Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime,
Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator...
He awoke to find himself trapped in the past,
facing mirror images that were not his own
and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better.
His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time
who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear.
And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life,
striving to put right what once went wrong
and hoping, each time, that his next leap...
will be the leap home...
Sam knew he was off balance. He never knew what the person he leaped into would be doing as he came in; this person had been attempting to kick a soccer ball. Sam duffed it badly. As the soccer ball rolled away at an almost perpendicular angle, he turned and saw a few kids just staring at the ball. "Uh...I'll get that," he said.
Sam strolled across the lawn to the ball as a thousand thoughts ran through his mind. It was the typical post-Leap rush. Who? Where? What? When? Lastly would come the Why?, but that was Ziggy's department. He was so lost in his own thoughts that Sam didn't notice the looks of terror on the boys' faces as he chased after the ball.
Maybe I'm a coach, he thought. Or their father. I hope not. Sam didn't like leaping into family affairs. Leaps were far easier when the subject was single.
A strange noise interrupted his thoughts. It seemed to come from behind him. Instinctively, Sam turned. Something was moving underground! It was picking up speed -- and it was heading straight for him.
A barely audible "Oh boy" escaped his lips.
"Look out!" Sam yelled as he dove to the left.
The ground stopped parting. He could hear laughter. Sam got up and found himself staring at a camera crew.
"Jerry, what are you doing?"
"Uh...the ground was...uh..." Sam stuttered.
"You're not supposed to turn around! Much less scream out in terror! Have you even read the script?"
The man must be a director, thought Sam. I'm an actor.
"I'm sorry," Sam sputtered. "I must have got this scene confused."
"The hell with it. Let's take a break. Scott, re-rig the worm effect. Have it ready in twenty," the director shouted. He reconsidered. "You know what? Screw it. We'll just film the lawn as is and let the boys in CGI handle this in post-production. Maybe that will prevent Jerry from freaking out."
Sam was red-faced now and he had a newfound hatred for the director. This leap was not three minutes old and he couldn't wait to get out.
"It's close enough to lunch. Why don't we reassemble at 1:30?" the director said over his bullhorn. "And Jerry, you may want to do some reading over the break. You've been all over the place today. I don't know what's going on with you outside of work and I don't want to know, but here I need you focused."
Focused. It was hard to be focused when you don't know who you are or what you're doing!
Sam walked over to the site of his embarrassment and looked at the crude effect.
"Worm? That's supposed to be a worm?" Sam thought out loud.
"Be thankful you only have to run from it. I have to do an entire scene where the blasted thing eats me. If you think you feel humiliated now, just imagine my impending mortification."
Sam hadn't noticed the man approach him. He was an older man, fifty-ish, a bit on the hefty side with a thick black beard. His hair seemed inordinately long for a man his age. He looked familiar, but Sam couldn't quite place him.
The director walked by the two of them with a herd of lackeys in tail.
"I don't think he's too happy with me right now," Sam said after they had passed.
"The hell with him! He only has to direct this farce, we have to try to make it look entertaining," the other man said. He was irritated, but at least not with him, Sam noted.
The other man shook his head and motioned to Sam. "Have you got a moment? There's something I need to speak with you about."
Not knowing any better, Sam followed him out of this town of facades. Evidently this man was a fellow actor. He had an accent that was unmistakably British, Sam thought. Possibly Welsh. After hearing him, he was even more certain that he knew this man. But from what?
The bearded man led Sam back to a trailer. The door was marked John Rhys-Davies. Something clicked.
"John Rhys-Davies? Now I recognize you. You were in the "Indiana Jones" films. Sallah!" Sam exclaimed.
John looked at him funny.
"What of it?"
'Nice one dummy,' Sam said to himself.
Once they were inside, John signaled Sam to sit down while he poured himself a drink. As Sam headed for the chair, he caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror on the back wall. He was young, tall, and handsome. About twenty-five, Sam thought. His hair was brown and a little on the long side. His tan indicated he was no stranger to the beach, and he had piercing blue eyes. He was still admiring himself when John interrupted him.
"I wish to God I was filming another 'Indiana Jones.' At least there is dignity in trudging through sand for Steven Spielberg, unlike this pathetic excuse for television."
After taking a healthy swig from his glass, John continued. "I've had just about enough, Jerry. I had my difficulties with Tracy, but at least it was over conflicting visions of the show. These new yahoos wouldn't know a vision from a hole in the ground.
"This season has been absolutely terrible. It's nothing but mindless candy for the eye! What happened to the 'what if?' nature of the show? We have the entire realm of possibility to work with and what do we do? A creature feature. Our motto has become to find whatever is popular and rip it off. And if you're going to blatantly steal plots from movies, at least choose good movies. 'Tremors?' Please. If I had a gun I'd shoot Steve Stoliar just to encourage the rest of those insolently derivative hacks into writing something that required more than a ticket to the matinee!"
Sam wasn't sure if John was naturally fiery or if this wasn't his first drink of the day, but John was really wound up now.
"It would be so easy to fix this show, and that's what's so damn infuriating! If I could just get control for two or three episodes, I could show them how it should be done. But now I fear they're about to make things even worse."
Sam remained quiet as John struggled to get control of himself. He finished his drink with a final pull. He paced around a bit more as if he were replaying what he just said-or trying to formulate what he was about to say.
"As you know there are rumors abounding that one of us will soon be replaced. At first, my agent believed it would be Cleavant as the writers clearly don't know what to do with him. Then I heard that they were looking at a new female lead, someone sexier that they could sell to the high school boys who might actually be home on Friday nights, meaning Sabrina would be out of a job. But all that speculation was premature."
