This is one big smorgasbord of rich discussion concerning all sorts of issues surrounding religion and spirituality, including individual choice vs. community and the good of the whole. A unique scientific premise comes out early, allowing for both a very specific focus for most of the arguments to center on, and allowing for the atheists in the audience to get an unshakable handle on the arena for discussions. The regular characters are dealt with well, and the guests are interesting and well chosen. We also get to see several different worlds in this episode, each with its own slightly different take on the core sci-fi idea, which is a beautiful way to honour the main premise of the continuing show. This is "Sliders" at its best, and the episode will probably end up at the top of the fifth season's rankings.
"Why did you tell them you were a Believer?"
"Because I am! I guess they believe something else."This exchange is a beautiful way to foreshadow the heart of the story's philosophical thrust, and became the most memorable lines for me from the entire fifth season. Of course, since I last saw the episode years ago, I ended up replaying the scene in my mind too many times and embellished it with all kinds of extra production values, not to mention the fact that I somehow saw it as an exchange between Maggie and Rembrandt, which might just make more sense, instead of one between Diana and Rembrandt.
In any case, we get a good, intriguing, exciting action opening here, and one that is quick enough to get us to the title sequence in good time.
"We're moving through a cluster of similar worlds, all branching off the same set of choice points."That's an excellent description of what sliding really is at its heart, and too bad so many other stories tend to forget that. At least this episode takes the opportunity to address this core of the show here, particularly as the episode will proceed to build well on this idea.
The regulars get very deeply and believably involved in a struggle archetypally designed to fit the group of worlds that the writer has concocted, and he understands how choice relates to sliding.
The flow of information in this story may yet still be problematic. I'm often wondering how much each character (regular, guest, double of guest) really knows at the start of this adventure, and how and where they learn stuff. The teaser suggests that the Sliders don't really know who is coming after them, yet on the next world they are able to compare the BIR organizations on the two worlds.
How much new information is the scarred Krislov learning about the glow when he examines Diana's sample? He has many lines suggesting that he already knows things he could only have learned from being involved heavily with it before.... so did he really need to be so enigmatic with his answers earlier? Diana and Rembrandt learn a lot here, but when we next see Maggie, she talks as though she has somehow gained all the same knowledge through some kind of osmosis.
The second act shows Mallory after his transformation, and though the audience can easily not want one of the regulars to join a cult and abandon the show, the dialogue for Mallory and his fellow members of the glow definitely seems more eloquent than the clumsy countering arguments by Rembrandt, Diana, and Maggie. In effect, this is where the glow gets its moment to shine.
We also get a lot of purely visual moments here, providing composer Danny Lux many opportunities to let his music take center stage for a while. We get some really nice peaceful, spiritual pieces here, with just the right amount of uncertainty and creepiness filtering through when appropriate. It sounds a bit like music on a budget, nothing quite as innovative or unique as what the BBC Radiophonic Workshop put out on Doctor Who at their peak in the early 1980's, but Lux's music here remains tasteful and highly enjoyable, and a bit more prominent and powerful than usual for this show. Nice!
Here in this act we see how invasive the glow can be, how it requires only one person to get a foothold on a world, which it can then use to tempt others to join it. Diana gives voice to the opposition - the BIR that we really only saw in the pre-title hook can be understood and sympathized with at this point, but the case for favouring one side over the other remains ambiguous. The glow does heal Jill, as it has done for Mallory before her. It also suggests similar backstory for the characters of the last world, and possibly the one before that. All variations on a theme. Sweet.
"My God, what did we turn on this world?"All these logical consequences and escalations help raise the stakes in the adventure, and what's more, the archetypal struggle of these worlds has at this point ensnared all of the Sliders fairly well. None of them are able to stand on the sidelines and pretend to be bystanders, as they are now responsible for what may become a major fundamental change to this world and trigger a huge conflict to boot. But as we say, their involvement also provided healing for Jill and others, so is it a fair trade off in the end?
Jill's transformation is yet another powerful and memorable scene in the episode, and again it is largely visuals and music that take center stage. Director Richard Compton, who has a track record of excellence on this show going back to season two, proves yet again how good he is at lifting Gerrold's ideas off of the page and onto our screens, and in getting each actor to give his or her best. Nice.
"This is a choice...."The regular characters all seem to become much more eloquent than usual during the final scene, but I'll cut them a lot of slack because there is just SO much good, helpful content coming through their dialogue. If Rembrandt, Maggie, and Diana bumbled the choices in their arguments on the last world, they absolutely nail good arguments here. Mallory is still good while possessed with the glow, but what holes his arguments have are finally shown here. As himself though, he soon becomes as eloquent as the others, and just as noble and heroic. The crowd is also dealt with fairly well here (and Gerrold's sci-fi device has in part simplified what is needed from them). There is an easy contrast with similar ideas in the not-so-great episode "Prophets and Loss" from the beginning of the fourth season, and "New Gods for Old" blows away its competition. Here there's no lack of highlighted response from the people being convinced one way or the other from the arguments and passionate speeches, what with the four Sliders in a tug of war with each other, and four prominent guest characters listening in amongst the crowd. There is a real sense that, as we leave this world, its inhabitants may yet choose to move forward in the spirit of peace and choose to co-exist with each other in more harmonious and healthy ways than either of the previous two worlds, and they may all have much to thank Mallory and his fellow Sliders for. Nice.
Mallory finally gets his identity in this story, and carries his weight. Good one.
Coda GlitchThis is a tour-de-force in all areas except one that can only have been insisted upon by the regular writing staff: Old Quinn is gone for good? What are you trying to do with that bunch of lines? Alienate your loyal fan base? We don't need that marring what was otherwise the most perfect episode of Sliders we've seen in a long time.
At least Remmy chooses to believe in something else, inviting the audience to stay faithful to the original characters. As much as this was a worthy story for Mallory, there's no reason we couldn't have gotten a bit of Quinn here instead at the end, allowing the two to integrate a little more, rather than making a lame attempt to throw out the better half.
In any case, the ending has a good sentiment to it, in the sense that the four regulars are once more on good terms with each other, and accepting who they are in the present moment. And the icing on the cake is that we finally get a closing shot in the can that is good enough to replace the iconic one that ended the title sequence for the last four years. Plus they learn to integrate it with the title lettering much better than they did last year. Sweet.
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