In fact, if you know what's going to drive the rest of season four, and how different that is to where "Sliders" was at the end of season three, you can easily come to "Genesis" expecting a big episode with a lot of critical twists in it. Sadly, this is actually one of the limpest episodes of the fourth season, as writer David Peckinpah asks for so many scenes that are either off-story or uninteresting, and mishandles the characters in ways that make the big twists illogical and unrelated to the story's onscreen plot. Most of the exciting transformational events are presented as backstory to this adventure, while the on-screen material of the adventure itself ran around in circles in a pool of uninspiring muck. But perhaps what's missing most here is the optimism and the "Sliders" humour. I really miss that. That was part of the charm of the show. "Genesis" went for combat and tense drama - fine enough, but it went too far and made it really depressing.
Granted, this story remains decent and is a good deal better than many of season three's efforts. But season four will raise the standard and be of a higher caliber as a whole, meaning that "Genesis" will have a harder time ranking well here.
Action vs. Padding"Genesis" suffers from story padding, from the unimaginative beats of getting over mistrust upon meeting someone new, to the juvenile posturing occurring between Maggie and the lead female guest star, to the most obvious padding of all during the repetitive arguing over the right time to either mount or abort a mission. The running around in circles drawback also becomes much too obvious. After so much effort is put into rescuing someone, it doesn't make much sense to then promptly say that we should leave someone else behind. This is a rescue already! Finish it so you can move on to the next point of interest!
To be fair, the story also has a lot of action, which is fairly well done. Special effects jazz it up decently, and its rescue motivations and goal vs. barrier mechanics are working well - this is miles ahead of the drivel we got back in "Rules of the Game", or the inexplicable lack of proactivity plaguing "This Slide of Paradise". It may seem here though that there isn't enough action, because of the story padding, but had the padding been replaced with proper mythological material, or stuff that successfully explores what has happened to the places that Quinn and company used to know, the action would feel like it was in better balance.
And heaven help you if you're a viewer totally new to "Sliders", because this episode discusses a lot of concepts and continuity and loose ends without really bringing new people up to speed. The episode's action is really not related to the mythology, and merely paints a very general and very depressing view of what Earth Prime supposedly looks like now.
Which Home Is This?The story's take on the wrap up and consequences of the old "Gilligan's Island"-return-home arc leaves something to be desired. The regular characters seem satisfied that this is their home Earth. But is the audience equally satisfied, or even remotely convinced?
The producers take the bait that Tracy Tormé laid out for them in "Invasion" (the season two finale) and trigger the Kromagg invasion. In itself, that's all well and good. But scene for scene, this story seems to be focusing on all the aspects of invasion (and homecoming) that are gross, drab, depressing, or clichéd. When I think back to all the invasion stories I've seen on other shows like Doctor Who (particularly the UNIT stories surrounding the Jon Pertwee era), or even Star Trek classics like "The Best of Both Worlds", the potential for doing the idea really well seems obvious, yet somehow really escaped the makers of Sliders. Kromagg make-up is an improvement here, I think, particularly if the Kromaggs are going to appear more often now and feature in plenty of action scenes. The eye-eating thing should have been dropped. Plus, it seems the interesting part of the invasion is the part when it just starts to occur, and Earth forces first begin to combat it. Mucking about in the rubble afterward is not so exciting.
Plus, we need to take at least 25% of the episode's screen time just to acknowledge that Quinn and Rembrandt and in an off-screen capacity Wade have actually made it home. This is, supposedly, the completion of that first, long, three-season arc. This should be an achievement, and we need to celebrate it! We need to see some of the landmarks that we had in the pilot episode. We need to see Quinn's house - the best place to have a scene or two with his mother. We need the basement where it all started - which the producers readily recreate for the upcoming episode "World Killer", but are too lame to attempt here. In all likelihood, Quinn should not be using the "Gilligan's Island" window of opportunity to leave this world. He should be returning to his basement lab in San Francisco and launching a whole new timer - one that works without depending on the spiral helix theory that gives you one time-dependent shot at opening the vortex every 29 years. Give us a timer that's not designed to produce a Gilligan's Island arc, now that you've finished with it. The Sliders should be returning to home world after each couple of episodes. None of these logical moves happened, and "Genesis" is the worse off for it.
