Season 4
DVD Box Set
Region 1 NTSC

Season 4
DVD Box Set
Region 2 PAL
(Sliders Story No. 55, starring Jerry O'Connell)
  • written by Marc Scott Zicree
  • directed by Jerry O'Connell
  • music by Danny Lux
  • produced by Edward Ledding, Jerry O'Connell, & Marc Scott Zicree
  • Production # K2815
Story: Quinn and Colin believe they've programmed the coordinates of their parents' home Earth into the timer.... only to get caught in a vast high-tech "cage". The Humans and Kromaggs that have been ensnared before them are still locked in deadly combat. If they manage to find a way out, will it breach the homeworld's security and unleash terror once more? And what is the secret that has been buried so deep in Rembrandt's mind, he isn't even aware of it?

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.

By this point, "Sliders" definitely seems to have changed, and found strength in other elements. The power of the show used to be in watching four very humorous and entertaining characters deal with a bizarre twist on society, and each episode was more or less its own self-contained unit. But here in "Slidecage", we have a completely different set of strengths. The characters are darker and dramatic, the setting is a pure sci-fi hardware construct, and by far the most interesting parts are those that give you more clues as to what the bigger picture is for season four's Kromagg conflict. Interest has gone from short term to long term in a big way, which is my preference.

Perhaps though, there is a downside. In the short term, the episode seems to be offering a lot of routine sci-fi nuts and bolts, some of which may come with a groan.

Let's face it. This episode is structured as a somewhat unique but all-too-predictable capture and escape routine. Thrown into the mix is a very predictable set-up for 1980's-style anti-violent preachiness, the kind of thing that focuses on behavioural extremes while glossing over the motivations behind the antagonistic camps too easily, much less allowing actions to be visibly rooted in such motivations instead of mindless antagonism. I am strongly reminded here of the late-eighties show "Captain Power", which Marc Scott Zicree also used to write for. There are some half-decent characters populating this location, but they don't quite manage to become hugely memorable or big draws for repeat viewing. Most specifically, none of them are really introduced well. They really look like cliché placeholders for the anti-violence dynamics during a sequence that very arbitrarily splits our four protagonists up.

But where this story excels is in its care and feeding of the longer-term arcs of the show. All of the things I thought the last episode was negligent in bringing up, this episode deals with properly. Quinn is clearly seen taking time to use the info in Colin's keepsake to program co-ordinates for their new parents' homeworld, and the whole concept of what the "Slidecage" is springs from that, along with one of the most intriguing extra bits of information yet from the new father played by John Walcutt. The presence of the Kromaggs is purely logical as well. Suddenly, this rather run-of-the-mill plot structure has unmissable clues sprinkled all through it. Which ones are important and which not? Well, only future episodes can answer that.

Quinn and Colin's thread of the story is probably the one that needs the most work. Their interaction with the human group is too antagonistic and curtailed to produce worthwhile scenes. With the distrust level so high, it makes little sense that these people would lock our heroes in a room full of computers where they can proceed to tinker to their hearts' content. More co-operative and populated scenes would have been more logical and more entertaining, I think.

Maggie's ejection from this group and into the hole in the wall with Thomas also strains credulity as is. Thomas and the dynamics we get with him aren't bad, but aren't outstanding either. Ho hum. We'll take it, without getting excited about it.

Rembrandt definitely gets to hang out with the most interesting of the local characters - but again we're doing backflips and somersaults with logic just to keep the antagonism down to levels where the characters can have interesting interaction. Rembrandt has a secret that even he doesn't know about, and the Kromagg commander will have it. Good. Kromagg mental power is showcased here once again, and we get an explanation for why Rembrandt was found in as good a shape as he was back in "Genesis" (story no. 47).

Part of the appeal with the Kromaggs for me was the potential for dwelling on high-tech devices and a long-term focus for the stories. Here in "Slidecage", the environment is one big high-tech device, which is good, but the local characters in it are definitely very primitive, both in being low-tech (where are the lasers and manta-ships?) and in their philosophy of life (antagonistic deadlock). The episode may have successfully grown beyond the WWII German anthropomorphizing of the Kromaggs, but still hasn't quite totally gone the right way with them.

And another question is exactly why our Sliders land inside the cage, as opposed to outside in the toxic wilderness. Are the local characters that we see in this episode the few lucky ones who slid into the complex, while most others end up choking to death outside just after landing here? Is the wilderness littered with flying Manta-ships that can't leave the world? Are their crews still alive and well inside? Getting answers to these questions would be a better way to spend our time than obsessing over corridor survival story beats, for sure.

Well, the anti-violence theme leads to its usual predictable development, but thankfully this happens fairly early. The final acts have successfully got a lot of other ideas in play, many of which are set to have impact on the long-term season arcs, and this is where the episode wins back a lot of the points it seemed set to lose earlier. "Slidecage" goes out with a generally satisfying resolution that gives both Quinn and Rembrandt their due.

Perhaps most importantly, if the Sliders are going to make it to Quinn's new parents' homeworld, they're going to have to figure out a new idea for getting there. Interesting.....

Sadly, the writers here show off their penchant for neglecting to clean up their stories properly. Why does Rembrandt promise Jules that he will come back? The writers seem to think nothing of incurring more narrative debts that will eventually be left unpaid. Rack up another one.

Well, "Slidecage" would probably have to rethink one or two of its basic ideas if it wanted to be truly top notch, even though it has a lot of excellent ones already in play that do it much credit. I like this one, provisionally, and it does a lot to keep me invested in the long-term story of the fourth season, and wanting to see more and more....

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: "Asylum"

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