The Other Slide of Darkness

"What a freaking waste." – Rembrandt.

Review by Mike Truman


Forgive me if I seem a little dazed, but after months of pretending the first two seasons of Sliders never happened, this episode attempts to resolve every plot thread ever introduced. We’ve got Rickman, Kromaggs, and even the alternate Quinn from the Pilot making appearances. Ingredients for a terrific episode? Possibly. But someone tossed in some hallucinogenic mushrooms, and we’ve got another barely coherent story to muddle through.

In brief, we’ve got an environment where a toxic fog protects a pre-industrial tribe from incursion by the outside. The Sliders must journey through it if they’re to capture Colonel Rickman (now inexplicably played by Neil Dickson). If that’s not complicated enough, the tribe has a new god — the “smarter” Quinn who gave our Quinn the answer to the unified field theorem all the way back in episode one. He’s still obnoxious, but now there’s a new touch of insanity. Along the way, Rembrandt goes through a meaningless subplot, natural law is twisted beyond recognition, and Maggie manages to alienate whoever is left to alienate.

The first three-quarters of the episode are pretty ho-hum: the team must make a compulsory investigation of what appears to be rural West Virginia to prove that Rickman is up to his old tricks. As a viewer, you already know where this will lead — nowhere.

The wild card is a blind seer named Adra (Oona Hart). Her seeming omniscience allows for an unwitting recreation of the fortune teller scene from Into the Mystic, but with Arturo out of the picture, it’s Rembrandt’s turn to play the skeptic. This takes Wade (and the audience) by surprise, as he’s never shown any hostility towards fringe spirituality before, and rather than just tell her what bugs him about it, Rembrandt lets it fester for a few more acts. When he finally reveals his big secret, it’s over some fabricated incident in Haiti while he was in the service. I say fabricated because I don’t believe any of it; I don’t know what Rembrandt would be doing stationed in Haiti and I barely accept the concept that he was ever stationed anywhere at all. So let’s move on before this review descends into a full blown rant.

As the rest of the group begins its search of an abandoned clinic, Wade presses Adra for more information. Her response is to keep Quinn from going into the fog, for he will never come out. If Arturo were here he would denounce the proceedings as hogwash. Wade would take umbrage, but I cringe whenever the show goes down these roads because it never seems to differentiate between science and pseudo-science. In the same scene where Adra wakes up a coma patient by tossing hairs into a fire, Wade proclaims she knows of exercises that will stimulate the victim’s brain. Pick one or the other; if I’m expected to believe voodoo can be used as medicine, then take it all the way home.

The action doesn’t pick up until Maggie and Quinn, with their time honored strategy of divide, divide, and get captured, are in fact captured by Rickman and the tribe. Once inside the village, we discover who’s really in charge — the other Quinn from the Pilot. He’s gone native, with long white hair and lots of face paint. He’s also gone crazy, and he implores Quinn to kill him. He relates to Quinn a fantastic tale: he is responsible for the sliding capabilities of the Kromagg Dynasty (Invasion), that his world has been destroyed, and that he was too weak to protect his family. He believes if he can get Quinn to kill him, it will give him the strength to do what he could not, thus providing salvation and repentance to both. He does, however, repair Rickman’s timer and allows him to escape, so he’s not exactly all sunshine and goodness. Oh, and if Quinn doesn’t kill him, he’ll let the tribe kill Maggie.

What happens next is not entirely clear. The two Quinns fight; Rembrandt and Wade use some crazy potion Adra gave them to distract the tribe with a giant floating head, and Quinn emerges from the cave just in time to open the vortex and further cower the tribe. What happened to alternate Quinn? Don’t know. There’s no coda. The episode just ends, having run out of time. Come back next week, when we never speak of this adventure again, and may or may not pursue Colonel Rickman.

For a story making a big push at continuity, it’s hard to take it seriously. It feels like it’s part of a parallel continuity and maybe it is. The biggest gap is the Kromagg revelation. The great menace of Invasion has not been mentioned since to my recollection, so to have them come back now — in flashback no less — is pretty strange. Alternate Quinn claims to have given the Kromaggs the equation; we can’t possibly buy it. The Kromagg Dynasty we saw last season was not just getting on its feet. It was a well-oiled machine with a true mastery of physics and bases and tactics that cry out tradition and experience. I suppose it’s possible Mary lied about being raised by her Kromagg captors, but it rings true.

Is this Quinn just insane? He could be. It’s also possible he gave the equation to a parallel non-sliding Kromagg civilization. Or the producers could just be dips. My money is on the latter.

However, I’m glad to visit with this Quinn. Our Quinn is undoubtedly feeling really terrible about the events of The Exodus, part II. He looks like he’s holding it together, but inside he must be sick to his stomach. Encountering such a wretched version of himself probably steeled his resolve, and that would have come with or without killing his double. He can’t descend into this. Wade and Rembrandt, and to a lesser extent Maggie, still need him.

Speaking of Maggie, another tough episode for her. Are we supposed to cheer for her, or hope she gets killed each episode? We don’t need her mindless vengeance to drive stories; our own team is effective enough at bumbling into adventures best ignored. Ultimately, it feels like she was hired solely as eye candy — by episode’s end she’s stripped down to bra and panties and tied up. I guess it’s degrading work if you can get it.

And what about Rickman? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a recast of a villain during the same season. Was Roger Daltry too mortified to make a return appearance? The funniest thing is they actually have an excuse for the change in his appearance. Go, brain fluid!

His presence in this episode is minimal anyway. He’s an excuse to head into the fog, although I’m sure other excuses could have accomplished that in his absence. As to the fog, it’s inscrutable. Quinn and Rembrandt postulate that volcanic activity is creating it, but the fog has a very odd trait of staying within a set boundary. Its potency is also variable. Some uncredited bozo in the teaser is killed almost instantly after being forced to breathe the fog in, and he’s from this planet. Quinn’s able to survive for extended periods, and it hardly affects Maggie at all. Since all it takes to overcome the fog is a gas mask, why wouldn’t everyone just wear them? I don’t want to even think about why drinking a magic tea would allow lungs to filter oxygen from sulfur.

I can’t say this episode is good. Our best scene is all dialogue and shot on that insipid cave set present in every freaking episode this season. Conversely, it’s not awful if you just accept the ludicrous premise and roll with it, much in the same way Dragonslide operates. Recognizing the show’s own history is a step in the right direction. The next step is placing that history in a credible forum. Better luck next time.

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