Premise ImpressionsA very entertaining hook on honesty-world nicely sets up the whole backstory with the truth-collars. Rembrandt is seen at the end of another of his trademark romantic interludes - which we haven't really seen in season two up until this point - and the demonstration of the truth-collar twist for this episode makes the scene unique. Apparently, honesty has bred trust on this world, and so its inhabitants are on a bit of a fast-track in learning about and believing in things like sliding. An excellent demonstration ensues, nicely bringing up to speed any audience member who might be completely new to the show. Nice one.
The dinosaur world provides our main characters with much to explore, and they waste no time sinking their teeth into it. Good. And the hook expertly leads up to the big money-shot for the show, expertly revealing the story's premise. Kudos and full marks.
All is not clear sailing though. As the story goes on, one clearly gets the impression that the script wanted more CGI dinosaur than they eventually had time and money to execute, even if it is just one allosaurus they need to deal with. The time factor may have been even more hampered if indeed this was the second-last episode shot for the season as the production codes suggest, and a studio over-excited by the effects premise rushed it to air closer to the middle of the season. Indeed, you can count the number of dinosaur shots in the whole story without running out of fingers. Most of these shots are jammed up at the beginning of the story, where the memory of them creates anticipation for more dino action and spectacle to come, while human drama takes over. POV shots eventually all but take over to make up for unavailable dino shots, and while this is made to work, you can't help feeling that they've stretched themselves a bit TOO thin this time. The final sequence would need at least two more dino CGI shots to become decent, and the penultimate sequence needs a good one itself. Earlier sequences could have got away with less to compensate, but I've a feeling they didn't quite realize their limits until it was too late to change gears.
In Absence VeritasPerhaps budget consciousness is what caused most of the episode to get stuffed into a dark old cave with a minimal supporting cast. In itself, this creates anticipation that we will have to endure a typical TV "filler" plot that goes nowhere for the middle 70% of the episode, before some quick and obvious ending puts all the characters back where they belong. Additionally, it looks like Jerry O'Connell was busy with other work or something for most of the episode's shooting, as Quinn doesn't appear at all during the middle half of the adventure. This is quite reminiscent of the missing Doctor phenomenon frequently encountered in 1960's Doctor Who ("The Celestial Toymaker" [Doctor Who story no. 24] is a good parallel) or the double-banked episodes from 2006 onwards. The big question usually arising there is whether or not the remaining regular/main characters successfully carry the adventure on their own, and if not, the episode usually becomes a chore to sit through.
Luckily, what actually ensues in "In Dino Veritas" is a lot of good stuff, even if the audience doesn't see it coming. Wade, Arturo, and Rembrandt still make an awesome team without Quinn, and manage a lot of great character moments between themselves - of course all with the truth collars putting an interesting angle on it. Even without Quinn, we get a nice revelation about where Wade's feelings for him are, both in the obvious moment and in her many subsidiary actions scattered throughout the episode. Arturo's tales from naked-world, though, are not one of the story's strengths, most likely referring to the world we glimpsed at the end of "Gillian of the Spirits" (story no. 12), and clearly placing this adventure after that one.
Arturo, Wade, and Rembrandt also get to explore the situation of this world through the character of the ranger, who is additionally interesting by being a hologram like Al on Quantum Leap, bringing a very different bit of effects eye-candy to the episode. The poacher raises the stakes in the story, and is a fairly well-fleshed-out character whom the actor portrays quite well. However, his role in the unfolding plot still remains too easy to predict.
Quinn does wind up with some good stuff to do in the episode's final turns, perhaps most importantly of all in dealing with the truth-collars. It never is explained what prevented the other sliders from removing these earlier themselves, once free of the felony law from the previous world. Oh well. The concluding dino action is exciting, despite what's missing from it, although there is little that is heroic about all the running away that takes place. Perhaps Wade fares better than the others, in taking extra risks to make everything work. Finally we end with a little coda which is okay, but not great.
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