Created by Tracy Torme & Robert K. Weiss
Sliders is a science fiction television series about a foursome who travel, or “slide” as the show refers to it, between parallel universes trying to return to their Earth after an accident strands them. They are led by Quinn Mallory, who is the inventor of the sliding technology, his girlfriend Wade, his professor Maximilian Arturo and, for a reason I couldn’t fathom from this season’s episodes, soul singer Rembrandt “Crying Man” Brown.
Season Three ran from 1996-97 and was the last season that appeared on the Fox network before getting cancelled. The Sci-Fi Channel picked it up for two more seasons. It was also the last season for John Rhys-Davies and his character Prof. Arturo, as well as actress Sabrina Lloyd as Wade Wells, although her character makes a cameo in a later season. Before this season ends, Maggie, a soldier from a dying planet, replaces the Professor.
During this season, there are many episodes that are rehashed film plots. The group drops into a version of The Running Man, The Island of Dr. Moreau and stories similar to Dreamscape, Mad Max and Junior. Along the way are the usual genre plots dealing with vampires, zombies, a creature that provides the fountain of youth and even a Sherlock Holmes story.
Universal Studios, which had a hand in the show’s creation, was certainly not going to be left out of the synergistic opportunities. The summer of ’96 saw Twister in the theaters, so it’s no surprise that the group slides to a tornado world, and with The Lost World: Jurassic Park coming out in the summer of ’97, a dinosaur world was a no-brainer.
With one major exception, no one seems to suffer ill effects beyond an episode. In “Rules of the Game,” the first episode of the season, the Professor goes blind and I thought how interesting that was for the characters to be in legitimate danger. Unfortunately, yet not surprisingly, his vision returns before the hour is up. Since none of the characters are at risk of being altered or injured in a meaningful way, the stakes of the stories are lessened and the conflicts lose suspense.
The production values are low budget. The back lot of Universal was used a few times and an acute eye or a recent visitor of the Studio Tour will surely pick up on it. The computer effects are okay and were probably decent for the time, but don’t always hold up. Editing errors occur because either the producers must have thought no one would notice or they had no money for reshoots.
For example, in the episode “Double Cross” Rembrandt is inside a hotel talking with someone and in the background you can make out that Quinn and Wade are running towards him through the crowd. Cut to Quinn, Wade and the Professor pulling up in front of the building where Rembrandt is. Not good. I have trouble believing no one in postproduction noticed, and I don’t want to hear any Sliders‘ apologists try to convince that it was a Quinn and Wade from another dimension briefly sliding in.
The network aired the episodes out of production sequence, creating a continuity error because the Professor leaves the gang during the two-part episode “The Exodus, yet he appears in “The Last Eden” which aired two weeks later. To cover this, Wade and Rembrandt wake up in sleeping bags during the opening of the episode and say to each other, “you never told me about that time when…”
This season has guest appearances by Corey Feldman, Robert Englund, Michael York and Roger Daltrey – whose character Col. Rickman “appears” in other episodes portrayed by Neil Dickson, so I’m not sure why they bothered using Daltrey in the first place.
Sliders: The Third Season is a four-disc set, the last of which contains a gag reel and bonus episodes from Cleopatra 2525 and Earth 2, two other science fiction television series from Universal. It was rushed out of the vaults without a lot of care given to it. The discs are double-sided and the plastic molds that hold them are wrapped by a flimsy sheet of colored plastic. A 3/4 cardboard sleeve contains the set.
The show is mildly tolerable. It’s a bit of mindless, innocent fun for the under-21 set but these stories have been told better elsewhere. There are some episodes that try to be more than just running from the bad guys/monsters. Themes like diet products and consumerism are dealt with, but their presentations are clichéd. There’s not much depth or new ground covered, but it’s obvious the series’ writers and producers weren’t attempting to do that. They just wanted to create an hour of entertainment, which they might have accomplished for some. I can’t recommend the show although it might lead young viewers to fiction of more substance.