[ EARTH 69 ]

Episode 2.18 | State of the Union

    Disturbed by a news story on how robots are costing thousands of workers their jobs (and buoyed by the ratings for the robot-themed ep immediately prior), Peck set out to warn America of the threat. "When the Sliders arrive," he explains, "this world has just built a robot that can hand out pink slips three times faster than any human supervisor. At that rate, if our guys don't take him down, he'll be able to fire the country in like a week or something."

    Given Peck's boundless creativity, it should come as no surprise what the robot who "terminates" employees is called... namely, "The Robot." He comes equipped with two supremely clever catchphrases: for terminating employees, "you're fired," and when aiming his gun at one of the Sliders and waiting for one of the others to heroically knock them out of the way, "yyyyooooouuuuu'rrreeeee fiiiiiiirrrreddd." (The latter scenario occurs six times in the episode.)

    Undaunted, the Sliders immediately found a rebel labour union and bring their own unique brand of non-confrontational conflict resolution to the table, assuming you define "unique" as "ripped off from The Matrix" and "non-confrontational" as "employing more bullets than a really amateurish PowerPoint presentation."

    Enraged by their crowd-pleasing raids on his pink slip factory, the evil CEO of Corporacorp Inc. (who could not be played more one-dimensionally by a taut piece of string) reasons that the best way to obtain mass appeal for his plan to fire the president and take over the world is to use a robot clone of Colleen as his spokeswoman. After an interminable fight scene in which the CEO's henchmen repeatedly throw themselves at Colleen and pretend to be flung off, she is hauled to the company's Central Lair and strapped to the rotating duplication table from that "Star Trek" episode.

    Meanwhile, the others overcome the Robot by setting it to "Terminate With Extreme Prejudice," which results in it uselessly trying to fire Rembrandt over and over again.

    With the machine overhead preparing to strip-mine her brain (as indicated by such status readouts as "Root Access Granted," "Reading Tree Information" and "Creating Remote Log"), Colleen manages to turn the tables on her captors by... well, turning the table, causing the robot's empty mind to overwrite her own. You'd think this would only make things much, much worse, but instead Quinn simply races into the room, declares "We gotta go, NOW," and ushers his sister into an offscreen vortex. As Peck tells it: "I'd been working on the damn script for like forty minutes already, and my bladders were gonna explode. So yeah, as if coming up with a better ending is worth my f***ing life?"

    Despite the overall homage to Metropolis, the episode owes just as much to Smallville: namely, Remy Zero's performance of "Save Me." "Cleavant was bugging me all year to let these guys sing on the show," complained Peckinpah. "Remy this, Remy that... so I replace the CEO's cage dancers with a live band. Is he happy? Of course not. I had half a mind to bill him for all the chloroform."

    Perhaps by way of revenge, the hour's most embarrassing line falls to Rembrandt: "Man, that thing is dishin' out the pink slips like nobody's business. Which as a matter of fact, they are."

    "I'd taken a lot of flak around the office for wearing certain articles of clothing that I'd rather not identify," Peck explained, "and that was the most effective way I could think of to silence my critics."

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