At this point in this project, you can all probably imagine exactly what I’m going to take issue with this week. And while you are completely right, I’m going to table that for a second, and tackle a much lesser gripe that I still see thrown around the conventional fan arguments.
So Rembrandt, upon hearing that Wade is maybe still alive, excitedly demands of Quinn that they go looking for her. He replies “I’m not sure we have the time.” Which, yeah, isn’t the best way he could have phrased that. But I’d argue that he really meant to. And plus, they do try to find her. But they don’t have her serial number.
That little hiccup, though, is actually one of the only believably convenient bit of plotting in the entire episode. Because why would the Kromaggs keep human names? They don’t care about humans.
But can I just go through what else is wrong with this?
I’m sorry, but I’m very much sick of a Kromagg-Centric episode that involves a subcommander being insulted by another ranking officer. Literally every time we’ve seen a Kromagg, that’s what their side of the episode has hinged on. Why? Obviously the Kromaggs can’t be too powerful, or it will strain believability. But the show, for too long, has been going out of its way to defang the ‘Maggs. That, mixed with the limited amount of Magg-Masks, has ended up making the Kromagg Dynasty look like a parody of itself. A sitcom, a soap opera. Red Dwarf that isn’t trying to be funny.
So, before I dig at what (by this point) you all know to be inevitable, let me lay out some weird things that rankle at me—
Does everyone call interdimensional travel “sliding?” Somehow, I doubt it.
If they’re really trying to lay low, why don’t they actually just lay low, instead of saying “let’s lay low— and also split up and go look for some fucking Kromaggs.”
Oh hey, Maggie mentioned Steven! Finally, we can— oh. Scene’s over.
Anyways, I know that you really want me to lay into the part where they drive a Hummer through the Vortex. But I won’t lay into that. What I’ll actually lay into is the fact that they drive into the vortex with a Hummer, and then act like it’s no big deal. Wouldn’t you be screaming, laughing? Mentioning it? They just drive out from behind a building. Like it ain’t no thing.
Why does there need to be a Hummer? Why can’t they just run? Wouldn’t that have been cheaper?
Look, once again, I’m having to ignore the majority of what I watched in favor of looking at what almost was. The bare bones of this episode’s plot is genius— it’s absolutely the episode that needed to be made. By accident, they opened an entire awful can of worms the show wasn’t ready for. I understand the need to make Wade’s departure both believable and shocking. But “forced rape,” obviously, was too much. It was too much not only because of the horror it subjected to the character who deserved it least. But also because “rape” isn’t an issue that Sliders can tackle. Not because it shouldn’t tackle it, or that it isn’t worth tackling. But Sliders, being written by a bunch of tonedeaf bros, can’t handle it. That’s why it’s there in the first place.
In a way, Wade’s “rape” is the blow which cripples the show. It can’t really recover from that wound. But “Mother & Child,” at least in the first ten minutes, seems like it will be a salve. “The Dying Fields” was also an episode that attempted to tie up the loose end of the “breeding camp” idea, but it answered the wrong question. We, as human beings, don’t really care about “what would come out of a human and Kromagg if they had sex.” We care about the implications of the act, and what that act does to people.
Granted, “Mother & Child” barely deals with “the act.” It focuses more on the “Child” half of the equation, dealing with the consequences of the life sprung from awful circumstance. But even then, that’s barely true. The Child doesn’t even have a name until the last five minutes of the episode, and even then it is named in relation to what’s actually the glaring problem of this episode.
Which is, of course, that the “Mother” is completely tossed to the wayside in order to deal with how the “Fathers” deal with the “Child.” And yes, it’s certainly more complex because lo and behold there are two Fathers and now we have to watch them pull out rulers. The episode is effectively stolen from Christina, as her choices are pulled out from under her by all of the men in her life. Her Father, Jonathan, pulls back from her emotionally as soon as he sees a Humagg baby in her arms. Sure, he’s guilty of creating the virus that will effectively murder his grandson, but he’s also the man who created the antidote. He’s forced to reveal that information— and not even because his own daughter asks him to— it’s because of a direct threat to his life.
Couple that with the Subcommander, the Kromagg who “risks it all” and “violates his orders” to “save his child.” And while he’s at first an antagonist, the episode spends a significant chunk of its runtime trying to subvert our expectations of him. He’s set up as, as I mentioned earlier, as yet another in a long line of idiotic subcommanders. But as soon as he “commandeers a sliding device” he becomes a different character. I word it that way because there is literally no part of the episode telegraphing this ‘revelation.’
That’s all well and good (not). But there are two things wrong with it. First, a sizable chunk of the episode is devoted to a THRILLING sequence where the Kromagg impersonates Jonathan and shows off how good a psychic he is by fooling everyone in the CIA (which is in Los Angeles now of course). It’s a fine sequence, with some interesting ideas of switching between our characters in disguise or not (and good ammunition for the people who disagreed with my assessment that the show is devoid of memorable direction). But in the end, it’s fundamentally skewered by the fact that it’s a Kromagg who is spearheading this operation. We don’t care about Kromaggs.
