever had who’s come back from the dead, so his experience is priceless to her — and to the pharaoh’s high priest. A fortuitous news broadcast informs Quinn of the fate of his friends, and once again he forces Deera to continue to help him. Their search for a way into the pyramid leads them to the office of the pyramid’s architect where Quinn makes quite a discovery. Strapped below the model of the pyramid is a working timer!
The Egyptian technology is so advanced that the secrets to sliding are known to them, although restricted only to royalty. Very, very interesting. These touring Egyptian kings must be good at keeping a low profile, at least better than Quinn and company. In any event, the architect stole the timer and now Quinn’s stolen it from him.
With the authorities on their tail, Quinn and Deera dive off a third story balcony into a dumpster to escape. They make their way through the ever-present cave set beneath the pyramid where a secret entrance is hidden. Unfortunately, they can only access it when the pyramid is properly aligned. (Yes, the pyramid rotates. Let’s not even go into the architectural and physical problems with this design. Accept it and move on.) The only way to align the pyramid is from inside and that’s exactly what Wade, Arturo and Rembrandt are trying to do.
After a few false starts, they finally get everything aligned properly. There’s another misadventure with the scarab, but everyone gets out of the pyramid… and into the arms of the authorities. There’s no choice but to advance the new timer — which is counting down for a reason unknown to the Sliders. So we’re back to where we started, sliding randomly with a new piece of equipment they know next to nothing about.
For me, the biggest impact moment is the loss of not Quinn, but the timer. The trusty timer has gone through a lot, but it has always carried them to the next world. It doesn’t get quite the sendoff it deserves. Whereas in past adventures we’ve seen the vortex hold up for minutes to make sure all of its passengers were on board, this one opens and closes in less than thirty seconds, almost as if it knows this is the last ride. The decision to miss the slide is not an easy one, but there is little debate on the part of the three remaining sliders. If there is any chance Quinn is alive, they will not leave. All those times Quinn passed off the timer telling them to slide without him if he didn’t make it back boiled down to this moment. They wouldn’t have done it then, they won’t do it now. This is a true team and they all make it or none do.
The timer’s loss has more impact to the viewer than Quinn’s death because we know Quinn is not dead. However, the performances by the other actors in receiving this news are everything you’d hope it would be. Cleavant Derricks in particular is masterful. I found my heart breaking with his as he gave Wade and Arturo the terrible news.
Holding the episode back is that damn scarab. Sure, it probably looks good on the computer screen. On the television screen, it’s trash. No one was ever able to sync up the scarab with the live action. Its attack and devouring of the architect is cartoonish. Its breaking down of walls looks like a poorly rendered video game. They should have taken a page from In Dino Veritas and made the threat more ominous by keeping it off screen.
The other rub is also a strength and that’s the backdrop of Egyptian culture. For obvious reasons, we need everyone speaking English, but there’s not much justification for it. The world presented is not one of a former British colony now under sway of Egypt; it’s one that is and has always been Egyptian. The other tough pill to swallow is all these pyramids. Yes, Egypt is equated with the plateau at Giza, but those were built over four thousand years ago! The Egyptians did not cease building them because of Alexander but because even they recognized them as hubris. There’s not much reason to keep building such monstrosities into the present age… and in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, no less.
There are a lot of things going right in this story yet when they come together, they just don’t quite pop. Still, it’s a bold entry here in the post-Tormé era. If nothing else, it has staked itself a place as an episode you’ll have to remember.
|Previously: Review: Murder Most Foul||Next: Review: Paradise Lost|