Remnants of Ancient Suns (The Guardian)

(As promised, in honor of a rewatch party online, I’ve revised my original essay on one of Sliders’ most totemic episodes, “The Guardian,” the last episode written by Tracy Tormé, the creator of the show. It’s about loss, grief, and goodbyes. It’s a heavy one.)

Remnants of Ancient Suns (The Guardian)

Written by Tracy Tormé

Directed by Adam Nimoy

Original Airdate: October 11th, 1996.

“Sliding isn’t time travel!” Is something you can only yell until you’ve seen this episode, in which somehow it is. On a world identical to their own, except it’s somehow 1985, Quinn befriends his younger self to assuage the grief of his recently dead father, and also warn against an oncoming incident, against the warnings of the team, which causes… you know, hijinks.

A particular strand of background storytelling in this book is to remind you how difficult it was to get this show made. How miraculous it was to get the show out the way so much of it has been thus far. Sliders is weird, and yes, there was a lot more room for weird shows in the mid 90s, but almost none of them lasted as long as this. The part of this show that people still talk about is miraculous, and it’s almost entirely because Tracy Tormé sacrificed his entire career to get it done. With “The Guardian,” a huge part of this thread ends. This is the last time we get to see Tracy Tormé’s vision for the show depicted on screen. This is where his struggle to make the show stops, or, more accurately, is stopped for him; after this, it’s people attempting to decipher that vision for their own. After this, the person for whom I have this book to blame… is gone.

Does this mean that we have to engage “The Guardian” at the level of “what does the show look like past its best days?” Even as I attempt to praise Season Three for what it’s trying to do, even as it attempts to be actively less than what came before, I do it with a sense of sadness for what’s lost. And even despite all the shade I’ve thrown him, “The Guardian,” when read as a goodbye from the creator of the show, is a grown-up, mournful, deep and affecting classic. The problem is, when read as an actual episode of Sliders, “The Guardian” is as severely flawed as anything else Tormé has put out. There exists a production draft for “The Guardian,” which is infamous for being nearly a full hour long and full of bizarre detours, like Arturo getting into Slurpees and a return to the worst, most racist tropes of Season One Rembrandt, and somehow both more and less for Wade to do. While the aired version of the episode irons out most of the deep issues in the production draft (no more Slurpees), it doesn’t perfect it. “The Guardian” still has problems. I understand why it’s a classic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s excellent.

This is, as the kids say, a hot take. “The Guardian” is beloved by fans even outside of its status as “the last Tracy Tormé episode.” It’s a huge, totemic episode that regularly finds itself the talk of the town. And I get it. It flies against everything the latter half of the show is hated for. It feels like an adventurous slap in the face of every one of FOX’s action-forward mandates. It feels like a defiant last stand against an encroaching lack of taste. I also don’t really think it’s any of those things. It’s more personal than just a middle finger to the network, whether or not Tracy really knew it as he wrote it.

The major revelation of “The Guardian” is that Arturo has been diagnosed with a nebulous but incurable disease, and that soon enough, whether Quinn wants it or not, he is going to die. First off, wow — that’s a gosh darned hook! And yet it’s not even what this episode is really about — the end of teaser has the bonkers twist of the team sliding back in time, sort of. They’re on a world where the present day is 1986, and surprise! They immediately find themselves at a funeral… for Quinn’s dad.

That’s a bonkers double hook. I’d frankly even call it genius, even if it takes the premise of the show and bends it into a nearly unrecognizable shape. We’ve been told, time and time again, that “sliding is never time travel.” It’s the one thing that separates the show from “isn’t this just Quantum Leap?” that pervades to this day, and here, in a script written by the creator of the show, we throw that out the window. Sure, there’s some handwaving done — “this world is spinning slower than ours,” but it’s bullshit and everyone knows it. It’s a wank to get the story in place: Quinn is going to be the surrogate Dad he didn’t get to have in the wake of his own father’s death.

Again, that’s a great hook for drama. “Quinn becomes his own Stepdad.” That’s wild, and that sounds incredible, in theory. In practice, it almost is, with work. Quinn befriends his young self, and tries to make him into a better person. That sounds great — again, in theory. In practice, it’s absolutely (forgive me) problematic.

Quinn wants to befriend his young self in order to prevent a remembered traumatic experience. Quinn refuses to tell anyone what that experience is, which ham-fistedly creates the actual drama of the episode. There’s a feint towards “this goes against the non-involvement we preach,” but it’s bullshit — Quinn could easily reveal his true intentions at any moment, and the invented tension would immediately resolve itself. Instead he gets snippy and ugly at Wade, who returns in kind, throwing her right back to her Season Two worst. It’s tension, but it’s not fun, it doesn’t feel earned at all. He just keeps saying that something bad is going to happen, that he’s thought about for years, and that he’s going to prevent it from happening, and that no one can stop him because he’s “a big boy.” He knows what he’s doing.

On one level, it’s the classic “wish fulfillment” style of episode that Sliders used to pull off on its best days. This episode takes that concept of divergent choice and makes it real — showing Quinn the moment that could alter his double’s life, and giving him the opportunity to be the force of change. Quinn is forced to relive a terrible moment from his past — a huge fork in his life’s road. Quinn’s never been much of a Man of Faith, but seeing his past self at this exact time is too much of a coincidence for him; in fact he yells that it’s “no coincidence” that they’ve slid here. But he should know better — it’s the same moral problem of “As Time Goes By;” it was hard enough to not help his old flame Daelin out of three world’s worth of jams, but this? Sliding, for Quinn more than anyone else, has been a grueling moral gauntlet, exposing a guilt-ridden introvert beneath this increasingly macho persona (he’s literally wearing a leather jacket through this entire episode). This world is offering the chance to change that. Of course, as the universe once proved, intervening with the lives of others is disastrous to yourself and others. But again, the events of this episode are just too much for Quinn. He has to take the chance here. His past is so raw and un-dealt with that it blinds him.

It’s the blindness that makes this episode difficult to watch at times. The more I think about it, though, the more that Quinn’s behavior ends a sort of realism to the episode. These are people who spend way too much time around each other. There’s not much left to hide between them. Quinn’s going to protect what’s left of him. It’s not like the show hasn’t attempted interpersonal conflict before, though Wade’s turn towards shrillness in Season Two made no sense at the time, and really was just a mean joke on behalf of the writing team. But the sliders’ tension is much more believable now, simply by dint of the length of this journey. The fact that Quinn and Arturo decide to hide Arturo’s secret from the others is going to cause trouble later — but I’m actually kind of looking forward to it. It’s a fight that deserves to break out, not one that pops up out of nowhere. Asking the question of “what gets to remain private” between these people is good, mature drama. That desire for privacy motivates the Professor’s initial reluctance to share with the team that he’s sick. Quinn even agrees to keep that secret from the rest of them. A lot of this episode is technically about secrets.

But the thing is, at least in this episode as filmed, we the audience just don’t get to understand Quinn’s intentions. We watch as he acts as a secret savior for Little Quinn, yelling ableist retorts at his bullies of yore (thankfully this scene is directed so that Quinn’s taunts are a little suspect — he’s as surprised as we are that he went so far). We watch as he teaches Little Quinn how to box, and we side with Wade as she gets mad at him for doing so. We wind up siding more with Quinn’s mother, who see this “Jim Hall” (the false name Our-Quinn gives himself) training his young self in combat and is worried that Quinn is going to weaponize her son. Which, technically, he is, it’s just “for a good cause,” which Quinn refuses to reveal to us until the very end. And you do understand, in a sense — how could you relive the worst week of your life and not try to stop it? No matter the cost?

Of course, where the episode really falls short is how little issue it takes with Quinn’s “romance” with Heather Hanley, his third-grade teacher. I mean, sure, she’s obviously coded as “hot,” and it’s clear that Quinn has always wanted to “get with her” — but A) dude, gross and B) is this really what sliding is for? When I speak of “Sliding as Wish-Fulfillment,” that isn’t what I, nor the universe, is talking about. Plus, it gets at the irresponsibility of Quinn’s actions, as he’s making a tangible mark on this woman’s life for purely selfish reasons instead of the more nebulous “improvement” he’s aiming for with his young double. The end of the episode has Quinn throw off a quip at Heather as she catches them sliding: “By the way, my name’s not Jim… it’s Quinn.” So Heather, after getting over the shock of seeing a dude disappear into a fucking hole in the universe, is going to shudder with the realization that she just made out with a twelve-year old. How is that going to help Little Quinn? She’s going to look at the young Quinn and be terrified by the fact that he’ll one day put the smarmy moves on her. It’s disgusting, but the damage to the episode is actually the fact that we become distracted by this “romance” because it’s a feint. Quinn isn’t telling us about what he’s really there to do, so we have no choice but to follow the more obvious action — he’s just here to make out with his third-grade teacher. Which is gross. (It’s even worse in the production draft, as he takes a full minute to tell her “give little Quinn a chance… I always liked older women.” Jesus Christ.)