And we especially don’t care about this one. Because, at the end of the day, he’s there because of rape. He screams and pleads that Christine’s child is “his,” and she, somehow, denies this, saying that just because he supplied his genetic makeup doesn’t make him the father. But also we’re talking about a child born in a Breeding Camp. “Breeding” isn’t just something that happens. We’re given every indication that she carried this child to term. It wasn’t just grown. Otherwise why would they even need the humans at all?
So we’re asked— for just a second, and its eventually upturned, but still— we’re asked to consider the side of the Kromagg. Does he also have a claim towards this child? After all, it’s his idea to get the antidote. He’s trying to save “his” child. Of course, he betrays everyone in order to get the antidote back to his own world (Why, though? What does it matter— he’ll clearly just be executed anyways), but he’s still trying to steal the child. And he’s trying to steal it because he thinks it’s his.
And through this, Christine does nothing. No decision is made by her. She simpers and cries and wishes that her Daddy understood her. Then her Daddy marches right into a lazer gun and dies. And she names her child after her Daddy. Because Daddys are the most important thing in the world.
So here we had a good idea for an episode— to put back the female perspective onto a show that is so genderblind it exists in its own black hole. But it can’t do so, again because of the “boy’s club” of writers the show has. Of course it couldn’t write an episode that treated a woman with respect. Who would have written it? There isn’t anyone who could anymore. The perspective is gone.
“Wait,” you say. “You never talked about Wade, your favorite character, the soul of the show so callously tossed aside!” To which I say “yeah, but the episode didn’t really talk about her either.”
Look, I watched this episode. I wasn’t annoyed, like last time. I got through it just fine. But I misremembered the ending. It’s literally been over a decade since I’ve seen this (and most of the episodes from here on out). In my mind, I’m confused at the death of Jonathan.
I realize that “wow, how cruel is it of the sliders to leave Christine on a world where no one knows her or trusts her, all alone with an infant freak-child?”
Then I think that actually no— that’s the right choice. It’s the first moment of autonomy that Christine is granted in the entire episode. It’s the first moment that isn’t completely defined by the men surrounding her (Maggie spends the most time with Christine, but no action or meaningful discussion comes from it).
But then I am flabbergasted and appalled by what happens. Because they throw the baby in an extra padded snuggy and take her with them.
Look, I’ll forgive the Hummer through the Vortex. But remember how many times the joke of “Rembrandt always hits Arturo really hard coming out of the Vortex” was made? So many times. Because the vortex is actually sort of dangerous. And I’m sorry, but that baby would fucking die. If they threw an infant in the Vortex, it would not come out.
Also, c’mon— they give Christine a ten second warning about “the people over there might not respect you,” and she’s like “cool, no biggie guys.”
And of course, we’ll never see her again. We don’t even see her in a new world. Episode over, move on. Forget all you’ve seen. Now that we’ve finally dealt with all that messy rape business, we can move on and never mention that “Wade” girl ever again. The Sliders saved the day! They left two corpses on the front lawn, and abandoned yet another person in their ridiculous and selfish trip through the multiverse.
Look, I’m sorry, you can’t spend 40 minutes attempting to make me care about a character and then not even give me the actual emotional payoff of her character arc— for this to work, we need to see Christine on that new world, at peace with her child.
For this to work, we need Christine to be an actually realized character, with emotions outside of “SAVE MY POOR BABY.”
For this to work, we need to realize that you can’t just throw people in rape camps and have them act like it’s no biggie.
For this to work, we—
—no, you know what? There’s no way this could have worked. Not on this show. Which isn’t even true— the show’s already airing concurrently with Buffy, a show that deals with actual issues of real people and women in respectful and thoughtful ways, while not ‘sacrificing’ any of its core tenets of being a ‘genre’ show. But at this point, comparing the two seems like a joke. Mainly because Sliders is a joke. It’s just not a funny one.
And this is an episode that I actually got all the way through. I still made my way through it. I don’t know why, exactly. Maybe it’s because the like, ten minutes that Rembrandt is in this (though also, why the hell is he, of all people, sidelined in this episode?), he steals the show with an attempt at acting. Or maybe it’s Quinn’s surprised and regretful face when he accidentally rips the Kromagg’s oxygen tube out and effectively murders him. But then, why would we be regretful? It’s a Kromagg. You just watched him murder a man. His daughter is weeping openly at his corpse. Why do you look so sad?
It’s a two-second shot, but it really floored me. It was a glimpse back to the Quinn of “The Good, The Bad, & The Wealthy.” The Quinn who was destroyed by guilt when he believed he’d killed a man. We haven’t seen that Quinn since, instead coming to accept that the gun-toting, lady-killing machine with the schoolboy’s haircut and leather sweater vest is the same person. For just one moment, I saw the character I fell in love with so long ago.
But then, is that enough to keep me watching a show? If I wasn’t who I was, if I wasn’t so invested in seeing this through, then no. If I was a viewer of this in 1998, then no. I doubt it. At this point, you’re still better off watching The X-Files.
And this is an episode I got all the way through.
Next Week: hack the planet (Net Worth).
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