12 January 2014


Sliders: Shooting Gallery

QUESTION: Who are these three men and what do they have in common?
(The answer is not that they are targets in a shooting gallery!)

Now we get to what I already know will be my least favourite Sliders episode EVER. It's so bad that I am tempted to stop writing this blog series altogether. I am also floored to know that it has the same writer as the Sliders episode I love the most. Perhaps he was just having a really bad day. Consider also that so much which is good in writing is often lost during filming or on the cutting room floor. But then we must recall all the problems this show was having behind the scenes, the most notorious of which was John Rhys Davies's discontent with the writing, especially in Season 2. It's actually more likely that the excellent Season 1 episode was a really good day--and not a characteristic one. =( 

ANSWER:George Bush, Lyndon Johnson and Sam Houston were all Presidents of Texas! =P

So what do you know about Texas? Definitely more than I do. But would you also know enough to be able to describe a parallel San Francisco in a world where much of the west coast of North America is part of the Independent Republic of Texas? You're probably feeling very modest right now, but I'll bet that even you would do a much better job than this episode's writer did--if only because you'd likely base your world on history, culture and demographics rather than on an obvious agenda. 

The show seems to be going for the same sort of episode it gave us twice in Season 1, when we were shown San Francisco under Russia and then under England. Sadly, it not only misses the mark, but also makes the earlier stories look just as bad by association. Criticizing communism by taking potshots at Russia and condemning decadent monarchy by mocking England are exposed as two-dimensional moralising when they're ranked with taking a stand against guns by smearing Texas.

But let's be fair and make this about the bigger ideas. This world's unusual quirk is that lawyers are also gunfighters, which means that negotiations often turn into gun battles . . . and an unscrupulous tycoon with really fast lawyers could get them to ruin a business which he wants to take over by literally killing anyone who stands in his way. It sounds uncannily familiar, doesn't it? As familiar as the second unusual quirk of stock brokers also being poker players. Corporate bullies who gobble up everything, high-stakes gambling on the trading floor, and the law favouring financial interests . . . This is still very much our world. Don't let the cowboy hats fool you. 

But you may let the lost potential wound you. This episode could have been a great satire of the way modern markets are set up and manipulated by bankers those who know how to game them. Instead, it's a heavy-handed anti-gun PSA, complete with a speech on the evils of violence, at high noon, no less. On the evils of usury, there is only silence. 

Your Turn to Slide: If everyone in your profession also had to be proficient at a competitive sport, which one would it be?


Belfry Bat said...

I can only say that my department also has a fancy table tennis table, and it gets used a lot. (I get around most by biking everywhere, but even this seems to be odd.)

Brandon said...

I usually remember early episodes of Sliders pretty well, but I don't remember this one at all. Your summary reminds of H. Beam Piper's Lone Star Planet, about a planet of trigger-happy Texas stereotypes, but LSP is a minor SFclassic because it's surprisingly fun and thought-through; it sounds like this was pretty slapdash.

I suppose fencing, canne, and singlestick would all be plausible stand-ins for my profession.

Enbrethiliel said...


Bat -- But was the tennis table a case of like attracting like or a totally random incident?!?!

Brandon -- What I was comparing (or rather contrasting) this episode with was L. Neil Smith's libertarian novel The Probability Broach, in which the main character "slides" (!!!) into a world where everyone carries guns. But he makes the opposite argument about firearms, for his fantastic society is much more peaceful and prosperous than ours because of the gun ownership rate. (Incidentally, when Smith's "slider" is shown a map of North America, it includes a very large area called Texico!)

My current job feels like archery, but when I was a high school teacher, it was mixed martial arts all the way! =D

Sheila said...

Track and field. All the events. Pole vaulting. Hurdles. Caber toss. And all in a row. Sometimes simultaneously.

Enbrethiliel said...



love the girls said...

The most dangerous game, and I own the island.

Enbrethiliel said...


At first I thought you were alluding to Battle Royale, but then I learned about the Richard Connell short story. That's an unexpected answer from an architect, but then again, I don't know much about architecture. =P

love the girls said...

Battle Royale is a good book, and would be far better if the one kid hadn't been turned into a virtual indestructible virtuoso psycho.

What made the book so appealing was humanness of the characters.

Any game of artsy out of touch prima donnas living in poverty willing to sacrifice their competition and afterwards casually eat them would equally suffice.