“The buzz around Sci-Fi is that Season Five will, indeed, be Sliders‘ last.” — Brian Hartigan, aka The Expert.
While there were enough story ideas floating around the production offices to merit an entire alternate fifth season, there were also a great number of rumors buzzing around the Internet about the fate of the O’Connell’s and the show. Was the show even coming back?
We know now how events played out, but back in 1998, when Season Four was barely starting its run on the Sci-Fi Channel, people were already questioning if the show would return. Word came down on August 14, 1998 that the show would be renewed, but the next day the bad news that Jerry and Charlie O’Connell weren’t returning dealt a serious blow to the show.
Below is a compilation of many of the rumors that swirled around production in the months following the O’Connell brothers’ departure.
The brothers weren’t the only ones vacating their positions with the show. Producer Marc Scott Zicree and Executive Producer David Peckinpah left to pursue other projects (although both would remain closely tied to Sliders — Peckinpah’s new show, Turks, was an Universal property; Zicree helped shepherd several episodes into production and spoke about penning some of his own). The power vacuum left Bill Dial as executive producer and Chris Black as producer. Keith Damron (Virtual Slide, Lipshitz Live) stepped in as Story Editor.
Cleavant Derricks and Kari Wuhrer signed another contract for the fifth season, took a raise in pay and settled in to work (Kari made $19,404 an episode during season five). Who to bring in for the new Sliders, though?
Initial reports suggested that Eddie Mills, who played D.E.R.I.C. in the third season episode State of the Art, would be tapped to play the youthful character Derek Quade, the original idea of what later became Mallory. There was also speculation that getting Mills to play a character named Derek could be a nod that he was a double of the original template the android was based on.
A few days later it was confirmed through sources and later Variety that Robert Floyd had been tapped to fill one of the cast holes. As for what became Diana Davis (initially a scientist who would be introduced later in the season), there was only one person bandied about — Tembi Locke.
But what about the re-appearance of major stars like John Rhys-Davies and Sabrina Lloyd? Rhys-Davies was quickly counted out of reprising his role as Arturo; however, producers were looking to have Sabrina Lloyd guest star in one episode all by herself. The plot would have focused entirely on Wade (without the cast) showing that she was okay. However, Sabrina wanted upwards of $40,000 to do this sort of thing so the idea was scrapped. Instead, producers planned to have more than a few minor characters introduced that have met Wade and can tell the Sliders that she’s doing just fine.
The Wade episode nixed, the producers picked up a script for a Wade-themed episode by Michael Reaves. “The story will answer a question the fans have been asking for some time,” said Marc Scott Zicree, who helped to fine-tune the story. This made it to the screen as Requiem.
The big news was in who would be guest starring. Early reports from sources to the show indicated that producers were trying to lure old FOX regulars like Ross J. Kelly, Pavel Kurlienko and Elston Diggs into the show to ease those fans that missed the O’Connells. Zoe McClellan (Logan St. Clare, Double Cross) was scheduled to appear as well (witness the “Fates Beckoning” storyline in the Lost Season section) and Conrad Bennish, Jr. (Jason Gaffney), pothead physics genius from season one, was confirmed for four episodes.
Why Bennish didn’t appear in the fifth season is one of the biggest behind-the-scenes mysteries of the show. Gaffney confirmed himself that the show had entered into negotiations with him to reprise his role in four episodes throughout the season, the final being the season finale. Production had approached Tracy Tormé to ask him what they could do that might make him happy; putting Bennish in as a recurring role was his solution. Contracts were drawn, everything was set and then for no reason at all it all fell apart. Isn’t that great?
As to how they planned to lose Quinn and Colin, initial ideas included the merging of Colin with Quinn to create the amalgamate character played by Floyd. While there was a report that the O’Connell’s acquiesced and filmed a day’s worth of footage when production started again, that was quickly disproven, and the brothers wouldn’t appear at all during the fifth season. Check out the Lost Season section for more ideas on how the producers planned to write them out.
In addition to the close to two dozen fleshed-out ideas mentioned elsewhere on the site, there are a couple fragments of story possibilities that floated around. Marc Zicree had mentioned that he would be penning at least one script, one of them possibly the episode “Ascension” mentioned in the Lost Season, where the Sliders land on a shuttlecraft in the process of being launched. Another story idea attributed to Zicree described the introduction of a new kind of sliding technology (possibly the kind seen in Requiem). Zicree (or someone claiming to be him) also mentioned the possibility of an episode where the Sliders land on a world where a reclusive Quinn actually did invent anti-gravity.
Other story rumors include:
- A script penned by David Peckinpah (possibly his story credit on The Unstuck Man)
- A script entitled “The Perfect Candidate” (possibly A Current Affair)
- A script entitled “Kung Fu Slide”
- A script entitled “Beyond the Barrier” (possibly Eye of the Storm)
There was a report in March 1999 that suggested an on-location chase sequence. They witnessed the filming at the Santa Clarita Valley Mall. In the scene, Peter Jurasik’s character (Oberon Geiger) is chasing Mallory through the mall, and Mallory escapes through a vortex.
The biggest storyline that had been rumored by Keith Damron himself involved a big blowout 2-hour series finale that involved the Sliders fighting a war against the Kromaggs on Earth Prime. For various reasons, this didn’t come to pass.
Pretty much every other rumor came to fruition or is mentioned, again, in the Lost Season section. That’s a wrap, folks.