Another problem seems to go unacknowledged by this script. If we're not going to get recognizable buildings, landmarks, people, and situations, how are we ever going to know if the Sliders really DID make it home? Perhaps the final scene of "Into the Mystic" articulates the best twist on this type of uncertainty, although "Genesis" here needs to thrive on this idea subconsciously. If you've spent months or years away from your home Earth, how much will it have changed? Will you still be able to recognize it? In fact, I'll do you one better here. If these alternate universes are not actually parallel but branching, and every decision causes a universe to split into several similar ones to cover all possibilities and make sure these all exist, and this process happens something like ten thousand times per day, and you spend months or years exploring universes that are not part of your home branch, HOW MANY new different alternate universes can legitimately claim to have branched out from the one you left while you weren't there? HOW MANY different worlds exist now that can ALL legitimately claim to be Quinn, Wade, and Remmy's original?
Does this world even have a common root with Quinn's when he left, or did it diverge earlier? Perhaps we must assume that this is the "same" world as seen in "The Exodus" (story no. 39) at least.
And something does seem to be up with this world. Remmy has lost his precious mustache, and has a markedly different attitude and take on life from here on. Is this really our Remmy? It feels a bit more like a double. Even more so for Quinn's familiar mother, who has a whole new take on her family ties. At least we get the definitive genetic take on mom by actress Linda Henning. And Maggie's gone for jet black hair. Is this really the same Maggie, or a double? It all seems easier to doubt our regular characters than to go with the flow as was probably intended by the producers.
We do spend an inordinate amount of time at the ruins of the Chandler Hotel, really making the name of the place stick for the first time in the series. But, wait. Shouldn't the return home be happening in San Francisco? And don't the Sliders stay at the Dominion Hotel in San Francisco? This story does in fact take place in L.A., as most of season four's Chandler-Hotel-hugging stories will continue to do. "Genesis" could have done much better at defining exactly where on Earth this story and the rest of the season is taking place, as I felt I really had to dig through the dialogue in repeat viewing to get this point clarified.
New MythologyWhen this story does download a lot of new information on the protagonists and the audience, it's mostly coming out in scenes of just one or two people talking backstory in front of the camera, during a pause in the action. As was the mistake with Doctor Who's "The Brain of Morbius", the good stuff is in the past and not in the present, where we could get the action to support it. Additionally, much of this information wants to really redefine what we thought we knew of Quinn's family history, which is additionally problematic since this show has built itself on showing many different variations of it in numerous parallel/branching universes. So a big question becomes, how many of those other universes were also hiding false histories of Quinn? How widespread are these new revelations in the multiverse? And considering the sources of information, have the new parents really contacted the same version of Linda Henning's character that they encountered previously? Is she really reunited with her own version of Quinn? Logically, based on the premise of the series, these questions MUST be asked, and "Genesis" really can't offer any undisputed answers. It's very easy for the audience to feel incredulous and skeptical at all this, not only because the series regulars are doing so as well, but because we remember the distrust of Earths that are not quite our own as displayed in "Into the Mystic" and "Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome", and we remember the distrust of people who we think we know but may actually be part of a Kromagg mind game, as seen in "Invasion" and in Quinn's first interrogation scene here in this story. So to then see Quinn suddenly be completely satisfied with swallowing a whole new mythology, it seems like the writer is merely dumbing Quinn's character down. Ultimately, though there is significant merit in the new mythology, it is presented to the viewer in a fairly offensive hard lump here in "Genesis", and I think it's just too easy for the audience to not be buying it, or at least, to not be buying all of it.
But I don't like the idea that our Quinn isn't indigenous to the world that we saw him in during the pilot, or that Linda Henning and Tom Butler's characters aren't his actual biological parents. We don't ever get anything out of that change to make the drastic quality of it worthwhile, and I think it only helps generate resistance in the long term fans for the redefinition in general. A slightly more subtle redefinition would have gone down better no doubt.
