Many TV shows will falsely brag that in their series "anything can happen".
Sliders stands out as a show where this was, unusually, true.
Often this was a good thing. At others, it was like watching a train wreck in slow-motion. In fact, partly thanks to the BBC, in my house Sliders' five seasons took an incredible 16 years to fully buckle, mangle and generally horrify the public on the news that evening.
Sliders' production history is a fascinating catalogue of behind-the-scenes anguish and incompetence, but this post is not really about all that.
This post is about what my journey has been like as a viewer, shielded from most of that.
Cast your mind back to the 27th September 1996, when the first episode of Sliders received its British premiere on BBC2. It was all going so well. For about forty minutes.
But then the first episode finished, the brakes failed, and the series first began its slow acceleration out of control along the extensive downhill railroad towards the uncompromising giant iron buffers of cancellation.
Jumping the shark? Sliders spent its entire life slowly mowing through it.
Sliders started out by telling the story of Quinn Mallory (Jerry O'Connell), his friend Wade Welles (Sabrina Lloyd), his science professor Maximillian Arturo (John Rhys-Davis), and his complete stranger Rembrandt Brown (Cleavant Derricks). Rembrandt's only connection to the others is that he happens to be driving past Quinn's house at the exact moment when they're all experimenting in the basement with a gateway to a parallel universe, where things will turn out to be the same, but a bit different too. Said gateway gets a bit big, sucks in all four of them (including Remmy's Cadillac), and hey presto, an exciting new weekly TV series was born.
So weekly in fact, that even half way through the opening 90-minute pilot, the clever old BBC cut straight to the closing credits.
So - they had bought the two-part syndicated version. Fair enough. We the viewers understand that, and wave it through, even despite the fact that these credits ran over a clip from an earlier live-action musical scene, which then made little sense when it was repeated at the end of the second episode as well.
Still, this 90-minute pilot, or two-parter, was good. Great even. Travelling between alternate versions of Earth - each with any number of differences to our own one - was a standard science fiction concept, passably exploited, but more than anything else explored with a great deal of fun. While Paul McGann's Doctor Who was off the air, Sliders filled the jolly-but-serious-adventures-on-similar-alien-worlds gap admirably. In Professor Arturo it even had a pompous English scientist to lead the expeditions.
It's all rather wonderfully there in that opening pilot.
For example, when on Communist World Rembrandt gets arrested for paying a cab fare with capitalist dollars from our Earth, and then winds up being haplessly tried on the local TV version of People's Court, the deadpan satire is hilarious.
Reporter: "The defendant is coming out of the courtroom. Mr Brown, the Commissar simply didn't believe a word you said. How does that make you feel?"
Rembrandt: (sobbing) "How do you think I feel, fool? I am NEVER watching this show again!"
The pilot also included a scene early on in which Quinn meets his double. Apparently they've either switched places for 20 minutes, or visited each other's world at the same moment by complete coincidence. The writers don't seem to have thought about this, which as you know is code that you and I should never think about any subsequent episode either. I accordingly didn't, and consequently for the next five years I had a ball.
When the pilot finished with the foursome doomed to keep randomly sliding from world to world, hoping each time that the next one would be the slide home, I could have been forgiven for thinking that I had the series pegged. Every week from now on they would be on a different Earth, right? Every week they would be trying to find their way home, right? And every week they would not remember anything that had happened on any previous week except for maybe sometimes the pilot, right?
Season 1 of 5.
Well of course my expectations were low - it was a weekly US TV series. But here's the thing - the writers wanted to break out of the format and be better than that.
When episodes would finish with our heroes arriving on their next world, I wrongly assumed that this would be comparable with Quantum Leap's tradition of simply teasing the start of the following week's tale. In fact, some of these additional closing slides turned out to be nothing more than a genuine cliffhanger for its own sake. For example, at the end of Summer Of Love the cast slide into a San Francisco about to be hit by a tsunami. At the start of Prince Of Wails the tsunami has hit and they are now negotiating the flood as they slide out again into the main story set on British World.
