The Great Work

Season 5
DVD Box Set
Region 1 NTSC

Season 5
DVD Box Set
Region 2 PAL
(Sliders Story No. 72, starring Robert Floyd)
  • written by Robert Masello
  • directed by Reza Badiyi
  • music by Danny Lux
  • produced by Paul Cajero
  • Production # E0806
Story: When four freezing Sliders arrive on an island beach, it is clear that Maggie is in dire need of help. Luckily, the monks of a nearby monastery take the Sliders in. But why are they so secretive and distrustful towards the outside world? What is the Great Work that they are engaged in? And who are the Volsangs that they fear?

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.

Wow, what a hunk of cheese!

Now that the first three episodes of the season have reminded us of all the long-term goals in play for the series, and added a few big new ones, we get an overly complicated capture and escape routine to sit through for an hour that advances none of the mythology, and doesn't really manage to be an interesting self-contained hour either. This one is all about treading water and going nowhere.

The main premise takes a situation from the past - when members of religious orders were often the only ones educated in technologies like writing and bookmaking, and were thus the keepers of ancient knowledge defending it from stray uneducated pirates - and updates that situation to a modern interpretation, where I have to say, it appears particularly ridiculous and not properly thought out.

What really is the story you can tell regarding this situation? How will it involve our Sliders? Which guest characters will be compelling, or even remotely interesting? Who really is the main character of this one? Does it matter?

There's also a great problem with the audience not knowing what to invest in. Should we care about the monks, or have they been too nasty to our regulars? Do we want to see the Great Work completed? Do we prefer to see it saved or destroyed? Should they buy themselves a microfiche/computer scanner so they don't have to type in all the text by hand?

Of course the villains only work while they remain off screen, while we can imagine them as something alien and heartless and truly fierce. In fact, even knowing nothing about the original pitch of this story, one instinctively gets the impression from listening to the buildup in the finished product that these enemies should be Kromaggs. But then, once we can see what a bunch of turkeys these villains really are, it becomes impossible to believe that they took over the whole planet.

And Mallory remains the most useless member of the quartet, with little more than a few cheesy jokes to add to the story, which nobody wants to laugh at. Meanwhile the technical stuff keeps Diana fairly busy. So... someone please remind me why we bothered to regenerate Quinn, if he's not going to be allowed to do his thing. Old Quinn's not here, and new con man Mallory's got nothing effective to contribute. What the hell....?!

Reza Badiyi's directing is also rather bland, from some ridiculous blocking during the confrontation scenes, to the limp realization of a laser playing on a rotating hunk of asymmetrical crystal. How this is supposed to be better than the laser-disc writing technology that the monks already have is a complete farce. A new compression algorithm from Diana should be software only, and used on the monk's existing hardware, as if she'd know how to write it on an operating system designed on such a different parallel world. Most questionable of all is what the two youths ever hope to do with that hunk of crystal after they sail somewhere safe. They don't have a proper player for it, only Diana knows how to retrieve the information, and she's now abandoned this world. Considering what turkeys the villains are, the Sliders and monks together should have been able to wipe them out, and keep their original records intact.

The freelance writer's original pitch had some interesting elements in it that would have elevated my interest and investment in the situation enormously. The monks were originally storing knowledge from many parallel Earths, and protecting it from the Kromaggs. Suddenly, they are intriguing, and the villains work. Make it a two-parter including trench warfare, or simply connect the previous story to this one by having the Sliders discover something in the bunker that deliberately led them here, and you'd have something.

The year 5 journal says this was nixed by the rest of the writing staff on the grounds that sliding technology should be somewhat unique to our four regular characters. This is noble, but remember that there are all kinds of doubles of Quinn who also invented sliding. The multiverse exists to allow all possibilities that can exist, to actually exist in alternate quantum realities. Having four unique Sliders is great for a TV series, but grates against the very core science-fiction premise of the show. You have to let this fact bleed through once in a while, even if you choose not to show it too often. Ultimately, I think the choice made here for "The Great Work" only curtailed its appeal, and another source of appeal really never materialized.

I think the regular characters also worked better in Robert Masello's original plot. Robert Floyd would have been Quinn and tackled the technical challenges, as I'd heartily recommend. That frees Diana up to be involved in the pseudo-romantic plotline with the monk doctor as originally planned. As seen in the televised version, putting Maggie in the romance really doesn't seem to suit her character or produce any captivating scenes. We can only believe Maggie plays along to later use the doctor's help, however with Diana being more of an unknown we might actually believe she was interested in him. As is, there is little reason to invest in things with the doctor either developing or being halted in Maggie's version. In terms of both the story's scope and its roles for the regulars, it seems it was the staff writers who castrated all this story's hopes to appeal to the audience.

What we ended up with on screen turns out to be one of the most forgettable episodes of the fifth season. Thankfully, the fortunes of season five were about to take a major turn to excellence in the next story.....

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: "New Gods for Old"

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