<p>I remember the anticipation of waiting to see the premiere of “Sliders” in 1995. It was during my childhood I saw the original airing of the first episode. </p> <p>There was plenty in Sliders to catch the imagination of a young boy. It was one of the few television shows my family and I looked forward to every week including the Chris Carter hit the “X-Files”, “King of the Hill”, “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” and “Early Edition” to name a few. Each night that an episode aired seemed like an event in the making. I couldn’t wait to see what each parallel world was like. The show felt fresh and original from anything I’ve seen before. </p> <p>I think the reason I love Sliders so much is because the scifi’s setting is on earth. It’s scifi that seems realistic. At a base level it’s comparable to Rod Serling’s scifi masterpiece “The Twilight Zone”, where everything seems normal yet has an odd twist to it. In “Sliders” there’s the perfect mixture of adventure, scifi, comedy and at the appropriate time frightening scenes from earth, not an alien planet. I’ll never forget the chilling moment the Kromaggs were revealed nor the mysterious aura of “Into the Mystic”. We were able to see “double” versions of another person from parallel worlds, which is intriguing to say the least. It’s episodes like “Luck of the Draw”, “Invasion”, and “Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome” that keep us talking. I keep the discussion going to learn more about the series but most of all because I don’t want to lose the enjoyment the show gave me. It brings back to my senses a type of nostalgia that is isn’t closely matched to any other show.</p> <p>In 2007 I debuted a Sliders fan blog. After realizing my own name, Thomas, was a character in the season four episode "Slidecage" it only felt right to name the site after the episode title. The Slidecage was built by Quinn’s father Michael Mallory to prevent the Kromaggs from sliding to their home world. During mid season three I was brought to the heartbreaking scene of the death of our beloved Professor Arturo. As a child I remember crying in the night in front of a flashing television screen during the Professor’s death scene. I was in shock and utter disbelief. I believe it was at that moment we were awakened to how great of a show Sliders is or to some… what Sliders was.</p> <p>All of the right elements came together at the right time to create a memorable scifi classic. Its impact is seen throughout pop culture, fansites, social media and more. Following the tragic death of Professor Arturo we were haunted in dismay at how characters were treated by writers and how Maggie verbally attacked the other Sliders specifically during season three. It’s something no other television show would dare do to it characters or it’s fans. Yet it was so shocking some of us were still hooked as to where it all would lead. </p> <p>Even at the loss of Wade many of us were excited at the announcement of yet another return of Sliders for it’s fourth season. Deep down many of us had that hope, and enduring desire to see our beloved characters rescued in some way. From Wade to the Mallory’s and even Professor Arturo we could not, and would not let that desire go, even to this very day. We were always thrown a bone from the writers of hopeful rescues of past characters, from the discussion of Wade in season four to the potential rescue of the Mallory’s in season five. Was it a failure? I think not. It kept many of us hoping and taught us that invaluable trait of never ever giving up. </p> <p>At the time Sliders debuted in 1995 I was somewhat interested in the series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” but it never resonated with me like Sliders did. I never saw a blue sky, I occasionally saw weird looking aliens and I always felt like I was stuck in a building or plane all day. With Sliders there were wide open spaces with unique places to go, different people to meet, endless possibilities and a timeless theme… there’s no place like home. It was on my level playing field, yet with a twist. It was adventure at it’s finest.</p> <p>Thomas Birchfield</p>
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The Sliders land on a world where San Francisco is a national park for the preservation of dinosaurs.
After being separated, the Sliders meet up in the middle of a park in San Francisco. They have “truth collars” locked around their necks. Not a novelty item, but a device presumably mandated by the government to detect and deter lies. It’s a ingenious idea used but I can’t help but feel it was borrowed from an idea earlier in the season episode “El Sid” called buddy bracelets. Seeing the Sliders wear truth collars on this world for a full episode would be a good idea on its own, but this episode is about dinosaurs and the Sliders’ survival. They regroup and are chased by TV journalists from Hard Copy. Believe it or not the series tried to get Geraldo Rivera to play the part to later get devoured by a dinosaur, but it never came to fruition. The journalists standby and watch them slide, which is a refreshing turn from always seeing them hide from the public. Even the staunch advocate of evasion Professor Arturo, could seem to care less.