Really, the new parents, played by John Walcutt and Marnie McPhail, never really needed to be our Quinn's parents. It's much better to suggest they might be, or that they are mistaking our Quinn for some double that truly was theirs. They could be uncle and aunt, while Colin is a cousin. The less of the past you try to change here, the better and more believable all this is. After all, Quinn Mallory and many of his doubles discover sliding in the pilot episode, and you don't want to trivialize or take too much away from that by suddenly saying that his parents had the ability twenty-odd years earlier. If, however, they are distant doubles of his parents, it becomes logical that Quinn would encounter such people in more highly advanced civilizations if he keeps sliding long enough.... And you don't really need much more than to say that these are two people of interest, whose history suggests they may have a way to defeat the Kromaggs on some other world out there, and then launch a quest to find them.
Hopeless DebtsOne of the worst things that they do here is to not allow Wade to have a happy exit from the show. The first point of illogic is that after Wade and Remmy arrived in L.A. on their home world, they proceeded to take jobs as waitress and singer at the Chandler Hotel. Why would they not go back to their homes and families in San Francisco and get more permanent jobs, in Wade's case dealing with either computers or literature? It's not like they were waiting for the timer to hit zero and take them somewhere else again.
Instead the writers make the fans horrified at what has likely happened to Wade, compelling the three regulars to try to find her to rescue her.... which can be an excellent draw for the audience if it's a longer arc that the writers planned to complete. However, none of the Wade-related goals can actually be accomplished if Sabrina Lloyd can't be contracted to make another appearance, rendering the whole thing into a prolonged source of delayed disappointment. Here the writers needlessly incurred a narrative debt that they would never be able to pay off satisfactorily. With a happy exit for Wade, this wouldn't be a problem. With the nasty depressing one we've got, it unnecessarily paints failure all over "Sliders" once more. I am disappointed that Sabrina Lloyd didn't appear in this episode, or any other. I would have preferred more episodes with Wade. Sure, options for her character's reappearance should be left open on the show, for always. But, without being able to finalize the contract to make it happen, leave Wade in a good place. If her reappearance happens, great. If it doesn't, let your base be covered. Instead, "Sliders" began here to set some new long-term goals for the characters of their show which the writer/producers had no absolute control over, and that would eventually sink the show.
The final scene of "Invasion" reveals a question that season four will dabble in from time to time, namely: "Which original Slider has the Kromagg implant?" Additionally, what would that one individual have to do to let the Kromaggs know that he or she was on their homeworld? Is mere arrival enough, or do they have to miss their 29-year sliding window? The backstory to "Genesis" seems to imply that we can rule out some possibilities, while future episodes proceed to contradict such deductions. Season Four's writers really should have ironed this out a little better, and come up with a consistent, water-tight premise for the show.
Many of the characters we do get here kind of miss the mark. We get a very strange tech-geek early on who makes the biggest impression of any of the guest characters. His very unusual speech pattern and mannerisms are not necessarily a bad thing, but they do really make him stand out. I don't think he's a great character, personally, but not too bad. More importantly, and perhaps more detrimentally, he actually makes me wonder why pretty much all the other guest characters in this story are so bland and boring, with undifferentiated speech patterns. More variety for the rest of them might have helped the "fun factor" of the story immensely. I particularly don't like the leading blonde resistance leader who helps our Sliders in this one. She's a bit too much of a clone of Maggie, and when she gets most of her scenes beside Maggie, the two make an instant contrast, and you know our Maggie is the one we prefer. It might have made more sense if it had actually been Maggie's double - but that would've been prohibitive to shoot - unless it's a genetically differentiated double like Logan St. Clair.
For the main story, not very much music stands out. The odd warping sounds backing a few Kromagg moments will recur throughout the season though, and so they end up being the most memorable parts of the score.
Other changes for this season include the credits switching to a yellow font, which is not really any better or worse than before, and the infamous opening shot being played in reverse, which is less effective but nice for variety.
Curiously, the final act abandons all connection to the story's own action and A-plot, and contains nearly the entire mythological dump for the new season, with the lingering question of what the protagonists will do with the information. Though a bizarre structure like this without any kind of true final fix for the protagonists to perform isn't necessarily a bad thing and does have a natural logical flow to it, the other problems of the story still add up high enough to make us think perhaps more traditional mystery/invasion structure combinations might have been ultimately more effective. In the end, the protagonists really postpone a final fix for another episode after visiting some unspecified world they may or may not ever encounter later - an unfortunate "Sliders" pattern.
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