30 December 2013


Sliders: Penal Colony

The moral dilemma of Sliders has always been: To interfere or not to interfere? When you are merely a tourist in a world whose history you barely understand . . . and when you won't be hanging around long enough to deal with the consequences of your actions . . . is it ethical to get involved in the locals' business?

Today's featured episode doesn't have an absolute answer to that question, but it does a good job explaining that a little interference can go a long way.

What can we tell about a society from its warning signs?
What does "No Loitering" say about us?

In this episode, our cast slide into a world that is clean, peaceful, and well-organised . . . and that pairs people off in a "buddy system." How it works is that you are held responsible for any crimes which your "buddy" commits--a radical application of the theory that the most effective way to get people to follow the rules is to get them to police each other. It's a dystopian set up I never knew I was afraid of until now. Can you imagine living in a world where it is practically forbidden to be alone???

Now that I think about it, this parallel San Francisco makes a fitting backdrop to the drama which ensues after Quinn intervenes in the life of a complete stranger. (Or at least it would if the world were presented more convincingly.) When you change someone's fate forever, there's a sense in which you become that person's "buddy" for life. For one thing, you can't just take someone through a wormhole and then abandon him in a strange world. But while Quinn might be okay looking out for the woman he has saved, he ends up being paired with--and held accountable for--her violent ex-boyfriend, who follows them into the slide. It's quite a price to pay for being a Good Samaritan, but it's also only fair. If you make a mess, you should clean it up.

In Season 1, we saw the main cast cleaning up other people's messes and taking for granted that they were either doing the right thing or acting in a vacuum. Here, they learn to take a little more responsibility and see that their decisions may very easily have tragic ends.

Your Turn to Slide: If you had to have a "buddy" for at least a year, whose actions you would have to answer for, whom would you like it to be?


Belfry Bat said...

Well, there's an easy answer to that, but I need help before there are any children to raise!

Come to that, British common Law used to hold that a husband was responsible for certain of his wife's actions (I'm sure there were limits on this, but I don't know where they lay); there was, however, a balancing protection in that neither spouse could be compelled to testify in a criminal trial of the other. Both of these were natural corollaries of the "two in one flesh" understanding of marriage.

Enbrethiliel said...


I had anticipated that married people leaving comments would choose their spouses for "buddies," having already done so in a sacramental sense. And thinking about the an enforced "buddy system" made me recall Paolo and Francesca in Dante's Inferno--which is like anti-matrimony.

The roots in British common law are very interesting and I wish I knew more of how this arrangement worked and what the reasoning for it was.