A Thousand Deaths

Season 5
DVD Box Set
Region 1 NTSC

Season 5
DVD Box Set
Region 2 PAL
(Sliders Story No. 81, starring Robert Floyd)
  • written by Keith Damron
  • directed by David Peckinpah
  • music by Danny Lux
  • produced by Paul Cajero
  • Production # E0815
Story: On a world where games and entertainment are everything, Rembrandt enters a 1970's police detective simulation, while Mallory re-enacts the American civil war. But one holographic soldier complains of dying over and over again for no reason. Will a day at the spa and a heartfelt talk with Maggie help Diana overcome her fears of claustrophobia, darkness, and death? Rembrandt soon has a real mystery on his hands as he attempts to track down the two missing ladies....

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.

Though this turns out to be a half-decent season five story, with a bit of a point to its social commentary, it is far from great. Virtual reality scenarios had pretty much been done to death on this show in the past two years, beginning with Damron's own "Virtual Slide" in season four. In fact, Damron nearly turned "Strangers and Comrades" into a virtual adventure, where the four sliders would have died at the end, before it is revealed that they are only doubles of the characters we've been following. What we really need are episodes of actual events that the characters and the audience can truly get invested in, which is something that the writers of Sliders seemed to shy away from all too often.

I do like the angle given to Rembrandt's character in this story, where he gets to live out the 1970's TV detective gig that got away on him years ago. Musically, Danny Lux plays to this genre, allowing a lot of fun pieces to come through and giving this story its own unique sound within the "Sliders" canon. There are quite a few solid laughs to be gotten out of Remmy's sidekick "Shoot-'em Dead Fred", even though that character doesn't work 100% for me. Best of all, Rembrandt can use this investigator identity both in the fantasy and back in reality, allowing him to rise to become a central protagonist that really works well for this story.

I can't say that the roles for any of the other three Sliders really inspired me though. Diana's role in particular seems like it could have worked even better as a consequence of what she went through in the last episode, and the failure to link the two together makes me feel like Damron, in his role as story editor, is asleep at the switch. I'm also blown away by the amount of functional exposition Diana is suddenly able to spout after being subjectively caught up in the machine's fantasy world - it just didn't ring true for me that she would have had a chance to discover and learn so much about what makes the place tick.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is simply the hypocritical nature of the relationship between the story's theme and its plot and characters. Damron clearly wants to get on the soapbox about the effect that violence in entertainment has on people who drink it in. Right on; I'm right behind him. He's bolder and more on-the-nose about it than pretty much any of the cast, crew, or fans of Doctor Who, who need to take a more reflective step back, or fans of the entire horror genre for that matter. But his script is full of what he is supposedly arguing against, making it unpleasant viewing for those that agree with him. And most damaging of all is the lack of logical alignment with the concluding action, when Maggie's army snaps out of the mind control and are free to do whatever they want - she encourages them to engage in more violence. It seems to be pure convenience that they have a bunch of armed guards in the simulation with them to vent their anger on. I would have preferred to see them use their brains and hearts instead, and come up with alternative draws in entertainment to showcase and win the day.

The story's coda has a redeeming moment though, even if it does seem tacked on out of place, as Rembrandt has a nice little philosophical exchange with the top "villain" of the piece. I like that moment. Too bad it didn't have a stronger story and conclusion to be a part of.

Well, this one isn't too bad if you're in the mood for its thematic content, or Starsky and Brown for that matter, but it has its rough edges and lack of appeal in other areas. And it's another episode gone by while we're still waiting for some progress on the main goals of the series....

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: "Heavy Metal"

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