"That's a relief."
"For them? Yes. For you? Perhaps not."
"I'm afraid so. The word is that Fox is looking for someone with a little more star power to lead the show. While no one doubts your abilities, they don't feel you are marquee enough to draw in additional viewers. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but I felt an obligation."
"No, I'm glad you did."
"I've heard they're looking at Scott Bakula. If that's the case, it could mean your character is in for a nasty end."
"They're not going to have a man who looks like he's in his 40s playing a 23 year old!"
Scott Bakula? Sam thought. Who's Scott Bakula?
"Anyway Jerry, I just thought you should know. And of course I will continue to fight for you and the integrity of this show. You have my word."
"Thanks. You're a good friend."
John smiled and patted Sam on the hand.
"I'll see you back on the set?"
Sam returned the smile and departed. He began to run over the information he had just received. He was a television star. Well, maybe not a star exactly, Sam thought, but at least he knew his job. There were apparently four key players on this show, probably an ensemble cast including John, himself and two people named Cleavant and Sabrina. And he was about to be fired. As he was walking back toward the set, he heard a very familiar voice.
"Looks like a pretty nice day for December."
Al was dressed to his tacky best today. He was wearing a white suit, but it had the usual Al touches of a red shirt accompanied by a yellow and green tie. Only Al could make a white suit this loud, thought Sam. The sunglasses put the entire outfit over the top.
"December 12, 1996 to be precise. How are we doing?"
"Great, just great. I leaped right onto the set. I made a total fool out of myself...err, Jerry. To top things off, it looks like they're just about ready to fire me anyway."
"You? You're not going to be fired. You're the star of the show!"
"Sure you are. Your name is Jerry O'Connell, an up and coming actor at the tender age of all of twenty-two. You are currently working on the television series, 'Sliders,' which was on the air between 1995 and 2000. In fact, you're scheduled to be filming an episode all week here in lovely Los Angeles."
That explained the sunglasses. But the star revelation was intriguing. Didn't John just say he lacked star power?
"'Sliders'...I don't seem to remember that name."
"Oh, you'd have liked it Sam. It's right up your alley. Quinn Mallory, that's the character you play, is a physics student who finds a way to cross the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky bridge into other dimensions where it's the same year, you're the same person, but everything else is different."
"You mean the Einstein-Rosen bridge?"
Sam sometimes couldn't remember his own name after a Leap, but his intricate knowledge of physics always seemed to remain intact.
"I'm just reading from the press releases, Sam. The point of the series is that you, your professor, your would-be girlfriend and a washed up singer are lost among the dimensions trying to find their way back home."
"Why does that sound familiar?"
Al winced, but Sam brushed it off.
"Is this show a hit?
"Uh....no. It's kind of a star-crossed production. It was apparently canceled four times in its five-year history. But every time it was down it came back to life."
"Any idea why I'm here yet?"
"No, but this firing may give us a lead. There's not much information on this show in the newspapers so Ziggy's doing a full internet search. I'll get back to you as soon as I have something. In the meantime, I'd start brushing up on my lines if I were you. Just in case."
"The director has already kindly reminded me of that."
On that note, Al stepped back into the Imaging Chamber leaving Sam to learn his lines.
David Peckinpah was feeling mighty pleased with himself as he looked over the numbers for his show. Before he entered the picture, "Sliders" was already a cult phenomenon, but was lacking that certain something to make it a big ratings winner. He was confident he was that something. Peckinpah wasn't an exceptional writer or producer, but he was competent and got along well with others. Most people who worked with him eventually even developed a certain level of loyalty to him. Sometimes that's all it takes.
The numbers he saw at the moment weren't exceptional, but they were solid. 'State of the ART' was practically a bottle episode and it still drew as well as most anything from the previous season. And with the new changes to the cast about to be finalized, Peckinpah truly believed the show was ready to take off.
Peckinpah buzzed his secretary.
"Yes, Mr. Peckinpah?"
"Please make sure Tony and Paul get in touch with me this week. I need to discuss some rewrites."
"These people are pleasant to the point of nausea, but they tell you nothing," the professor declared.
"Maybe they don't think they have anything to tell you," his fellow Slider replied.
John, Sabrina, and Cleavant were on stage while Sam was watching from behind the director's chair. He'd since learned that the director's name was Jim Johnston. Johnston had done a few directing turns in the Sci-Fi community, most prominently with the show 'Babylon 5.' This was his second turn in the big chair for "Sliders." His last effort, "Desert Storm", had been rather dismal according to John.
"Ah but they do! Take the cemetery, for instance," John said, in his role as Professor Maximillian Arturo. "After 1949, there were twenty-seven deaths. Since 1949, there have been three. Talk to the townspeople, what do they say?"
"I'll bite. What do they say?"
"They say you'd better do this again, Mr. Rhys-Davies as you have blown your line."
Cleavant and Sabrina laughed.
"And cut!" yelled Johnston. "Why did you stop that scene?"
"I misspoke," said John. "I was supposed to say 'Up until 1949', not 'After'."
"It's fine the way it was," Johnston replied.
"No it isn't," retorted John. "'After' and 'since' mean the same thing in that context. So how many deaths is it? Twenty-seven or three?"
"Don't worry about it. It's minor. No one will notice."
"That's because anyone with an IQ greater than that of a peanut will have changed channels by now," muttered John.
They had been filming most of the day and tempers were starting to flare between the cast and crew. John had already insulted Johnston twice and Johnston had started taking out his frustration on the others. There was still no sign of Al.
