So there are Holy Grails, and there are Holy Grails.
In the world of Sliders, we’ve got the ideas that never made it to screen. Things like “Twisted Cross,” the bandied-about “Nazi” episode that never was made in Season 2. Now, I’m sure, in that first pitch meeting, when everyone is talking about the easiest ideas ever of all time to turn into episodes of Sliders, “Nazi World” was right at the top next to “Dudes Get Pregnant,” “There’s no Democracy,” “Women Are Presidents,” and “Chicks Have Beards.” Which is to say that it’s not the most original of ideas. Which isn’t to say that Sliders was ever really a show with the most original of ideas. But it is a show that took some unoriginal ideas and grafted them to a very unique skeleton.
All of which is to say that “Twisted Cross” probably would have been a truly terrible episode. Nazis, while being the bread and butter of real-life dystopia, would be wayyy to loaded a symbol for Sliders to use with it’s goofy tone-mixing. Nazis are only funny if you can direct the audience’s minds away from the historical significance of Nazis. Which is hard. And it is definitely not something I could ever imagine Sliders doing well.
Same goes for “Beauty World,” or whatever you want to call it. “Eye of the Beholder,” I think. In this idea, people we think are beautiful on our world are the uglies there. So it’s like The Hottie and the Nottie, only REVERSED. But oh good CHRIST could you imagine that? Can you imagine how long it would take before that episode degenerated into the most lazy and awful of fat jokes? NO TIME AT ALL. There’s two panels at the end of “Armada” that use this idea. And the idea is completely spent of all its worth in less. Rembrandt makes an Alka Seltzer joke. Good on him.
Anyways, if you’re not familiar with it, the be-all end-all of Sliders ‘lost episodes’ is “Heat of the Moment,” the last script Tracy Tormé bothered to write for the episode. This is in Season Three. He’s already been nudged out of any sort of position of power in the show. But I imagine if he’d turned in the script, they’d still have to make it, right? Can you reject the creators own script?
You can, I guess, because that’s exactly what happened. Tracy’s script still had the Professor in it, and he turned it in Post Mortem. So Production, obviously, said “Yo, Tray, can you shoehorn the new Babe into yr phat teleplay?” And Tray-Tray Tor-May was like “nah.” So that was the end of that.
Obviously, the last will and testament that the creator leaves to his show is going to be some hot stuff to the fans. Especially if we never got to see it. But let’s not forget Tracy’s track record with Sliders. I mean, yeah, he created it, came up with the idea. He’s responsible for this weird thing we watch all the time and write billions and billions of words about. But he was never the best writer the show had. I’ve talked about this before in my post on “The Guardian,” which is the last televised say Tracy ever had on the show.
“The Guardian” has a reputation of endless greatness, the “last time the show was Season One good,” or something to that effect. As I’m sure I said, I disagree. “The Guardian” is a good episode, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not great. It’s bogged down by some really contrived excuses to create tension in the group. I understand that Quinn would be embarrassed by the actions of his past self, but there still is no reason he should have kept his plan from the others. “Quinn, don’t interfere with your double’s life,” they’d say. To which Quinn could easily have said, “yeah, but if I don’t, he’s going to destroy a kid’s knee with a baseball bat and give him a lifelong limp.” To which the others would have said, “Oh. Well, then yeah, you should probably stop him from doing that.” Also Quinn telling his old teacher to fuck his young self is gross.
So when I hear about “Heat of the Moment,” I don’t exactly wet myself with excitement. And that’s before I even talk about what would have happened in the episode.
A pretty thorough synopsis is hosted here on Earth Prime, so go ahead and read it. But if you’re one of the people who read this blog casually, let me go through it with you.
Actually, just re-read my post about “Last Days.” No, seriously. Because that’s basically what “Heat of the Moment” is. They slide into a world that’s about to be destroyed, and are due to slide after said apocalypse. Oh sure, it’s different. This time, the Earth is moving towards the sun. Not an asteroid moving towards Earth. Yeah, totally different. I guess we can have a lot of jokes about how hot it is all of the time.
Then we run into Conrad Bennish, jr.
Then Quinn & Arturo team up with him to save the world. Right.
