One thing that I completely forget sometimes when writing this thing is that I used to watch Sliders.
Like, on television. I used to be a fan of Sliders, and I used to watch it on television. That’s what people did thirteen years ago. They watched television. They had favorite shows. And, more importantly, they taped them.
That’s where I come in. I got into Sliders at the end— when it was shown as reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel. I’d watch Sliders as soon as I got home from school. Well, let me back up a little bit. I was aware of the show as it was airing on FOX. I was a little too young (probably seven? eight?), and the only direct memory I have of it was watching “Greatfellas” for five minutes in the TV room at a friend’s house. But when I was eleven or twelve, I saw the show as a rerun, and I remembered it. But this time I watched it. And fell in love with it.
At this point, I don’t remember why. Being twelve, I probably thought that Wade was cute. Or maybe it was just that the idea was so strong. Which is still is, for all that I’ve complained about it. But in any case, for about a year I was in love with Sliders. I hadn’t seen all of it (I hadn’t seen most of it, actually), but I was in love with it. I was ravenous to watch it. And so I did.
And so. At some point during this, the Sci-Fi Channel ran a marathon of the first half of Season Five. It had a funny name, which I can’t remember. Which is silly that I can’t remember, because (since I was at school when the marathon aired) my Mother taped it to a VHS and wrote the name of the marathon in a funny little font, with dots all over the letters. It bugged me at the time— I wrote “Sliders” in the show’s font next to hers. But while I remember that label existing, I don’t remember what it said.
Which I should, because I played the hell off of that tape. So much so that I almost missed the only episode of Sliders that I watched as it aired— “The Seer.” But more on that episode later. The one I remembered most on that tape, for whatever reason, was this one, “New Gods For Old.” I remembered loving it completely, bewildered by the cast changes (I wouldn’t see “The Exodus” for another three years), but excited by this show I had begun to love still being on. And especially excited by this episode. I thought it was so cool.
Even watching it today, there’s still a little thrill there. Even if it’s clunky, and Diana is weirdly lazy, and they talk really loud about sliding out in the open, but what ever. That’s the thing about fandom— even as it condemns, it forgives. And here I am, openly denouncing this show in almost every post I write, but I still write them. I’m still excited that Robert Floyd just added me on twitter.
It’s fandom, though, that creates the distinction that this episode ends up being judged by— a good episode of television vs. a good episode of Sliders. Despite it being a hugely emotional character hour, “Applied Physics,” for example, still is only really good as the latter. It would be nonsense to anyone not intimately familiar with the show. And is that what dooms Sliders? Its requirement for intimate knowledge? No— it’s that the writers aren’t making the show for any reason other than to get it done, to get it over with.
But that’s what also sets this episode apart, a little. It’s a leftover from the last time anyone really did try to care about this show— Season Four.
And thank God— an episode called “Semi-Colin” (and is that supposed to be a punctuation joke?) would have been better than, say, “The Dying Fields,” but it wouldn’t have been good. Charlie O’Connell wasn’t a good enough actor to handle it. Robert Floyd, though, is. He can handle it, and he does. It’s in the very beginning, when he grim and painfully says “I’m not going back to a wheelchair.” (The fact that this line is followed by a smash cut to Maggie wheeling up a wheelchair makes for both the most hilarious bit of black humor the show’s ever done and maybe the thing I remember most about Sliders that isn’t the toilet seat gag in Love Gods.)
And so we get an episode that has something to say— much like “Applied Physics.” In a way, these episodes are similar, they both deal with choice of intervention. It’s funny, then, that these episodes happen so late into the show. Intervention was a question in Season One only. After that, it was always a given. Until Season Four, when the show forgot that the characters might actually have, I don’t know, morals or something.
But here we have a question— is The Glow evil? What is the cost of Mallory’s Mobility? Individuality? To Mallory— yes, yes it is. And to Jill he gives the Glow to, the answer is also “yes.” But to the sliders, and to Krislov, the answer is “no,” regardless of what anyone else thinks. This is the problem. This is where my wonderful memories of my precious VHS crumble to pieces. This is where I can’t forgive anymore. This is where my fandom starts to die.