John had said the last few episodes had been miserable, but Sam was confident today's episode, aptly named "Paradise Lost," was about to trump all previous efforts when it came to utter inanity. The laughable plot had the Sliders battling a mutant worm, which had grown to an enormous size. If that wasn't bad enough, the worm secretes an ooze that allows those who eat it to stay forever young. Sam guessed that on this parallel earth, science and logic didn't exist. He was contemplating a scenario where the villagers would have learned about the ooze's 'special' power when Al arrived.
"What took you so long?" Sam hissed.
"Hello to you too."
"I'm sorry. But I thought you said you'd be right back."
Al motioned to Sam to be quiet as one of the cameramen was giving him a strange look. Sam smiled at him and then snuck away to a less obvious place to yell at Al.
"It's been close to 24 hours!"
"Internet information is unreliable. It's taken awhile to verify what actually happened here and not what some fifteen year old with an imagination thinks happened."
"Have you been able to figure out why I'm here?"
"Ziggy says there's a 90.5% chance that you're here to save the show."
Sam was perplexed.
"Save the show? I thought you said it was on the air until the year 2000."
"It is, but most people agree the show was a hollow shell of itself after Season Two."
"Let me guess. I'm in Season Three?"
"Who is that?" asked Al. He had that grin on his face that always made Sam wince inside. Al's attention drifted from setting things right to Lara Steinick, a guest actress who was walking across the back lot. She was pretty and blond -- just Al's type. Ah heck, they were all Al's type.
"She's a COW."
"Not from where I'm standing."
"No, C-O-W. It's an acronym. It stands for Chick of the Week."
"No argument there," Al removed his cigar and blew Lara a kiss.
"Sabrina said that ever since the start of this season, a parade of COWs have been trotted out to provide at least the air of sexual tension between the COW and my character."
"You lucky dog!"
"Relax, I don't even think I get to kiss her."
"Then improvise! That's what actors do..."
Al's eyes followed Lara until she disappeared behind a prop wall. It was times like this Sam wished Al wasn't a hologram -- just so he could grab him by the lapels.
"Can we concentrate on my problem?"
"Oh yeah. Ziggy says that in order to save the show, you have to stop the episode "The Exodus" from being filmed."
"That's it? It hardly seems like all that important a wrong to put right."
"Have you seen 'The Exodus Parts I & II'?"
"It's...uh...," Al raised an eyebrow and then stared off into space. His look changed from shock to disgust, almost like he was witnessing the aftermath of a train wreck.
"Let's just say you'll be doing millions of viewers a huge favor."
"We're not filming 'The Exodus.' We're filming something called 'Paradise Lost.'"
"Yes, they don't start shooting 'Exodus' until mid-January."
"Then why am I here now?"
"Because you prevent 'The Exodus' by preventing the firing."
Sam sighed and shook his head.
"I knew it. Does Jerry's career rebound?"
"Jerry? Jerry's fine. Like I told you, you're the star of the show. When you do eventually leave, it will be on your terms. But that's a whole other story."
"If I'm not fired, who is?"
Al points to John who is still arguing with Johnston.
"John? But he's the glue that holds this operation together. Without him, the show will lose all semblance of integrity!"
"Now you're getting the idea. John's departure sets off a downward spiral that not only slowly destroys the show, but hampers the careers of all involved with it."
"John practically disappears from the public eye for three years after the debacle before returning in a lousy rip-off of 'Titanic' called 'Britannic.' Sabrina bounces from canceled show to canceled show, while Cleavant wastes two prime years of his career working with weaker and weaker scripts. Only Jerry gets out of it relatively unscathed if you consider movie roles where he always plays a scumbag success."
"When does it happen?"
"John will be informed in two days, but Ziggy figures the decision has already been made."
"Then I have to tell him."
"No! Ziggy says that will only make things worse."
"But he tipped me off in the first place. I'd be betraying him."
"It's not betraying him if you save his job. You're going to have to take care of this on your own, Sam."
"So how do I stop this from happening?"
"You see that man over there?"
David Peckinpah was walking through the set. As he moved along he was greeted by "Hey boss!" and "How are you?"s. Al continued.
"That man is the executive producer of the show. His name is David Peckinpah. If anyone has the power to change the show's direction, it's that guy."
"He seems pretty nice."
"Then talk to him Sam!"
Sam nodded at Al and headed off to intercept Peckinpah. As he got closer, Peckinpah smiled and shot him a "back at you" pose.
"Hey Jerry! What's happening?"
"Just doing some filming. Today I get to beat up a yokel."
"Sounds like fun!"
David was about to move on when Sam interjected.
"Do you have a moment? We need to talk about something."
"Can it wait? I was just heading off for a meeting with the writers. We've got some big plans coming for the next few episodes. You're gonna love what's in store!"
"Yeah, that's sort of what I wanted to talk to you about. I think you're making a mistake letting John go."
David's jovial face turned ashen.
"Where did you hear that?"
"I have...my sources."
Yeah, a hologram from the future, he thought.
"We need to talk...privately," said David. With that he led Sam to a nearby production trailer.
"Hey guys, Jerry and I need to have a discussion. If you could give us five minutes?"
The crewmembers exited and David closed the door.
"It's wrong," Sam began, but David interrupted.
"Jerry, I know you and John are close. I mean, we all like John, despite his outbursts. But we have to look at the bigger picture. This is a television show and we live and die by how many people are watching us. The audience doesn't want to watch a story about a middle-aged professor."
"It worked well enough the last two seasons."
"Both of which ended in cancellation. I don't want to go three for three."
Guess again, sucker, Sam thought.
"There's more to it. I don't really have a choice on this one, Jerry."
"Aren't you in charge?"
