New Season ElementsOf course, whoever was in charge of determining the broadcast order for the show must have thought they were marketing it to mindless visually-oriented adrenaline junkies. For those of us core sci-fi fans who like to think, we immediately found it obvious that this story was written to come first in the season. The evidence: Quinn and friends land in San Francisco again, as they always have previously, and only in this story is an onscreen reason given for the production's move from Vancouver to Hollywood. Here, the Sliders acquire a means to land anywhere in a larger radius that now encompasses Los Angeles as well. They need that ability before the opening of the next episode can make sense. And this sequence is supported by the production code. "Double Cross" comes first, and is by far a better choice for opening story.
Season Three gets a bit of a musical makeover, as Sliders gets yet another completely new main title theme, this time from incoming regular composer Danny Lux. Instrumentation is more pleasant, and it is generally more tuneful, yet a definitive melody still remains elusive. It feels more like we're listening to the accompaniment than the main melody, and there is even less chord movement in this new theme than in the last one. Oh well. All things considered, this is probably the best theme tune the show has had yet, but it still deserved something much cooler.
Music for the episode at hand is from returning composer Stephen Graziano, who does his usual good, lively, interesting work, without anything standing out too much. My favourite bits include the quiet piano piece backing Quinn and Logan's night out, and the humorous bits as Rembrandt heads for home.
Subjects of InterestThis story's subject matter sets it miles ahead of most of its season three competition. Finding a place like Prototronics, which can offer so much in terms of helping the Sliders find their way home, is probably the most obvious early draw. Our main protagonists should be able to explore this kind of a place with their highest form of excitement, a form contagious enough to encompass the audience as well, and the protagonists certainly don't do badly here at all. Will this be the episode that lets them get home and trigger the next long-term arc with the Kromaggs? Or will it add yet another new element to the long term progress of the show?
The world they've landed on, one of resource exhaustion and "Green" environmentalist backlash, ends up primarily giving us a lot of eye-candy, most notably with all the various futuristic mono-rail shots littered throughout the episode. This is a world I wouldn't mind visiting. Prototronics itself gets a cool futuristic location exterior as well - If I'm not mistaken this is the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant which can also be seen on "Star Trek - The Next Generation" in the season one episode "Justice", and re-used a number of times as part of Starfleet Academy in later seasons, receiving mention in the featurette "New Life and New Civilizations" on TNG's season four box set.
But is the look of this episode too warm and palm-tree-filled to pass for San Francisco? Well, one thing to remember is that this is where San Francisco would sit on this world if it hadn't been absorbed into the mega-city known as San Angeles. Studies show that urban sprawl actually helps to increase the temperature of the climate over the areas that are urbanized, creating more heat-based thunderstorms for one thing. The ability of concrete and asphalt to absorb and hold heat from the sun's rays is a primary factor. And with a city as large as San Angeles - maybe a climate this warm and friendly to palm trees is not so far fetched after all.
Rembrandt's plot line is a light bit of enjoyable fluff - and probably the most standard example of his typical romantic follies on the show. The actress he works with in this subplot is one of the best to inhabit this archetypal role on the show, giving Monique a lot of good ironic moments.
Rembrandt's plot line is also important for introducing us to the geography that becomes so important to the developing arc on the show. And with the move from Vancouver to Hollywood, we sadly lose many of the minor recurring cast members that gave the first two seasons an extra special touch, and we now need to start building up a new clique of minor characters to help emphasize the differences between various worlds. Enter bartender and server Elston Diggs, played by comedian Lester Barrie, who properly introduces himself to Rembrandt in this episode, and begins to recur again before the episode is done. He'll be a source of some fun in the episodes to come, although isn't quite set to outdo William Sasso's sorely missed Gomez Calhoun.
Logan's SprintUltimately, the best element of the story becomes the idea of having a double of the opposite gender. That is a VERY rich avenue of exploration for this show, and one that probably deserves a good number of episodes to do justice to. In just this one episode, two very good angles get decent amounts of story time. First is the concept of romantic involvement with your own double, along with all the implications as weird as they may be. Second is the idea of your double becoming your nemesis, a Moriarty-like figure, someone who is your equal and opposite, someone who can follow you and oppose you in adventure after adventure. All this exciting potential is presented in the main guest character of Logan St. Clair. Awesome!