As interdimensional travel has it, new worlds bring new problems and this time it’s T-Rex sized. They broke one of the dinosaur’s eggs in this new world by landing on it after the slide and clearly the dino isn’t happy. That’s only part of their problem as Arturo falls and injures his ankle while losing their only tool of escape in the process, the timer. The CGI of the dinosaur is quite poor but that’s to be expected for a television series. It’s clever that this episode doesn’t use many dinosaur scenes, and does so only where it’s needed to aid the story. Quinn leaves the team to backtrack their steps in search for their lost timer while the rest seek shelter in nearby cave. The truth collars complicate the Sliders problems by shocking them with every lie on a dinosaur world or as Arturo so eloquently puts it, deprives them of the comforts of platitude and self deception. Hence, in dino veritas, or in dino truth.
This episode could of presented itself as a high action packed event like the 1993 film Jurassic Park, but I’m glad it didn’t. It’s takes a different more realistic approach and would have been a CGI disaster if we saw numerous action scenes of dinosaurs chasing the Sliders. Not long after a dino disturbs the sliders a ‘National Dinosaur Preserve Ranger’ instructs them they’re breaking the law by trespassing and allegedly poaching dinosaurs. On this earth the dinosaur is a protected species and obviously creatures of this size would indeed need a space the size of San Francisco. Having a black market for anything rare like dinosaurs would bring in big money, something the Sliders will later run into.
The drama really unfolds when the ranger informs the Sliders that Quinn may have been killed by an Allosaurus dinosaur. There’s an interesting surprise that Rembrandt discovers about the ranger but I’ll leave that for you to see. It’s a battle as it is on most every world, for them to prove they are travelers from another dimension. Rembrandt decides to venture out into the dangerous woods and identify the remains of a body left by the dino. While he’s gone the Professor consoles Wade and shares some personal information with her about Quinn. This is undoubtedly the most powerful moment of the episode and also one of the greatest performances by John Rhys-Davies in the series. He describes the first time he met his student, Quinn, who was a gangling and distinguished first-class scientist. It’s moments like these that build our understanding of their relationships, something that we all can relate to and love.
One thing that irritates me about this episode is the constant change of environment from dusk to nighttime. Countless TV series and movies have used lighting and editing techniques while filming in daylight to change the atmospheric feel. However, it’s like when filming this episode they were either extremely pressed on time, which TV series usually are, or didn’t know which scene to film at the right time of day. You can see rapid switches between dusk to nighttime scenes particularly near the end of the episode and this inherently takes away from the immersion this episode could have.
After Rembrandt regroups with Wade and Arturo in the cave, they discover an armed poacher among them. It only further complicates an already dire situation. He claims to have used dinosaur organs for healthcare including to speed burn healing, cancer research, and sinew for heart surgery. As arrogant as he seems to be, it turns out he has some sympathy for the Sliders and even gives some advice on what to do for Arturo’s injured ankle. It’s concluded that the remains of the body outside could be that of the poacher’s dead partner. I love the conversation he brings up with the Sliders about the Forest Service having a photograph of him. He explains he’ll probably windup on “America’s Most Wanted”. If you’re not familiar with the show, it would profile the top criminal cases in America each week, which aired the day after Sliders at 9:00 p.m. on the same network, FOX. Its just another gem Sliders rolls out to relate with pop culture.
Wade haphazardly attempts to search for Quinn in the woods while being encountered by a dino. Luckily she is saved by the poacher, who is soon after killed by the Allosaurus as she’s reunited with Quinn. I felt we should have seen some dramatic scenes with Quinn hunting for the timer but its seems they decided to take the approach of leaving the viewer hanging longer than necessary about Quinn’s well-being. With time fleeting they attempt a final dash to recover the timer. They have a plan of using a repellent and flare in an attempt to deter the dinosaur with only 2 minutes to slide. The final minutes of the episode are well worth the wait and its certainly one of the most dramatic final scenes of this season.
