Reviewed by Galen Strickland
2007 Update: I recently watched the Season 1 & 2 DVDs and then realized it had been nearly three years since I had updated this page. It was one of the original reviews uploaded when the site went live in 2000, and the most recent update had been when the DVDS were originally announced back in 2004. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the show held up from the memories I had of it. At the time this review was originally written Sliders was still playing periodically on the Sci-Fi Channel, but that has not been the case for quite some time, and any tapes I had of it are long gone. I hope to get the Season 3 set one of these days, but I won't be surprised (or disappointed) if 4 & 5 are never released. [2010 Update: Season 4 has been released, but not 5 yet.]
UPDATE³ - Since that previous update, a complete series set has been made available...TWICE...with the current one released in October 2016. Take this LINK
I'm leaving the original portion of my review intact, with new comments below, in an ADDENDUM.
No matter that it ended its run as a pale mockery of itself, I still feel that Sliders is one of the best SF concepts to have been explored on TV. I can't imagine there are many who are not aware of this show, but to avoid spoilers I will not give many details. The first two seasons included some of the most innovative, exciting television of recent years, although by the third things were getting a bit repetitive. If I'm not mistaken, by that time original creators Tracy Tormé and Robert K. Weiss had given up control of the show, or possibly had been forced out by the network or other producers.
After it was originally canceled, the Sci-Fi Channel revived the series, picking up the story where the final Fox episode left off. The fourth season did contain a few good episodes, among them "Genesis," "Prophets and Loss," "Just Say Yes" and "California Reich," however I cannot think of one good ep in the fifth and final season - sad to say not even the one written by David Gerrold ("New Gods For Old," wherein he yet channeled Robert A. Heinlein, this time with a riff out of Stranger in a Strange Land).
The original cast included Jerry O'Connell as physics whiz Quinn Mallory, John Rhys-Davies as Maximillian Arturo, one of Quinn's professors, Sabrina Lloyd as Quinn's co-worker and platonic friend Wade Wells, and Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt Brown, a has-been singer hopeful of a comeback. Mallory has designed and built a device capable of opening a vortex, or wormhole, between parallel universes. After several "slides" into these alternate realities himself Quinn is anxious to show off his discovery to Wade and the professor. A malfunction of the device causes the vortex to increase in size and move outside Quinn's basement laboratory, and Brown and his Cadillac are inadvertantly sucked into the wormhole as well.
Thus begins their never-ending pursuit of the route back to their own universe. A new, recurring character, Maggie Beckett (portrayed by Kari Wuhrer), was introduced in the first half of a third season episode entitled "Exodus." I never much cared for this character myself, mainly because she is such a bitch most of the time. I suppose she was added to the cast because the network felt they needed to appeal more to young, male viewers (even though I don't think she can act very well, she did provide a nice bit of eye-candy). So Davies' character was written out of the show, or he may have asked out, which was unfortunate since in my opinion he had been the backbone of the show. If only the network had realized what the show needed was better scripts not just pretty women (and for my money, Sabrina Lloyd is gorgeous, but at least her departure led to one of my favorite non-SF Tv shows, Sports Night.
For those who have not had the pleasure of watching Sliders, I will refrain from any spoilers as to the details of this and subsequent cast changes.
As I mentioned above, at least the first two seasons are still as good as I remembered, and in a few instances better. What surprised me is that the ones I liked the most this time around were ones I had only the vaguest detailed memories of before. There are a couple of weak scripts, but no more than is average for most series. If you count the pilot as two episodes the first DVD set contains 23, which is comparable to a full season of most U. S. network shows these days. While it can be argued that it is not totally original in concept, the same could be said for almost everything else, especially in the SF genre. Everything builds on what went before, but it should be judged on how it presents and develops the concept and not on how original the core concept is. Parallel worlds can be traced back in literature to H. G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs, through Heinlein, Asimov, Dick and Simak, all the way to the current boom in alternate histories spearheaded by Harry Turtledove.
Besides, a great concept will only take a show so far. An engaging story must also have characters we care about, ones we root for and applaud when they succeed, or cry for when they fail, and mourn their passing if and when that tragic day comes. I still maintain that Sliders began to die as soon as Arturo did. He was the father figure to his three companions, their moral compass in trying times, a voice of reason in the many chaotic worlds of confusion in which they found themselves. There is no way it could have been as good a show after that, and then when Wade was no longer around it got even worse. So much potential wasted, and yet we still have as many good episodes to remember than most shows are able to produce even with more years to work with. I am looking forward to rewatching the third season, and will come back here at that time if I feel I have any new insights to impart.
And yet another addendum: I still have not watched Season 3 again, due to time and money constraints, but I really should get around to it now that both Hulu and Netflix are offering it streaming. The same is the case for Seasons 1 & 2, although there are a few eps of those they don't have, available on the discs only. Hulu does not offer Season 4, but Netflix does (complete), and they even have Season 5 streaming, and there hasn't even been an inkling that it will be released on DVD.
Addendum Redux: Since that last update, two different sets of the complete series have been released, the latest version in early October 2016, and you can get it HERE
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