"Help...me..." — Arturo, reduced to drooling incompetence (arguably more intelligent than FOX executives, though).
Review by Mike Truman
“I will unabashedly tell you I thought it was one of the worst pieces of television ever produced, and the low point of the entire series,” co-creator Tracy Tormé said of this episode in 1997. “If you look at it, there are signs of the lack of caring, lack of thinking; lack of everything. There are giant logic holes, scenes that don’t edit together well, poor production values, poor performances, poor writing; it was an absolute utter embarrassment.”
Now ask him how he really felt.
I wish I could accuse him of hyperbole, but this show is every bit as rancid as he described. I’ve seen high school theater productions better produced and better acted. The only thing professional about this is the hit it carried out on a once-great series. It’s not just a bad episode; it dooms every future episode by its callous removal of Professor Arturo. One of the Sliders is never coming home… and for this?
While the first installment of The Exodus went to great lengths to show contempt for reality, this story concentrated on contempt for the fans. Anything and everything good about the show is destroyed, often without any reason. Contempt is the running theme of the episode, from Colonel Rickman’s obvious contempt for his own unit to the manufactured crisis between Quinn, Wade, and Rembrandt. So it shall be with this review.
Braindead Decision #1: The slide home. While technically we can credit this to the first part, part two opens with Quinn returning from what we’re supposed to believe is Earth Prime. Let’s be generous and forgive the sheer randomness of this happening, especially with a foreign timer. Why won’t Quinn let the others just go home? They did not volunteer to help Rickman and company; they were coerced into it by threat of execution. Nothing is owed; they’ve done all that was reasonably expected of them. They certainly don’t need Quinn to scout worlds, Wade to compile lists, or Rembrandt to wander the base aimlessly. Thanks for the help, bon voyage!
There’s not even a need to swap timers as Rembrandt suggests. Jensen’s timer does not have a tether attached to it. Its gateway is opened at will, as evidenced later in the episode where Quinn declares they won’t be returning to base after each slide. If that’s the case, set the thing for ten seconds and have the Sliders accompanied by a soldier wearing a gas mask. It’s just that easy, but apparently no one recognized this. Why? It’s painfully evident no one put any thought into the device they created. The Sliders’ timer has all these odd quirks because it’s broken! A perfectly functional timer may be a lot easier to wield, but it’s also a storytelling nightmare.
Braindead Decision #2: The portrayal of Colonel Rickman. The only way they could make this character more cartoonish is if they had him chasing down the Roadrunner. We get that he’s a villain! We don’t need him walking into churches and killing his men in plain sight. It’s not necessary to have him playing with his vials of brain fluid in front of his receptionist. He doesn’t have to order his men to take the natives of a new dimension as slaves for us to comprehend the guy is no good. The man murdered Arturo. Really, that’s enough.
What’s truly villainous is his command ability. This unit has got to be the worst trained bunch of bozos since the Maginot line fell. They’re defeated by civilians armed with nothing more than sticks! Rickman thinks so little of them that he doesn’t even bother to go off base to get brain fluid. His infirmary is doubling in size by the week with coma victims and no one bats an eye. He’s so brazen that he even keeps clippings of his disease in his office!
Braindead Decision #3: The Quinn-Maggie Romance. You thought Quinn hitting on Wade’s sister Kelley in Season’s Greedings was inappropriate? Top this! Maggie is a married woman — married to a wheelchair-bound man who’s trying to save his fellow soldiers while inadvertently discovering the Sliders’ home world! You’d show this man some gratitude; Quinn tries to make it with his wife.
Maggie’s not much better. After Jensen tells her that he loves her, she makes some slight gesture to her chest before giving Quinn a look that says, “See what I have to put up with?” It’s extremely difficult to like this character. When she’s not screaming at our Sliders, she’s trying to make out with them.
Braindead Decision #4: Arturo’s slow, lingering death. It’s a given that killing him off is a terrible mistake. John Rhys-Davies is not just beloved among the fan base; he’s the glue that holds the cast together. With Tormé gone, he seemed to be the last man who still cared about quality control. His removal can’t be good for future stories.
So to rub it in, let’s do as much to shame and degrade the man as humanly possible. We’ll have Rickman remove his brain fluid which, instead of putting him into a coma like everyone else, will reduce him to a mechanical man winding down. We are subjected to tortured scenes where it takes Arturo five or six tries to say words like ‘needle’ as his idiot companions play charades with him to discover the obvious. When he finally does die, it’s ambiguous. Arturo steps in front of Quinn to stop a bullet, but it’s shot in such slow motion that it appears like everyone is standing around watching Arturo get gunned down. There’s also no blood. You have to watch it twice to be sure he’s hit.
These examples are just the most egregious offenses, but not a minute goes by where we don’t witness something mind numbing. The soldiers, in what ought to have been a dramatic moment, open fire on civilians to protect the base. Except again, no blood! These people have been ripped apart by bullets and they all look like they’re taking a collective nap. Later these very same dead civilians (because extras cost money) would storm the camp again and this time succeed, with their aforementioned sticks.
Want terrible acting? No shortage here. Just stay focused on Kari Wuhrer. It appears co-hosting “Remote Control” didn’t prepare her enough for actual acting. I’ve never known anyone put so much emphasis on conjunctions as this woman. Roger Daltry isn’t a heck of a lot better, all the extras are total jokes, and our own main cast is so despondent that they need cattle prods to get through their scenes. Have you ever seen anything as lifeless as Arturo’s funeral? Or written worse? Quinn, who is never at a loss for words when starting an uprising, has essentially nothing to say. Rembrandt declares that he’s gonna write a song for him, something classy — as opposed to the schlock he usually writes I guess. And Wade, well, Wade hates goodbyes and says so. Then she tells Arturo goodbye. Friggin’ brilliant.
And so with Rickman escaping their cunning plan of “divide, divide, get ambushed,” Maggie declares herself part of the team and recommits them to finding and killing Rickman. No one objects. And I suppose this is The Exodus’ legacy: three listless characters being led by someone no one likes, through adventures so utterly implausible that they make Lewis Carroll look sober.
As John Rhys-Davies told Starlog, “I just wasn’t very happy with the show.”
|Previously: Review: The Exodus, part I||Next: Review: Sole Survivors|