But still, one must give at least scant kudos to the episode for having the event Old-Quinn’s trying to prevent be so horrible (by which I mean stopping his young self from hitting a kid in the knee with a baseball bat, which… honestly, I applaud the episode for making the secret event genuinely horrible). By showing Kid-Quinn how to protect himself without resorting to such extremes, he gives him an alternate outlet for the rage he feels. It’s commendable, but I still feel uncomfortable about it. Even if he changes that moment for the “better,” how can he know how it’s going to Butterfly Effect out? Kid-Quinn, from this point on, is a different person — Old-Quinn can’t know what kind of person he’ll be. Will he still invent sliding? Will he still need to? And am I, by posing these questions, arguing that violence was the answer all along? Old-Quinn’s actions are wholly selfish, as much as I’m sure he’d deny it (“I’m not a freak!”). The episode tries to say that it’s not “violence” that’s the answer, it’s “release.” And yet, Quinn might have saved his young self in the moment, but there’s no stopping what’s really on his mind. Maybe the saving grace of the episode is the fact that it proves you can never run away from yourself, no matter how hard you try. The universe will always be there to hold a mirror against you. It will always be whispering “everyone dies.”

It’s interesting, then, that for something that’s ostensibly about infinite possibilities how few possibilities there seem to really be. You can’t escape your past, and you can’t escape death. This episode doesn’t satisfy itself as just a morality tale about the importance of your past decisions. It’s also a meditation on the relentlessness of mortality. Because we don’t start the episode with the revelation of Quinn’s impending introspection. We start with the quieter revelation that The Professor is sick. Like I said at the start, he’s got a terminal (and impossibly vague) illness that will kill him, and kill him “soon.” The opening hospital sequence is a minor masterpiece in the way that it starts out as if it’s some sort of cult sci-fi cyber-dystopia lab conducting an evil experiment, but really is just an entirely mundane hospital, and it’s all the more horrible for it. That’s a good, quiet twist, that works to ground a lofty episode in the ugly mundanity of human life. It works as Quinn flails against coming to terms with Arturo’s impending death.

He’s not alone in a need to come to terms. Arturo’s B-plot, as we see it, is his “thirst for life” in the wake of this news. It’s Arturo imagining a different life for himself, no longer stodgy and reserved. These scenes are fine (Arturo drives a fancy car! Arturo goes to a Biker Bar! Arturo invents Bungee Jumping!), though they’re definitely minor compared to Quinn’s plot, which winds up consuming Arturo’s attention by the end anyways. There’s also the problem here that Wade and Rembrandt add absolutely nothing to the episode, reduced to background fodder at best and active irritants at worst.

Quinn refuses to let them into the story, so they’re unable to enter it, so instead they are forced to be Arturo’s little helpers. It doesn’t quite feel natural for any of them to be this reserved — if anything, Quinn’s usually an oversharer, and Wade should absolutely be able to get the story out of Quinn sooner. His choice to withhold information from Wade and Rembrandt just feels like a writer’s excuse to lock them out of the story. This deep flaw was present in the production draft, and it’s the biggest pity it didn’t get sorted. But then, it shows a truth that’s evident if you spent time with Tracy’s other scripts: he doesn’t really care about Wade and Rembrandt. The way he writes them always feels like an afterthought, like they’re only on the show because he needed to widen the demographic. He never takes the time to think about them as characters. They’re just there; one note stereotypes. He only cares about Quinn and Arturo, because those are his own inserts. They’re the pieces of himself he put into the show.

For all that Arturo’s B-Plot gives levity to an otherwise morose hour, it’s not the true focus, just the flashy one. It winds up being what explains Quinn’s misguided intentions throughout this whole episode. He’s only partly trying to help Young Quinn from obliterating a kid’s kneecap. He’s actually trying to distract the both of him from the twin griefs they’re experiencing — Little Quinn’s about his Father, and Our-Quinn’s for Arturo.