Incredibly, the BBC managed to air these two episodes on subsequent weeks in the correct order. The rest of the first series didn't fare so well.
Arguably though, this airing of shows out-of-order shouldn't have noticed, as elsewhere in this first series there are other cliffhangers that astoundingly never got resolved in any country. For example, their capture on Cannibal World, and the minor matter of Quinn's dad returning from the dead.
Really, just what is the point of being drawn in by a cliffhanger that has no resolution?
Yet this sort of throwing all consequences to the wind is part of the series' appeal. Each week Quinn and his friends would leave an entire world behind them, rarely to have to face up to any responsibility for their actions.
The King Is Back has a pre-credits hook which features Quinn arrested and facing the death penalty for his counterpart's crime of dropping litter. His final line before the opening credits is a calm, resolved "I am not your Quinn." Well then, clearly the next 45 minutes will be a straight drama about how his friends find the guilty party, prove our Quinn's innocence, and overthrow the justice system, right? Wrong. Straight after the opening credits they open a wormhole in the courtroom and escape into a deliciously silly comedy about a world where Rembrandt is as popular as Elvis - and as dead. Sure, abandon that other world to rot in its own injustices! With this show, you never knew!
Ya just never knew!
This first series is also cram-packed with joyous parodies. One week they discovered a TV show entitled Skipper's Island. The episode Eggheads features a spoof commercial break, which completely took me in, even despite its running on the commercial-free BBC.
One-liners? Okay then.
Arturo: (upon being mistaken for Luciano Pavarotti) "Mr. Pavarotti is an Italian. He speak-a like-a this. Do I speak-a like-a this? No. Why? BECAUSE I AM AN ENGLISHMAN, YOU BLISTERING IDIOT!"
Wade: "You bet on a game that you don't understand?"
Hotelier: " Ha, oh, you kill me, Sir, you... I meant that as a pun of course."
Arturo: (to Rembrandt)"You're popular here, which means this can't possibly be our Earth."
Also, almost every episode a little more of Rembrandt's ridiculous past as a Motown singer would emerge. For example, we learnt that he used to be known as The Cryin' Man, because while singing on stage he would cry real tears, and indeed could even cry from each eye individually. His hit Tears In My 'Fro (afro) was regarded as a classic.
Rembrandt: (singing to his screaming fans) "I got tears in my 'fro,
'Cause my world is upside down over you.
Ya, I should comb 'em out, I know,
But that's the saddest thing I've ever had to do."
Aside from actor Cleavant Derricks' obvious talent (his voice, not his crying), Rembrandt Brown is also one of those rare TV characters to often sing live, rather than via dubbing.
Although the rapid overturn of locations would normally have prevented returning guest-characters, Sliders didn't want to do that the easy way either. A huge guest cast emerged of characters who Quinn, Wade, Arturo and Rembrandt would repeatedly run into living alternate lives on parallel worlds. The lawyer, the Jewish cab driver (occasionally played by another actor, because he could be), the hotel receptionist who always betrayed them but without our heroes ever realising. It could be a bit of a sketch show.
However despite all this joviality, there are two reasons why Sliders is not generally remembered as a comedy.
One reason is because most of this silliness revolved around plotlines that were deadly serious. Arturo's attempts to mend his counterpart's failed marriage. A world infested with plague. Population control.
The other reason why Sliders is not generally remembered as a comedy is because the first series ended.
The season finale Luck Of The Draw would end with the addition of two new sliders (Ryan and Henry the dog), and Quinn getting shot in the back. This would have a been an exciting conclusion to the series had Quinn not been wordlessly okay again a week later, and without any mention of the team's two new friends.
Well done BBC2.
Season 2 of 5.
For some unfathomable reason, come season two, most of the humour was dropped in favour of more drama. Now I don't personally think that this was such a bad move. The first series of Lois & Clark had been a similar mixture of funny characters encountering serious stories. For their second series, they had focussed more on the comedy, which had turned out to be a disaster because events hadn't really mattered any more. So when the second series of Sliders adopted the opposite stance and aimed more at playing everything straight, the result was a show that wasn't quite so much fun, but still mattered.
