Did we need this?
Yes, the show took the most plucky, warm, and kind-hearted character it had, and threw her into a “breeding camp,” where it left her. The show pretended that we would never forget the horrifying fact that one of the original characters was being raped, day in-day out, by horrifying too-near-to-human ape-demons.
I’ve said often that the “breeding camp” was a wound that the show never could recover from. That is true. Season Four was soured by the idea. Nothing was going to make me give a flying fuck about “Where Quinn is Really From” when Wade is stuck living in a real, visceral hell. A hell we never even see. That makes it all the more terrifying.
And, of course, it didn’t even need to be there in the first place. Season Four could have spared us two of its most insulting episodes by removing the line about ‘breeding.’ Just make her ‘off-world.’ That way, we know she’s out there. Maybe she escaped. Maybe she is living a life by herself. Maybe she’s sliding. Who knows. That’s what fanfiction is for.
But instead we have this horror thrust upon us. We do know where she is— she’s being raped. Day in, day out. And why? Why was this cruel fate put upon Wade Welles? Because David Peckinpah thought it was funny. It was a throwaway line.
So yes, it’s a wound Sliders never recovered from. But it stems from the rot that the show’s had for years— that it’s a “boy’s club,” just like “proper” science fiction should be. The future is a concern of the Male. Women exist to be put in the fridge when we need a Man to feel something. It’s disgusting.
Because for all that Wade was a wonderful character with an energy that served the show better than it really knew, she was never very fleshed-out. Who was Wade? We never really knew, and when we got to it was based always on the need of whatever story was being told than in the name of developing her character. But she was still this figure of brightness. She was the heart of the show. She was the best. Quinn Mallory might have invented Sliding, but it was Wade Welles who started this journey. Arturo was skeptical. Quinn was nervous.
Wade just thought it was cool.
She thought it was cool, and where did she end up? She ended up watching all her friends die. She watched as the Kromaggs destroyed her world. She watched Rembrandt cover his eyes as she was dragged away. She was sent to a horrible place that violated her over and over again.
Isn’t that enough?
No, it isn’t. This is Sliders— a show that shows that if you try, you will be punished. If you treat the world as a place of wonder, you will die for it. Sliders is a show that would have you lock yourself in your room and shut the curtains on living. Because the moment you step outside, you will die.
And so, no— it is not enough for Wade to brave the “breeding camps.” Instead, she is taken from them, put into a chamber, her head shaved, her brain exposed. Cables and tubes are shoved into her body. She is stripped of her last bit of dignity, to the very last threads of her humanity. She is reduced to nothing more than a comical head in a jar.
So, I ask you again: did we need this?
No, we didn’t. And we didn’t have to, either. Michael Reaves’ original pitch had nothing to with Wade. And it’s easy to see an episode here that doesn’t even involve her. One where Rembrandt is being drawn to some unknown entity, someone he wants to save out of his deep compassion— a compassion that never left, even if we don’t get to see it anymore. Think of it— the episode where we finally spend quality time with Rembrandt, and it shows that he’s still the person we used to know. Somehow, it seems a far more moving idea to have Rembrandt risk all and everything for someone he doesn’t even know. It proves more about him.
Instead, we are given more evidence that Rembrandt doesn’t even belong on this show anymore. The concerns of the show aren’t his anymore. Sure, in theory we’re supposed to “Save Earth Prime,” but when was the last time anyone said anything about that? Hell, when was the last time we met a Kromagg? “Strangers & Comrades,” sure. But that episode was basically the Season Finale of Season Four. This season has nothing to do with Quinn’s Real World. Even Mallory, who is supposed to still have two Quinns inside of him, is unaffected by the events of this episode. They don’t apply to him.
And so the “big reveal” that Rembrandt “abandoned Wade” in the final days of their imprisonment falls flat. It falls flat because we’re far past the point where it actually matters anymore. Yes, it’s nice to understand why Rembrandt changed so much since “Genesis,” but we had already filled in the blanks ourselves. We didn’t need this over-explanation. And again, it just doesn’t apply to the show we’re watching anymore.
So we have a clip from “Dragonslide,” which despite being a hilarious episode to choose a moving memory from, is still a good clip to show what kind of relationship Rembrandt and Wade had. As I said at the end of “This Slide of Paradise,” they are family. Rembrandt is her brother, and Wade his little sister. But we knew that already. And so to see Sabrina Lloyd exhumed from the past of this show only furthers to alienate us as an audience, because it’s the only time we actually see her face. At any other time, it’s a (kind of okay but not really at all) lookalike. Sabrina Lloyd refused to appear on the episode. And why should she have? It treated her character like trash, but that probably didn’t even figure into it— the producers treated her like trash too. Only because Cleavant Derricks personally begged her to do the voice work did she appear. As a gift to him, not to us, and you can tell— it’s phoned in, through and through.