Quinn accidentally made his anti-gravity device, but no one thought it would work because Newton, on this world, is deemed a failure. Hmm.
Rembrandt tries to reconnect with a lost part of himself (here, it’s his brother Cezanne, someone not mentioned since… huh, “Summer of Love.”)
Quinn & Wade try to emotionally reconnect with each other.
I mean, come on, dude. This is every story beat from “Last Days” in a very, very slightly altered context. I’m sure that the general audience member of Season Three wouldn’t remember that episode. But us Sliders fans would never have let that pass. We’d be furious. Or we should be. I guess we don’t give “Prince of Wails” enough shit for being a rehash of the Pilot. But we should! Especially if this episode was actually the Season Finale like Tray-Tray wanted it to be.
“Heat of the Moment” isn’t just “Last Days, part Two.” There’s a framework for this episode that theoretically sets it apart from the rest of the show. See, throughout the episode, crazy shit happens. Quinn & Wade admit their true love for each other, and get married. Rembrandt gets shot to death. The episode ends at Quinn & Wade’s ‘hilarious’ wedding.
Which is where our sliders show up, with ‘two minutes to slide.’
This would be prefigured by what I’m sure would have been a thrilling scene in the teaser, where Wade asks Rembrandt if she should wear a pink or a yellow shirt. Which, as Tracy points out, would have been caught (if it was caught at all) by viewers as a continuity error when Wade comes out of the Vortex with the wrong shirt on. The episode is basically a huge variation on the “it was all a dream” excuse for doing crazy shit to your characters.
Now, if this had aired as the Season Finale, it probably would have played out pretty well. Rembrandt’s death would have been shocking, since there’d be no way to know that he would really be coming back for the theoretical Season Four. Quinn & Wade’s marriage would have seemed like a bold new possibility for that next season to take off in.
But then, that’s the problem with the “it was all a dream” type of story. Any character progress made is negated. It’s the most irritating of “Reset Buttons” a story can use, and Sliders has always been bad at over-using its Reset Button. I want to like the idea of this episode. I want to like the notion that we could spend 40 minutes with a group of sliding doubles. But there are three things in the way of my enjoyment.
First, it opens up too many questions. It undermines the stability of the show a little too much. If we can be ‘fooled’ into thinking these are our sliders once, why should we care about anyone we see on the show? It removes the uniqueness of the journey. I understand that there are probably infinite copies of our team around the Multiverse. But we only watch one set of them. One. To allow for a story like this to be told muddies the waters too much (though I must say that an episode where our team meets a full set of doubles would be awesome, probably).
Second, let’s pretend that the actors all really nailed their performances, and we were all really invested in the emotional beats. How fucking angry would we have been at the end when our sliders busted in? So angry! We just watched Rembrandt die, for fuck’s sake! You’re asking us to wipe away our tears that easily. Plus, in Tracy’s synopsis, it seems like the whole reveal would happen about two minutes before the closing credits. We wouldn’t even be done freaking out about this ‘reveal’ before the fade out. Too quick, and no room for discussion about why we wasted our time with these people. And that’s what it would have seemed like. A waste of time.
Third, do you really think Season Three could have pulled this off? Especially in the backend of the season, where budget mismanagement would have made the episode already unfilmable. But tone wise, acting wise, production wise, do we have faith in the show to pull this off? Not really.
But here’s the thing. In 1997, television was taking big leaps in terms of storytelling. The Sopranos is still a few years off, but TV’s on the right rack to get there. The X-Files had some crazy episodes that bucked against truth (“Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man” comes to mind in this regard), and even something like Star Trek: The Next Generation, with an episode like “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” managed a similar trick. But the difference with “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is that we know from the teaser that something is different, and that we aren’t watching our usual crew. When we get the old crew back, we’re happy to see them again. In “Heat,” we’d probably been angry. Angry. To see the cast again.
Plus, Sliders had yet to do an episode that was so ‘revolutionary.’ It just isn’t the right show for that kind of story-bending. I’m not saying it shouldn’t have tried. But by the end of Season Three, it certainly was too late.
Next Week: you can’t go home again (Genesis).
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