The season opener - Into The Mystic - is really notable for its own start and end.
The first scene quickly packs-off Ryan, while no mention at all is made of Henry. A moment later it ends with the four entering a wormhole that for the first time is similarly just off-camera. Last series, I think we saw every wormhole. If there really is a budget-saving shark-jumping moment, then this might just be it.
The final scene of the same episode features Quinn, Wade, Arturo and Rembrandt successfully returning to their own world. However with only a minute or so in which to confirm it, they mis-identify it as a different one and leave again. This is infuriatingly frustrating, and stayed with me for some time afterwards. I figured that the real reason why they hadn't recognised it was because it just wasn't the final episode yet. I mean the end of the series would be when they all got home, right?
Well, did that assumption turn out to be wrong!
This second year the writers became braver, and started to bite more into science fiction. We had a world where all the men had died out. A world where dinosaurs still lived. A world where time was happening in packets, and in reverse order.
An easy criticism of Sliders is the level of coincidence that the stories depended upon. How come they keep on running into the same people? What are the chances of their doppelgängers occupying significant positions of authority yet again? How come the meteorite that was going to destroy the Earth in Last Days hadn't wiped out any of these other Earths that they were landing on?
Yet in Gillian Of The Spirits, Arturo has a single theoretical sentence which covers almost every plot-hole conceivable.
Arturo: "Given an infinite number of Earths, we must also assume an infinite number of sliders."
So no matter how unlikely the entire run of this TV show is, we're just watching the specific set of sliders for whom this unlikely series of events happens to be true. Somewhere out there are an infinite number of other sets of Quinn, Wade, Arturo and Rembrandt encountering more likely odds, and other sets encountering even more unlikely ones. Sure, a contradiction is still a contradiction, but in an infinite multiverse, anything that is merely very very improbable must be plausible.
The greatest episode of Sliders ever was entitled Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome. In it, our four friends finally make it back to their own Earth, this time recognise it, and settle back into their individual lives once more.
All except Quinn, who becomes obsessed with its miniscule inconsistencies with his memory.
I mean we all do that every day, don't we? When we find some detail in real life that disagrees with our memory, most of us just assume that our memory must be wrong, and accordingly update it. Well, as time passes, Quinn discovers that he is no longer able to make that assumption.
Quinn: "It's close - almost a carbon copy, but it's not our Earth. Look. I dug out my old baseball card colllection. There's no asterisk by Roger Maris' home run record."
Yep, his theory (or paranoia) hinges on a punctuation mark. Or does it?
Quinn: (with yearbook) "This kid - Chipper Fisher. He wore braces on our world, Wade. We used to call him Railroad Tracks. Don't you see? The Niners and Dolphins, Maris' record, and now this?"
Wade: "Maybe you're just remembering it wrong. It doesn't make sense, Quinn. My family, my friends, everything's in place here. This can't be anywhere else but our Earth."
Quinn: "It can be if our doubles slid from here."
Wade: "Okay. So wait - it's a virtual double of our world. Our doubles slid, and now we've slid and everything's the same, except for a kid you think you remember wearing braces? Do you hear yourself?"
Instead of using the format as just a framework for telling a short story about an abstract subject, this episode was taking the format itself and examining it under the microscope. These are the sorts of instalments that I usually enjoy the most.
The episode also concluded by pulling a trigger that few series ever dare.
After a showdown between two Arturos - one good, the other less so - the sliders left that world to continue their journey, but with no way of ever knowing whether they had the right Arturo with them. Indeed, we at home never found out either. It was to be the first of many genuine shocks for the viewer who followed the series through all five seasons.
Yet while there are incredibly no dud episodes anywhere in the first two seasons of Sliders, (or indeed until midway through the third one) the second series did start to become a bit more careless.