"I have bosses too. Do you remember a little incident a few years back at a certain party hosted by Peter Roth?"
"You'll have to refresh my memory."
"Oh come on! This story is the stuff of legends! John...drunk... publicly humiliated Roth at his own affair. I believe he referred to him as the ignorant ass who brought 'World's Funniest Vasectomies' and 'When Gerbils Attack!' to the masses."
Sam couldn't restrain a chuckle. David smiled.
"Oh yeah, it was a scream then too. But Roth was mortified. Who the hell was John to be dressing down a future executive like himself? Well the future is here Jerry. Roth just got promoted to President of the Entertainment Group last week and guess which show he now oversees?
"Bingo. And he wants John gone. Roth is not a guy you want to piss off Jerry. If he says John is out, then he's out."
David put his hand on Sam's shoulder and looked him in the eyes.
"It's going to work out. I've already got my sights on a fantastic actress to take John's place. She'll help bring in the 18-35 male demographic and allow us to do far more up tempo episodes now that we're no longer hauling around a dying old man. I'm telling you, once you see the new scripts, you'll be sold. OK?"
Sam nodded. David smiled.
"I knew you'd understand. Just do me one favor. Don't tell John just yet. I think he deserves to hear this kind of news from me."
David's face suddenly returned to its happy-go-lucky appearance and he waltzed out of the trailer.
Sam groaned. This leap was going to be harder than he thought.
Sam returned home that night with a pile of videos. Jerry lived in a condo with his younger brother Charlie, an aspiring actor and model. Dealing with family members most always proved to be an excruciating experience in a Leap, but Sam had had little trouble with Charlie thus far.
"Hey, bro! Whatcha got?" Charlie asked. He was at the kitchen table eating a microwave pizza.
"Uh...just some tapes from the show. I felt like watching some tonight."
"Cool. Did you bring 'As Time Goes By?'"
Sam shuffled through the tapes.
"Yeah, right here."
"Then I'm in!" Charlie motioned to the freezer. "I've got another frozen pizza for you in there if you want it."
Ah... bachelor life, Sam thought, as he headed for the fridge.
Sam and Charlie were up late watching the show progress from a smart winsome dramedy to a soulless, comically inept action show rife with scientific errors so basic that high school students would have been capable of pointing them out.
"An electro-magnetic tornado to clear a field?," Sam exclaimed. "Someone thought this would be a good idea?! Even if it were feasible, which it's not, there'd be far worse consequences to the Earth than just tornadoes run amuck."
"Since when are you a physics major? You need a calculator to count your toes," laughed Charlie.
Sam had seen some sub-par television tonight, but "Electric Twister Acid Test" was his clear favorite for worst episode ever. All six of his degrees cried out in agony as he watched this crap.
"And tell me why are they all suddenly Amish?" said Sam, exasperated.
"I should have been an extra in this ep. I could play a good Amish boy," said Charlie. "How art thou? Could thouest show me to the outhouse?"
The two shared a laugh at that.
"Man, I wish Tracy were still around," said Charlie. "I'd have gotten the part for sure."
Tracy, Sam thought. As in Tracy Tormé. He had seen his name all over these episodes as writer, co-creator and executive producer and could vaguely recall John mentioning his name.
"Do you mind if I fast-forward this?"
"Nah, it's not one of your finest efforts anyway."
Sam stopped at the credits. There was his name again. Executive Producer - Tracy Tormé. Where was this guy?
"I agree, Sam. That episode was terrible."
Al was in his pajamas. This was probably important. Sam needed to get rid of Charlie.
"Uh...I think I'm done watching for the night."
"Yeah, it's time to turn in. I've got a commercial audition for tomorrow. I'm trying out for pain and sinus sufferer number one."
As soon as he heard Charlie's door close, Sam turned to Al.
"What are you doing here at this hour?"
"I couldn't sleep. Tina's out of town this week, so I decided to check in on you."
"I'm glad to see you. Tell Ziggy to pull up everything she knows on Tracy Tormé."
Al punched in the requested info and awaited an answer.
"All right...let's see now...ah here we are! Tracy Tormé, son of popular singer Mel Tormé. Writing credits include "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and a slew of TV movies, but he is best known for "Sliders.""
"Where is he now? According to the show credits, he's also an executive producer but I haven't seen him at all so far."
"It appears he had a falling out with the network and now rarely shows his face around the set. It actually was quite acrimonious."
"But he's still the co-creator. That has to count for something, right? Ask Ziggy if he still has any power."
Al punched in the request. Receiving gobbledy-gook for an answer, he gave the device a smack.
"Sorry, Sam. Ziggy doesn't know."
"It's worth a shot."
Cleavant Derricks had an infectious laugh. As soon as he opened his mouth, the entire mood improved. He also seemed to genuinely care about the job and was doing his best to make even the most ridiculous lines of dialogue seem plausible. Cleavant played Rembrandt Brown, a washed-up R&B singer that was inadvertently pulled along for this ride. Originally a comic character, Rembrandt had grown into a better-rounded personality, and Cleavant had a lot to do with that.
Sam was extremely grateful for his presence in the few scenes he had with him. Unfortunately, his character was teamed with the extras for most of the show. While they seemed like nice enough people, none were likely to be confused with Gregory Peck anytime soon. A sequence he just shot was typical of the stuff he'd been trying to read through. In it, Quinn takes out a nitwit named "Bud" who has to pass for a villain in this sorry excuse for a show.
"What's going on in this town? Why do people keep disappearing?" asked Sam as Quinn.
"You won't like the answer," drawled "Bud."
"Trust me, I want to know anyway."
"You won't hear it from me."
"Whatever this town is into, we are not going to be a part of it."
