Posted: July 05, 2005
June 23, 1997 saw the confirmation that Sliders was coming back:
Sci-Fi Channel turns a new page in its history and paves the way for its future with the addition of Sliders, the state-of-the-art sci-fi/action drama from Universal TV, to its original programming lineup beginning in January 1998. SCIFI has committed to 22 new, original episodes of the series and has acquired the exclusive rights to all 48 previously produced hours. The announcement as made today by Rod Perth, President, USA Networks Entertainment.
In the months preceding the announcement, decisions about where and how Sliders would resurface bounced all over the place — would it be Fox by some miracle? Evidence uncovered by the Dimension of Continuity shows Fox was looking to place the show in a rotating time slot with their upcoming series The Visitor and two other projects, making Sliders a once-a-month show with no repeats (and an order of 13 episodes or less).
All of that dropped away when Universal decided to put the show on one of its own networks. “Fox was (and is) airing the show this summer, including the double run on July 4, to keep the fire hot for Universal,” said a Fox employee.
But on USA or the Sci-Fi Channel? Co-creators Tracy Tormé and Robert K. Weiss stated in interviews and via numerous e-mails the show would be simulcast on both networks to maximize the amount of possible viewers, but on July 8, it was confirmed that Sliders would air exclusively on the Sci-Fi Channel, although a few “stunt” airings made their way on USA.
Now that Sliders had a home on the Sci-Fi Channel, where were they going to film it? Reliable reports put filming in Vancouver, British Columbia (a la the first two seasons), Orlando, Florida (per Tracy Tormé) and Los Angeles. The Vancouver Sun reported in July that production was moving back to Canada. A second source, a Canadian broadcast and production journal called Playback Magazine, backed up the notion in its August 11th issue.
“It’s been widely covered that [Sliders] is coming back to Vancouver to lower expenses and produce enough episodes for syndication,” said reporter Ian Edwards. “Producers have also booked studio space [and] talked to unions, so if the show isn’t coming now, then the producers have changed their mind.”
The next day sources at Universal and Executive Producer David Peckinpah dismissed the rumor and stated production would remain in Los Angeles.
As early as July 28 rumors were flying about who would make it back to the show and who wouldn’t. Jerry O’Connell was simultaneously confirmed a lock and a no-show. Sabrina Lloyd was gone. Kari Wuhrer and Cleavant Derricks were not.
Jerry O’Connell’s return was confirmed in the U.S. edition of TV Guide. One of the stipulations in Jerry’s contract for a 4th season was that he be given Producer credit and opportunities to direct. Reports were that Sliders production had no qualms about giving Jerry such credit because they believed in his abilities as a filmmaker and experience (directing Stoker). “It’s not an honorarium,” one source said.
Sabrina Lloyd (“Wade Welles”) confirmed her departure on August 7th. When asked for a reason, a spokesperson for Lloyd’s agency said “there’s really no comment at this time,” though the person did say that Sabrina had no other projects on the go and that it was her decision not to return.
A Sliders newsletter expounded on the reasons for her departure: Sabrina Lloyd was fired due to in-fighting with Wuhrer. According to the source, Lloyd was jealous of Kari and was constantly misbehaving on the set. The official word from Universal and Sabrina’s agent is “She felt it was time to move on.”
The real reason for her departure — David Peckinpah and the decline in family atmosphere after John Rhys-Davies’ firing — didn’t become clear until much later.
The casting hole opened up led to immediate rumors that Charlie O’Connell would become the fourth Slider. As early as August 12, reports pegged the younger O’Connell to fill Lloyd’s space. August 18th saw the report crystalize into news by a Universal source that he’d be playing Quinn’s alternate brother.
Just how the game of musical cast chairs would effect the story was an immediate concern to fans on the Internet. How do you write off a character off-screen between seasons and add another in? Speculation began, but initial reports played out pretty much like we saw them — Wade kidnapped by the Kromaggs and Quinn and Maggie finding Rembrandt, who relates the shocking tale.
Below also are several plot machinations overheard at a writer’s convention:
The biggest random storyline? Wade is actually Maggie’s mother. Sound crazy? Read on:
What if Maggie’s world was actually approximately 25 years ahead (much like a reverse of The Guardian)? The theory dictates that Wade had Maggie at a very young age — and that Rickman is Maggie’s father. Maggie is the result of a 25-year-old affair between naive young Wade and a younger (probably better looking) Angus Rickman. Such a story arc may take place a couple of episodes into the season and Sabrina Lloyd’s return to make a guest appearance is not out of the question.
The episode order was set at 22 fairly early in 1997, but rumors of more were leaked by Producer Marc Scott Zicree. “I’d say even probable (now that Barry Diller owns both Universal TV and the Sci-Fi Channel) — that more episodes would be ordered of Sliders. But I don’t assume that will happen until late Spring or early Summer.” It never happened.
After production started on September 15 and Marc Scott Zicree made connections with fans online, a few more storylines made it onto the web. Judge for yourself how many plotlines came to pass:
“As to resolving Logan St. Clair, the fake Arturo, the FBI tracking the Sliders, etc., we haven’t pursued any of that,” said Marc Zicree in an interview.
The rumor mill spun hard on who might be appearing in the fourth season. Would Arturo return? Logan? Bennish?
No, no and no. “”There’s a chance that [Sabrina] will return to the show,” said executive producer David Peckinpah. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to do an episode that Sabrina would be interested in.”
Early in the story breaking process, it was rumored that Conrad Bennish, Jr. (Jason Gaffney) would make his triumphant return. Zicree also went on the record as wanting to bring back other Vancouver regulars like Pavel the taxi driver.
Armin Shimerman was tapped to play the role of Thomas Beecham in Slidecage, but had to back out due to his obligations to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Additionally, veteran actress Adrienne Barbeau was brought on. Initially, it was thought that Barbeau would be guest starring as Wade’s mother (thus allowing for some great potential drama) because of the physical resemblance and the age difference, but we all know what she ended up as — the conniving Mother Morehouse (originally Morehead).
Other guest stars touted were Tim Thomerson (MacArthur Mallory), Charlie Brill (Barry Lipschitz) and John Kassir (Arnold Potts), all of whom appeared in the episode Lipschitz Live.
Zicree became a fixture at giving out information on the new season. Most of it is all stuff that made it to the final version. Kromaggs? Check. Retooled Maggie? Check. “We’ve done a lot to retool Maggie’s character and I think
you’ll be pleasantly surprised,” he said. “She’s still assertive and strong, but also compassionate and rounded (I mean, in terms of personality), someone you’d want to spend time with.”
Thoughts on a fifth season? Zicree was certain there would be one. He talked about scripts that were shelved due to scheduling that eventually made it into production, most notably David Gerrold’s God in the Machine, which we all know as “New Gods for Old.”
Eventually, full synopses of each episode were leaked, and you got what you saw. 1997 saw some crazy rumors, but end result is invariably Season Four, love it or hate it.