Roads Taken

Season 4
DVD Box Set
Region 1 NTSC

Season 4
DVD Box Set
Region 2 PAL
(Sliders Story No. 67, starring Jerry O'Connell)
  • story by Marc Scott Zicree
  • teleplay by Bill Dial
  • directed by Jerry O'Connell
  • music by Danny Lux
  • produced by Edward Ledding, Jerry O'Connell, & Marc Scott Zicree
  • Production # K2822
Story: A rough slide deposits Rembrandt and Colin in a war-torn city, where they are desperate to find and help their two friends. Meanwhile, Quinn and Maggie find themselves enjoying a blissful long-lasting domestic existence. Can Colin figure out what has happened to the vortex during the last slide? And who is the mysterious figure appearing and disappearing in the Chandler Hotel?

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.

There's a lot to celebrate about this episode. Firstly, it explores a unique sci-fi idea, nicely meshed into a significant development for our main characters. Secondly, it is fleshed out well in terms of early exploration and investigation of the idea, and it is done against a backdrop featuring an interesting premise for a world that adds a lot of appropriate tension to the episode. This is a story that has me glued to my seat, hanging on the outcome of each scene most of the way through.

The downside contains two significant points. First, later portions start to get a little "wet" in terms of making things ideal and poetic, and sadly this style absorbs the final fix of the story, making it feel a bit limp. Colin and Rembrandt have had a surprisingly good amount of things to do in this story, which is weird because the premise seems to dictate that it should be more of a Quinn and Maggie story. Perhaps the Quinn/Maggie side needed at least one more dramatic element in it to make it gel better and shift the balance of screen time to those two characters.

Secondly, and perhaps more detrimental, is the narrative's insistence in bringing into play the usual kind of idiotically sacrificial temporal theory that one finds polluting most other sci-fi. It's not at all clear whether my usual rebuttals against this kind of thing should work here, since "Sliders" is already doing the parallel/branching universe thing and then adding this new premise on top. Professor Arturo's assertion that "Sliding is never time travel" doesn't seem to apply today. But regardless of science, I do groan simply at watching ALL the characters so easily buy into the idea of a line of history winking out of existence, and get all reverent at it. It's just plain icky.

Personally, even if this bubble universe has been spawned purely out of Quinn and Maggie's minds, I think we should remember the fact that they brought a new life into that world with a highly developed mind of his own. And even if the two of them leave to go back to sliding, Thomas should be able to maintain the bubble universe without them. That universe now has at least one proven mind of its own, if not many more, and should continue. Of course, today's quantum physicists are so challenged to figure out how their own minds are affecting the universe around them, in terms of not being able to actually put that into their equations, it's not surprising that Thomas wouldn't see it before hand. So I'm prepared to bet that his world continued after the end of this episode, and he scratched his head for a few years trying to figure out why.

Anyway, the story's coda seems to redeem the ending somewhat, going back to remind us of a few of the more excellent things about the story.

Best of all, this story is a turning point for the Sliders characters, even if they don't quite realize it yet and want to reserve their option for pretending that the reset button has been pushed to return them to their starting positions. Quinn and Maggie ARE in a new place after this one, which will have consequences in season five. And this is pretty much their last chance to do something like this, so I'm happy the option was taken up. Granted, I'd have preferred to see Quinn and Wade getting together, but perhaps those two played too many of their best cards too early in the series, and didn't know how to keep the ball alive later on. Thankfully, Quinn and Maggie have waited until right near the end of their time together.

This story has an obvious parallel with Star Trek: The Next Generation's fifth season episode "The Inner Light", which bizarrely gets VERY high marks in fan polls, but is never an episode that I particularly liked. For my money, "Roads Taken" is a much better story. Perhaps it is chiefly that Picard seems locked in an episode-long capture and escape formula, and every time he wishes he were elsewhere, I wish I was watching another episode... essentially the "Marco Polo" character motivation mistake. Here, Quinn and Maggie seem to be thoroughly enjoying their bubble universe, and seeing what they can do within it. Much better. Also, what they end up taking out of it is so much more interesting than what Picard got out of his, although both have their merits.

Another parallel we will be diving into shortly is the concept of regeneration borrowed from Doctor Who and applied to Sliders. If Sliders ever had development challenges similar to those of Doctor Who, the challenge of recasting the main character must be the most obvious one. In that sense, I've recently begun to believe that it would be best to show each Doctor as young as possible when he starts out in the role, and to make him up to look much older than the actor would normally appear just before he regenerates into his next form, to aid the idea that each incarnation enjoys as long and full a life as possible. Granted, Quinn Mallory doesn't end up in a regeneration process as a natural method of defying aging and extending his life, as the Doctor's species is known to do, but it is just fascinating to see here that the Jerry O'Connell version of Quinn gets to live out a full life just prior to his own regeneration incident. I have to say, I think I like it.

On top of everything else, the vortex is acting strangely in this story, almost as if it wants to foreshadow the events of the season five opener. Fascinating!

And I will say, I do like Rembrandt and Colin in this one. Remmy gets a lot of good interaction with guest characters here, particularly with the reporter and the army personnel. It feels like we finally have OUR Remmy back, instead of that Kromagg hating guy. Interestingly, Israel Juarbe is back playing a hotel employee, although this time, there is no attempt to actually name him Gomez Calhoun on screen. Though he's good here, his role was much more inspired back in "Lipschitz Live".

At any rate, despite wallowing in one or two of its faults near the end, this remains a thoroughly fascinating, thought provoking, character developing episode that entertains superbly. Definitely one to look forward to as one season begins to give way to the next....

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: "Revelations"

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