In 46 minutes, the fourth season premiere, “Genesis,” effectively destroys the Sliders storytelling engine and ruins the plausibility of the characters. 46 minutes. That’s got to be some kind of record.
Last season, on Sliders: Professor Arturo was killed. In the season finale, Quinn pushed Rembrandt and Wade through a vortex that was supposed to take them back to their home Earth. Quinn and Maggie later tried to follow, but they ended up on a different Earth instead.
And then comes Genesis where, months later, Quinn has fixed the timer. Quinn and Maggie slide to Earth Prime only to discover the Kromaggs, an interdimensional race of conquerors introduced in the second season episode Invasion have gotten their first. Quinn and Maggie rescue Rembrandt, but it’s revealed Wade was shipped off to a Kromagg breeding camp. The episode ends with Quinn discovering that on a parallel Earth, humans developed a superweapon that drove the Kromaggs from their world. Quinn vows to find this Earth and bring the weapon back to liberate home. “We’ll be back,” Quinn declares, before sliding away with Rembrandt and Maggie. “You can count on it.”
Taken individually as a piece of television, “Genesis” is passable. It’s fast-paced and economical, quickly establishing that the Kromaggs have invaded Earth. It keeps the characters busy and active. There are some good exchanges of warmth between Quinn, Rembrandt and Maggie. The dark atmosphere is compelling. There are a few good moments of humor. It’s just that from an emotional standpoint, the scripting is inept.
The first issue is how the script writes Wade out of the series: a Kromagg masquerading as a human collaborator says Wade’s been sent to a breeding camp, and no more is made of Quinn trying to find her.
For three seasons, the Sliders were always getting separated and held captive. Finding and rescuing each other was standard now, yet for no adequate reason, Quinn, Rembrandt and Maggie don’t even discuss rescuing Wade. It’s absurd. It completely undermines Quinn Mallory and Rembrandt Brown. How can they be worthwhile protagonists if they have no concern for a friend they’ve known for three years? How can their friendship remain plausible? How can we believe these people have each other’s backs? How can we believe they care about the people they try to help on parallel worlds, when they don’t care about Wade?
“Genesis” completely fails to address these questions and further undermines its own story. I don’t believe in the characters and I’m not convinced that Wade’s been sent to a breeding camp and is now being perpetually raped. There’s not enough emotion. In the context of the characters, it makes little sense that no rescue is considered. What “Genesis” really tells me is that actress Sabrina Lloyd left the show under acrimonious circumstances, and the writer of this episode (also the executive producer) wants to express a violent sexual fantasy towards her. As for Wade? The technical term is limbo.
The character no longer exists within the reality of Sliders, not because she’s a Kromagg prisoner, but because the actress refuses to work in the unpleasant environment that had become the Sliders set.
The result is that, for the rest of the show, we’re no longer seeing Quinn and Rembrandt. Instead, we’re seeing Jerry O’Connell and Cleavant Derricks performing characters that no longer make any sense.
The second issue with “Genesis” — I don’t believe in that Earth has been invaded by Kromaggs. It’s even less convincing than whatever happened to Wade. Neither the visuals nor the dialogue create any connection between the Earth onscreen in “Genesis” and the world Quinn grew up in. Quinn’s assertion that this was home in The Exodus after one conversation was laughable: Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome has shown one conversation won’t reveal all the potential differences. And when Quinn and Maggie land on this Earth in “Genesis,” it’s depicted as little more than the Universal backlot. A set. A stage. It doesn’t look like a real place.
The dialogue contains no references to other cities or celebrities or Quinn’s classmates or Jake the gardener or Artie or Hurley or Doppler Computers. We needed something like a shot of the Doppler building in flames, or Quinn’s house having been caved in. But the episode is set in Los Angeles, away from the familiar surroundings that would make this Earth seem like Quinn’s home.
If there had been one shot of Quinn discovering his cat had been dissected by the Kromaggs, I’d have bought it. But without anything like that, the result is that I don’t believe home has been invaded. There’s nothing to connect it to any reality I know, and Quinn’s home is supposed to be my reality. The only thing I believe is that the Sci-Fi Channel desperately needed something to fill in the time between commercials and Sliders came cheap and with a built in fanbase.
But I don’t think that fanbase would have wanted anything like “Genesis,” which completely alters the objectives of the series in the worst possible way. After “Genesis,” the characters are no longer trying to find a way back home. Instead, they’re searching for a superweapon to liberate home, a concept so contrary to the spirit of Sliders that it’s astonishing it ever aired.
When you have home invaded by interdimensional aliens, you can’t compare alternate histories to home. You can’t compare the mundane to the unusual and extraordinary. The mundane doesn’t apply to Quinn and Rembrandt anymore, nor does our history. Quinn and Rembrandt no longer come from our world or anything like it, but instead an alien planet that has no relevance to our own.
At its core, Sliders is a very simple concept. The sliders are lost in the multiverse. They’re trying to find a way home. It’s a straightforward platform that elegantly allows any kind of story you could possibly want to do. You can have the sliders enter any genre, any circumstances, any situation. War stories. Political intrigue. Social satire. Action-oriented adventures. Sports drama. Romance and angst. Monster movies and spy adventures. Psychological horror or family conflicts. You can do anything you want.
It takes a spectacular form of reverse-talent to look at this show and declare, I can make Sliders better; I’ll make Sliders focused on fighting an interdimensional war against an empire of despotic primates from another universe that have conquered our home dimension.
That’s not to say this story can’t be told. But it has to be told in a fashion that’s plausible and emotionally compelling. You have to believe in the characters and the world they inhabit, and “Genesis” fails to offer anything that can be believed. And it casts a terrible shadow over every subsequent episode.
Wade is in a rape camp. Home has been devastated. Nearly everyone Quinn and Rembrandt have ever known is dead or enslaved. Conrad Bennish Jr., Wing, Alesha Avo, Violet, Daelin, Heather Hanley, Kelly Welles, Jake the gardener — they’ve likely all been killed. Quinn and Rembrandt proceed to treat their subsequent slides like an extended holiday. It’s grotesque to see Quinn and Rembrandt joking around in the next episode, Prophets and Loss. It’s bizarre to watch World Killer and see Quinn and Rembrandt having a great time at the movies.
However bad the third season was, it hadn’t done any permanent damage. There was nothing to prevent the series from returning to stories with strong parallel worlds, alternate histories and compelling cultures that would make an interesting contrast with the world the viewers and sliders knew. Until “Genesis.”
46 minutes to ruin Quinn, Rembrandt, the storytelling platform for the series and any hope of executing a proper Sliders story again. The writer really had a gift.
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