Way back in 1994, the pilot for a new series arrives on the Fox network as a mid-seasons replacement. It had some major potential: a genius physics student realizes his theory of parallel worlds and finds a way to 'slide' between them. Taking two friends (and an accidental addition) with him, quinn Mallory begins to explore other versions of his homeworld trying to find his way back home. What no one could have forseen were the problems that would afflict Sliders, meaning it was constantly in imminent danger of cancelation. However, the fans got behind it and it became an (admittedly loy-key) success. We've taken a look back to the beginning of the series and rates each episode form * to *****.
A1 Pilot *****
Written by Tracy Torme'
Directed by Adam Tennant
Quinn Mallory is an extremely intelligent physicist and with some help from an alternate version of himself, he manages to invent 'sliding'. Taking his friend, his teacher and an unexpected guest, Quinn's first slide leaves the foursome faced with an unusual new world and the possibility they may never see home again.
A double-length beginning and, for an opening show, the Sliders pilot is very good indeed. The characters are instantly likable and the story moves along quickly enough to stop viewers getting bored but slowly enough that we can takie in what's going on.
There are also some carefully observed scenes, such as Arturo's annoyance at Quinn due to the actions of his double and, on a more bittersweet note, the end of the episode when the Sldiers return to a mean from Quinn's mother, only to find Quinn's dead father will be dining with them.
A2 Fever ****
Written by Ann Powell and Rose Schacht
Directed by Mario Azzopardi
The Sliders arrive on a world where an epidemic is killing millions and Quinn's alternate is patient Zero, the person who first carried the plague. Can the Sliders find a cure and save their Quinn form experimentation?
Sliders has always been very good at darker stories that show a world with no hope for the future. 'Fever', thanks to a quirk in scheduling, came in just in front of another episode that featured several similar scenes, but more on that in a minute. Not for the last time the sliders find out they may be held responsible for the actions of their counterparts and Quinn's tests are made to look agonizing thanks to the work of Jerry O'Connell. The simplistic conclusion, in which Arturo invents penicillin and cures everyone, is the first of many times when the sldiers interfere because they 'know better', a concept that doesn't work quite so well in other episodes.
A3 Last Days ****
Written by Dan Lane
Directed by Michael Keusch
It's the end of the line for the sliders when they discover that an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and will destroy the planet before they can slide out.
A very thought-provoking episode which gives a disturbing portrait of humanity. Because the gang split up, it creates three separate plotlines and unusually all three are interesting stories. The whole Quinn/Wade issue is addressed and resolved as the pair kiss and realize they are better off being friends. This is immensely freeing for the characters, allowing them to live their own lives in future episodes without sexual tension ruining the atmosphere.
Arturo once again uses his knowledge of science to save the world, helping his parallel universe pupil Bennish construct and atomic bomb with which to destroy the asteroid. While necessary to save this world, it's good to see that the introducing of such a dangerous device isn't overlooked by the writers, with a downbeat ending that shows the first signs that the sliders' interference in world affairs may not be a good thing.
But it's the Rembrandt subplot that really delivers as he sees firsthand the ways in which humans choose to face death.
A4 Prince of Wails ***
Written by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin
Directed by Felix Alcala
Arriving on a world where the United Kingdom has control over all of the States, the sliders find themselves caught up in a kidnap plot and get to meet the prince.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, this is one of the sillier ideas for a parallel Earth. Although it allows Arturo to do what he does best, ie be smug, the plot is slight and features a bumbling and stupid prince alongside some awful English accents. There's nothing much more on offer here than the basic chase-capture-rescue routine, and to make matters worse, the sliders once more insist on interfering by introducing the Declaration of Independance to the country. It's starting to look increasingly superior each time the team alter the course of a parallel world so that it mirrors their own; who's to say they're right?
A5 Summer of Love **
Written by Tracy Torme'
Directed by Mario Mothersbaugh
The sliders enter a world where the sixties apparently never ended and join a world of free love and stupid clothes.
It's the clothes that seem to take precedence over plot for far too long here as the inherent comedy of Arturo in a kaftan is milked for all it's worth. Sadly, it's only worth about two minutes of jollity before the joke wears very thin.
Much like hippies back in the days, these ones are likewise protesting, this time about a war that is being fought against Australia. This more interesting and serious plotline is the one that should be followed through the episode, but more time is spent on Wade pretending to be some kind of goddess for a group of hippies who are either amazingly stupid or packed with drugs.
A6 Eggheads ***
Written by Scott Smith Miller
Directed by Timothy Bond
The sliders turn up on a world where geniuses are revered and treated with all the idol worship of sports stars.
You can't fault the imagination behind this story; in fact it seems to be the work of someone who's been thinking long and hard about the most outlandish world the sliders could get to. The only strange aspect is why geniuses are forced to play sports to show how clever they are; shouldn't they be taking difficult quizzes instead?
For those interested in Jerry O'Connell running around in a t-shirt and sweating a bit, you won't be disappointed, but if you're looking for more, all you'll get is a fairly basic corruption plot as it is revealed that Quinn's alternate got into serious bone-breaking financial trouble and skipped off into the sunset.
There's plenty of invention in the main idea, but like so many Sliders episodes to come, little thought seems to have been put into what exciting things could happen to our heroes once they arrive on the new Earth.
A7 The Weaker Sex ***
Written by Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin
Directed by Vern Gillum
The sliders arrive on an Earth where the male/female roles are reversed.
After something as inventive as 'Eggheads', it was clearly time to go for one of the more obvious ones: the role reversal comedy episode. It's okay as far as it goes, and Rembrandt being used, abused and forced to cook and clean is actually very funny, but the sliders' attempts (apart from Wade of course) to stir the men up into Equal Opportunities campaigners dalls flat. Watching men being told to be more macho is the last thing we need...
A8 The King Is Back ****
Written by Tracy Torme'
Directed by Vern Gillum
The latest slide leaves the team on a world where Rembrandt's career skyrocketed , and he is now one of the biggest singers on the planet.
There are certain similarities in the gang of people afterone of the sliders to 'Eggheads', but this is a less serious epsiode, and the mad former Topps are fairly easy dispensed with. This is Cleavant Derricks's episode, though, and bringing in his (near) twin brother to double for Rembrandt is a great idea when the real Remmy turns up to reclaim his life from the visiting version.
There are song great musical numbers, including the classic 'Cry Like a Man' and some wonderfully over-the-top sets with both of the Derrickses giving their all as the Rembrandts try to outdo each other. And then there's the fact that Arturo keeps getting mistaken for Pavarotti every time he goes outside. 'The King Is Back' is lightweight and fun; more episodes should have followed this pattern.
A9 Luck of the Draw ****
Written by Jon Povill
Directed by Les Landau
It seems like paradise when the sliders arrive on a world where they can get free money. A larger withdrawal means a larger chance of winning the lottery, but this lottery is a form of population control, and winners are expected to commit suicide.
Another great idea only marred by the fact that the sliders have to resort to their usual plan when wanting to avoid something unpleasant: running away very quickly. It's the gradual discovery of what is happening that is particularly effective here, with Wade enjoying her treatment while the rest of the sliders work out what is going on. There's also a touching subplot with Remmy as he falls for a beautiful woman, only to have her taken from him. It's a powerful story of a civilization that has taken extreme measures to solve its problems.
Not a bad start to the series, but Sliders wasn't picked up immediately, leaving viewers hanging after Quinn was shot leaping through the worhole in 'Luck of the Draw'. The Sliders story was far from over, though... "