[ EARTH 69 ]

Episode 2.4 | I Have No Mouth and I Must Pay Homage to Scream

    This episode began life as a script called "California Reich," about a world where visible minorities are being turned into faceless slaves. Story Editor Harlan Ellison, who was only still working for the show because Peck kept him from seeing the finished episodes, then turned it into "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream," forty-five pages of utter genius. Ellison's version, focusing on the existential anguish of one of the mute, expressionless servants, sweeped the year's Hugo Awards (including "Coolest-Sounding Title," and that old standby "Best Teleplay by Harlan Ellison.")

    Of course, once Peck got his hands on the story, existential anguish was out and nitroglycerine-fueled explosions were in. Thirty-three of them to be exact, including several with no connection to the plot that serve to punctuate a dramatic speech by Rembrandt. "You can resist - BOOM! - or you can serve! BOOOOM!"

    The finished episode, "I Have No Mouth And I Must Pay Homage To 'Scream,'" depicted the campaign of terror of a serial killer named "Eddy," who wears a black cape and a blue mask that covers his mouth. To empahasize the links with the "Scream" movies, several scenes were stolen directly from the films. Peckinpah explains: "I was extremely proud of that. The footage from the movie had Jerry O'Connell too, so we just edited it in seamlessly. That's how the show came in on time and under budget."

    Peck, surprised by Ellison's fury when he was told about the changes, backpedaled and claimed he was only pulling the other man's leg. Ellison, in typical fashion, returned the favour.

Episode 2.5 | Hopping Mad

    Peck did not idly waste his time in hospital waiting for his leg to be reattached. No, he suck --er, stuck to the old adage to "write what you know." The result was this sorry effort, about a world where everyone hops around on one leg for no reason.

    Oddly enough, Entertainment Weekly's Shawna Malcolm gave it an A+ rating, praising Jerry O'Connell for sticking to the "Leonard Nimoy school of tastefully emotionless acting." She also complimented the realistic explosion effects: "Much more believable - and numerous - than in kitschy trash like 'Xena,' which all too often focuses on plot and character at the expense of the good stuff. Fuhgeddaboudit, or you'sa gonna be hopping on one leg too. Catch my drift, dollface?"

    Have I mentioned yet that Peck was not aware that the "d" in "Rembrandt" is silent?

Episode 2.6 | I Cry, You Cry, We All Cry For Ice Cream

    This was Harlan Ellison's original opening scene for an episode dealing with depression, "The Chasm":

    MAGGIE: First time we've landed on a beach, and it's closed. Just our luck...
    QUINN (reading from sign): "Restricted by Order of the Municipality of Paradise."
    REMBRANDT: I've never been to Paradise, but I played a town called Eden once. Down in Tunisia. Nasty, flea-infested place.

    And here is Peck's imbecilic rewrite:

    MAGGIE: Ooh, a topless beach! Quick, save these co-ordinates!
    QUINN (adjusting timer with silly grin on face): Done, and done. (seeing sign) "Welcome to Esperanto." Huh.
    REMBRANDT: I can't speak Esperanto, but I did a gig with Bob Hope once. Nasty, flea-infested man.

    Arriving in town, the trio spends about 40 minutes of screen time eating ice cream and sitting around on park benches. Suddenly, Quinn feels a pang of regret over leaving Wade behind in a breeding camp. The others instantly know something is wrong.

    Before long, all the Sliders are experiencing severe depression. It turns out they are in the clutches of the evil Despair Worm, which drives people to jump into its vast chasm (known to the townspeople as "The Big, Dark Hole") so that it can feed on their bodies at leisure. It then leaves behind a bounty of magical ice cream, which is being used by the town's ice cream lady to maintain her tyrannical hold on the ice cream market.

    Maggie and Remmy are plagued by visions of past adventures (read: clips), all of which end with them drowning in ice cream.

    A distraught Rembrandt, giving a whole new meaning to "The Cryin' Man," manages to hold off the town sheriff in a lengthy gun battle at the Temple of the Big Dark Hole. Meanwhile, Quinn and Maggie battle depression by making out a whole lot. Finally Rembrandt shows up, humming "I Shot the Sheriff," and they leap into the Hole for the Ultimate Confrontation.

    The Ultimate Confrontation consists of Quinn politely asking the Ice Cream Lady for her gun. She meekly hands it over.

    To defeat the worm, actually a robotic construction, Maggie must press its off switch (cleverly located on the inside of its digestive tract.) Just as the worm's stomach juices are beginning to dissolve her, she presses the switch and the town of Esperanto returns to normal.

    One particularly distasteful scene had visiting geologist Laurie being gruesomely devoured by the Despair Worm, bringing the year's Dead Blonde Count to 3. Peckinpah was asked why he kills off so many blonde women on "Sliders": "Well, it's simple. I get off on dead blondes. No, wait, that's the real answer. I meant to say, um, something about artistic... meaning. Yeah. Meaningful. Ish. Ness."

    A week after Ellison found out about this fiasco, Peckinpah could be found in hospital writing an episode about a world where men have lost their ability to reproduce.

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