DVD Extras include:
The Big PictureProbably the most important thing that was gotten right was the fact that the main premise of the series develops here. We're no longer sliding randomly episode to episode hoping to hit home. Our Sliders get to sit down with some interesting guest characters, in a lab very reminiscent of that seen in "Double Cross", and plot a course of action to go where they desire. All of this gives "The Exodus" an ability to command the attention of the show's fans and general audience in ways that became extremely rare during season three. In effect, this is the complete cure for the reason I temporarily gave up watching a few episodes earlier during their first broadcast. This story also initiates a new mini-arc for the last part of the season, and this new arc is a good one in the sense that the goals given to our regular characters are completely achievable in production terms, requiring only a bit of courage on the part of the writers to conclude it successfully.
Which leads us to something that the series got very wrong with "The Exodus". Although it's sad to see John Rhys-Davies leave the show, a cast change is not necessarily a bad thing, and yes the series can survive quite well without him, since the parallel universe concept is so strong and so rarely seen on most other sci-fi shows. But there's a very obvious correct way for Professor Arturo to depart the show. Let him get home and go back to teaching at the university. This is important, because we want to take the series' first arc - that of returning home - and make it successful. By killing off Arturo, that first arc is dealt a very serious blow, now rendered a partial failure at the very least, which casts a depressing shadow over the entire journey from the pilot episode to here. Now fans look back on stories like "Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome" and wonder if the Professor wouldn't be better off getting left behind instead of his double. Previous adventures didn't need that kind of baggage, nor do they benefit from it. A comparison with Doctor Who, whose longevity should be the envy of every other sci-fi show, demonstrates how their very similar first arc of returning Ian and Barbara home was brought to a totally successful conclusion after slightly less than two years, without ending the rest of the show I hasten to add, and that, ladies and gentleman, is how it's done.
The Science of FictionVery right includes the idea of the pulsar fragments, because the idea is fascinating, and the visuals are quite cool, nicely functioning as a ticking clock giving the whole story an extra drive. Many fans, and story initiator John Rhys-Davies himself, criticize the scientific accuracy of pulsars or pulsar fragments doing what they are seen to be doing in this story. To that I say: Remember that the fiction in science-fiction requires a certain amount of creative freedom, part of which is that the English language and its volumes of scientific terminology may differ slightly or greatly from one parallel world to another. In fact, let's take the word "galaxy", whose definition in modern times has settled onto the idea of trillions of stars swirling around in a whirlpool-like formation about one hundred thousand light years across, as in our own Milky Way Galaxy, or the more easily observed M31 Andromeda Galaxy some two million light years out. Great. But, hundreds of years ago, the word was more loosely used to describe any old blob of light seen by a telescope that wasn't the definitely single pinpoint of a star. If science develops differently on a parallel Earth, perhaps the word galaxy will settle down to refer to any small cluster of stars that stick relatively closely together within the Milky Way or M31 Andromeda, and that definitely seems to be the way that the term is being used here in "The Exodus".
So you've got some space objects that rotate slowly and pour out lethal microwave-like superheating radiation like lighthouses, and the best word available to describe it so far is "pulsar", even if it didn't strictly meet the definition. The map (the word "pulsar") is not the territory (the space phenomenon coming at you). The phenomenon is what the CGI made it look like. Deal with it. Make up a new word and a whole new theory for it if you want. Real scientists are constantly challenged by things that don't meet established theories and dogma. Sci-fi also is about encountering new unknown phenomena, and here's another doozey for those like me who are open to it. And besides, the scenes in outer space could be time-lapse photography, running out of sync with the live action like a Matrix-moment. There's nothing compelling the cameras in a sci-fi show (or any other genre) from not traveling through time whenever and however they want.
I also have to say that I like the sequence with the giant rabbit. It succeeds in holding up over time much better than many of the other CGI creatures we've seen this season, and perfectly matches up with the responses from the regular characters playing opposite it. All in all, we get a good variety of various worlds to enjoy during this story, all while having a definite purpose and interesting base of operations to return to. Full marks.
Something which doesn't work too badly, but may cause you to want to keep an eye on, is the function of the sliding devices in this story. The writers became so accustomed to the jury-rigged "one window per 29 year cycle per universe" lash up that Tormé created for his series in "Summer of Love" (story no. 2), that they seem to want to operate other sliding devices the same way automatically, unless they make a specific effort to think beyond it. Of course, Quinn and Maggie can operate the new timer from her home world any time, but on other worlds, they mostly wait for a specific exit time. Sometimes, it appears that they don't wait, or they're just neglecting to inform the audience that "it's time."
We also see Quinn deciding he has the kind of power-chip that Dr. Jensen needs for his machine. Common sense suggests it should be the other way around, if Jensen can open his vortex anytime, while Quinn has to wait for a special 29-year window.
