Rules of the Game

Season 3
DVD Box Set
Region 1 NTSC

Season 3
DVD Box Set
Region 2 PAL
(Sliders Story No. 24, starring Jerry O'Connell)
  • written by consulting producer Josef Anderson
  • directed by Oscar Costo
  • music by Danny Lux
  • produced by Mychelle Deschamps & Richard Compton
  • Production # K1805
Story: Surprised at apparently landing in an aircraft flying over California, the Sliders soon become unwilling participants in a deadly war game sport, trapped in a walled-in area of a city full of booby traps, mechanical nightmares, and competing players.

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program.
To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide to the season instead.

This episode seems to want to symbolize the sell-out of a great sci-fi series idea like Sliders to the excesses of Hollywood. In essence, we get a load of action and special effects, interrupted by the odd cheeseball attempt at a character scene, without getting a single interesting idea or a reason to invest ourselves in the situation or its believability.

If there's anything good about this episode, it is that the four regulars are all good actors, and can use their charm to prop up the empty script a bit and keep us tuned in. But their characters really aren't going anywhere in this one. Here, they are little more than victims for whatever the script of the week wants to try to throw at them, mostly a load of torturous events that have been completely divorced from reality, and will of course all mean nothing as these four are all safely and neatly returned to their starting positions before the episode is over. Their character scenes amount to little more than a bit of extra nagging and bickering in places, not something I'm ever keen to tune in for.

Most damaging, there aren't any interesting goals for them to invest in during the episode. They're constantly checking the timer, to see how much longer they have to endure this world before moving on to the next episode, no doubt hoping it's a better one. Yes, it's the old "Marco Polo" mistake all over again.

There is an attempt to be a bit more noble in the final five minutes, in getting one of the local's discs into the obelisk at the end. Yes, Quinn promised, and he wants to keep his word. But why did he bother promising? Does the audience really care if this particular blonde beachbabe wins the idiot game and makes her family rich, or if one of her competitors wins instead? If you want to give Quinn a noble mission on this world, how about having him destroy the game altogether, expose its Wizard of Oz instigator(s), and teach the people how to entertain themselves with chess or soccer or the Mindgame sport from the episode "Eggheads" (story no. 6)? That I could get behind. That would give our characters something more than just one mindless action sequence after another to occupy themselves with. Sorry, not in the cards today. This story could have learned a thing or two from the film "The Running Man" with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Dawson. The final fix of this story may belong to Quinn, but it's too poorly motivated and pointless for us to care.

And with all the emphasis on action, you have to wonder why all of these challenges are so ludicrous. Rotating cannons come up out of the lawn.... so how do Quinn and the Professor not get hit by them as they crawl up to them with pens? Why does shooting them from afar not work better? Why is the Professor conveniently blinded just until the next slide, instead of killed by the laser bolt? Why does the wooden door lock so well to separate them, and remain immune to their weapons? What's with the magnetic spider-web that only sucks in Rembrandt, conveniently giving blind Arturo some target practice to make himself feel useful again? Good thing the dogs are actually androids, or I'd be going on about the city-boy treatment of motivating animals solely to mindlessly generate fear in humans, instead of making them true to reality, which has much more rich variety to it. Biggest question of all, why do the regulars even bother following the other players after getting out of the overheating hangar/house, if their goal is to wait out this game instead of trying to win it? You could drive an aircraft carrier through the holes in this plot, until there's nothing left to hold it together.

Most curious of all, the episode's own dialogue seems to spend considerable time criticizing itself, with comments like "How can people be entertained by watching other people suffer?" Well, exactly, so why did you make this episode? In short, this one is all about preaching 1980's style anti-violence sentiments, while trying to use violence as its main dramatic draw. As usual, it's pretty empty.

Perhaps it is quite telling that the network executives chose this mindless hour to open the third season on first broadcast, instead of "Double Cross" which was designed to open the season and was a FAR superior and more interesting episode. Either those executives themselves were tasteless, or they assumed that tasteless was what the audience would be excited about. Ugghh.

In short, "Rules of the Game" is an episode you will want to see once, because four good characters cruise through it, before you quickly move on to better things. And better things are in store later this season. This episode however, was just treading water.

This story has become available on DVD. Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Season 3 DVD Box Set
Region 1 NTSC
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
Season 3 DVD Box Set
Region 2 PAL
for the U.K.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Electric Twister Acid Test"

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