"Common Ground" isn't bad. Chris Black writes a decent script. I liked how Cory observed that Kromanus dies to save the sliders, but it's unclear if he was trying to keep them alive out of gratitude or because he was loyal to the Dynasty. It's pretty solid although the direction is poorly considered.
"Virtual Slide" is perfectly fun. I agree with Cory and Tom that Maggie providing information about the sliding machine is nonsensical and there's no way the script justifies anything she gave up as useful.
But I will argue that the idea of stealing slide-tech info from Maggie *was* perfectly workable -- in that Maggie may have been in the room when Dr. Jensen was working on the concept and may have subconsciously remembered details of his work that the VR could bring to the surface. "Virtual Slide" is a fun, enjoyable sci-fi hour. I liked it. Keith Damron was a promising writer.
Yeah. They're fine. Decent hours of TV. Oh my GOD this show has gone to crap. Uh, but first, I think I should answer Tom and Cory's question.
How the Sliding Machine and Timer Work
Tom and Cory got confused by a plot point in "Virtual Slide": why is it that the sliders, upon missing the slide window, are stranded by 29.7 years? If Quinn can just build a new sliding machine and timer to bypass the 29.7 limit, why can't the existing timer be reconfigured to do the same? Is the timer connected to the sliding machine?
They say it makes no sense. I would say that the onscreen evidence is confusing. Here's how I see it:
Think of parasailing. You've got a parachute helping you float in the sky while tethered to a boat that's tugging you forward, cutting a path through the water and giving you forward motion in a straight line. The boat is moving you forward.
The boat, in this metaphor, is the sliding machine. Then your connection to the boat is cut. You're still in the air, you still have some momentum, but you now you've lost direction.
For whatever reason, you have some cylinders of compressed air. You can keep moving. But you can't create the same thrust that the boat gave you and your direction is now subject to wind and gravity and is now oriented in towards the path of least resistance. The timer is the cylinders propelling you, but due to the loss of the boat, your direction will be random.
I don't think the timer can be connected to the sliding machine back home simply because of story reasons. If there's some sort of interdimensional transmission, that means that any interruption or interference or alteration to the machine back home prevents the timer from working. That's too big a hole to fill, so it's best if the timer works independently.
Okay, maybe that wasn't such a great metaphor; let's try another one. The sliding machine is a sledgehammer that smashed through the walls of the interdimension, allowing you to slide at will; the timer is a tiny scalpel that lets you cut through weak points of occasional convergence between dimensional walls, with the entry vortex creating another weakness that the timer can track, letting the sliders know when that weak point will be fit to create an exit to the next world.
If that point is missed, the timer's processor will need 29.7 years to calculate and create another weak point. Dear God, this is terrible. Somebody help me out here. Temporal Flux! This is your moment! This is your moment!
Is Season 4 A New Show?
Tom and Cory's main defence of Season 4 is that this is a new show and shouldn't be compared to anything in Seasons 1 - 3.
I would not be averse to a new version of SLIDERS, but I strongly disagree that this is in any way a new show. This is, instead, a clumsy, crippled, mutilated version of the old show. It's Season 1 - 2 but without imagination, skill, research or inventiveness. It's using Season 1 - 2 ideas but with the glaring impression that the Season 4 showrunners don't actually understand the ideas they're using.
"Genesis," Prophets and Loss" and "Common Ground" all use Seasons 1 - 2 as a template, but mishandle everything from Seasons 1 - 2.
It's a popular (and accurate) criticism of SLIDERS that most episodes copy the second half of the Pilot; the sliders encounter a dystopian regime, fall in with the resistance, achieve victory, depart.
Formulaic? Yes. But it works -- until now. "Genesis" has no victory -- which means that when the sliders triumph in "Prophets and Loss" and "Common Ground," you wonder why they don't liberate their home Earth as well. As repetitive and contrived as the formula may be, it was uplifting and inspiring -- but now it's just hypocritical and incoherent.
The sliders meeting the resistance is a simple, easy, in some ways lazy plot, used heavily in Seasons 1 - 2 -- and Season 4 depends on it just as much. But "Genesis" destroyed their ability to execute it properly.
The show is also using a Season 2 concept -- the Kromaggs -- and the Season 4 team doesn't understand how to use the Kromaggs.
The first problem is the makeup. It's terrible. The Kromaggs don't look menacing; they look like actors in clumsy prosthetics and the actors use very forced and overly mannered line deliveries to convey their alien natures. It's just awkward to look at.
There's also the fact that "Invasion" wisely kept the Kromaggs at a distance, the Kromaggs barely speaking, only glimpsed in brief scenes, using pawns to communicate with the sliders. "Genesis" and "Common Ground" parade the Kromaggs in front of us as mouthy, chatty, ranting thugs. This is a huge mistake.
That said -- the Season 4 team (probably) understood what the Kromaggs really are underneath the guile and mystique. The Kromaggs are just thugs and monsters. That's all there is to them in "Invasion," too -- but "Invasion" handles it correctly.
The sliders only encounter the military aspects of the culture and are completely in the Kromaggs' power the entire time. The emphasis is on the Kromaggs as manipulators who play sadistic mind games with cruel and twisted lies.
I can't say that "Genesis" and "Common Ground"'s Kromaggs are wrong. Backstabbing, violent, warlike, savage, cruel creatures -- that's what they were in "Invasion," but now there is no distance. No mystique. The sliders are beating Kromaggs up, having conversations with them, tricking Kromaggs into using their death machines on themselves -- and the result is that the Kromaggs are so overt, so up-close, so in focus that their one-dimensional silliness is glaring.
Every Kromagg in Season 4 talks the same way, has the same obsessive fixation on racial superiority -- and I don't buy it. I don't buy that every Kromagg behaves in the same manner, but I especially don't believe in these cartoonish behaviours and more problematically, I can tell that the actors also don't believe in what they're doing.
Not a single Season 4 Kromagg actor has any conviction or ease in their performance; every movement, line and expression is practised and stilted. These poor actors are in an impossible situation due to the scripts, costumes and makeup.
"Invasion" doesn't declare that all Kromaggs are warlike, savage monsters -- which would be as ridiculous as declaring that all women are obsessed with shoes. We only see a Kromagg military operation. For all we know, there are Kromagg poets. Kromagg objectors to the war effort. Kromaggs seeking to stop the conquest. We don't know, but it's possible -- until Season 4 declares that all Kromaggs are the same. Season 4 uses a Season 2 concept and totally mishandles it.
I have only written one Kromagg story -- and I'm not even a very good writer of fiction. Did you read those awful metaphors up there? But one thing I very quickly decided was that the Kromagg in my story would not speak. In my story, the Kromagg menaces Quinn, but always morphs into different human personas in order to deliver dialogue, and deliberately chooses forms to intimidate Quinn. I don't entirely know why I did this, but it was most definitely a reaction against the Season 4 Kromaggs.
The weird, weird, weird thing -- is that Season 4 could easily have been a whole new show. This is SLIDERS, for god's sake. It would not have been difficult to cut ties with the past, most of which had been severed anyway with Arturo's death and Wade and Rembrandt sent home. But this so-called new show seems more interested in destroying the old one instead of creating something new.