Sliders v. Stargate: Why Stargate is Better, Part II

As stated in my previous post, I will be comparing a Sliders episode to a Stargate episode:

Sliders: "Prince of Wails"--the gang shows up on a world where the British won the Revolutionary War, and the Sheriff of San Francisco is trying to overtake the throne (think Robin Hood). The gang stops him, helped by American Revolutionaries and a repentant prince.

Stargate: "Beneath the Surface"--the gang is trapped in a world where they have been brainwashed to believe they are part of a society recovering from an extreme Ice Age when actually they are slave-workers.

(a) The Slider world entails a greater suspension of disbelief .

From the descriptions above, this doesn't seem likely. But it is. Even if the Brits won the Revolutionary War, British society was already moving towards a constitutional democracy in the 18th century. A British America would be more like, well, Canada, than some medieval throw-back.

Now, I will grant that the "underground workers" motif is also rather overdone and slightly ridiculous. Where the Stargate writers come out ahead of the Sliders writers here is that they give their bad guy reasons that are entirely sensible within the bad guy's narrow worldview. He doesn't want to create problems with Earth; he also doesn't want to change his society's structure. After all, what would his society do with all those workers if they were let out?

(b)  The gang convinces the terrorist rebels in Sliders to follow Quinn. 

How many terrorist organizations do you know simply accept a new bunch of people with no prior credentials or previous terrorist behavior and put them in charge?

Yes, the answer is zero.

Any closed, paranoid system is riddled with rivalries, inside politics, and ladder-climbing. New people--including in the U.S. Senate--rarely walk in and just start running things.

In Stargate, SG-1 are the rebels. They don't convince anyone to follow them; they just convince each other.

(c) The rebellion in Sliders is enthused by Quinn's idealism: rob the rich to give to the poor. 

In Stargate, on the other hand, the other workers don't want to rebel, and they treat SG-1 like undependable mavericks. When the SG-1 members do rebel, they don't rebel in terrorist ways. Their goal, for most of the episode, is to keep the underground society working: survival is more important than idealism.

SG-1's dissatisfaction with the system begins when brainwashed Samantha Carter suggests to the higher-ups a way to make the equipment run more efficiently. After she is turned down for, unbeknownst to her, political reasons on the surface, she becomes suspicious. Her suspicions fuel the other SG-1 members' questions and their eventual rebellion.

In other words, if this really was an underground society recovering from an extreme Ice Age, SG-1 would eventually take over anyway, just because they are the most competent people in the society.

(d) All tension in the Sliders episode is due to the team needing to save the rebels before they slide. It is entirely external.

In contrast, the Stargate tension is caused by the behavior/interactions of SG-1.

If the SG-1 members just accepted their brainwashing and went on working, there would be no main plot. There is a respectable subplot in which General Hammond becomes more and more suspicious about the disappearance of his team, and, perhaps, eventually, SG-1 would have been found. But the actual episode is less about the imposition of an external problem (evil bad guys) and more about the team members dealing with an internal problem (who are we? why is this society so badly run? are we actually meant for something better?).

In other words, the friendship of SG-1 is the main material of the episode, not rallying the troops to fight back! Working through the problem matters more than confronting the bad guy who isn't confronted until the very end in an extremely short scene.

To summarize, in general, Stargate episodes are more about the problem and less about the chase. And that I like. 

Here are some not bad Sliders episodes--although the concepts behind some of these are extremely silly, the episodes focus on the problem (mostly), not the chase:

"Eggheads" (1.6)
"The Weaker Sex" (1.7)
"The King is Back" (1.8)
"Luck of the Draw" (1.9)
"Love Gods" (2.2)

You may note the episodes are all from Seasons 1 and 2 when John Rhys-Davies was still a powerhouse on the show. He is one of the most excellent aspects of Sliders!

1 comment:

  1. I am a fan of Stargate SG1 and just recently downloaded Sliders on my netflix. After a few episodes (sadly they don't have all of season 1 on netflix) I did find it somewhat dull. I do like the internal conflict that Stargate SG1 uses and would have liked more of that in Sliders. I think the fact they were filmed during different times plays a part in how the shows were different. I did like the Sliders Episode about the world that hadn't invented penicillin. That had more internal conflict.

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