Mark Mothersbaugh does better than usual with the music for this story, creating a slow and ominous synth pad / electric guitar theme for the danger of the asteroid (not to mention Bennish) backed by faster creeping jungle percussion rhythms that emphasize the race against time that drives this episode. It's a combination of space age and back-to-nature styles that works well for the unstoppable force of nature approaching from the heavens. Very cool, and an approach that others may not have thought of.
Each Slider branches off onto his or her own story-line this time, with all four of these stories working well. Rembrandt goes way out, getting a character arc similar to that of Bill Murray's character in "Groundhog Day", a brilliant film that has become one of my favourites. Of course Rembrandt's version of it here is a bit more understated, lacking the additional sci-fi / fantasy premise that allowed Bill Murray to go to extremes, but notice the progression of beats, from all-out enjoying oneself, to throwing it all away in despair, to a rediscovery of being spiritual and helping others. Actress Jennifer Hetrick also appears in this story-line, having been a fan-favourite guest star on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also getting an important minor role to play on The X-Files. Her role here is not as high-profile or attention-grabbing, but she brings the right emotional qualities to an understated supporting character.
Quinn's own story-line turns out to be the shortest and least satisfying of the bunch, but logic practically demands that this avenue be explored, and so it is given its due. Our regular Quinn makes his first return to a parallel version of his laboratory, while the discoveries about the divergent interests of his absent double make the sequence worthwhile. Our heroic action nit-picking exercise observes that although Quinn is doing his best to be productive and helpful, his efforts at best only serve himself and his three friends. It's William Hartnell's Doctor rushing the original Doctor Who quartet back into the TARDIS again, instead of turning to confront the antagonist of the month. We can't blame Quinn too much, since the science of Sliding is what he knows, and everyone is busy doing whatever they are best at in an attempt to help. Ultimately, Quinn's efforts to run away before the end are unsuccessful, but at least this happens early enough to allow Quinn to get involved in other things....
And Wade has had other things on her mind for quite some time. This actually turns out to be the best episode yet for her character. Although we don't actually learn too much more about her than what was given in The Pilot Episode, her character is indulged, she gets dialogue that feels far more natural than anything previously given to her to express herself, and she is allowed to develop along her character arc. Quinn has time to join her story line before long, advancing a minor arc of his own which becomes the best Quinn moment of the story. Both Jerry O'Connell and Sabrina Lloyd make the most of their scenes together, giving them an organic and natural quality that creates a compelling and unique little vignette, one of the true highlights of their continuing time together on the show.
Once again, Arturo commands the leading heroics of the story, employing a solution that helps not only the Sliders, but all the inhabitants of this week's Earth as well. Quinn's character needs to take note - this is how it should be done.
This time, the writer makes the brilliant move of roping in Bennish to assist and inspire Arturo, a character who is Arturo's stylistic opposite. This provides the professor with some enjoyable emotional challenges which allow John Rhys-Davies to indulge his humorous talent to good effect once more. And Bennish is finally allowed to become more than his previous caricature - he develops into a fully fleshed-out 3-dimensional character, played to very good effect by Jason Gaffney. Although still getting in many purely humorous moments, not every line is a joke anymore, as some become downright sinister. An interesting edge to toy with.....
Although much of the original inspiration and backstory prep work belongs to Bennish, he does do less and less of the actual work as the story progresses, allowing Arturo to own more and more of the heroics. Arturo enlists Quinn's help for the final act of the story, but whatever help Quinn provides is all done off screen. Weird. One feels good that he contributed.... something. But without seeing what exactly that was, it doesn't do much for Quinn on the hero meter. It's Arturo's Day, for the third time in as many episodes, and Quinn has yet to do as well once.
Indeed, almost all of the progress in the final act is actually made off-screen by this world's authorities, as would be most plausible. This is a refreshing change from the batch of oppressive governments being rebelled against in most previous episodes of the show.
Not to be outdone, there are still some great character moments for our cast, and a dark twist in the coda that tantalizes the viewer with developments that may lead into future stories....
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