For example, in some episodes Wade is keeping a diary, yet we rarely see her carrying these exercise books around with her. (the writers really should have given the team a bag) In Gillian Of The Spirits, a bolt of lightning causes Quinn to materialise on the astral plane, where he is invisible and cannot touch anything, but still gets through three outfits. The recurring guest characters strangely dry up and disappear. When actor Jason Gaffney eventually reappears ever so briefly in Invasion, he is strangely never named as playing our old friend Conrad Bennish. Well, perhaps we can be grateful for that. Partly this is because poor Bennish's eyeballs have been gouged out (yikes!), but mostly because Invasion would prove to be one episode of many from which Sliders would never recover.
Invasion features a world where human beings never evolved, so another ape-descended life-form had become dominant instead - the Kromaggs. They too have sliding technology, but are proficient with it, to the point where they have become horrified at the number of worlds populated by humans, and begun invading them to stamp out the human vermin.
Our heroes are captured, interrogated, and subjected to endless mindgames to break them. It's a very bleak episode, and even the closing credits only run after the revelation that a transmitter has been surgically implanted within one of the group without their knowledge. If they ever do get back to our world, the Kromaggs will register this and promptly invade here. Gulp!
After all the fun and freedom that sliding had previously been, that our heroes could now be monitored, followed, and held to account by such meanies really spoilt the party.
The following week in As Time Goes By, they balanced this cap on their recklessness by accidentally destroying an entire universe. Well, what are you gonna do? Beat yourself up about it? How would that help anyone?
Season 3 of 5.
Something is wrong with the universe. Well, actually several things are wrong, with every universe.
The timer which enables the cast to slide between worlds gets changed somehow so that they now have an expanded 400 mile radius within which they can materialise. Bye-bye San Francisco, with all its cast of friends.
New recurring characters emerge over the course of the series, who the foursome already know, and who occasionally seem to know them. Well, I wish we knew who they were. This initially looked to be another simple case of episodes getting screened in the wrong order, but the rest of the series didn't bear this out.
And Arturo becomes ill. He discovers that he has a terminal medical condition which he never names, and makes Quinn swear to keep it a secret from the others. He only has a few months left, but under pressure from Quinn agrees to continue travelling with the group. Maybe it's the Kromaggs' transmitter? Well, none of the sliders even know of its existence, so plainly this theory cannot be voiced by any of them.
This is a terrific piece of drama though. Again refusing to go the way of so many weekly series and keep continuity out of the show, Arturo has this very serious storyline that is clearly going somewhere. Except that the show is still airing out of order. Some weeks he's flagging under the pressure and having tense exchanges with Quinn, while in others neither of them gives any indication at all. Well, I guess it's one of those conditions when you have good days and bad days. Well, no, it's a TV series, so you have to mention it every week, to stop it looking like the episodes are airing out of order. Which I may have mentioned they were. Which is why they shouldn't have been.
In the UK, throughout the first three seasons, BBC schedulers seemed disgruntled that their Purchased Programmes Department had even bought Sliders and in so doing compelled them to broadcast it. Heck, BBC schedulers hated anything not made by the BBC. Sliders got an early-evening slot, requiring sometimes insane edits. For example, in 1997, the week following Princess Diana's tragic death in a car crash, they were rerunning the pilot, and carefully excised the shot of Rembrandt driving his Cadillac into a wall of ice. Well I can see their point there.
However the season 3 episode The Fire Within - about a sentient flame - got sliced to ribbons in places, because the BBC didn't like showing shots of fire in that early timeslot.
Arturo: (to Quinn) "Your jacket's on fire."
Thank you for letting us know.
However if last season's Invasion had changed things forever, then this year's two-part The Exodus changed it all all over again.
It's a fantastic story about a doomed world sliding a select few to begin civilisation again on another Earth, but also having to fight back the rest of the population to succeed. The sight of soldiers mowing down innocent civilians so that they won't disrupt the evacuation of the planned survivors is one of those grim decisions that makes me really believe in what I'm watching. There's no sugar-coating the viewers here.
Encouragingly, Quinn also gets to briefly return again to our Earth, and have a quick exchange with his mother. This mom-moment is really positive for the future.
