"Can't save everyone." — Wade's eerily prophetic statement.
Review by Mike Truman
Fans of Sliders came across an unexpected treat when they opened their TV Guides the week of March 22, 1997. A brand new episode of Sliders was billed… where Arturo becomes gravely ill. Huh? Didn’t Arturo die a month ago? Hopes Arturo was returning were quickly dashed – this episode was aired way out of order thanks to the cementheads at FOX and, as such, would now be presented as a flashback. Continuity or no, at the very least it was one more story with John Rhys-Davies. Too bad it was written by Josef Anderson.
Anderson, thief extraordinaire, sets his crooked pen to H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” in this outing, stopping just short of calling the Eloi and Morlocks by name. The world presented here and Wells’ dystopian future are almost one and the same, just taking place at a different stage in the devolution. In both instances, the society living above ground is childlike. All the fruits of past technology are available to them, but they have no understanding of it. The society living below ground has mutated into monsters, feeding on its weaker neighbors above. The Sliders navigate these two worlds as they play a classic game of run away, get captured, and run away again.
We get off on the wrong foot with a hastily put together scene where the flashback is launched. The true teaser isn’t much better with Quinn declaring the world technologically backward after witnessing a few people with spears having a picnic. He then makes a nonsensical comment about being glad they’re at least human, like they’d be anything else. I pause on this note as it’s instructive to young (and old) screenplay writers: the viewer has no way of knowing where the episode is going in the first eight seconds. Their reactions should be based on prior experience and not the author’s knowledge of the next 4 acts.
To cap off this fantastic start, we have an earthquake where Wade just stands around as a fissure opens beneath her. She then plummets into the center of the earth. Dear God, they just killed Wade! I mean, people don’t survive that! Right? Oh wait, these are the same people who get eaten by worms and placed into suspended animation. What’s a little fall beneath the earth’s crust?
It turns out earthquakes are extremely common due to the syzygy of three earths in the same orbit (more on this nonsense later.) The elders of the society have left in the hopes of finding a solution to the earthquake crisis, but none have returned. This colony is essentially composed of people 25 and under and their leadership is sorely lacking. The Sliders do manage to learn of a forbidden zone that leads underground. When they are caught, Arturo and Rembrandt are put under house arrest and Quinn is left down below.
The Quinn/Wade storyline is your standard ‘insert action here’ affair. When Wade fell, another woman and her baby fell too. The woman died, but the baby survived. Before Wade could get to the child, the creatures below do. Once reunited, Quinn and Wade decide to rescue the kid and begin the train of capture and escape. The best moments come not from the action but from the dialogue between the two during capture. After learning of yet another one of Quinn’s record times (diaper changing), they get into talking about the families they’ll have. It’s heartening that they still believe these days will come despite the almost impossible obstacle of finding home.
As this is going on, Arturo and Rembrandt have allergic reactions to a thornbush they crashed into post-slide. Arturo’s case is so bad that he scratches until he draws blood and discovers something truly alarming — the thorns are growing out of his arm!
Brock, the only helpful person on this planet, administers a healing solvent left to them by “The ‘Gineers” who had gone before. He’s startled by how hard Arturo was hit by the thorns, and offhandedly remarks he must have been already sick. In a stunning moment of honoring continuity, Arturo’s illness from The Guardian is brought back to the forefront. Rembrandt confronts Arturo, who grudgingly tells him everything. It is the best scene of the episode and a highlight of this uneven season.
With the support of Brock, Arturo and Rembrandt head to the underground to rescue Quinn and Wade. There’s lots of running around, great acrobatics by the creatures, and eventually everyone escapes unharmed. Inspired by this show of resistance, a breakaway group decides that they will leave their unstable home and go in search of safer territory. Thus, the moral of the story is don’t be afraid of change… even though it’s painfully obvious the situation is highly unlikely to be any better elsewhere. To drive the point home, the episode ends with overlander and underlander locked in battle.
Despite a lot of alt-history holes that Wells was not kind enough to spell out in detail for Anderson, this episode is fairly engaging. The performances by the core four are all strong, probably because by now they know that this will be one of the last times they’ll be together. Admittedly, I know this is the last time they’ll be together, so nostalgia could be clouding by judgment.
The lingering question for me is, why did Anderson choose “The Time Machine” for this story? Did he merely like the idea of creatures that come from below? Or where the producers just trying to collect the whole set of Wells’ classics? Regardless, if you’re going to steal something, get it right! H. G. Wells didn’t write novels solely to entertain. They usually had a deeper social message. Wells’ satirical point was that the underclass that once toiled for its “betters” now devour them, thus warning of the dangers of the industrial revolution to both worker and leisure class. Anderson must have skimmed past that part. He took the raw materials, but forgot the context.
Even more amazing is the silliness that passes as science. For example, take our three earths (plus the moon!) in “syzygy.” Syzygy is indeed a real word, it just doesn’t mean what the writer thinks it means. It does not mean that three planets and a satellite share an orbit. It means that heavenly bodies are in line with each other such as in a conjunction or opposition. When the moon is full, the Sun, Earth and Moon are in syzygy. The two earths and moon shown in this episode are waxing, so they are clearly not in syzygy.
But I’m belaboring the point. Let me just cut to the chase. Three earths and one moon in such close proximity as visualized in this episode makes absolutely no freaking sense and cannot be justified in any matter whatsoever. Can’t happen, won’t happen, shouldn’t have happened. The mass incompetence of this production staff is proving that even infinities have limitations.
“Last of Eden” is by no means their best effort, but at the very least it’s a far more fitting send-off for John Rhys-Davies than that farcical piece of dung known as The Exodus. It’s also a very ironic title, as there’s a good chance nothing that comes after will be any better than this.
|Previously: Review: Paradise Lost
|Next: Review: The Exodus, part I