Excellent ReversalsI will give this story points for taking the main premise of "Sliders" and applying it logically to the season four situation. Quinn and Colin follow a set of clues to meet their parents - just to find out that they have only found doubles of the people they've been looking for. It's a bit bizarre that it took a whole season to get to this predictable situation, and considering where their clues originated, it's to be perfectly expected in this case.
Perhaps even better is the fact that we hear about a very different double of the entire Kromagg dynasty. That should have been acknowledged (if not expected) some time ago. What we see of the Kromaggs here doesn't really do much to support their story though - two Kromaggs are carted out hanging their heads... well, so what? How does that indicate (much less prove) biochemical persecution? Having numbers on their arms doesn't do much either. I think the writers are really depending too much on World War II imagery again, instead of actually focusing on the issue, one dimensional as it is. At least it gets a good flip-flop here.
Opening DragThe episode opens with an unusual and fun exit from the vortex. At first it just seems to be the logical consequence of pointing the timer up into the air when leaving a world. But you have to wonder why the owner of that giant hand isn't getting chucked up into this world in his entirety, and also whether or not he lost his arm when the vortex closed. Well, at least we're getting lots of spectacle and food for thought with just an opening sequence.
I enjoy the logic of a three-and-a-half week wait for the next sliding window from the perspective that such randomly long slides would probably be more prolific based on how "Sliders" explained its series-defining lash-up... too bad that all occurred in the infamous deleted scene from their second story "Summer of Love". Mind you, I do prefer their six week wait in the episode "The Weaker Sex" (story no. 7), along with all the full involvement in an election campaign that such a long slide allowed.
But you have to wonder why the rest of the pre-title hook for this story exists. It's a wad of nothing showing how bored and frustrated our characters are, which is no way to build excitement for a season finale, much less keep the casual viewer tuned in over the commercial break. The inclusion of a nervous gas customer for Quinn and Colin to speculate over has really nothing to do with the rest of the episode. The point at which we learn how long the Sliders are here for, we should have cut to the titles, while we still had drive left in the opening. You can start the next act with scenes surrounding Maggie's work situation, but for sure leave the gas customer out altogether.
Sifting Through MythologyAs the story proceeds, it doesn't seem to know from where it should best derive its drama. What it attempts to do is to milk season four's mythology verbally using many questions and answers. Importing actor Jerry Hardin from "The X-Files" to play the newest key character of intrigue and source of conspiratorial leaks was actually a good move that I enjoy, and as with William B. Davis in "Eggheads" (story no. 6) or Nicholas Lea in "Luck of the Draw" (story no. 9), memories of his role in "The X-Files" may actually add to the characterization he is creating here.
But for all the lengthy mythological talk we get here, there is very little actual new information in it, making the devoted fan sift through too much to make it worthwhile. I don't believe it's all that good a re-cap for the new and casual viewer either, since there are few visuals or adventurous drama in today's episode supporting all that gets said, while all the sitting around and talking may indeed encourage the audience to nod off instead. Most of what Hardin's character Isaac Clark supposedly confirms is simply the most likely version of what we've come to expect from following earlier season four stories, so it feels like a rather bland revisitation of how to connect the dots.
At any rate, the best parts of this story are in the middle of the episode, when new information does seep through, and we journey through to meet the Kromagg fighting parents we've been hearing about since "Genesis". There are some good questions in play regarding how trustworthy the information is, what is going on, what kind of relationship Quinn and Colin will have with the new parents, and what it all means for the future of the entire sliding team. It just remains a pity that something seems off about the characters during these sequences and no real drama has yet kicked into gear. For that reason, one has to wonder if the good stuff we get wouldn't have been better in shorter scenes, possibly with a montage sequence or two, and possibly with a narrator covering it as backstory, as Rembrandt did in the brilliant "Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome" (story no. 18), or as the soothsaying Matt Smith did for early portions of "The Wedding of River Song" (Doctor Who's season 32 finale).
One of the most bizarre things here is that it looks like Quinn and Colin have already got both the co-ordinates of their homeworld and some never-before-mentioned equations to get around the slidecage. If they have all that already, why did they even bother seeking out Isaac Clark? He has no knowledge of the slidecage, and if he couldn't help them with that, what does he really have to offer? He ends up changing one digit in the co-ordinates, which is probably what sent them to a double of the world they wanted to go to. But all this really brings into question why these Sliders default to random slides all the time, instead of taking charge of going where they want to. Where did those extra equations come from, and how long have they had them?
Of course, one of my favourite bits in retrospect is the scene in which Quinn gives Rembrandt the timer, and they get emotional over it being a "passing of the torch" moment. This actually turns out to be far more poignant than it was meant to be at the time, and it is a shame that the actual story belittles it by trying to push the reset button later on this episode.
Running Away from the Good Stuff...The episode's biggest turning point is likely the one where the truth about everyone finale comes out, particularly as we see the true attitude of these doubles of the new season four parents. But where "Revelations" attempts to do this about 80% of the way through the episode, I would recommend it happen about 40-50% of the way through the episode, because it actually kickstarts the sources of drama that the rest of the episode can then tackle. Jerry Hardin's character has a whole noble legal challenge we could get invested in, while seeing some of the Sliders rescue a few others from the parents might be another, if a bit of an overused idea on this show. We need to dig deeper into this Kromagg reversal idea in ways that have greater impact, because as it stands "Revelations" has done far too forgettable a job of it.
For my own personal take on the season four mythology, I would have loved to see an equal amount of doubt cast on the version of the parents from "Genesis" as well. I think the new parents and the motivations they bring to season four work just as well without them being anything more than parents of one of our Quinn's many doubles. Colin can turn out to be their actual son. What happened to their Quinn is a good mystery that might perhaps fuel a few more stories. Too bad none of that turned up on screen this season, although "Revelations" here seems the best story to hint at such possibilities, and indeed likelihoods.
