So, here I am saddled with a potentially monumental task — the writing of what could possibly be the very last episode of Sliders. We on the staff hoped that this was not the case but no one from the top had told us either way. Life or death for the show — we were totally in the dark. So, as I conveyed to you in our last meeting, I was instructed by the big guy, Bill, to write a cliff-hanger.
The conceptualization for our last episode of the season was pretty straight forward. Nothing terribly monumental or Earth shattering to report about its realization. I knocked around a few ideas, pitched one to David and after some tweaking was given the go-ahead to write it. I was able to incorporate into the script some things that I wanted to do this year that, for one reason or another, did not materialize or garner approval in previous months. Such as — the Sliders arrive on a world where their exploits are a TV show. I pitched that story earlier in the season and it went nowhere. One thing I have learned over the years is that you never toss out an idea, rejected or otherwise. Just pick your ego up, brush it off and tuck your unused musings away in a special file for another time, another place, another show. Glad I listened to my own advice. Instead of writing a whole episode around the idea it later became a minor piece of business in “The Seer” script. The clowns versus Royal Burger gag in A Thousand Deaths was a similar situation. Mid-season I had pitched an idea called “Burger Wars” which didn’t fly as an episode. But it later made for a fun teaser. One that I’m still getting complements on. Anyway, I digress. The green light was given and I had two weeks to get this puppy done.
There were a couple of things that I wanted to achieve in “The Seer.” First, as in Strangers and Comrades with the issue of the anti-Kromagg device, I wanted to perform a little more continuity housekeeping. There were still a number of dangling ends in our Sliders mythology. Being a devoted son myself, at the very least, I wanted to rescue Quinn’s foster mother. It was inordinately cruel to leave her hanging out to dry in some Kromagg gulag and this seemed like as good a time as any to liberate her. Of course, as it stands her story isn’t entirely wrapped but at least we know she’s safe. It also gave me a chance to meet Linda Henning (Mrs. Mallory). I didn’t always have a chance to talk to our guest stars and this was a special treat. It wasn’t until a chat with her on the set one day that I made the Henning connection and realized her father was the great TV producer Paul Henning. Linda was best known for her role as Betty Jo in Petticoat Junction. She told me that she attended a lot of TV stars of yesteryear type conventions and that she would try to stir up the Sliders fans to let them know that we may not be back. I wished her luck. I was beginning to think we would need it.
I also had a chance to converse with Roy Dotrice. A perfect gentlemen, as expected, we had a nice talk about his stint on one of my favorite shows, Space: 1999. He was genuinely impressed that I remembered his performance on that series for apparently he didn’t. We both caught a chuckle off that.
Of the few changes in the script, Roy’s character of the Seer changed the most. As originally envisioned he was blind and in a wheel chair. Although rather gimmicky, I still like the concept of a blind painter who can create picture perfect paintings. However, logistically it would have been more trouble than it was worth and with an actor like Roy Dotrice on board you want to take full advantage of his immense range and talent.
Speaking of immense talent — early drafts had our heroes meeting three writers of the TV show. The Sliders show of this strange parallel world, that is. In the script they were described as… “an older bearded paternal figure, mid-fifties, book ended by two handsome strapping men, early thirties…” Coincidentally, this described Bill, Chris and myself to a T, (well, okay, I may have taken some artistic license). Our producer/director Paul Cajero got the joke and decided to put us in the episode. Unfortunately, at the eleventh hour the scene was shaved down and our quick bit was cut (much to Chris’s relief I still suspect). Too bad, my parents would have gotten a real kick out of it.
Though my cameo was cut, I still had my in-jokes, which were featured in the 4S Club meeting hall scene. A writer’s privilege, I decided long ago to send messages to family and friends when and wherever possible. Just to let them know I’m thinking about them. The names of the college students Nubsy and Shmo are the nicknames of a couple of my lifelong friends back in Michigan. Ditto for the race of aliens known as The Zangs (actually my friend’s last name is Zang, singular). Finally, Lisa was named for my sister Lisa. She was pregnant at the time.
Some of our stalwart ever observant viewers may have noticed footage from the episode Rules of the Game used for the gun battle sequence in the fake Sliders show. Originally this scene was to run a little longer and our The Sliders TV stars (who except for Tembi were the actual stand-ins for our real stars) were to engage a squad of Kromaggs. We also somehow ended up with three cars left at the end of the season. Cars that were already paid for, slated for destruction and had to be blown up. Chris and I decided to divvy them between us. He would get two for Eye of the Storm and I would get one for my battle with the filthy Maggs in The Seer. In the end he got all three and I was saddled with the old footage. I didn’t really mind. It seemed very appropriate and almost poetic that shots from a real episode would be integrated into a fictitious one. Culminating with the appearance of our stand-in Arturo (and his Rickman timer), that sequence will always be a favorite of mine.
I’ll never forget the last production meeting for The Seer prior to it going before the camera. After the final notes were given Bill turned to the last page of the script and read aloud the last line… “Now what do we do?” He looked up at the production team seated around the huge table and told us he didn’t have an answer. We still had no word on the status of our renewal and the situation look bleak. None of us could afford to wait around too long for a decision to be made. We would all have to move on to our next job, wherever and whatever that may be. Bill’s final words at that meeting were that “this was the best staff he had ever worked with.”
I was very proud to be part of it.
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