At any rate, the level of controversy on "Sliders" regarding what their timer(s) can or cannot do, and subsequently whether or not the Sliders are really putting their actions regarding their movements where their motivations truly are, is about to go up. I say bring it on, because I never was a fan of forever continuing the limitations of the "Gilligan's Island" random tour. "The Exodus" so nicely throws down the gauntlet to start changing that. Excellent!
Another thing to think about during Quinn and Maggie's scouting activities is whether or not any of these parallel worlds also have approaching trouble from pulsar fragments - you'd think they'd want to be doing something to test for that. The more natural this astronomical phenomenon is, the more likely it is also happening in a larger percentage of alternate universes. If, on the other hand, the war-like aspects of Maggie's world somehow managed to tick off some alien species, who decided to engineer this catastrophe for our solar system, it'll likely be playing out in a much smaller percentage of alternate worlds.
Decisions of a Multi-Headed HydraOne of the more bizarre aspects about this production is the fact that each of its halves features a different director, a different musician, a different editor, and telltale signs of too many different fingers in the writing of the story. It seems to make constant flips between scenes of the very highest quality and scenes that seem sorely out of place. Sometimes, the characters are in great focus, at other times they make no sense and act like people we've never seen before. I'm going to count our blessings and remember mostly the scenes where everything does go right, because when it is right, it is POWERFUL, and very well done. No matter how many nits we find, this adventure gives its audience a great ride, and one that is unmistakably, uniquely SLIDERS. Awesome.
One of my biggest nits is of course the very bizarre argument that ensues at the beginning of part two. There are some good bits in it, mind you. Rembrandt should ask why they don't go home now. Wade should point out that the longer they wait, the more likely it is that something will go wrong. But these two go so far over the top, it becomes ridiculous to think that we're still watching the same characters who spearheaded the heroics in all those previous stories. The actors do what they have to with the lines they are given, but holy smokes are those lines ever so far over the top, it's just plain bad.
The good side of this is Quinn's side. He is the leader and the hero in this one, embodying the archetype as well as I ever could have hoped for back in seasons one & two. Plus, he has all practicality on his side during this debate. It's nice that he has Arturo's quiet support all through this. He should also have Wade's and Rembrandt's by the end of the scene, if they had stayed true to their characters and to common sense.
New Characters for a New ArcOf course, this story also introduces a lot of new long term recurring characters to the show, most prominently new regular Maggie Beckett. The story often takes the opportunity to highlight her backstory and make her character better defined, which is all good. All this will be put to good use in later seasons. Kari Wuhrer does well with the role, and demonstrates that she has enough range to play an interesting regular character.
I'm a big fan of the Quinn-Rembrandt-Maggie trio, which I think was just as successful in finding a healthy niche of appeal as the original Sliders quartet. However, I'm not much of a fan of the interaction between Wade and Maggie, which merely seems designed to get on the audience's nerves while going nowhere but round in circles. If they were trying to create the kind of tensions that succeeded so well in "Luck of the Draw" (story no. 9), they missed the mark by a long-shot. The Quinn-Wade portion has been dormant too long, perhaps another indication of how previous third season episodes had been focusing on less interesting story ideas, and their dynamic would need a re-kindling prior to Maggie's entrance. And if that's not in the cards, then let Wade and Maggie have a more pleasant relationship with each other. It is sad (not to mention pointless) that the show chose to go with the worst of both options instead.
Besides, the story beats with Quinn and Maggie getting dreamy-eyed over each other feel out of place considering the rest of what's going on, and reactions not just from Wade but Maggie's husband Steven as well both have that over-the-top feel, like the writers so desperately want more drama that they resort to ridiculous lengths. Plus, Maggie's character isn't done a lot of credit in warming up to Quinn either while still married or so quickly after her husband has passed away. She gets a nice scene of fighting to repress her grief in front of her commanding officer, putting the mission first, but away from his influence, not to mention the mission itself, she needs to grieve rather than make eyes at Quinn.
In the end, this just feels like one too many hands got into the writing pool here.
That brings us to the character of Colonel Rickman. He will actually beat the Kromaggs and Logan St. Clair to become the first long-term villain to recur on a further episode of the show. We get some very good mileage out of him in this debut story, in that he is seen to be in command of the people that the Sliders want to help in this story, and for all Rickman's less-than-ideal methods or motivations, he too is actually helping people. That is all extremely good. I like the actor playing the part here, Roger Daltrey, and I don't have a problem with his accent since it's easy enough to imagine that he is of American descent while experiencing his childhood on some NATO base in Europe surrounded by Brits. Rickman makes a good villain here, as a lot of the nasty things he does happen for the justifiable reason of maintaining order in the face of utter chaos.