With him on this jaunt is a new regular castmember - Maggie Beckett (Kari Wührer) - although she only turns out to be a new castmember when, at the end of this story, Arturo is murdered. By a new recurring villain called Rickman, who is played by Roger Daltrey. I don't think Arturo's medical condition got mentioned anywhere in this departure story, indeed in the order that I viewed these, I don't think it had been mentioned for several weeks.
Still, it didn't last. A few weeks later Arturo was back for a full-length flashback episode, during which his illness was once again topic for discussion, not that it enabled us to learn much more about it. Really, where had that dropped storyline been going?
Nonetheless, the new line-up of Quinn, Wade, Rembrandt and Maggie had a new quest for the second half of this series - following Rickman from world to world, for… revenge? Hum. That was a bit difficult to root for. Well okay how about to steal his timer? Stopping him hurting anyone else sounds like a potentially long challenge. Well, they're chasing after him for some reason(s) anyway.
In the event, most of these worlds were overrun with zombies, they only caught up with Rickman in some episodes, and he was presently played by Neil Dickson, which was okay, because he kept injecting himself with stuff that made his face go all fuzzy.
Throughout Sliders' five year run, no-one ever took very good care of the timer (the handheld device that enabled them to travel between worlds), and leaving it behind to get stolen from a table / rock / your enemy's hand became par for the course. To justify this, I found that I was increasingly relying upon that 'infinite sliders from infinite worlds' theory that I mentioned earlier. And yet, even that was making less sense. There was now talk of different worlds having coordinates, which seemed difficult with infinity along every axis.
During this period, Rembrandt (who a long time ago was a singer) becomes a bit obsolete. There's one episode when his plotline seems to be that he has nothing to do but feel useless, which Quinn resolves by telling him that he's wrong. Hrrrm. Where now all those cheery song parodies of the first series?
As for Maggie, I can't remember for certain now, but I'm pretty sure they made one episode in here in which all her clothes stayed on.
Come the end of another season, another cliffhanger emerged. With the wordlessly recast Rickman defeated, Wade and Rembrandt slid away to one unknown earth, while Quinn and Maggie found themselves watching a flying car on Future World. It looked like the writers were once more hedging their bets about who would make it back next series.
In the event, it made no difference whatsoever.
Season 4 of 5.
Well, I waited for the BBC. I waited, and I waited, and I waited for them to show season 4 of Sliders. By the year 2010, I had arrived in Future World myself, but Quinn and Maggie weren't there.
The BBC simply never showed it.
Fortunately Future World has a clever invention called the DVD box set…
So eventually, despite having dutifully paid my BBC licence fee for several years, I gave up waiting and put season 4 of Sliders onto my Christmas / birthday list.
It was definitely worth the wait.
Not because of any inherent value in the series itself, but simply because I loved the show so much. Sliders can still do no wrong. I love it. The fact that I enjoyed the whole of the remaining two series so much is proof of this.
Season 4 was made by the cavalry of 1990s science-fiction series - The Sci-Fi Channel. As such, it had a noticeably smaller budget, which seemed to just keep on shrinking. For example, most episodes were set on the same street, and in the same building, which is pretty normal for any series, and wholly acceptable in this one, but with an infinity of universes in which to locate events, it did still notice. However it was definitely the same show though, for it continued the same downward trend in quality. Apparently The Sci-Fi Channel wanted to make everything dark and gritty, so they sucked any remaining traces of fun out and twisted the premise yet again to open with shock upon shock upon shock.
Three months after the end of season 3, Quinn and Maggie at last slide back to Quinn's home Earth. That's our world, remember - the one you're reading this on now. It's been decimated by the Kromaggs. Yes, our world.
Rembrandt: "It's all gone now. My mother, family. These 'Magg devils, they have destroyed our world."
The home that they have been so hoping to see again one day no longer exists. I'd been rooting for that. Sheesh, sliding is just no fun at all any more.