"It's too late man."
"You'd better start talking."
Sam had the sneaking suspicion that this scene was supposed to be considered humorous, but senseless was a better word. Cleavant, who was in this scene, had to restrain himself from laughing as Sam and "Bud" tried to put a straight face on the dialogue. When the take was done Cleavant and Sam relaxed in the jail cell where the scene was taking place.
"How's it going?" asked Cleavant.
"You seem to be doing fine. I don't think you've blown a line all day."
Sam smiled. A photographic memory may be a waste of abilities in Hollywood, but it had its advantages.
"Thanks. Do you think you and Sabrina could spare some time after lunch today? There's something we need to talk about."
Sam had called Tormé's office and arranged a lunch meeting earlier that day. As he sat across from this big bear of a man with bushy hair and a beard, it was hard for to him believe that this was the son of Mel Tormé. The two were in a small diner not far from the studio. Tracy wasted no time cutting to the chase.
"So what do you need, Jerry?"
"I need your help. The show's out of control. The last few scripts have been total farces. Take a look at this one."
Sam threw a copy of "Paradise Lost" down in front of Tormé. Tormé pushed it aside.
"I'd rather not."
Taken aback, Sam decided it was time for him to cut to the chase as well.
"It's not just the scripts. I've got word that they're going to fire John."
"Where did you get that?"
Sam now had Tormé's attention.
"I've talked with Peckinpah. He says they're going to announce his firing as soon as this episode wraps up."
"Son of a bitch," Tracy muttered. "I've been working on a script for the last few weeks that was supposed to be the season finale. It's like 99% done! Why didn't they tell me they were getting rid of the professor?"
"So you didn't know?"
"Jerry, I don't know anything that's going on over there anymore. The inmates are running the asylum."
"But there's got to be something you can do. It's your show."
Tracy shook his head.
"Not anymore. It's Fox's show. I'm completely outnumbered. All of my original crew is gone. My contract was up after the first thirteen episodes. I'm a producer in name only."
"Right! Your name is still on it. When people watch "Sliders", the end credits say Tracy Tormé. Whether you like it or not, you are intricately linked to it. And it's your name that gets trashed every time an episode like 'Paradise Lost' airs."
"Don't you think I can see that? Jerry, I've spent two long years fighting tooth and nail for the integrity of that show. You have no idea of the mass stupidity of the organization. I'm tired, dammit. It's a fight I'm not going to win. It's time to move on."
"So you're just going to allow John to be hung out to dry?"
Tracy slumped in his chair.
"It's not my problem anymore."
"Well, I'm not going to let this happen to him."
Tracy stared at him.
"What are you going to do Jerry? Quit?"
Sam stared straight back at him.
"I think you've done enough of that for the both of us."
With that, Sam up and left leaving Tracy to fume over being burnt by a 22 year-old and a lousy script to peruse.
"He's not going to help."
Sam and Al were in Jerry's trailer. Sam was at wit's end and Al was running out of suggestions.
"What if I convinced John to apologize to Roth?"
"Let's see...Ziggy says the odds of you doing that are...woah..."
"1.4 billion to 1. And even if he did apologize, it won't do you any good. He'd still be replaced."
"Ugh!" Sam cried. "I hate Hollywood. Everything's so phony here. How am I ever going to find someone who will put someone else's self-interest ahead of their own?"
"Well you'd better come up with something and quick Sam. Otherwise you could be here awhile."
Sam bristled at the thought.
"Great. What am I supposed to do Al? I'm just a small fish in a little pond. Why didn't I leap into somebody important?"
Like Tormé, he thought. If only I had some power... Sam thought back to his conversation with the ex-producer. Something clicked. Maybe Tormé had the right idea all along.
"I've got it."
Jerry was important after all.
"I'll quit. You said my mission was to stop "Exodus" from happening. They can't do the show without their star, right? No Jerry, no 'Exodus.'"
"Sam, you can't do that! You have a contract! If you bolt it could kill Jerry's career. He may be blackballed for life."
"Ok...oh! How about this? Maybe I could just act so poorly that they'd be forced to fire me."
Al shook his head.
"That's exactly what Jerry did originally. He phoned in the entire season from this point on in protest."
"And it didn't work?"
"They promoted him to Producer."
What a stupid place Hollywood was!
"Then I have no choice. I have to walk. If I don't show, it's not like they can just replace me without explanation, right?"
Sam left the trailer before Al could give him an answer to that question.
"Oh my God!" exclaimed Sabrina. Sabrina Lloyd played Wade, the female presence, Quinn's friend who could be more than a friend, and glue of the on-screen unit. The best word to describe her was "cute." She was not stunning like the COW Lara, but she had that certain quality a man would definitely find appealing. She was also very small compared to the frame of Jerry O'Connell. Sam had concluded that the producers called off the romance between their two characters because he was a foot taller. It would be too inconvenient to find a new and innovative prop for Sabrina to stand on each week in order to kiss Jerry. That or the writers were morons. Probably the latter.
"Where did you hear that?" Sabrina continued.
"From Peckinpah himself."
"I knew we should have spoken up before now," Cleavant said. "I know John kept telling us to let him handle the producers, but along the way he's become labeled the troublemaker."
"When?" Sabrina asked Sam.
"Tomorrow. As soon as we wrap on this episode, David's going to drop the bombshell. He'll be written out of the story inside of two episodes."
"And all this time John thought it would be one of us," said Cleavant. "I bet he doesn't have a clue."
"Not yet. And we're going to keep it that way for now."
"What?" said Sabrina. "We have to tell him. He deserves to know."
"If we tell him now, he'll just explode and do something rash. That will only make things worse."