And, crucially, Arturo understands this. The Professor physically restrains Quinn from intervening in stopping his Past-Double from getting beaten up. He forces him to watch as his young self has the shit kicked out of him. Quinn acts like he feels every single blow; which, technically, he did. Arturo sees that Quinn is retreating into himself and drowning in his young self’s grief. Quinn thinks he’s trying to keep the baseball bat out of his young hands, that he’s trying to help his young self grieve. But it’s more selfish than that, and not just because it’s literally his young self he’s helping. He’s trying to show himself, here in the present, that he’ll be okay.

It comes to the forefront as Quinn holds a punching bag for his young self. Throwing punches becomes cathartic; the truth of his anguish comes out. Little Quinn begged his Dad to help him beat the bullies, that it was up to him. The last thing he said to his Father was “I hate you.” He’s just afraid of people leaving him; he’s mad that they always do. Which of course is what Our Quinn is doing for himself; Arturo’s going to be another man in a long line of departed disappointments, which he realizes, as he hears his young self say it, is unfair. This feels like the gift Our Quinn has been trying to give himself. He’s just trying to be the person who was never there for him. That’s beautiful! It’s just a little hidden by the episode trying to get tension out of “the event” and trying to get romance out of Quinn seducing his teacher.

Again, Arturo knows all this. Before we witness “the event,” and the team tries one more time to get Quinn to stop teaching his young self violence, Arturo holds nothing back:

“You’re angry at me because I’m going to die, and I’m going to leave you all alone.”

It’s the moment where Quinn’s whole odyssey snaps into place. Of course this is why he’s doing this. It’s all impotent rage coming out against the things he cannot possibly stop. This ties in with the scene in the teaser where Quinn confronts Arturo about his illness. Arturo is convinced that he’s got to leave the team, go on and die alone. He’s walking away, the decision made, when Quinn slays him with: “we need you, Professor.” The gravity of Quinn admitting this floors Arturo, and he decides to stay. But the sheer desperation in the delivery of that line is what matters here. He sounds like a child, because he’s realizing he’s about to stop being one. This oncoming death is where Quinn finally has to grow up. It ties the whole episode together. This is where looking at the production draft is interesting instead of tedious, because this line isn’t there. Quinn actually never spends a moment with Arturo; the connection between the two plotlines is never made.

There might be a reason for this. If you look at that earliest draft we have of “The Guardian,” we see that it’s dated August 9th, 1996. On August 8th, 1996, Tracy’s father, Mel Tormé suffered a stroke. This stroke ended his singing career and effectively began his twilight years. Though he wouldn’t pass until 1999, this stroke was the turning point from vibrancy into decline. August 8th was the beginning of the end, and the first draft of “The Guardian” is dated one day later. “The Guardian,” as it was originally written, is a weird episode about Quinn and Arturo becoming sociopaths. “The Guardian,” as it aired, is obviously about the anxiety of the imminent death of a parent. It’s about preparing to build yourself a world without your dad in it. It’s about getting ready to be an orphan.

To be the worst armchair therapist I possibly can, let’s unpack this. At the least, “The Guardian” is a script about the worry that one day, Mel would be gone — a worry that almost immediately became true. Maybe it’s Tracy trying to put himself in his dad’s shoes — what would he do if he knew he didn’t have as much time as he thought? Maybe it’s all of these things, maybe it’s none. But Mel Tormé’s decline in health absolutely weighs over this script, in all its different forms. It just becomes extremely explicit after the reality of Mel’s lessened time on Earth really sinks in. The idea of preparing for death is all over the ways Quinn and Arturo interact in the aired episode. There’s simply no other way to read it. Mel’s stroke clearly made the truth of the script snap into focus.

At the end of the episode, when we truly see the way that Quinn and Arturo are each other’s emotional glue, it floors us. It floors us whether or not we know what went into this script — that’s a point for Tracy, and a point for the cast, who elevate this script into what does look like a classic. These two men need each other — they’re the two scientists, the two de-facto leaders. Neither of them are equipped for the job, so they complement each other. Quinn needs Arturo to be an anchor of adulthood in his life — he needs him to be a surrogate father figure. Arturo needs Quinn to impress him with the goodness in people, the importance of youth. Look at Arturo’s tearful of admission of pride, as he says that Quinn’s Dad would be proud of him, and while that may be true, it’s obvious he’s talking about his own pride. Arturo’s stint as a “more exciting person” just proved to him what he really needs most in life: Quinn. These two men are grieving each other, knowing the other will be gone from their lives. When Arturo dies, he won’t have Quinn as much as Quinn won’t have Arturo. As an audience, we feel this too: we love Arturo, and we’ll need time to prepare for his eventual loss.