Kromagg interrogator, regarding the fate of that nice Wade Welles: "I'm afraid your friend is a guest of the dynasty on another world in a breeding camp. You see the Kromaggs are doing some interesting experimentation with cross-species replication. She's no doubt enjoying herself. You know I've heard once a woman's had a 'Magg, she can never go back."
Yes, right now, our friend Wade is being raped by aliens for the rest of her life. War is Hell.
While captured, Quinn witnesses the guards beating up a woman who, out of everyone in San Francisco, coincidentally turns out to be his ma.
She's appeared in several episodes going right back to the pilot, and every time she does it's quite touching. Now, while they're sharing a cell, she breaks the bombshell that she's not his birth mother after all. She fostered him from his real parents who were sliders from another world at war against the Kromaggs, and he has a brother out there somewhere who he has to find.
To prove this, Quinn's mom cuts open her own arm to remove a tiny bloodied device that she's always had hidden in there, and gives it to him. Then she gets taken away to another prison on one of an infinite number of other Earths.
Sheesh, so back in the pilot, Quinn's accidentally discovering sliding, without realising that he had already done it as a baby, was an even more enormous fluke than anyone realised. What a total waste of his teenage years.
Even worse, this retcon appears to significantly challenge last season's This Slide Of Paradise, in which an alternate Quinn admitted to having given the Kromaggs their sliding technology.
However, amongst all this doom and gloom, thank God that the comic relief Rembrandt is back too.
Unfortunately, they've taken the former musical entertainer and re-realised him as a tortured prisoner of war.
Rembrandt: (whispering) "I was in that hole for three months. And they worked me over with their mind-control games and their torture. I'm not sure myself if they got to me. I fought it as hard as I could. But they could'a programmed me, could'a messed with my head somehow."
Five weeks' later in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Quinn, Rembrandt and Maggie do indeed locate Quinn's brother - Colin - and once more the team is back up to four members.
Colin however is wholly unmemorable. I'm sorry, but there it is. Actor Charlie O'Connell does what he can with it.
Yes, O'Connell. Those are actual brothers playing brothers there, and the presence of Quinn actor Jerry O'Connell on the executive producer credit is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it makes Charlie's casting look like it has nothing to do with his suitability for the role. On the other, it's encouraging that the lead actor now has two vested interests in the series. Hrrrm. Valerie Hogan.
Still, Sliders' anthology-nature continues to come through for it. Although the travellers' ongoing situation is definitely no longer one that the viewer can wish they were a part of, every so often there is still an absolute classic to be found.
In World Killer, Quinn discovers that a year ago one of his doubles botched a sliding experiment and accidentally added an entire world's population to another. Lipschitz Live has so much energy that it lifts off on its own momentum and just keeps on going. Executive Producer Bill Dial even gets in an in-joke about his old show WKRP In Cincinatti. Cheers Bucky!
By the time season 4 ended though, I no longer had enough interest to keep track of the 'Magg war, the slidecage, Quinn and Colin's two families, or much of anything else. I don't know if it was in this series or the following one when the slider with the Kromagg transmitter implanted in them was revealed (impressive that they tied that up after so long), nor can I remember which of them it even was now.
Season 4 finishes with one of the longest, slowest chase scenes I have ever witnessed. I actually rewound the episode and timed it, because I was convinced that it was so long that the characters didn't have enough time to perform it before the slide. I was wrong. It wasn't that long. It just really seemed it.
Season 5 of 5.
Also never shown by the BBC, and indeed never even released on DVD in the UK, so I just had to make do with the German version.
So every week before watching this series I've had to go in and change the DVD language settings from German to English. The advantage here is that the clips that the menu screens insist upon playing me before each episode all still run in German, making it harder for them to spoil the episode by giving anything away!
Season 5's first episode - Verloren im All - has a terrible opening. Quinn and Colin, played by body doubles with a different voice and no voice respectively, get zapped in the vortex between worlds, and lost.
Quinn has merged with his counterpart on another world, who is played by his new actor, but 'our' Quinn doesn't overcome him. Rather, what we now have is a fusion of both Quinns, in one body. I know what you're thinking - that with twice as many atoms this guy should weigh twice as much - so I assume that he does. As the series progresses, the new Quinn - called 'Mallory' to court further confusion - comes to the fore.
