The Prince of Slides

Season 3
DVD Box Set
Region 1 NTSC

Season 3
DVD Box Set
Region 2 PAL
(Sliders Story No. 32, starring Jerry O'Connell)
  • written by Eleah Horwitz
  • directed by Richard Compton
  • music by Danny Lux
  • produced by Mychelle Deschamps & Richard Compton
  • Production # K1808
Story: Thinking he is about to give a double of a former lover a transfusion, Rembrandt discovers the hard way that this world's women can only carry a fetus for the first part of a pregnancy, and men usually take over for the final trimester. To make matters even more complicated, the political intrigue of this monarchy soon reveals that the child Rembrandt is carrying is the new heir to the American throne, and someone seems determined to assassinate the entire line....

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.

A certain amount of agony goes into deciding how to review this episode. On one level, it gets right so many of the little dramatic things that inexplicably eluded a good number of earlier episodes this season. But on the other, the most memorable main premise of the show has extremely dubious appeal. What is motivating the show's creators to dump the last practical vestige of female gender identity onto the male of the species? A hope to completely level the field of sexual equality? Women's lib turned to women's revenge? Just looking for a few unusual laughs? Or is this a simple desire to rip-off the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger movie? Perhaps a bit of all of the above, and then some.... but it still never manages to be enough to make this an episode that I ever really WANT to see.

I will say that it is refreshing to see a civilized and well-populated society in this episode, and one that comes with eye-candy architecture and landscaping - all things that were becoming a bit too rare on the show prior to "Dead Man Sliding". And something that seems sadly overshadowed by the gender premise is the other main distinction of this world - that its America is ruled by a monarchy. And it seems that the bulk of the drama and conflict is springing from the political intrigue surrounding the throne. The monarchy intrigue here is actually better and more gripping than that of "The Prince of Wails" (story no. 3), and I'll certainly believe Rembrandt and Danielle being part of it much sooner than Liz 10 in the recent Doctor Who story "The Beast Below" (story no. 209). Strangely though, if the main premise was about improving gender equality, the whole monarchy angle, along with the motivations of the chief villain, seems set to push gender equality back towards the dark ages.

Acting and directing are top notch in this story, and the story is well-written in terms of stylistic considerations. But the gender-based premise is such a turn-off, I know I'd prefer to be watching just about any other episode of Sliders.

One of the easiest improvements that comes to my mind would be in handling the time pressure better. It seems that every episode lately tries to spend just three or four days on its main world, instead of varying the timing a little more creatively. But if shows like the much better "The Weaker Sex" (story no. 7) can have the timer give our Sliders six weeks on a world, allowing them to participate in an entire election campaign, today's male pregnancy premise calls for about a month at the very least in order for the show to really do it justice. Writers can set the timer for any length of time they want. Why didn't we get a better job of it here?

And that leads us to something else. Male pregnancy is strange enough that simply exploring how it is supposed to be normal for this world, on top of monarchy intrigue and human relationship drama, should make the palette rich and full enough for 45 minutes. But introducing extra complications like the incredible ever-shrinking gestation period, and the fact that Arturo is forced to guess his way through this bizarre thing surgically, just takes the idea and totally tanks it. They should have just relaxed all time pressures, and gone for the laughs.

Some fans do like the romantic and paternal sides of Rembrandt's character that come out here. I'm not among them. Is it paternal or maternal today anyway? Is it about the child or about Rembrandt parsing his regrets over his latest fling? One of the reasons I don't really get into the drama here is the fact that the mother... or other parent of this expected child... is part of a long line of women that Rembrandt swoons over in the series. We've never seen her before, and knowing the nature of the format of episodic television, we can accurately guess that we'll never see her again. Rembrandt's mooning over her is not particularly interesting, or for that matter groundbreaking. She's a one-episode deal, disappearing unmemorably into a long line of one-episode deals.

And as is sadly too common on Sliders, an episode that attempts to be centered on Rembrandt has him in the dramatic role of the McGuffin - the object that motivates the actions of the OTHER three regular characters, who have to take the action to solve today's plot conflicts and deliver the final fix. Quinn often has this problem, but today it's Remmy who has it in spades.

There is one other thing I must mention. Just like "Desert Storm" (story no. 28) and "Dragonslide" (story no. 29) before it, this episode's plot seems to get a little lost during the 4th quarter action beats. Look at all the trouble our villains go to to trap Rembrandt, his double, and Arturo to bump them off and make it look accidental.... and with Quinn and Wade bringing the cavalry, there's a good logical reason why that plan should be foiled. Why then does the writer foil it instead by letting the henchman be the lamest idiot on the face of any Earth we've seen yet? How can the trio in trouble escape with such deus ex machina ease? And why add the extra ludicrous move of Arturo's surgical exercise? Even granting the gender premise, once more the climax feels like it is sadly derailing itself again.

"Are visiting hours over yet? You people are depressing me!"

At least the episode has some very good emotional moments in it, and the cast is superb as always once more. The original ads for this episode may cause you to think it will be a particularly humorous one, but most of the episode's jokes are in the ad, and there isn't much more here. It's mostly just drama today, with a bit of fun on top.

And the coda certainly adds to the fun. We haven't had much in the way of throwaway worlds at the end of season three episodes, but finally now comes a good one, and tacked onto this story, it's a fitting complement.

In the end, there is much to enjoy here, but this isn't an episode that many fans will be wanting to watch too many times. Better story premises are needed.

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: "State of the A.R.T."

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