Murder Most Foul

Season 3
DVD Box Set
Region 1 NTSC

Season 3
DVD Box Set
Region 2 PAL
(Sliders Story No. 35, starring Jerry O'Connell)
  • written by David Peckinpah
  • directed by Jeff Woolnough
  • music by Stephen Graziano
  • produced by Mychelle Deschamps & Richard Compton
  • Production # K1815
Story: Mistaken for an overworked corporate genius, Professor Arturo endures a type of mental therapy that places him in a late-1800's "park" where he thinks he is the famous detective Reginald Doyle out to solve a series of murders à la Sherlock Holmes. Should his friends try to snap him out of it, or help him solve the mystery which is beginning to become all too real?

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.

Now this IS a strange one. It seems to be trying all too hard to insert Professor Arturo into a Sherlock Holmes role, and finds such an overcomplicated way of doing that, that those methods almost deserve to be explored in their own separate episode. Though this story is well structured and resolves all its conflicts satisfyingly, it is hard to become emotionally invested in this one.

As I also happen to be reading Sherlock Holmes at the time of writing this review, I can say that the flavour of his character and his stories is successfully recreated here. What isn't recreated is the emotional drive in the audience which comes from knowing that the stakes are real and Holmes is actually working to help people. Even watching Star Trek characters dress up on the holodeck works better, because you can continue to invest in the adventure as your favourite regular characters do. Here, Arturo is so totally suppressed, and the scenario shown to be so fake in the first half, that one fails to want to continue to connect with the Holmes fantasy he is acting under. Supposedly, the stakes are only his own sanity, which we also know was never at fault to begin with. Part of the problem may be the amount of time during which we see the other three regulars - Quinn, Wade, and Rembrandt - working things out while ignoring him. They don't exactly invest in the Holmes fantasy, and this encourages the same in the audience. Our only real goals are getting away through the wormhole into the next episode.

Well, the episode pulls its version of having the holodeck safety protocols turned off about half way through, and suddenly the mystery is real. An improvement, but only slightly since "Jack the Ripper" just isn't my taste, nor necessary for a good Sherlock Holmes story apparently. More knife play pulls this story down to the level of "Dragonslide", and though the regular characters don't get on the wrong side of it here, it manages to be more prevalent in this episode.

If there's one thing I do like, it is that Arturo's indulgence in Holmes-like deductive reasoning not only begins to put the internal mystery together, but also tugs at the cracks in the fantasy world. I think this shows the heart of the double-edged sword that the episode's premise has created. We don't care so much to see Holmes solve a fake mystery, but we would like to see him bust his way out of the fantasy.

And about the premise, triggered on a world where everyone wears suits and acts like a workaholic.... I think that's a great character. But to generalize an entire society out of that one character-type would easily produce a society that does NOT function. Surely you still need farmers and miners and construction workers. Do they wear suits on the job? If not, how can you justify running around and arresting people who aren't wearing the latest corporate fashion?

You also have to wonder about this cure. If a man presses his brain to be able to solve mysteries like Sherlock Holmes in Holmes' record time and with his superhuman energy, pulling all-nighters without batting an eyelid (and Arturo is seen here planning such an all-nighter), how is that supposed to be resting a brain that was suffering from workaholic problems? Surely that would compound the problem, wouldn't it? The brain needs a vacation. For this to work as a cure, the subject may think he's Sherlock Holmes, but he should suck at solving mysteries since he's just playing around. This premise just doesn't seem to be what the idea truly needs.

And what is with the wormhole being way up in the air at the end of this one? That is so ridiculous. Did no one care to think this through a little better? No way can the Sliders jump that high to get in. I'm not buying it.

Well, this is a very weird story, sort of showcasing how well John Rhys-Davies can play a Sherlock Holmes clone, but bizarrely not showcasing Professor Maximillian Arturo as perhaps it should have done. The genre has also drifted a bit too far from sci-fi to focus too much on the murder in murder-mystery. Re-read your Sherlock Holmes, and you'll see how often the mystery has no murder in it, or in fact how often there is no actual crime at all, which is refreshing. Most of all, our investment in the fantasy just isn't strong enough in this one, and Gilligan's Island Syndrome takes its toll on another story that is simply delaying our interest in seeing if the wormhole will take us to a truly fascinating world next time....

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: "Slide Like an Egyptian"

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