Strangers and Comrades

Season 5
DVD Box Set
Region 1 NTSC

Season 5
DVD Box Set
Region 2 PAL
(Sliders Story No. 71, starring Robert Floyd)
  • written by Keith Damron
  • directed by Richard Compton
  • music by Danny Lux
  • produced by Paul Cajero
  • Production # E0809
Story: Diana is convinced that she and her fellow Sliders are not on Earth at all. Why are the numbers on the timer frozen? The foursome is soon drafted into a platoon of soldiers battling the Kromaggs in a series of trenches in the wilderness, causing Diana to retreat inside herself with shell shock. Can the others rely on her to find a way out of this "purgatory"? And what is in the locked bunker that Sergeant Larson has pledged his life to protect?

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 are a lot of reasons why this should theoretically be a good story, including a number of good sci-fi ideas as part of the story's premise. It's also a good idea to showcase the Kromagg threat about now in the season, particularly since we hadn't seen much of them in the later part of season four. As the adventure delves into the mythology and grapples with the Sliders' long-term goals, it easily commands my attention and investment much more easily than most other stand-alone season five stories. But what is this story all about, and what do we really learn?

I do think it was really cool to set a Sliders story somewhere other than Earth, and I'd always secretly hoped to see this show take us to a world with a society so advanced that interstellar travel was as easy and common as taking a train. This isn't quite that story, but it does begin to scratch that itch just the same, and it is nice that more details about the setting come out later on. Even if they are a bit implausible, it's all still good to inspire the imagination.

And for once, the production team seems to be willing to spend some money on substantial battle sequences - the very thing we should have got at the beginning of season four when the Kromaggs first invaded the world that we theoretically care most about. Sadly there isn't as much emotional investment in the battles here as would be ideal, nor any clear objectives in the lengthy details that we see. It's just battle and spectacle. I'd also note that it's pretty much regressed past World War Two style fighting back to World War I. Too bad we never get to see anything of the Manta ship that the Kromaggs reportedly arrived in, or any laser beams. Interesting too is the fact that the injured Kromagg Diana spends so much time with isn't able to perform the magical healing we have seen in so many other Kromagg stories. Convenient.

The mystery of what is in the bunker helps maintain some intrigue in seeing how this story turns out, but I'm not sure it's really enough.

The caveats for this episode fester a little more strongly. First question: Exactly whose story is this? Each of the Sliders have their bits, but none of them really rises to emerge as the main protagonist. Diana is out of it for most of the story, even though her voiceovers tend to make it feel as if Damron wanted the story to center on her. Her first voiceover tries to sound important, but comes across with really misguided content. Just a note that polarized ideas like "you can't have heaven without hell" are very third density. Evolve beyond to see life from the integrated fourth density perspective, and you can absolutely have as much of the stuff of preferred choices as you want.

Our new Mallory character finally begins to make himself useful here, doing the odd thing or two. Of course, Floyd could have sunk his teeth into the heart of the challenges as our old familiar Quinn, but the writers insist on wasting the whole exercise of regenerating him. As Mallory, he easily has the least to do of all of the four regular characters. Near the end, he appears to be the only one who catches on to the villain's ruse.... Will he counter it with a heroic bluff of his own and use the new template for his character's function in the scripts to resolve the conflicts of the story? No, nothing of the sort; he is never seen to do anything with that momentary potential, and we end up with Rembrandt and Maggie figuring out everything elsewhere and coming back to rescue him and Diana. Old Quinn's not here, con man Mallory's asleep on the job, and we suffer a legacy baggage character whose few attempts at verbal jokes during the episode mostly fall flat. He does at least procure a bit of food for himself and Diana at one point, although it half seems this was something he brought with him from a previous world, which doesn't quite match up with what it is. Disappointing.

Perhaps the biggest caveat of all is Rembrandt and Maggie's back and forth over the idea of hope. Really, this issue can't truly resonate much when logic is so completely forgotten. The Sliders encounter these soldiers and their situation at random, so why would each party entertain the belief that by talking about the scientist Michael Mallory and his weapon, they would each be referring to the same version of him and not two very different doubles? There have got to be tons of different Michael Mallories out there, many with very different types and styles of weapon you might want to borrow. Additionally, since we lost our Quinn and Colin, and with them presumably the keepsakes and microdots that contained all their home Earth co-ordinates, we've kind of lost our anchors as to which Michael Mallory is truly "ours", or which homeworld and accompanying weapon belong on our quest. Rembrandt and Maggie are presumably a bit more free to choose a Kromagg-repelling weapon that sits well with them. It makes so little sense for Rembrandt to suddenly feel hopeless upon finding a turkey of a weapon here, we can't really invest in it with him. And writer Keith Damron had better hope that the audience doesn't feel a loss of hope as Rembrandt is encouraging them to, or they may well want to stop watching the show. In terms of story-editing the character arcs, this episode only delivers a pointless venture into dangerous motivational territory.

Damron's Year 5 Journal sheds a bit of light on what he thought the story was supposed to be accomplishing, which it totally doesn't. This is supposed to tie up the search for the Kromagg-repelling weapon? With so many variations out there and nothing to indicate that this one is something special, it's just another target missed in true Gilligan's Island style. It's a failure in a multiverse where you still get a million more tries. Success is no closer or further away, and the audience is still holding the writers and producers to show that success. Plus the weapon is just a means to an end, the end being the liberation of the world we saw in "Genesis", and until you conclude THAT successfully, the arc is still in play.

Perhaps most detrimental of all is the question of who the Sliders managed to help by having this adventure. The entire guest cast is wiped out, and they don't seem to have done much for themselves either.

There are some good ideas in this one, and it does play with an important part of Sliders mythology, but it all feels like a bit of a waste of energy in the end, with no real development in it, and not enough thought applied to the ideas. Better luck next time.

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

Season 5 DVD Box Set
Region 1 NTSC
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada A
in Canada B
Season 5 DVD Box Set
Region 2 PAL
for the English/German European market:
from Holland via the U.K.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Great Work"

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