"So what are we going to do?"
"I'm walking out."
Sabrina and Cleavant looked at Sam as if he'd just declared he was going to assassinate the president.
"Jerry, I don't know if that's such a good idea," Cleavant said. "You're a young actor with a bright future ahead. You don't want to get the reputation for being difficult."
"If the future is going to be filled with more back-stabbing, terrible scripts, and idiot upper management, then maybe I don't care what happens to my acting career," Sam declared. And he meant it. If the leap failed, Jerry O'Connell would soon be looking for another line of work regardless. "John's my friend. I'm standing by him. If he goes, I go."
Cleavant looked at Sam and shook his head.
"No man," Cleavant said. "If someone's going to stick their neck out for John, it should be me. He's my friend too and I have other options I can fall back on. Let me take the heat."
"I can't ask you to do that."
"I want to do it."
"I'm out too then," said Sabrina.
The two men looked at her.
"We're a family," she said. "No one is breaking us up. I come to work every day to see you guys. If you're not here, then I don't want to be here either."
Sam was touched by the unity shown by the other two. In this cesspool of a town, here were two truly decent people.
"I guess it's settled," Cleavant said. "If one goes, we all go."
Sam returned to his trailer. He plopped down on a chair and recounted all that had happened. Sabrina and Cleavant were in; that gave us good leverage, Sam thought. Tomorrow we'd find out what kind of a negotiator David Peckinpah was. Sam was feeling pretty good about their chances when Al appeared.
"Sam, what did you do?"
Sam didn't like Al's tone of voice. It had that air of panic.
"What's happened?" Sam asked.
"You've changed history. You not only stopped "Exodus," you've stopped the show!"
"Whatever you did, you've caused the show to be canceled for its third and final time. There is now a 98% chance that 'Paradise Lost' is the last episode of Sliders!"
"What is with this show and cancellations?!"
Sam was beside himself. His best plan had gone immediately awry and he now had less than a day to prevent John from being fired.
"According to Ziggy, the remaining cast members refused to continue working after Rhys-Davies was fired. Neither side would budge and when the holiday break ended, shooting did not resume. Fox didn't think the show was worth the trouble, so they ran the shows that were already made and that was that."
"What happens to Jerry?"
"He drops off the scene, but not for lack of offers. Surprisingly, this little fiasco has very little impact in any of the careers of those involved."
"Then why did he walk away?"
Al looks at Sam. Sam doesn't need more than one guess.
"Because I'm still in his body, aren't I?"
"Now calm down, Sam. We have no way of knowing that for sure. We haven't lost a leap yet and we're not going to start now. There's still time to make this right. We just need to take a breath and think this through."
Al became pensive, or at least put on a pensive face. Sam also re-focused. He did not want to spend the rest of his life as Jerry O'Connell any more than Jerry O'Connell wanted to be Sam Beckett.
"The previous cancellations," Sam said. "What brought us back those times?"
"Well, the first cancellation was more of a hiatus. Still, the show had a following and Fox brought it back as a mid-season replacement series for the second time."
"And the cancellation after that?"
"A huge letter writing and phone campaign brought Sliders back for the current season," Al said.
"Then we'll do it again," Sam said.
"John will be fired tomorrow. You don't have enough time to start a mailing campaign."
"Oh no? You've said yourself that most of the information we have on this leap was gleaned from the internet, right?"
"So there must be a sizeable online community! If I tip them off, maybe I can create an immediate backlash."
Sam grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.
"Sam, where are you going?"
"To a computer."
Tracy Tormé sat at his computer cleaning up his hard drive, tossing out files filled with old ideas he no longer had any use for. He was still fuming from his encounter with Jerry O'Connell, and that had grown to
Among the titles that ended up in his recycle bin was a file called "SL-HOTM.doc". He was about to permanently delete the files when a nagging feeling inside stopped him. He went back into his recycle bin, restored "HOTM" and opened it. He scrolled down to the bottom of the document and re-read the last few passages. Tracy began to type.
Back at Jerry's condo, Sam scanned through Sliders newsgroups while Charlie looked over his shoulder. He needed to find the epicenter of the online community, a place where a big announcement would set off the most shockwaves. He believed he had found it at the MCA/Universal Net Forum. The trick was to make the post believable. Any crank could come in to a virtually unregulated board and make any crazy claim he wanted, such as declaring that Jerry O'Connell was dead. Sam needed this to be taken seriously and immediately.
First he needed a handle. Surprisingly, "Jerry O'Connell" was available. Sam began typing his post.
"This is so cool," said Charlie. "Why haven't we done this before?"
Sam started by thanking everyone for their support over the years before issuing his call to arms. He explained in detail the situation with John and the short timeline before providing them with phone numbers and e-mail addresses for Fox contact points. For added fun, Sam had gotten a hold of both Peckinpah's and Roth's office phone numbers and threw them on as well.
"Why don't you attach a PS asking them to start a campaign for more Charlie appearances?" Charlie asked. Sam glared at him.
"What? It will give the post more credibility!"
Sam couldn't argue with that and tacked on Charlie's request. But that gave him another idea. Sam inserted an extra sentence giving the fans one additional request to make when they mailed or called in.
As he hit the post button, Sam felt a sudden rush. The cat was out of the bag. But he wasn't through yet. Sam had compiled a short list of e-mail addresses of "prominent" citizens of the Sliders community. He fired off a missive to four of them directing them to his post and to spread the word. He also gave them his home phone number to confirm his identity. After the last message was sent, Sam shut off the internet connection and prepared to wait. Four minutes later, the phone rang...
