Posted: January 09, 2024
Twenty-nine years ago I was a high school senior who watched Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Simpsons religiously. When a commercial during the latter advertised a show created by a writer of the former, I decided to tune in and check it out.
I was hooked. I watched all nine episodes of the first season – in the wrong, FOX-mandated order – and eagerly awaited the conclusion to “Luck of the Draw.” I didn’t know it was the season finale. I didn’t know the show was on the bubble. I was just a fan.
Sliders got a second season. My now-wife taped episodes for me while I was away at college. A few were missed, but I found someone online (in 1996!) that was selling dubs of the first two seasons on VHS. Since the titles of the first season weren’t broadcast with the show, the spines of the tapes had best guesses like “Yeoman 2956” handwritten on them. Then the third season came. It was a glorious train wreck, but 19-year-old me didn’t know that; he just saw Logan St. Clair chew up the scenery and CGI dragons breathe fire at a sword-wielding Quinn Mallory. He didn’t notice when Tracy Torme’s name disappeared from the list of executive producers. He did make friends from out of town watch “The Exodus, part II” live with him. Even though Arturo’s death had been leaked online months before, it wasn’t until John Rhys-Davies was lying cold on the ground that it actually felt real. Up until that point, it could have been a fake-out.
I started noodling what became Earth Prime around that time. I became fascinated with building websites because of Sliders. I helped curate the Sliders CyberCon. I kept Expert’s content online after he was forced to abdicate his throne as the ultimate fan. I started growing the site by writing reviews, meeting writers and producers, and bringing in other fans to express their own opinions and emotions about this dumb science fiction adventure that enraptured us all. I collected scripts, pretended to be a reporter to gather press kits, met Marc Scott Zicree for dinner in 2000, helped Paul Jackson empty out his garage of Sliders tapes and scripts, and ended up writing multiple television pilots with co-producer Jon Povill. Sliders, a television show with no clear storytelling compass and very few truly memorable episodes, completely changed the trajectory of my life. I do not know where I would be without Tracy Torme, and I am gutted at his passing.
I have met Torme three times – twice virtually, and once in person. The first was a disaster of epic proportions, while the second was just me and another Sliders fan listening to Torme talk at length about extraterrestrials and UFOs (or are they UAPs now?). I brought every script he’d written for the show with me and got autographs. Decades after he’d written the episode and then walked away from the show he’d helped create, Torme was still wistful about “The Guardian.” It never stopped holding a special place in his heart.
The third, and final time, we chatted over Facebook. Nothing fancy, but it forms the basis of one of my last interviews on Earth Prime. We now know what happened in “Heat of the Moment.” We have some ideas of what a Torme-helmed fourth season of Sliders might look like. But the conversations were ephemeral and off-the-cuff, like two old friends just having a back and forth. I’m so grateful for that opportunity.
A few years back, Torme was talking about reviving Sliders with Marc Scott Zicree when he mentioned me by name:
It’s about 30:15 in.
It was so fun and inspiring to hear that he would check out this site on occasion. I hope it, in some small way, helped keep his passion for Sliders alive.
Tracy, you were a brash, darkly comedic voice who pissed off as many people as you engendered. You were a gifted and talented writer who changed who I am on a very fundamental level. The ultimate “what if?” in my life is what would I be like if you weren’t in it. I hope that you are at peace and that your family knows how loved and appreciated you are by generations of writers, performers, and fans of science fiction.
To wherever you live.
And whatever your struggle.
To the revolution.
And to the end of a journey.
Matt Hutaff, 2024.