Lamest of all is the fact that after this big turning point, just as the conflicts have gotten good, our sympathetic characters have nothing left to do on screen but run away, as the writers idiotically play the "Gilligan's Island" trump card again, determined to resolve nothing satisfactorily. The only real action sequence of the entire episode is here, an overly complicated and frankly not very logical chase sequence onto a train. Just 'cause it's action doesn't mean it's exciting. Audiences everywhere are no doubt left disappointed and disillusioned.
Colin's RoleThe four regulars all get decent exposure in this episode in terms of screen time and having things to do, a balance which is about right for a season finale. Colin is usually the one most likely to get shortchanged, yet does surprisingly well here with an extra bit of interaction with the daughter of Hardin's character, Catherine Clark. (Yes, that's Kristanna Loken playing the role, and she did go on to become Terminator 3 a few years later.) I wouldn't say it's Charlie O'Connell's best performance of the year, as director Robert M. Williams, Jr. doesn't seem to be necessarily season four's best director for getting performances, but it's alright, and he and Loken strike up a refreshing and believable chemistry with each other. If only the story had been structured sensibly so that more had been done with these two, it might have been charming.
But for what we learned in this story and what it was actually about, whether restructured and expanded the way I recommended or not, it seems like the kind of thing better suited for a mid-season episode, positioned at some point after "Slidecage". The season finale is a time for cleanly paying off any narrative debts you've incurred with the arcs that you've gone through. And if you deliver on what the audience anticipates, they'll be more likely to go on yet another journey with you, and the networks and studio will likely notice this and be more willing to order another season quickly enough for you to keep your lead actors signed. (Isn't hindsight great?) Instead the makers of "Sliders" try to keep their audience on the hook by delaying and deferring payments, and ended up in premature foreclosure instead.
Granted, no one knew it at the time, but this was to be the last story for both Colin and our familiar version of Quinn, and is rather lame as a send-off for them. At least they actually did get to finally sit face to face with a version of the parents that represent their goals for the season, but it's less than anyone had hoped for, and the episode isn't a great one for either of them. I think Colin in particular did not get his due during his run in "Sliders". The character and the actor had potential, but the writers never quite came up with something for him to sink his teeth into, and skirted around involving him the way they had done for Maggie. And it is sad that Jerry O'Connell has such a silly, going-nowhere exit from the series on top of that train. Really, with Jerry having risen to become star, producer, regular director, and occasional story writer/pitcher, I would have thought he was so invested and powerful within the production that he'd be the last guy to give up on the show. Ah well, the past is what it is.
The Alternate Original "Revelations"Intriguingly, at least some of the problems of this story seem to be derived from the fact that it had originally intended to reveal very different things about the mythology. Colin's behaviour on the new world was meant to change drastically, and we were to learn that he was a plant, cloned from some of Quinn's DNA captured during "Invasion" (story no. 22). Colin, the new parents, and the whole season four mythology was all meant to be an elaborate Kromagg lie, designed so they could use Quinn's genius to find a way to access the supposed parents' homeworld. Though this confirms many nagging suspicions derived from the clumsy first presentation of the mythology in "Genesis" (story no. 47), it is ultimately disappointing in terms of all that has driven season four's superior long-term goal structure. Additionally, the worlds we saw in "Genesis" and "The Exodus" (story no. 39), were to have been confirmed as close copies of Quinn and Rembrandt's own, but not the actual original. In terms of the ugly occupation, good call, but this raises other nasty problems.
All this information effectively swings the pendulum to the opposite extreme on what the writers would have been criticized on had they produced a finale based on this, while good balanced writing continues to elude them. Rendering the entire fourth season's long-term narrative thrust into a lie, and taking with it the success of reaching home after the late season three arc, would become an even bigger expression of Gilligan's Island syndrome than what we get, and I think fans would have wanted to cry foul even more. It would confirm that Quinn was even more gullible in "Genesis" than has otherwise turned out, making the dumbing down of his character stand out more.
Originally, the Colin character was meant to end in disgrace and get written out of the series in this story, and this was changed most ironically to allow Jerry and Charlie O'Connell to continue playing their characters in the next season. Hahaha. We all know that didn't happen! Basically, once Colin was allowed to meet a double of himself in "Lipschitz Live" (story no. 59), the abandonment of the original season four mythological arc was now set in stone. What were once intended as lies about Quinn's parents, his original home, and his adopted homeworld, were now adopted as truths, awkward as they may be. It was clumsy story-telling both ways, and a more organized and carefully plotted middleground, with proper resolutions that neither stopped the show nor left it going nowhere in "Gilligan's Island Syndrome" mode would have been ideal.
Bizarre too is the way the change was imposed on this story. Reportedly, they left the first half as is, and only rewrote it from the point where the travellers arrive on the second world. For my money, the first half is not driving either version of this story well, and the change to the mythology makes the need for the re-write to start at the beginning even more obvious. Though the best possible deal might be more of a mix and match between the two versions of the story, I think the version we ended up with is ultimately better than the one that tries to render all of season four's long-term goals pointless.
ConclusionsWhen all is said and done, "Revelations" is not too bad a story as is, but will likely be far less than anyone had hoped for a season finale. The episode itself is miles ahead of last year's season finale, "This Slide of Paradise", even if "Paradise" had a much better final 5 minutes than this story does here. Still, "Revelations" has its good turns, and remains one of the must-see stories for those following the long-term "Sliders" story.....
Next season's opener, however, probably brings about the biggest and most controversial changes of all....
Season Four Rankings
This story has become available on DVD. Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:
Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page: