“Gillian of the Spirits”

Episode Review

Season 2
Airdate: 3/15/96

The Sliders arrive on a world with 1950s technology.

review16_1Something I always enjoy about Sliders is the brief scenes of a world in the beginning of an episode. It serves as a nice appetizer before the main world we see in a show. In this episode it’s Rain World, and the clincher is a lightning bolt striking the vortex as Quinn slides. As the team arrives to the next world they discover they cannot find Quinn, yet he’s standing beside them plain as day. Quinn’s invisible, the timer is fried, and it’s only a prelude to the set of problems the Sliders will encounter on this world. They make their way into town, an easy going town seemingly from the 1950s. Quinn hurriedly tries to get the attention of anyone he can, while the rest track down a local police officer for directions to a phone.

Seeing old cars, horses, and vintage clothing adds to the realism of this world. We must remember however that its the same year and same earth, just an alternate dimension. The Sliders are soon harassed by the police officer for Professor Arturo’s digital watch. They just broke a law for his possession of illegal material, “Article 417 — violation of the anti-technology statues”. Its interesting how just the slightest thing we take for granted is ridiculed and outlawed here like a simple digital watch. On our own world technology is in almost every facet of our lives to the point of breaking our privacy and liberty. Here the role is reversed in the sense of no technological advancement. Why? Hiroshima.

Quinn comes to Arturo’s rescue “in spirit” so to speak, as he scares off the policeman’s horse. The Sliders make a run for it and head to the Dominion hotel in hopes of finding Quinn. You guessed it there pops in Gomez Calhoun the hotel clerk. He’s a reoccurring character and as I’ve said before, it makes the series all the more interesting by seeing alternate versions of an individual. The Sliders’ realization comes to fruition they have a timer from the space age yet have arrived in a technological stone age. How will they repair a broken timer to slide to the next world?

In some ways it appears this episode is veering off into another concept all together such as invisibility and leaving the parallel world aspect to the wayside. However the way invisibility is dealt with in the episode is done quite well. By the end of the show it all makes sense, at least in scifi terms. This episode is really remarkable in that not only is it a parallel dimension it also deals with religion, science, technology and invisibility.

review16_2Rembrandt’s idea is to go to a priest with their problem: a missing Quinn Mallory and a timer with seemingly no hope of repairing. As Quinn waits for his friends he notices a girl by the name of Gillian who sees him in the church. Her mother consoles her as she talks seemingly to no one (Quinn). On the surface it’s obvious to everyone Gillian is just either psychotic or talking to demons. It was definitely clever that the writers of this episode linked Quinn’s invisibility with spirituality and religion. The priests on this world are akin to rock stars that sign autographs. As Arturo puts it sins are big business on this world. Its essentially none other than profiteering like many of the churches on our own world, just taken to a new level.

Quinn tries to explain to Gillian he is stuck in an Astral Plane and they both come to an agreement that she will give a note of Quinn’s presence to the Sliders. After Rembrandt’s plea, the priest puts the Sliders in touch with a man none other than Michael Mallory. Yes, the double of Quinn’s father. On this world Quinn died from polio because of the lack of advancements in science. The polio is an epidemic that “kills hundreds of thousands a year”. It definitely reminds us of a similar season one episode “Fever” that dealt with a world which had no penicillin to kill a streptococcus-like infection.

Michael Mallory agrees to let the Sliders try to repair the timer from the forbidden technology in his son’s basement. The Bureau of Anti-Tech arrests Michael Mallory and confiscates the Sliders’ precious timer. My only complaint of Quinn’s invisibility is when he and Gillian ride in a taxi cab to follow the Bureau and Michael Mallory. Logic cries out the question why didn’t Quinn fall through the car seat?

review16_3From here on in there’s surprise and suspense. There’s a race to find the timer and a dash of hope to rescue Quinn from the Astral Plane. This episode isn’t glamorous in it’s presentation yet it still holds up as a solidly defined gem. One could complain of Arturo at the end of the episode explaining the vortex will remain open for only 60 seconds, yet it remains open well beyond that limit. But for those amazing final scenes it’s more than worth the wait to see a vortex close. After all, this is scifi and at times you have to suspend beliefs.

The final scenes are acting at its very best from these profound actors and actresses. Not only that, this episode truly shows us just how well crafted the episodes were preceding it. The Sliders characters have an incredible bond of love for one another which you can clearly see. You just can’t find this type of brotherly love in television shows anymore.

So to our friends and family in this great adventure of life… tell them you’ll always love them.