“If I didn’t know any better I’d actually envy him,” Maggie says, before the rest of the team makes a list of what sounds like complete enlightenment… before deciding they have to destroy it because …well, because why? Because Mallory isn’t Mallory anymore? Because he’s spiritual? Because he’s a part of something bigger than himself? Rembrandt says that Mallory only has “a slow death” coming to him. Why? He says that “real life is about being uncomfortable,” and while I’m just about cynical enough to agree with the point in general, I can’t really agree with how he’s using it. He’s clearly wrong. Mallory is happy with The Glow. That is unacceptable.
Happiness is completely unknown to the team, so they refuse to let anyone else have it. The team’s xenophobia is so resolute that it is blind to things that have any good in them. They try to guilt Mallory after he says he feels betrayed that they stole him from the Glow. What assholes. What fucking assholes. Of course they betrayed him. These petulant little shits think they know what’s best for everyone. They are so far up their own asses that they will ruin lives if they diverge from their own narrow minds.
“What did we infect on this world?”
“Immortality and Peace.”
“We have to stop him.”
We are told that the Glow “removes your soul” or whatever. But Mallory explains it as different than that— he explains it as self-actualization. And as much as the episode tries to demonize the Glow, with it’s easy “Cult” iconography of White Robes and Beads and Chanting, I… can’t disagree with him. I can’t see his choices as the wrong ones. I can only watch as Maggie bullies the New Glow and drinks the “cured” water with the most horrible sneer a person can wear. I can only watch as Rembrandt, with far too little remorse, remove Jill (“No! She’s so happ—”) from the Glow and declare himself a BIR Man.
I used to think that part was cool. When I was young until now, I thought that “We’re BIR Men” was an awesome quote. And it is— it induces awe. But the kind of awe you get at a mountain lion before it rips your throat out. This scene is awful. This scene comes far too close to breaking the rest of the cast as much as Quinn was broken in “Revelations.” They are clearly hurting people. They are not helping. And they are doing for reasons that are completely selfish. They cannot be understood by people not themselves. It’s horrible.
The episode again tries to demonize the Glow by casting Mallory as some sort of evangelical nutjob. Rembrandt says “that isn’t God.” And he’s right— it’s not his God. And that’s their problem. I want to at least try and defend Rembrandt’s side of things— that the Glow is “bad,” and the loss of individuality isn’t worth the benefits of the Glow. But there’s never anything said that allows me to. It’s just said “that is a bad thing, I need to stop it” and that’s it. And that just isn’t enough with something like this.
Look, I’m not a ‘believer’ or whatever. But I watch the team gang up on Mallory. They berate him, they bully him until he guiltily agrees to “kill” himself. And then he does, and while he’s weak, while he’s confused, they slam him with inane platitudes and half-baked reassurances. Thank God Robert Floyd is a smart enough actor to play his decision like it was actually difficult. He’s not leaving the New Glow World because he wants to, he’s leaving because he just knows that it isn’t his home. These people aren’t yet his friends.
He says he wants to make a difference— he’s leaving because he knows that sliding is the way to make that difference.
And in his final act as a “preacher,” he gives the people of the Glow the freedom to choose to drink it or not. I can’t believe that they wouldn’t drink it. But I can’t hate them for that choice. Mallory, in the final moments of this episode, proves himself to be the best human being the show’s ever had as a character.
Rembrandt, of course, denies him this. Mallory claims that Quinn is gone for good— that Traversers wins, that the new status quo is forever. Maggie, for her part, agrees. But Rembrandt refuses to believe that Quinn is gone— that this new person could be a good person— and says so. He looks on with the utmost disdain.
That’s who Rembrandt has become. That’s what sliding has done to him. Or maybe not. After all, that “So Many AIDS Ribbons” joke in the Pilot is actually really offensive if you think about it.
And I hate him for it.
I hate Rembrandt, just as I hated Quinn at the end of the last season. This entire episode is focused to take every strand of my moral fiber and snap them. The actions the team takes are despicable. They are the same kind of despicable that lends to the people who honestly think that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Simple rights denied to those who believe in them. I watch this episode a little dumbfounded. I would never willingly let a show that glorifies (and yes, at no point do I honestly believe the writers want us to side with Mallory) this kind of thinking. I do not agree with it. I do not like it.
So there you have it. 1999-2013.
My Sliders fandom.
Next Week (yes I will finish this): YEAH MALLORY JUMP ON THAT TRUCK (Please Press One)
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