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Total Recall: Sliders “The Fire Within”

We’re back with Sliders this week and we have an episode that, upon rewatching, isn’t as bad as Electric Twister Acid Test but is still kind of a mess of an episode.

To start out with, we find Rembrandt on a roll in a simulated home run derby game.  Before he can beat the game’s record (and collect on some bets), the gang has to slide out.  Their next stop is a horrific world that is engulfed in flame that Rembrandt compares to Hell.  Fortunately the gang is only on this Earth for a few seconds and slide out to the real world for the episode.

Most of Southern California has become an oil company town run by Pan Global Oil.  Arturo hypothesizes that, on this Earth, the majority of the Earth’s petroleum deposits are underneath California, instead of the Middle East as it is on Earth Prime.  Because Remy lost all the gang’s money betting on the Home Run game, the entire gang gets temp jobs working for the oil refinery.  Arturo, Remy and Quinn all work in the refinery while Wade gets a job in the secretarial pool.

The gang arrived at a pretty tense time as the oil workers union is on strike, demanding health insurance and there are apparent arsons breaking out at company employee’s houses.  After Remy almost gets ripped apart by angry picketeers while trying to drive an oil truck, the gang blows off some steam by getting some drinks.  Wade and Quinn head back to their hotel pretty drunk and Quinn says he’s going to go for a quick walk.  He stumbles into the street and almost gets hit by a truck.  Quinn is saved by a mysterious fire that engulfs him and sucks out the oxygen, causing him to fall back onto the sidewalk.  Both he and Wade see a seemingly alive ball of flame hiding behind a car tire.  Arturo sees it as well a short while later.  He and Quinn figure that it must be some sort of new form of life that came with them from the hellish flame world they slid from and determine to capture it and try to communicate using equipment they stole from the oil refinery lab.

Luring the flame into a beaker with some flammable material, Quinn and Arturo bring it back the gang’s room and start the process of communicating with it by flashing various elements at it and seeing if it reacts.  The flame reacts to hydrogen and Quinn moves on to the next step of the experiment by using a computer to convert his voice into a sequence that will flash the hydrogen sample and the flame will answer by repeating the sequence itself.  This works and Quinn is able to start talking to the flame.  It turns out that the flame is able to split into different flames but it is one consciousness.  It wants to stay on this Earth since there is a plentiful amount of food but Quinn manages to convince it  to leave with the gang when they slide.  The flame says that if Quinn releases the flame during the slide, it will be able to find it’s way back to the flame world where they found it.

Meanwhile, Wade gets involved in trying to help oil worker widow Amanda, whose husband was killed supposedly trying to set a fire at the refinery.  Amanda is the leader of the strike and, after Wade witnesses her stealing toothpaste and getting refused her husband’s last check, offers to help her get information that could incriminate the oil company.  She and Rembrandt manage to find evidence on the computer that the oil company boss, J.C., lured Amanda’s husband to the refinery with a fake meeting and then must have killed him because he was going to blow the whistle on the oil company.  Unfortunately, J.C. has a program installed on the computers that alerts him whenever someone tries to hack in.  He forces Wade and Rembrandt into the main refinery and tells them that he’s going to kill them with an incendiary device and they will be framed for arson.  Oil company goons also try to grab Quinn but he manages to knock one out while the flame kills the other.  Quinn and Arturo head to the refinery and learn that Wade and Rembrandt are trapped in the refinery and that orders are to just let it burn.

Arturo and Quinn steal some firefighting gear and head into the refinery.  After struggling through the flames, they find Wade and Remy in the back of the refinery, where the fire hadn’t reached yet, and give them some oxygen and get ready to carry them out.  J.C., also in firefighting gear, stops them from leaving by holding them at gunpoint but the flame also arrives and blasts J.C., knocking him out.  The flame asks if Quinn wants it to destroy everyone and Quinn says no and that the flame has to collect all it’s flames into one and come with them.  Quinn and Arturo manage to get Wade and Rembrandt to safety and Wade gives Amanda the disk with the evidence.  The gang then slides out and Quinn collects the fire into a matchbook and slides as well.

The main problem with this episode is that all the stuff with the corrupt oil company seems extremely half baked.  It’s like they had the main plot with the living flame but were told they needed a conflict/bad guy as well.  It’s also never explored why this world seems like it’s stuck in the 50’s with finned cars and everyone dressing like their rejects from Mad Men.  It is fun to see Arturo and Quinn in full on scientist mode though.  I also think that the final set piece in the burning refinery is extremely well done.  Next week is another wacky Rembrandt episode when the gang slides onto a world where men take over pregnancy from women for the last stages and Rembrandt must take the place of his royal double.

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