Tormé typed in the words "THE END." and saved the document. The script was too good to pass up. If the character of Arturo was on its way out, Tracy felt he owed it to John to go out with at least one more big episode. Now if he could get that imbecile Peckinpah to slide it up the production chart. Tormé gritted his teeth at the thought of meeting with him tomorrow.
The next morning, Sam reported to the beach where the final scenes of "Paradise Lost" would be shot. Al had convinced him that there was little he could do at this point other than to let the chips fall where they may. Sam had already talked to Cleavant and Sabrina and the three decided to put their walkout on hold. Now all Sam could do was wait.
David Peckinpah stared into his hands as the incessant ringing continued. He had arrived this morning to find 207 messages, the first twenty or so all from irate viewers. Peckinpah hadn't bothered to listen to any more, leaving them to his secretary to cull out the most creative insults. Someone had tipped off the fans to the upcoming cast change, and now they were screaming bloody murder. Peckinpah was about to order the phone taken off the hook when his secretary buzzed him.
"Mr. Peckinpah, Tracy Tormé is here to see you."
Tormé? David thought. Someone must have clued him in. Peckinpah didn't care much for Tormé. The man refused to compromise or yield, a no-no in Hollywood. The last thing he needed right now was another power struggle.
"Send him in."
Tracy entered and David rose to shake his hand.
"Busy day? Your phones are ringing off the hook," said Tracy.
"Yeah, someone gave out my phone number to the public. They've been calling in with suggestions for the show all day."
"Really? What do they have to say?"
"Well, most of the things I can't repeat, but they seem pretty united behind two things - the first being that if Arturo leaves, they'll leave with him."
"And the other?"
"That you should be put back in charge," said Peckinpah. "And now you show up in my office. I may not be a brilliant man, but I can put two and two together."
That's debatable, Tormé thought.
"Look, I've got nothing to do with this," said Tormé. "I'm only here to pitch my last script before I walk away for good. Remember 'Heat of the Moment?' I was planning on saving it for the season finale. But after Jerry told me you were letting go of John, I want it moved up."
"Jerry told you that? I told him to keep it quiet."
"Yeah, well I guess he didn't agree. If you knew anything about this show, you'd know Jerry thinks of John as a mentor. And another thing, what the hell is this trash?"
Tracy threw down the script of "Paradise Lost" that Jerry had given him.
"You call this family entertainment?"
Peckinpah was about to stand up for his medium, when his secretary buzzed him again. David hit his speakerphone. "Yes?"
"David, Peter Roth's on the line... he wants you in his office... now."
John was relaxing, watching the surf. He didn't really have much to shoot today. For the most part, today's filming involved his co-stars as his character had been trapped in "suspended animation" for the past two acts. John shuddered at the plot contrivance, but on the plus side, he could honestly say he had very little role in this farce.
Sam looked at him with envy. He had just finished a few worthless scenes that needed to be spliced earlier into the episode. Sam was actually quite curious to see what the finished product would look like. The filming had been so haphazard that he was expecting an actual "day" of the show to start at dusk, backpedal to midday, have a freak rain storm occur in the afternoon, and have no trace of the water by the next scene. Things had gotten so confusing that he lost track of how many "days" this "slide" included. They all seemed to bleed into one. One thing he had not last track of was the time left for John.
Sam heard the sound of a door opening and found Al behind him.
"Any changes?" Sam asked.
"It's too soon to tell, but Ziggy says to keep your fingers crossed."
"Not good enough, Al. I need to know what's going on back at Fox Network Headquarters."
"Well, you can't leave! You have filming to do!"
"I wasn't talking about me."
"Well then who..."
Sam smiled and nodded at Al.
"What good can I do there?"
"Find out what's going on and report back to me. If things aren't turning out the way they should, I may still have some time to stop it."
"But Tina just came back from..."
Sam's stare cut him off.
"I'm going. Gooshie, center me in on David Peckinpah."
The beach was gone and Al found himself in a large office. There were three men here, but he only recognized Peckinpah.
"All right, Gooshie. Where am I and who are these people?"
Before Gooshie could respond, Al found himself in the middle of a heated argument.
"Peter," Peckinpah said, "it's just a minor setback."
"Minor?" replied Peter Roth. "My office has been hammered with phone calls from angry viewers since I got in this morning. The angriest of them all happened to be my counterparts at Universal."
"I'm sure we can smooth it over. The concept is good."
"The concept sucks," interrupted the third. Al checked his console; Gooshie had gotten him a name-Tracy Tormé.
"Can you stay out of this Tracy?" David said. "It's not your decision to make anymore."
"The hell it isn't!" Tracy yelled back. That did it. He was not about to let this twit screw with his show anymore. Tormé turned to Roth.
"I know I've built up a reputation of being difficult to work with," began Tormé. "But my commitment to quality programming has never been doubted. Replacing John is a horrible idea. You will kill your viewership."
"Are you questioning my commitment to quality?" asked Peckinpah.
Tormé once again went for the script of "Paradise Lost." He placed it down before Roth and flipped it open.
"This is the episode currently being produced on the set this moment. Last night, I took the liberty of highlighting what I felt were some inconsistencies in the script," Tormé said. Roth began flipping through the pages. They were all awash in yellow.
"For all it mattered, you could have had Sean Connery playing Arturo and you couldn't have saved this disaster," said Tormé.
"You tell him, Tracy!" yelled Al. Moral support was moral support, regardless if it couldn't be heard.
"The story is so absurd I have trouble saying it with a straight face. The Sliders find a town that doesn't age, although no one else in California notices this. They preserve their youth by eating... and I kid you not... the shit of a radioactive, giant worm that's been around since the 1940s. What this has to do with the show's concept in any way is far beyond my comprehension!"