Nobody really knows or much seems to care what happened to Colin. Acht, he's lost in the vortex. Or whatever. Colin who?
This all happens due to an experiment being run by the intriguingly named Doctor Geiger. Oh, I wish they'd made him a count. Ah-ah-ah. Geiger appears in three episodes this series, each time doing some research into parallel universes, because he has some condition or other. You can tell how much this interested me. His assistant - Diana - is the replacement Colin, and as such actress Tembi Locke does what she can with the role too, but she also gets little to work with.
Anyway, Diana completes the line-up for Sliders' final season.
In episode two (entitled Quälende Erinnerung) when they're clearly trying to flesh Diana's character out, she encounters her duplicate on another Earth, who's a single parent. By the end of the episode our Diana has accidentally erased the child from existence, and apparently has no problem with this. Okay, she's proved herself!
As the show is still being made by The Sci-Fi Channel, Doctor Geiger is played by Babylon 5's Peter Jurasik. Another episode Blutige Erde features Jerry Doyle as a soldier. I suppose it's ironic that they were probably cast to attract more SF viewers, although most of them will already have been watching anyway, and these familiar faces do break the illusion somewhat.
By now, the reason why Rembrandt, Maggie, Mallory and Diana are choosing to continue sliding from world to world is anyone's guess. There are some reasons, sometimes.
Original comic relief Rembrandt is these days the leader, and as such the only member with a vested interest in saving our Earth. Presently, the weapon to achieve this that he's been searching for turns out to be unusable, and for a while he just gives up. I suppose the reason why they all keep on sliding is because once they stop, they will no longer have the option to start again, a plot point I never understood in the light of their escape from Nuclear Winter World back in the pilot.
And still the budget just seems to keep on dwindling. From the episode Konsumterror, here are Rembrandt and Mallory out and about driving a van:
They spent several scenes driving alongside that huge blank lorry!
Another episode - Gangster Blues - has Rembrandt appearing in cabaret, affording him the rare chance to sing again. After that, the next act is the local version of Pan's People, who we stay and watch too. They do the same song. In fact, we get an entire four and half minutes of this review. Apparently the producers knew only too well how much running time they had to fill. By the way that's not a criticism - getting the chance to sit down and spend a while watching what the characters are watching really makes me feel like I'm there, travelling with them.
Another weird episode is Trennung für immer, which is especially notable because it features the long-awaited return of… Wade! But, is this going to work in a family show? When last we heard of her, she had been sent to a Kromagg breeding camp fer goodness' sake. What could possibly have become of dear, friendly, girl-next-door Wade?
Well, the good news is that she's not the bashed, bruised serial-Kromagg-rape victim that we've spent the last season and a half feeling awful for.
No, through an incredible stroke of good luck, she's merely a head in a jar with her brain hanging out.
In many ways this is a mercy.
In the best traditions of Star Trek's Captain Pike, she's paralysed, mute, completely unrecognisable, and played by a different actress. The one edge that the stationary Wade has over Pike is that she can still speak, albeit only telepathically. I assumed that the vocal performer was the original one from seasons 1-3, but if it was, then noone seemed to have told her the context of her dialogue. Wade is supposed to be drugged up and half-asleep, yet every line is delivered at full pelt, as though on the run. Well, maybe she's just hyper with all the chemicals those damn 'Maggs keep pumping her with. In the middle of the episode there's at least a nice flashback to her in significantly better health in the good old days, but all the same. Alas poor Wade.
And then we reach the final stretch. The last few episodes seem to be building towards an ending that we don't quite get. Diana mentions that as they approach Rembrandt's world, the differences in each universe are becoming more subtle. Well, that doesn't last.
These instalments do feel like a breath of fresh air though, simply because the team doesn't get split up any more. They spend their time together functioning as a unit, and the dialogue that ensues gives much more of an impression of what it might be like to travel with these guys. Yes, sliding becomes a bit more fun again.