I actually think Zoe McLellan was a good choice to play Jerry O'Connell's female double - there are many similarities in energy levels, facial structure, and many mannerisms. Some of the subtleties might still need some work, and ultimately I think a script as ambitious, well-paced, and dense as this could have gone up that extra notch with a bit of tweaking to refine the characters, Logan's most of all.
Part of the behind-the-scenes politics of season three of "Sliders" will bring an increase in Hollywood cliché action sequences to the show. Watching "Double Cross" first after seasons one and two makes this immediately noticeable, as sequences of this type feel as though they have been forced onto the story through lack of imagination, no matter how badly they fit. The early motorcycle chase is bizarrely over the top, when it seems more like a friendly tap on the shoulder would have sufficed. Most questionable of all are the numerous repetitive standoffs at gunpoint, along with most of the bossy dialogue surrounding them. Replacing these with more character scenes, developing Logan, her corporate-suit cohort Adrian Fayne, Mrs. Arturo, and Wade's double, might have helped take this story deeper into classic territory. But on the flip side, action sequences like this help keep the pace up, and "Double Cross" certainly enjoys a really good pace. There's a balance to be struck here, and for an exciting season opener, "Double Cross" certainly delivers a good ride.
One of the things that really stuck out at me, despite the fact that the script builds up anticipation for its basic existence, is the bright-eyed infomercial sales-pitch style of the big incriminating piece of evidence. Thankfully, "Double Cross" is a story that looks better the more often you watch it, but if you haven't seen it in a while, its fast pace can leave you behind sometimes and have you wondering what's motivating a certain character. For a pace this fast, VERY economic dialogue is required, and sometimes what we get is a little on the clumsy side.
However, even with a lot of mediocre dialogue floating about, some all time classic lines still crop up.
"What dark corner of our soul did you crawl out of?"I love that one. It's classic. More of that kind of character exploration would have done the story good.
Mind you, I do like the fact that the story features so many sliding wormholes in action sequences, and builds so much plot around them. This helps elevate the story's importance in the canon, and fuel audience interest in finding out if we're going to develop the arc of the series here by finding a way home....
"...she said something about tracking wormholes. Are we going to run into her again?"As this story ends, it has clearly made changes to the show, and it appears that one of them may have been to add more possibilities for continuing to motivate stories after the Sliders reach home. What if Logan follows them to their homeworld and starts some stuff? Or will Quinn and friends need to save other unknown worlds from her schemes, possibly because Quinn feels responsible for unleashing her on the multi-verse? If the Kromaggs were to Sliders what the Daleks were to Doctor Who, or the Klingons to Star Trek, perhaps Logan would be to Sliders what the Master was to Doctor Who, or what Q was to Star Trek The Next Generation. At any rate, clearly the Kromaggs were waiting for the Sliders to get home. Logan needn't wait; she could start hampering them any time. I could not wait for this character to show up again. It is SUCH a great pity that she never did. From a story-line point of view, it was such a great opportunity that remained undeveloped.
The actual concluding dynamics of "Double Cross" could use some work... specifically the gunplay is getting repetitive, and has too unbelievable a "Deus Ex Machina" idea for getting out of the final standoff, despite the very cool visual effects work. A better solution allowing Quinn to proactively disarm Logan before Wade gets shot, perhaps with a few words that appeal to Logan's better side, or referencing something they experienced together or spoke about during the romantic beats, would give a better character solution and perhaps hint that Logan will continue to be a multi-faceted character should she appear in future episodes. That may entail extending the 30-second limit to her slide, but considering what she wanted to accomplish here, why wouldn't she have given herself half an hour at the very least?
Ridiculous bullet problems aside, the rest of what Quinn does near the end of this adventure is fairly decent in terms of heroics, and he puts in a good showing for a first encounter with a recurring long-term foe.
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