As strange as it sounds, this episode doesn’t try to cover a dinosaur story very in-depth, as it shouldn’t. Rather it takes a different path apart from heavy CGI action scenes to tell the story of those in a life or death situation. The Sliders are put to the test to trust not only each other but the skeptical yet faithful forest ranger. It proves that truth is the key virtue which sets one free. In dino veritas.
Honorable Mention: Move to Los Angeles
Vancouver British Columbia, Canada was the home of Sliders for two whole years from 1995 through 1996. While expense obviously dictated the move, and a more varied actor list would grow, what wouldn’t would be their environment. It’s evident throughout season three. The “Universal Backlot” would be used a fair amount and was used even more in seasons four and five. The backlot would come in handy with the aspect of things being the same in parallel universes, but you can over do it, and that’s exactly what they did.
5. Heavily Incorporate the Kromaggs
There was too much magg. No not Maggie Beckett. In fact the character probably wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for my top 3. But to the matter at hand, the Kromaggs were used way too much in season four. We are first introduced to the Kromaggs in the season two episode “Invasion” and they disappear for over a season and a half. Fans weren’t pleased with these new villains and wanted to return back to the roots of the show. In the back of everyone’s mind (insert space alien name here) came to mind. There were some decent episodes with Kromaggs in season four but it was just over done and seemed to take away from the aspect of parallel worlds. It just brought too much of a reminder of what other scifi shows beat into the ground.
4. Fail to Negotiate
I’ve always felt that Jerry O’Connell is the heart of the show. The boy genius who accidentally opened the gateway to parallel dimensions was the compass throughout the first four seasons. His intelligence and leadership was the key to getting the team home but without him the mission felt aborted. The show felt lost without his presence in season five. Jerry wanted to be executive producer for the fifth season and he also felt the need to see his brother, Charlie, continue as his co-worker. The Sci Fi Network failed to negotiate these key attributes which was ultimately inadequate for not only Jerry O’Connell, but for the fans of the show as well.
3. Fire John Rhys-Davies
It doesn’t matter how he lost his job. John Rhys-Davies was indeed getting irate at the writers from season three, for ripping off every movie under the sun. To him, there was no creative thought or geniune science incorporated into the season three episodes. Saying the stellar high profile actor John Rhys-Davies was a loss to the show is an understatement. As Cleavant Derricks stated we all knew it was the beginning of the end. The harmony the cast had at the time was one for the ages, but it could only last for so long. And so the descent of the show began.
2. Write Bad Scripts
Movie ripoffs were at a height in season three. Anything from Twister to Mad Max was applied as a framework for episodes. Even guest stars Apollonia Kotero, Corey Feldman and Danny Masterson couldn’t rock your world. But its obvious no real thought was put into creating great stories for the show in season three and it shows. The writers were rolling out scripts like it was an assembly line. It seems they were more concerned with just producing them rather than putting out true quality. With a staggering twenty five episodes in season three needed to be written, its no wonder.
1. Start with the FOX Network.
From the start, “Sliders” was essentially set up to fail. Don’t get me wrong, the FOX Network had some great shows at the time like the X-Files, and the Adventures of Brisco County Jr. However, many shows weren’t given the freedom they needed and were suddenly cancelled. At the time co-creator Tracy Tormé and Bob Weiss were only able to get a foot through the door at FOX since NBC was a no go. Yet the network limited Tormé so much it suppressed the true quality of the show. Yes, if FOX hadn’t picked up the script it’s a very good possibility that Sliders would of never existed. The network couldn’t even air the episodes in order, and still to this very day it’s a problem. You can’t ignore the true potential Sliders could of had if the network was a little more supportive of it’s creators.