The final episode (Der Letzte Slide) had me riveted, start to finish. Quite a lot was packed in, as the foursome's slide back to Rembrandt's world (by now for some reason known as 'Earth Prime') is interrupted by a world containing Roy Dotrice. It appears that in the absence of any of the old regular cast returning for the last episode ever, The Sci-Fi Channel compensated by instead getting in a guest-star from every other science fiction show going. Well, good call.
Dotrice is playing a seer who has been psychically watching the sliders' adventures for years, and now owns a multi-million dollar industry trading off of telling their stories. Yes, this does stretch to including a TV series entitled Sliders, complete with logo, merchandise, clip of another actor playing Arturo, and nerdy misfit fans. Sheesh, Sci-Fi Channel, you should know better!
Still, nice to glimpse an Arturo again, especially since he's conversing with Diana, who he never met!
Outside of the seer's TV series, Quinn's adoptive mom reappears too, bringing some closure to things. I think Bill Dial is in there as well. Wade and Arturo are both declared to be dead, although in neither case do we hear how.
The real kicker here is that Dotrice's character has also foreseen Rembrandt, Maggie, Mallory and Diana's imminent deaths, as soon as they make their next slide into Rembrandt's world. He doesn't know how they are going to die, only that they do. Helpful fellow.
The final scene of the entire five-year series straddles the line between conclusion and cliffhanger brilliantly well, as well as mirroring how this final season opened. Rembrandt injects himself with the virus that will wipe-out the Kromaggs (hope he's the right blood type), and slides through the gateway armed, and alone. If he does get killed, he hopefully still wins, because the contagion in his blood might still remain infectious for long enough.
Does he succeed? Well, it's up to you. I'd like to suppose that he ought to.
I love Sliders, every last minute of it.
Sure, I would have loved for them to have actually sat down and thought about it a bit more, well actually alot more, but firing ones own imagination is part of the appeal.
For example, in Fever they cured a disease and overthrew the world in the last ten minutes. That still doesn't ring true with me.
I wish they'd carried a bag for Wade's diary and other survival kit pieces to go in. I wish there had been some continuity to their clothes. I wish that Quinn had taken the time to teach the others what he could of the science of sliding in case anything were to ever happen to him. I wish he'd built a second timer. These all seem like obvious things to do. I wish they hadn't waved that timer around so much and repeatedly left it behind in such stupid places.
One great idea in the episode Slither was for Quinn and Rembrandt to simply go on vacation from the other two. The daily pressure of seeing Wade and Maggie every single day was getting to Quinn, so he just had to board a plane and get away from them for a few weeks. That was real.
Again like Doctor Who, being an anthology series has enabled Sliders to be tremendously diverse and imaginative at times, but the best thing about this is the amount that it has fired my own imagination. A huge number of times over the years I have dreamt that I was watching the next episode. Even this morning.
Last night I watched the final ever edition, ending with Rembrandt's suicide-slide (suislide?) and you know what? This morning in my dream I watched him emerge from the wormhole on the other side, safe and okay. He was holding a large hammer, on a cliff top. Seriously.
So, that's how the story ends for me.
I could dig out the Pilot to watch again, but really what's the point? I can hardly root for anyone.
I know that eventually Quinn will get merged with an alternate of himself who will overcome him. His will-they-won't-they girlfriend Wade gets enslaved in an alien breeding camp (we all know what that means), decapitated, experimented on and killed. Professor Arturo either contracts a terminal illness and is murdered, or gets stranded on the wrong world and then dies anyway. While Rembrandt… well, I'm going to assume that he doesn't go down with blood poisoning, but only because of my dream.
Goodbye Quinn, Wade, Arturo, Rembrandt, Maggie, Colin, Mallory and Diana. Oh what the heck, and Ryan and Henry.
Most of you suffered unexpectedly miserable fates.
Maybe Arturo was right in the pilot when he proposed that perhaps Quinn's new machine should be destroyed.
(available by sliding through this gateway!)