But even then, I can’t really complain, can I? This is the last time on this show you get to hear Wade’s voice. Isn’t that good? Don’t we want to know what ended up happening to her?
Well, no, because we still don’t even end up knowing what happened to her. We have a truly embarrassing moment where Rembrandt gets a psychic vision of Sabrina Lloyd’s face from the credit sequence superimposed on a lake. “I’ll always be with you, Remmy. Whenever you need me.” I guess we can imagine that this is Rembrandt’s hallucinations (and sure, maybe the entire episode was. Wouldn’t that be nice?), but it doesn’t read that way. Somehow, despite having her head removed and her brain opened up and having just eradicated a giant spaceship, Wade’s still alive. And because that isn’t even enough for this character, she’s still alive and unaware of what’s been done to her. Rembrandt, ostensibly being noble, has Wade use his eyes to see her disfigured once-body. It’s the only time Sabrina Lloyd’s phoned-in performance works: she’s too far from human to even scream with emotion.
Let alone the fact that the episode that “deals with Wade” is also one that involves the most barmy sci-fi mishmash the show has ever attempted. I’m not even saying that it could never have worked— the term Cyberiad is interesting. The idea that the Kromaggs, apparently getting quite desperate, are using people’s minds to psychically rip apart universes is very interesting. But made so cheaply, and with the “noble” goal of “dealing with Wade” shoehorned into it, there’s just too much. It falls apart.
It falls apart because it is cheap. Usually I don’t really nag the show for its budget. I’ve come to accept, as should we all, that Sliders is cheap. As much as the show uses the backlot every fucking episode, as much as even the vortex has seen better days, it doesn’t really impact the show that often. But here, every scene is swathed in cheapness. Tacky, dashed together cheapness. This episode is positing itself as epic (on paper, at least), and it just …isn’t. Wade is supposed to “sacrifice” herself to destroy the Kromagg Dynasty’s Greatest Evil. And it looks like all she did was singe a broom closet.
So no, it isn’t a Hero’s Ending. It’s just crap.
It’s crap, and it’s cheap, and it’s not even necessary. It would be one thing if this episode set out to do one thing, and did that thing poorly. But it not only is unsure of what even it is trying to do, it does not succeed at whatever that may be, and whatever it is is done extremely poorly. If that sounds vague, it’s because this episode is just as vague. It’s as vague as the description of any of the worlds they visit in this episode. The so-called Paradise they slide to and from, devoid of life, devoid of anything.
I remember when I saw this episode for the first time. I was excited— Wade was, has always been, will always be my favorite character. I left this episode numbed, dumbed, and upset. At the end, Rembrandt stands still, pain in his eyes, refusing to leave Wade one more time. He tries to die with her, to relieve his pain, and be with Wade through the end of hers. She denies him this— as she should, since it’s truly a selfish act of suicide on his part— with a crushing line— “I love you Rembrandt, but I won’t let you do this.” No one gets anything they want in this show. Be it happiness. Be it wonder. Be it peace. Be it death.
And yet throughout all this there is a sense of closure. Not in terms of story— no, that’s just as nonsense and vague and unsettled as ever. But in terms of the show winding down. If it’s actually going to sit down and say “this is what happened, the end,” then it is truly going to end. If they are going to say “this is where Wade went,” then what follows is “the end.” Because, really, this is the end of Rembrandt’s story. Just as “The Return of Maggie Beckett” was the end of Maggie’s story. If this show wanted to, it could just recast everybody and keep going forever. It doesn’t, of course, but there’s the sense with this kind of attempt at closure that the option is open.
I say attempt at closure, of course, because all this episode does is take an already open wound and dig around in it, finding new ways to make us feel horrible about something we’d thought we got over. As much as I was excited to write the name “Sabrina Lloyd” again, that story is over. That name doesn’t have anything to do with what I’m watching.
And now, perhaps finally, neither really does Cleavant Derricks.
Here, I just remembered. One of the first things I thought of when I decided to do this blog was to attach this caption with this photo, way back two years ago, when I never thought I’d get this far:
So there, that’s one off my list, too.
Next Week: DAIN BRAMAGE WORLD (Map of the Mind).
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