Both Roth and Tormé looked at Peckinpah.
"What? It's not like I wrote it! I mean, who cares? It's a parallel world!" exclaimed Peckinpah. "Right?"
Peckinpah looked to Roth for reassurance, but none was forthcoming.
Uh-oh, he thought.
Sam and Sabrina were readying for one of the final scenes of the episode. The scene required Quinn to destroy the home of the worm, "destroy it utterly" in the words of Arturo. The two of them were carrying the frightening faux "dynamite" (really empty paper towel rolls) and Sam joked to Sabrina,
"Would you like me to carry the dynamite?"
"I got it."
"Cause if you don't feel comfortable..."
"I got it."
Then they noticed they were being filmed.
"What are you doing?" Sabrina asked the cameraman.
"Johnston thinks we're gonna run short. I'm just getting some extra footage," he replied.
Sam smacked his hand against his forehead. Maybe cancellation wouldn't be such a bad thing after all.
"You ruined my show!"
"I'm trying to save your show!"
Back and forth Tormé and Peckinpah went, listing a litany of crimes each had supposedly committed against "Sliders", Hollywood, and common decency. Peter Roth had heard enough. He sent them both out of the room while he decided on a course of action.
He had few options. This could turn very ugly for him at a very poor time. The last thing he wanted upon taking his new job was a potential boycott over a show he could care less about. In Roth's mind, petty vengeance no longer seemed worth the trouble. If the viewers wanted John Rhys-Davies that badly, they could have him.
Still, there was going to be considerable egg on his face if he caved that easily to a little viewer response. He needed a scapegoat. Someone the fans of the show already disliked...
Roth chuckled to himself. He buzzed his secretary.
"Send Peckinpah back in here. And keep Tormé around. I'll need to talk to him afterwards."
The four co-stars sat overlooking the surf as the sun started to set. John had lit a cigar and the conversation turned to holiday plans. Sam's stomach was tied in knots. If the boom was going to lower, it would happen any minute now. It was then that he noticed a man seemingly walking on water down below.
"Will you excuse me, guys?"
Sam walked over to a place behind where his co-stars were seating. Al relocated himself in front of Sam.
"You've done it, Sam! You've saved the show!"
Sam let out a huge sigh of relief. "John doesn't get fired?"
"No, and it gets even better. To save face, Roth declares that the entire idea was Peckinpah's. He demotes Peckinpah to Associate Producer and replaces him with Tracy Tormé. Tormé accepts, under the condition that he have total autonomy over the show's storylines."
"That's wonderful, Al!"
"According to Ziggy, 'Sliders' goes on to post such good numbers under Tormé's leadership that the show is renewed for a fourth and final season, affectionately referred to as the Golden Year by its fans."
"Just one season?"
"Hey, the actors become such hot commodities that Fox is unable to pay them what they deserve."
Sam looked upon his co-stars with pride.
"What happens to them, Al?"
"Both Jerry and John return to movies. John has a major role in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings Trilogy. If you ever leap into the year 2001, you should really go see 'The Fellowship of the Ring', Sam. It took home nine Oscars."
"I'll keep it in mind."
"And Jerry gets some part in bigger pictures including the lead in the "Spiderman" movie. I've also heard a rumor that they're thinking of casting him in the latest "Star Wars" film," Al said as he punched some new info into his console. "Sabrina stays in TV where she currently can be seen in the multi-Emmy winner "The West Wing" while Cleavant is carving out a name for himself in the music industry."
"What about Roth and Peckinpah?"
"Not so good for them. A year from now they'll both jump ship to the Warner Brothers network."
Sam was perplexed. "I don't seem to remember that network."
"Neither does anybody else."
"So everything turned out great."
"It sure did!"
"Then why am I still here?"
Al pointed to where the others were sitting.
The two turned to see a dejected David Peckinpah walking over to the group.
"Hey John, you know the two-parter you wrote?" he said. "Tracy would like your input on putting together the screenplay. We're planning on using it for February sweeps."
"Why David, I'd be delighted!"
Al looked at Sam.
And Sam leapt.
The next thing he knew, Sam found himself in a recording studio. Behind the plexiglass wall was a very attractive woman...with a terrible, terrible singing voice. Sam gripped the headphones on his ears as she caterwauled through a verse,
"I know a part of me is dying
Thankfully, a man standing beside him interrupted her.
"Uh, Kari, hold up. You were a just little off key on that third line. I think we're going to have to do that verse again," he said. Turning to Sam, he asked, "What do you think, Ken?"
Again? Sam thought. Dear God, NOOOOOOO! But instead of screaming, all Sam could muster was a feeble, "Oh boy."
Obviously certain liberties were taken. For instance, Peck is not nearly the imbecile he's been made out to be (by myself among others) but rather what I envision him to truly be like. I've never met or spoken to any of the people involved. Everything I got I gleaned from Sliders' websites and Fox (for Peter Roth info.)
The entire Sliders on-line community was of great service in writing this. Without all the inside info you guys have reported throughout the years, this project would not have even been attempted. Special thanks to:
During the writing of "The Show Must Go On", I was compelled to actually watch the farce that is SL-315 "Paradise Lost." Some say "The Exodus" marks the beginning of the show's downfall, but PL was the first true harbinger of the crap to come. Since I had to watch it anyway, I decided to keep a notepad with me to jot down everything I despised about the show, figuring I'd get 50 observations or so. I had to stop once I hit triple digits. So here they are, in the order they occurred to me: the 100 things about "Paradise Lost" that should have blackballed all involved from ever working in TV again.
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