I really don't like all that needle play though. Ugghh. Not what I want to be watching during an episode, not to mention a longer arc. If, however, it makes the character work, then I suppose we can put up with it, and I have to admit, the personal mystery that it adds to "The Exodus" is a very nice element in the tapestry. I will say that I think the needle play is at odds with the morphing effects we get after each use. If we look at the story for "The Exodus" as it stands, as a single adventure, the explanation that Wade discovers a bit too conveniently in a newspaper at the end makes the morphing effect simply gratuitous. Looking more at the longer term, and the fact that for such a short arc they bizarrely couldn't get the same actor to play the role all the way through, perhaps the morphing effect should stay while we get rid of the needles and that mundane explanation. Perhaps our villain should be some weird alien changeling creature, one with enough facets that it should place some value also on human companionship, like the creature in Star Trek's "The Man Trap". Again, two options, and it seems the writers can't decide which one to go for, so they muddle both together in ways that don't quite convince.
One of the sorest points with all this needle business is of course the scene in the church, where it is established that Rembrandt and Malcolm and a whole congregation of people are sitting in the pews praying, and our villain comes in, does his nasty deed, and stands there absorbing his high. How is it that no one noticed him, least of all the member of the clergy who was addressing everyone at the time and had a very clear view of the whole thing? This scene just screams out for a shot of the other people in the room, so we can either see them react, or see why they don't notice. I think we have bad writing combined with bad or rushed directing. Splitting the villain's scene off so it happens after the room has emptied is the obvious editorial thing to do after the fact.
I think revealing Rickman as the villain for the end of part one is a good idea, and makes the best cliffhanger. But Quinn also gets to stumble across his home world in this story - or so he believes anyway. I like the idea of him finding home, and of getting another chance to see Linda Henning as his mom once more. Whether or not it is home should still be open for some debate by the regulars though, I think. After "Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome", you'd think they'd know better by now. Besides, if it was home that we saw in "Into the Mystic" (story no. 10), and I'm willing to bet against writer Tracy Tormé and say it wasn't, then the gate shouldn't be squeaky. I'd sooner believe that we see home here in "The Exodus" than in "Into the Mystic". Making Maggie unable to breathe there is a bit weird - I don't think we needed that to continue to motivate slides after the other four regulars get home, but whatever. Ultimately, I think the drama goes sour when Quinn's mom gets ridiculously clingy, and although finding home might make a better cliffhanger in theory, the image of mom going over the top with another of the story's out-of-character moments isn't the best image to bow out on. Oh well. It's not like anyone can watch part one and not be desperate to find out what happens next - there's just way too much good stuff in play here.
Another new character is Malcolm, who ends up representing the hundreds of people that the Sliders help in this adventure almost single-handedly, in terms of him being the only one with enough lines to become a memorable character, which is a bit weird. At least Rembrandt has some very good beats getting to know and like the boy, encouraging the audience to feel the same. Nicely, this all works really well, which makes it all the more bizarre when he seems to forget all of this when he and Wade have the big silly argument with Quinn. Rembrandt's plot regarding Malcolm works better without that argument, and indeed marches on as if the argument hadn't actually happened.
Post PonderancesComposer Stephen Graziano tackles the first half of the story, and manages to include some references to his earlier works. The scene theorizing the character of Maggie's double seems to echo the theme used during Quinn's date with his own female double in "Double Cross". We also hear a cue during Quinn's return home that echoes the one heard in the opening scenes of "Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome". Graziano's cues are appropriately lively or sombre for each scene they appear in, without stealing the focus of the show, and he delivers his usual excellence once again.
Danny Lux tackles the second half of the story's music. His cues maintain the same basic style as those of the first half, without managing to distinguish themselves quite as much. I do like the nicely bizarre brass-like sounds during the impending astronomical event, and the second half sees its share of lively music as well.
Concluding dynamics may give up on the ideal completion of the show's first arc of returning home, but otherwise work well to give us an emotionally satisfying ride that wraps up the story quite well. Quinn emerges as a good hero from this story, with lots for his other four co-stars to contribute to as well. If there's any remaining caveat, it's in the dialogue revealing some of their motivations in the last act. Helping people and getting home is good motivation. Stopping Rickman from harming anyone else, not least because Quinn and company helped unleash him on new worlds via sliding, is good motivation. "Justice" is questionable, as it is often just a euphemism for revenge and violence. Interestingly, Maggie throws the euphemism away, and calls a spade a spade. So it is for sure that her motivation is NOT good. Ick, why dig through the rubbish at the bottom of the pit, when better motivations are right there in front of you? Well, this isn't the only scene that wouldn't have improved from just a little tweaking in the dialogue.
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