There are strange things afoot in this week’s entry. Or, let me put it this way: I’ve never seen Stand By Me. So I feel like I’m missing out on something. Actually, the only thing I’ve seen Corey Feldman in that isn’t “The Two Coreys” is, well, this. At the very least I’m simply bewildered by the goofy-ass handshake this dude and Quinn engage in.
That being said, I have to admit that after last week’s non-entity of a guest star, this “Corey Feldman” is actually not bad. He’s a little one-note (and the note is ‘dully gruff’), but I’m willing to accept that a dude who spends his life as an outcast under an electrified desert would be a little gruff and dull.
So here’s the skinny: this episode is the beginning of what is known as a distressing trend on the show. But even if we’re pretending to not know the future, as I’m doing (poorly), there’s still a little something that’s too hard not to notice.
I mean, this scene looks like the first scene in Twister. Like, a lot. And there’s the fact that they call the tornados “Twisters” instead of, y’know, “tornadoes.” I mean, I know that “twister” is a totally acceptable nickname for tornadoes, but shouldn’t we trying to make it less obvious that we’re “referencing” the movie Twister? Or should we make it rally obvious and put the world “twister” in the title, too, and maybe throw in some other pop culture reference that’s actually probably too obscure for your intended audience of drunk teenagers to understand? To be honest, I’m surprised they didn’t call the episode “Twisterslide” or something equally asinine.
It would be really, really easy to look at the bulletpoints of this episode— “electric” twisters, Corey Feldman— and say “wow, that sucked.” But that’s not exactly true. I mean, yeah, there are flaws. Corey Feldman’s beard is a flaw. You could argue that what we get for ‘alt-history’ is ridiculous (and about this: maybe I missed the one line that explains it, but are we actually supposed to believe that these, like, 20-30 people are the only humans left on Earth? Or was this a more localized thing that devastated only California and made it so the rest of the world couldn’t help out? If it’s the latter, then I will totally accept that it’s a little less ridiculous. If it’s the former, then we’re getting into a problem similar to Star Trek’s “I am the President of the Whole Planet” thing)— and while ‘electric tornadoes’ are a scientific impossibility, we have to give the episode points for at least even trying to explain them.
And even without all that, I was pretty engaged by the whole “dictator under the guise of good” village plot. I mean, sure it’s done to death, but never before on Sliders, and it wasn’t just tacked on to the more interesting ‘twister’ plot. The story, for all its strange difficulties, is actually pretty well put together. It’s not an obvious thing that the leader of the village would be partially responsible for the twisters. The fact that Corey Feldman is his son is a little more obvious. But still— there are sort of a lot of ‘new’ characters running around, and they all get something to do, a little moment to shine here and there.
So I watch this episode and I’m enjoying it. And if I’m a “diehard” Sliders fan, that’s the opposite of what I’m supposed to do, right? Write off the majority of Season Three and beyond?
I don’t know what’s happening. Maybe it’s my excitement for watching actual episodess again instead of crummy comics. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s my mood. Maybe I have no taste in anything. I’ve already (mentally) proved that I have differing tastes in Doctor Who episodes (I dug “Earthshock,” loved “Four to Doomsday,” thought “Time-Flight” was pretty alright), so maybe I also have crap taste in Sliders episodes? I don’t know.
I don’t claim to be an authority. This blog is one of opinion first, ask questions never. But so far I’m three episodes into Season Three and I’m having a great time. I would rate all of these episodes (yes, all) pretty high.
All of which is certainly not to say that I would rate this episode above “Luck of the Draw.” But lest we forget that Season One had “The Weaker Sex,” and Season Two was rife with turkeys. I don’t think my enjoyment of this episode is a case of “tempered expectations.” Or maybe that’s inaccurate— this is Sliders, you should be going into this with tempered expectations.
Here’s the thing, and it’s a thing that semi-unfortunately has to be brought up often. Sliders is without a doubt a product of its time. And it that time, television is a more powerful form of media. 1997 isn’t a pre-internet world, but the web at that point is still an infant. In this day and age, the internet is where culture lives and dies. Sliders wouldn’t work today (at least not as it was aired in ’97). It’s so reliant on 90s tropes and signifiers that it would either be torn apart by the fact of its sheer mediocrity, or just boiled down into a set of goofy memes and cheezeburger cats.
So this episode is about Twisters. And it came out after Twister. But the 90s saw the beginning of the trend of Big Media “having the same idea at once by coincidence.” It started with Asteroids— today, it’s Vampires and Snow White. Sliders is no different— it’s just a very obvious casualty of this trend, because we can see that previous seasons don’t buck to the trend (“Fever”/Outbreak comparisons aside).
But even then, that argument relies on having the internet and being able to stream the show on demand. In 1997 there weren’t DVDs of Sliders (If there were even DVDs then— at the very least they weren’t the mass public’s form of media), there weren’t even VHS tapes unless you dubbed them yourself. We couldn’t have this kind of group discussion of the “dumbing down” of Sliders because there wasn’t a forum to do so outside of like, use.net groups. So for most people in 1997 (and I don’t mean Sliders diehards— I mean the general TV/Nielsen Viewing Public), “Electric Twister Acid Test” was a typical Sliders episode, not an out of the blue “what happened to my show” moment— this was your show.
And the thing is, at the end of this season, we’ll come to the point where the majority of episodes are like this, not like Season One. The vast majority of Sliders is an action adventure show steeped in 90s signifiers. So the argument of “Sliders shouldn’t have a kid skateboarding a tornado” doesn’t really hold water. Of course he’s shredding a twister! It’s 1997! The real criticism should be that he’s shredding it too late in the 90s for the joke— the moment is more Capri-Sun than %100.
I’ll cap this discussion there, mainly because comparing Sliders to a war between the aesthetics of Mass-Produced Juice Bags and Sonic Youth is the best thing I’ve ever written. But also because I’ll be returning to this time and time again. So for now, let’s just revel in the team bobsledding out of the Vortex. In all the glory of 1997.
Next Week: All of this has happened before, and it will happen again —especially if you still kneecap that teenager (The Guardian [unless I do another Intro Post, since “The Guardian” is kind of a big deal]).
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