Sliders v. Stargate: Why Stargate is Better, Part 1

I recently started watching Sliders again after many years. As with Stargate, I enjoyed Sliders when it first came out, stopped watching (probably because I lost access to a television), forgot about it, then resumed watching over a decade later.

The difference: I'm now a Stargate fan; I re-lost interest in Sliders after a dozen episodes.

On paper, this shouldn't be so. Both shows involve single-stories for most of their initial season episodes (I prefer single stories to ongoing arcs). Both shows have a fairly enjoyable scooby gang. Both shows' devices deliver both fantasy and science-fiction plots.

However, there are differences, and ultimately, those differences account for my lack of interest in Sliders. 

The listed differences below all refer to Sliders:

(1) The overuse of the "save civilization through revolt" premise. 

Every other, if not every, Sliders episode goes something like this: the gang shows up in a world that is corrupt in some way; the gang finds the underlying rebel group, supports it, and somehow leads it to victory.

Now, to be fair, Stargate includes a fair share of these episodes although, in general, the Stargate writers are rather better at implying things aren't that easily fixed; bad guys just don't fold; they do need to be blown up.

Still, SG-1 does spend a tremendous amount of time encouraging people to revolt against the Goa'uld.

The major difference: a Stargate episode concentrates on the discovery of the problem rather than on the revolt. Idealistic people being lead to revolt is, frankly, rather boring. Les Miserables' plot of Jean Valjean and Javert is two billion times more interesting than the leader of the students being stupid and getting everyone shot. (What makes the American Revolution so interesting, in my mind, is how surprisingly hard-headed and pragmatic the "rebels" were. The French Revolution, on the other hand, just makes me tired: idealism, corrupt idealism, more corrupt idealism . . . Napoleon. Okay, can it stop now?)

(2) Wade being in love with Quinn. 

Within about two episodes of Sliders, it becomes clear that the writers didn't really think through the whole Wade-Quinn equation. They actually wanted Quinn to be a kind of love-them-and-leave-them type, and having Wade along for the ride--the girl Quinn continually rejects by pursuing other women--makes Wade look somewhat pathetic and Quinn rather confused (since he is also supposed to also be harboring affection for Wade).

In reality, if Quinn were not a Lothario, he would hook up with Wade simply because there isn't anybody else comparably steady on his horizon. The fact that he doesn't . . . makes no sense.

In comparison, Stargate Samantha Carter's affection for Jack--while steadily maintained through several seasons--never gets in the way of her having a life (I consider Carter one of the most together female characters on all of television; yeah, she even beats out Scully and Bones). Also, the reason for the non-consummated relationship make sense: military rules and, frankly, Jack's incredible detachment. Carter may hold a torch for him, but she isn't an idiot. And she's got plenty of other things to do.

(3) Possibly the biggest problem with Sliders is the underlying plot device of the slide. Every episode is a "got to solve the problem before . . ." plot: every, single one. 

The irony here is that the writers treated the device of location as a deficiency--when it really wasn't--but not the timing device. In Season 3, the writers changed the underlying location rules to include all of California, not just San Francisco; this actually took away some of the show's coolness--the ways in which a single city can be altered by historical events. Without this ongoing issue, the episodes could be set anywhere: different planets, the past, the future, Mars, someone's mind. The idea of parallelism became a non-issue.

Meanwhile, the "have to slide in X hours" device continued to plague the show. Every episode is about corralling the characters, so they can leap. EVERY EPISODE. This results in lots and lots of running around, lots and lots of chase scenes, lots and lots of rescuing people at the last minute . . .

One or two episodes of this type is fine. Stargate (and Star Trek: TNG) did their own share of "got to get away before the sun/planet/starship explodes" plots--just not every single episode. AND both Stargate and Star Trek: TNG used different solutions to get away. With Sliders, sliding is the solution--every time.

(4) The premise of searching for home is weak. 

Yes, I know, this is Star Trek: Voyager's premise, but Star Trek: Voyager's premise makes sense because (a) it is actually possible within the confines of the show--since in Star Trek, space operates in a straight line, if the ship just keeps moving in one direction, it will eventually get home; (2) it is actually possible to shorten the trip; (3) the characters are already under the control of a benevolent dictator--that is, they are already part of an organization controlled by a single authority (Captain Janeway), so her insistence that she knows what is best for them makes sense psychologically.

But the first two seasons of Sliders continually underscore the idea that getting home is practically impossible, and the Earths that the characters encounter are increasingly out of sync with their original reality. Why not just stay somewhere? Why continue to follow Quinn who has no authority over the others?

I understand that at the end of Season 3, the Sliders writers inserted a new premise for leaping: the pursuit of the bad guy. However, this makes the show a serial, which I don't care for. (I endure The Mentalist by ignoring the Red John episodes as non-canon.)

Stargate, on the other hand, has the premise of protecting the planet the characters happen to live on plus the premise of FUN. When Daniel gets all archaeological and Jack starts talking about blowing things up, fun is what they are talking about: let's go explore places because it is a HOOT!

As my reviews of Stargate indicate, the show does become more and more serial after Season 4, and I have less interest in the later seasons. Still, the serial nature of SAVE THE EARTH makes substantially more sense than PURSUE THE BAD GUY. The latter becomes wearisome since not catching the bad guy is boring and almost catching the bad guy but continually just missing is aggravating and manipulative. The Earth, on the other hand, can be saved over and over and over.

In Part II, I will compare a Sliders episode to a Stargate episode.

No comments: