19 September 2013


Sliders: Dead End?

What would you do if there were only two days left until the end of the world? A variation of that question got tossed around a bit at work last December, with answers ranging from the religious to the wild and crazy. But it wasn't until I watched the Sliders episode with a similar premise did I realise that everyone at work took for granted that the end of the world couldn't be prevented.

That is, no one's answer was, "I would try to stop it . . ."

Pictured: Everything the dialogue tells you is happening
(TV is an audio-visual medium, after all)

In this episode, the main cast slide into a world which is expecting an asteroid even bigger than that which (we think) took out the dinosaurs. It will hit San Francisco before they can slide again. Until this point, sliding was one big adventure--sometimes wrongly considered to be an inconvenience--but the fun and games stop when it's clear that everyone could actually die. The thought is so sobering that they split up to deal with it in different ways: by going to church . . . going to a wild party . . . looking for their families . . . looking for a solution . . . finally unburdening themselves of long-held feelings . . . But only one of these is truly worthy of the SF genre.

If you watched this episode after 1998, the year of the dueling asteroid movies (Name those twins, Stilwell!), then the solution seems simple to you. Send some astronauts into space to bomb the heck out of that sky hooligan, right?! Well, in this world, things aren't so simple.

Pictured: "Einstein's Folly"
(Do you love this frame as much as I do?)

Do you see that poster in the background? It shows up in another scene, with the caption on it easier to read. And if you guessed that the words are "God does not play dice with the universe," then you win the episode. This unsettling message is echoed in the subplot which explores the role of religion . . . and in a scene in which some minor characters decide they have nothing to lose by playing some Russian roulette. But those dilemmas are too cut and dried for me. I prefer the physicists' problems.

What you need to know about this world is that Albert Einstein's, Enrico Fermi's and J. Robert Oppenheimer's doubles sabotaged the Manhattan Project. This prevented the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but allowed the war in the Pacific to drag on for five more years, with millions more lives lost. Was it worth it? I don't know: we're not told the full impact of that decision. But it's clear that the physicists of this world wondered "What if?" as much as the physicists in ours. And now the professor must struggle with the ethics of finishing the work which these geniuses' doubles considered too dangerous to continue, and our own Einstein and Oppenheimer regretted for the rest of their lives. Our Fermi was less of a brooder, but the moral is clear across all worlds: Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be scientists . . .

But there's more than one way in which science can save the day. It turns out that this world has its own sliding machine.

Pictured: Quinn's Triple
(Not Pictured: Quinn watching his triple)

When the characters find it, they guess that it has been used to get one family, and maybe a few of their trusted friends, to safety on another world. They are unable to use it themselves, so it does nothing for the plot, but it is what inspires this post's question.

Your Turn to Slide: If you had a sliding machine in your basement and the world were about to end, would you spirit your whole family (and maybe some friends) away or would you embrace your world's fate with the majority you cannot save?


Belfry Bat said...

So, somehow, your asking that question made me realize (as somehow I hadn't before) that the big literary-parallel-universe issue (for such as you and me, anyway) is that it immediately runs into the Narnia problem: is the Once-For-All sacrifice that we have seen in our History sufficient across the slide? Or must Aslan be slaughtered over and over again? OR do they all witness the one same sacrifice, but differently?

Suppose they haven't seen it? Should we send missionaries?

Not really getting close to an answer, but... you know, that seems to be the way I write.

Enbrethiliel said...


Reading a lot of that Protestant these days, I see! ;-P

The possibility that I would end up in a world with no (valid) Mass would be enough to make me willing to die with this one. (Incidentally, my answer to the first question of this post was, as it has been for years: go to confession, hear Mass, receive Communion, and try to go out while saying the Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.)

What I find most interesting is that your response can be said to resemble the "ugly" reaction of the main cast to the British States of America. Given our historical record, there's a taint of imperialism in sending missionaries out. Why can't we just let a different world be? Of course, I know the answer to my own question. I just find it fascinating that Christianity turns us all into geocentrists in the end--with our geo being the geo.

DMS said...

I find it interesting that when I read the start of your post I thought about the fun things I would do if the world was ending- but until you mentioned it I didn't think about what if I spent my time trying to stop the end of the world.

As for sliding- it is something that I find fascinating. I think I might give it a try if the world was ending because I would be dead anyway and there is a chance that I could land somewhere and have a great life with the family and friends I took with me. Since I am not sure how the world was going to end in the first scenario- both options are very scary!

A thought-provoking post!

Belfry Bat said...

Yes; you see, I was given a seven-in-one compendium of his more-plainly-theological writings (yes, I've been wondering if there's a parallel intended) as a birthday present. I've already had to pencil-in notes of some clear errors, but since he is from the first a writer, what he writes is catchy, so I am enjoying it greatly otherwise--- though I should also point-out that you brought up Dawn Treader and all that in the 07h3r thread.

Enbrethiliel said...


Jess -- I think the reason most of us don't think about trying to avert the end is that most of us probably couldn't. In this case, there are two physics geniuses in the main cast, which is why they even have a shot. (There's a moral embedded in this . . .)

Thanks for answering the question! I think that if I had a husband and children, I would change my original answer and slide to save them. But if I did that, we might always be refugees.

Bat -- Seeing that I brought up two movie adaptations, both of which I last watched years ago, because the ways in which they diverged from the source novels were what made them pertinent to the discussion, I'm not sure what you're trying to pin on me! =P

Belfry Bat said...

"Pin"? If you say "ping" instead, you'll be closer, because I think I was just resonating first, and then mentioning it.

love the girls said...

Miss E. writes : "What would you do if there were only two days left until the end of the world?"

I would do what I typically do when my children ask me about getting hit by a huge dinosaur killing comet.

I say I'm glad we're not dinosaurs.

And when they then tell me they mean a human killing comet I tell them the world can't end from getting hit by a comet until after Christ has come back to earth so it'll probably just come really close.

And if that doesn't work because maybe it won't kill everyone, I tell them don't worry about but perhaps we should go to the bookstore and get lots of books to read while we wait for civilization to rebuild itself.

Enbrethiliel said...


Bat -- Whenever I regret having ever read Lewis, the memory of the last two Disney/Fox movies consoles me.

LTG -- I'm sure a lot of people in this parallel world had the same idea. The show includes news footage of people fleeing the cities, but whether they had any decent places to flee to is not explored. If you had a few months to prepare for the event, Mr. Architect, what would you build for your family?

love the girls said...

Miss E.,

That's a fun question, I'll have to think about it.

The latest is a volcano up in Wyoming which is suppose to demolish the western US in the next 10,000 years.

And so because of the imminence of it, because you never know, we've made plans to hide behind one of the local table tops so as to avoid the blast wave.

love the girls said...

Miss E.,

A few months and a very modest budget to of less than $200,000, because any problem can be solved with money.

A budget which also includes all provisions and sundry which means the real budget is $100,000 + or -. It would be a simple slab on grade insteel 3d panel system because a structure using it can be built in a remote area and flexible for building up to a rock cliff face opposite the direction of the blast, was designed for inexpensive commercial warehouses, but is now mostly used in hurricane areas. Which where I've used it down in Florida on the Atlantic coast.

The design would be pure form driven by function, which means the shape would form a large defensible perimeter courtyard with all windows facing inward. . . .

Enbrethiliel said...


Not bad! Now I feel like asking you to design something for every worst case scenario I can think of. ;-)

Shaz said...

Having just spent a very l-o-n-g weekend with my family, I can categorically say that, if I have to slide today, they are NOT coming with me! :-)

Seriously though, I'm pretty sure I couldn't live with the survivor's guilt, so I'd probably choose to go down with the rest of the world.

Enbrethiliel said...


You know, survivor's guilt as a hazard of sliding never crossed my mind! The professor tries to save the world here because it is the only way to save himself, but I'd like to think he would have done the same even if he himself could have slid to safety before the asteroid hit.

But it is an extraordinary case when everyone can be saved. Since I am neither a genius physicist nor a special snowflake freak, I will remind myself that I simply cannot save the entire world and might even lose people if I tried to save too many. So if I do slide, then I will save a few and feel no guilt. Unless, of course, someone deliberately tries to guilt trip me, because I'm only human. =P