But of course it’s not really about us, and it’s not really about Arturo. It’s about Mel Tormé, beginning his own journey to another world. It’s Tracy coming to terms with the fact that he’s got to live in a world without him. “The Guardian” turns into Tracy working that future out in real time. He’s trying to understand death, he’s trying to make peace with it. He’s trying to imagine the negative space that’s about to be carved into his life. It’s why Arturo, seemingly out of character, tells Quinn it’s okay that he’s trying to interfere in his young double’s life. Quinn is learning the lesson that it’s okay to cry. He’s making a positive influence on himself. It’s a perfect life lesson for a boy who squashed it all down. It feels like it’s Tracy Tormé giving himself permission to feel whatever comes, to do whatever needs to be done in the rough years ahead.

In a sense, it’s why it’s mostly okay that “The Guardian” is messy. Grief is messy, life is messy. I’m not even entirely sure if Tracy gets anywhere solid by the end of the episode. But maybe that’s okay, if you read the episode this way. He certainly tries. Most of where he gets is in the fantastic speech Quinn delivers to his baby self, the absolute best piece of writing in the entire show, one that I will return to many, many times:

Did you know we’re all made from stardust? You, me, your father — all of us. Our atoms were formed in the stars. Not the ones you can see now, no — the older ones, the ones that went nova and turned into dust. Think about it, Quinn — our bodies are made from remnants of ancient suns. … Now of course, we can’t look to the heavens and actually see your dad. but one day, his physical essence with blow into space — yours and mine, too — and together, we will make new stars.

It’s a brilliant, moving scene. Quinn helping his young self grieve for his father with the exact words he himself once needed to hear. But it’s the same thing he needs to grasp the oncoming death of Arturo, and one that Arturo himself would understand. It’s a speech that ties together the two threads of emotion in the episode — Quinn pre-grieving the Professor and watching his young self grieve his dad, but also understand that it’s okay. No one’s ever really gone, in this universe or the next. We’ll always carry them with us.

So we have a powerhouse of emotions here. This is truly a big episode, even if is deeply flawed. We have a script that’s worthy of (at least half) the cast, and a story that’s worth remembering, that’s worth telling. If this has to be Tracy Tormé’s last stand, then he’s going out on top. Beyond that, it’s proof that not every episode has to be action-packed. As much as watching the show struggle to mix action and emotion has been entertaining thus far, there’s still room for quiet, moving moments.

So it makes sense that one of the few stories that Tracy Tormé keeps telling about his last days on the show is about the reaction he got to “The Guardian.” The first was a memo from FOX saying the episode was “too cerebral.” Which, fair, I guess — you can’t argue that. You can argue that “cerebral” should actually definitely have a place on the show, obviously, but you can’t argue that FOX is moving away from that this season. The other story is more personal. It’s a memory of Tracy and David Peckinpah watching dailies of “The Guardian,” and David turning to Tracy and saying:

This is exactly the type of show we’re not going to do anymore.

And… wow. That’s stunningly brutal no matter what the circumstances are. It speaks of how much power FOX has given everyone beneath Tracy Tormé. It obviously signals the end of his vision of the show. But it’s not just that. It’s “The Guardian.” It’s his prepared goodbye for his father. To see that goodbye come to life onscreen, but have that be the reaction? I can’t imagine what that felt like. It’s no surprise this is what Tracy still remembers, almost thirty years later. It’s no surprise that he drifted away from the show after this, still taking a credit as “executive consultant,” which in practice was just a bonus check on top of his creator credit. After this, he took a step back to take care and be with his father. But in the end, it turned out the thing he had to mourn wasn’t even yet his father, it was his child. This is the secret reading of “The Guardian.” It’s Tracy’s unplanned goodbye to the show, making room for his new life without it.

It clearly still stings that FOX took his baby away. And since this is the last time we deal with Tracy, and since he’s spent the last decade re-framing himself into this picture, it winds up being here that we have to ask the question: what do we want out of a Sliders reboot? I’ll tell you what the general Sliders Fandom wants as of late 2021: they want Tracy Tormé back, and they want only the original cast, no more and no less, and that they are thrilled to hear that Tracy wants the same thing. There are thousand reasons why that is ridiculous without even telling you how this show actually ends, and here’s a few of them: only two of the original cast are still working actors, and one of those is a cranky racist. The only original actor you could feasibly get is Jerry O’Connell, which, fine, but let’s be real here — he’s in his late forties, he’s not exactly still leading man material. He’s perfect where he is, as a gloriously cringe daytime talk show host. That’s not me shading Jerry; I’m legitimately happy for his late-career explosion in the Bravo-adjacent world. But he’s too old to get this show made.

