The Alternateville Horror

Season 4
DVD Box Set
Region 1 NTSC

Season 4
DVD Box Set
Region 2 PAL
(Sliders Story No. 54, starring Jerry O'Connell)
  • written by Chris Black
  • directed by David Grossman
  • music by Danny Lux
  • produced by Edward Ledding, Jerry O'Connell, & Marc Scott Zicree
  • Production # K2803
Story: Is the Sliders' favourite hangout - the Chandler Hotel - haunted on this latest world? With deadly levels of acid rain and thunder outside, the Sliders take their chances staying in the hotel anyway.... How many embarrassing secrets is the hotel's sole employee hiding? And who is the mysterious stranger that appears to be the hotel's only contented customer?

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.

Good. I enjoyed this one. It isn't quite a knockout punch, but it's high enough for sure, and satisfies quite well.

In true "Sliders" fashion, our regulars encounter a bizarre new world and have to try and figure out what is considered normal here and what is not. Deadly acid rain is a nice touch - in fact one so logical we wonder why we haven't seen it before.

The story proceeds to spend the bulk of its time reliving the popular idea of the haunted house formula, and doing it quite well to be frank. The writing provides a good mix of friendly banter between the regulars, creepy moments exploring the unknown, and interesting exchanges with their hostess that easily project the sense that she's holding back important embarrassing information and that events will shortly escalate. Excellent.

I would also point out that this story uses its "house", and the relationship between interior and exterior very well, the very thing that completely escaped the Doctor Who story "Ghost Light". Pretty much every criticism I leveled at the Doctor Who version in my review can be contrasted with a success here. Of course, for the "house", we use the Chandler Hotel, which is showcased like never before on the show. Great. But there will be a danger afterwards now of overusing the place. Sure, it's logical for the characters, but might be hard-pressed to continue to deliver satisfactory exploration if we return here too often.

Once the mysteries are revealed enough that a solution is much more obvious, the dramatic core of this tale shifts out of creepy horror and back to uniquely "Sliders"-style science-fiction problem solving, which keeps the story working well and firing strongly on all cylinders. Quinn comes out of this with a good rating on the proactive hero-meter, while Colin has got a lot of good moments further settling in amongst the other regulars and proving himself a worthy addition to their group once more.

If there's anything a little odd about this episode, it is definitely the characterizations of the regulars' doubles. Rarely do a set of doubles seem so "off". Rembrandt and Maggie could probably get away with theirs, but the alternate Quinn is presented as a real goof, lacking much of the charisma that his character's professional performer status should have, and when we see him go so far off, it brings his two cohorts into question as well. Do they need to be this weird to promote and motivate all of the things we saw in the creepy mysterious parts of the story? I'm on the fence about that.

Another question that immediately comes up is... exactly why are these other "Sliders" in the Quinn/Rembrandt/Maggie configuration? Once we see that there is no Colin in this group, it seems equally valid to ask why we don't see another Professor Arturo or Wade Wells either. That is one of the unexplained drawbacks of producing this show. Once we lose our Wade and Arturo, suddenly we stop seeing any doubles of them in alternate universes as well.

Well, this story is working very well as a stand-alone episode, but I think we should note how it falls so easily into the kind of stand alone episode that was appropriate during the initial return-home arc of the series, which we have supposedly moved beyond. Why are our main characters content to simply wait and watch the countdown to another random slide? Can they input co-ordinates from Colin's family keepsake, or is there something preventing them? What exactly is holding up a slide directly to the world of the supposed parents? Why do we not get a scene at least discussing this? Indeed, it appears that the whole concept of the series has parked itself so deeply into the return-home Gilligan's Island rut, that it can't realize when it is actually out of it. It's like a monkey that has become so resigned to being locked in a cage, that you can leave the door wide open and it still won't venture out. Weird.

Well, as episodes go, this one doesn't quite beat "World Killer" or "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?", but I think I like it better than "Virtual Slide" and the other early episodes of fourth season. Though one can't really expect any long-term development here other than some integration of Colin within the group, it's still working well as a one-off story for a unique and excellent sci-fi series.

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

Season 4 DVD Box Set
Region 1 NTSC
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
Season 4 DVD Box Set
Region 2 PAL
for the U.K.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Slidecage"

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