Is that ageist? Absolutely, but again, we have to be brutally honest here: what’s really going to get a Sliders reboot off the ground? I will tell you without a shadow of a doubt that it is not a cast where the median age is fifty-five run by a white guy in his sixties who hasn’t worked in the industry in over a decade. Not in 2021, and frankly not ever. Hollywood doesn’t work like that. It didn’t even work like that when Sliders was actually on TV — just see what happens at the end of this very season for proof of that. Tracy Tormé is, according to what he’s said on a woefully underproduced youtube podcast he inexplicably keeps guesting on, trying to pitch his own Sliders reboot. Good for him; it will never get off the ground. It’s not just because it’s coming from him, who in Hollywood Terms is Ancient (not to mention the reputation he built for himself as “difficult,” which surely is still the first word that comes up in conversations about him). It’s because his ideas are still rooted in a continuation of what came before, of finding some reason to “get the band back together.” Couple that with a declaration that his new version of the show “won’t be woke,” and you’ve got a cocktail that both appeals to all fifty remaining Sliders diehards (with notable exceptions) and literally no one else, which ensures it will never get made.

I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was goaded into the “woke” comment (seriously, the hosts that keep interviewing him are some of the most masculinely inept dirtbags I’ve ever forced myself to listen to). But even ignoring it, it’s still a sad idea. “The team gathers together after missing a slide 29.7 years before,” with the decent idea of “one of the new sliders is Quinn and Wade’s child,” with the bad idea of “one of the team will have died, depending on who won’t agree to come back to the show.” So we’re sidling our new cast member with the trauma of (let’s face it, there’s only one cast member who’s definitely not coming back) Wade. Sounds fun! It also sounds like literally every single “Season Six” fanfic I have ever read.

Look, I want the show to come back as much as any other fan, despite how often I’m more than willing to drag it through the dirt. I want this show to realize the potential it had in Season One. But I also want all the misguided moments of the later seasons to get another shot. I want a show that really follows through with the promise of its premise. It’s still a good premise. It’s such a good premise that it’s absolutely bonkers the show hasn’t had any attempt at a reboot yet. The only things holding it back are rights issues (it seems like there’s been a question of who actually owns the show) and Tracy Tormé, whose meeting with Peacock was met with a resounding “let’s circle back in a month,” which is Hollywood for “please never speak to me ever again.” It was a miracle they even let him have a meeting.

Hollywood is brutal. That’s why I’m being this cruel to Tracy Tormé. But the fact is that he was never the single creative force behind Sliders. That’s not how TV shows are made. To claim otherwise is giving him too much credit for the entire show. You may have noticed that I’m often fairly skeptical of Tracy Tormé as the show’s best writer. His episodes, outside of the Pilot, have never been my favorites. And it’s not like he’s the only person who got the show on the air anyways. The entire Season One team worked hard to make that show equally weird and sumptuously shot as it was, Jacob Epstein especially. Season Two’s team worked hard and only slightly failed at the same goal. Sliders’ Golden Age (which, in case it is not already clear, we are definitely past) was a huge team effort. The monkey’s paw of Season Three is the fact that we get more Sliders at the cost of ninety percent of this team getting left behind.

And yet. If you have to get forced out of your own show, you couldn’t possibly walk out the door any better than this. I have a ton of problems with the episode, and reading the production script was frankly embarrassing. But I can’t really be mad at it. It’s clearly a labour of love and emotion, one of the few episodes of this show that lacks a single moment of cynicism. It’s beautiful in its messiness. It’s one of the most honest depictions of grief I’ve seen a television show attempt, and it’s on Sliders of all things.

I asked at the beginning of this what it means to look at a show that’s past its best days. The fact is, no matter how surprisingly still not bad the show occasionally remains after this, there’s still a huge “Guardian” shaped hole in it. The show never quite attempts anything as honest as this again. That, I think, is what diminishes the show; not budget, not effects, not silly storylines. It’s the lack of engagement with the human heart that dooms it the most.

So yeah, if you have to go out? Go out by pushing the show past itself. Make a mark that will be remembered. This is our goodbye to Tracy Tormé. Let’s thank him for this show, and mourn the losses he suffered on his way out the door.

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