Marc Scott Zicree : Sliders Cybercon ’98

Written by: Matt Hutaff · January 26, 1998


Marc Scott Zicree is best known as the author of the Twilight Zone Companion. He has also penned scripts for such science fiction shows as Babylon 5, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and The Twilight Zone. He has also written for the television series Beauty and the Beast. This year, Marc adds yet another science fiction series to his resume, as he tackles double duty as both a producer and writer for the television series Sliders, which moves to the Sci-Fi Channel in June of 1998.

As part of the Sliders Online Convention held January 26, 1998, Sliders producer/writer Marc Scott Zicree agreed to sit down and answer questions from the fans:

We heard of the possibility that Sci-Fi channel might order more than the 22 episodes scheduled. When will we know for sure if Sci-Fi will order more episodes?

It’s possible – 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.

One question that has been eargerly debated on the Internet is whether or not Rembrandt took Rickman’s timer with him to Earth Prime. Many of us have watched the episode over and over, and it appears that Quinn meant to give Remmy the timer as he pushed him the vortex, but it is quite obvious Quinn kept it according to the footage. In fact, the next scene shows Quinn putting it in his back pocket. So, the question is…was this a production mistake? Did Jerry just forget to hand off the timer or was it written where Quinn was supposed to keep Rickman’s timer and not give it to Remmy as Quinn pushed him into the vortex? Also, is there any mention of the “Future World” that Maggie and Quinn ended up on, or will it be skipped over?

Well, it does get confusing. This season, we’ve been playing it that our guys have only one timer. Anything more than that would be confusing. And whatever Remmy had when he arrived on Earth Prime, the Kromaggs soon captured him and no doubt took it. As to the “Future World” Quinn and Maggie landed on, we haven’t yet dealt with it but are talking about a story which would examine it.

Any chance of Sabrina Lloyd returning say as a guest star?

We’re not planning that at this time – but that doesn’t rule it out down the line.

Will the Sliders be getting yet another new timer this season?

So far, the Sliders haven’t gotten a new timer this season. Though they do utilize the Slidewave Device in my episode “World Killer.”

I was wondering if you roughly know the ratings that Sci-Fi Channel is shooting for with Sliders on its cable network…in other words, roughly what number level of ratings would get Sliders a season five?

I don’t know what ratings the Sci-Fi Channel would need to consider Sliders a success. Certainly ones lower than the broadcast networks.

Can you tell us more about the new Slider. Will he be a bit comical? (we could use a few laughs after last season) How will his relationship with Quinn progress? Also how do you think Charlie O’Connell is doing in the role so far?

Our new Slider, Colin Mallory, Quinn’s brother, comes from a non-technological world, yet is himself a genius inventor (along the lines of a Leonardo or Benjamin Franklin). His wide-eyed innocence allows us to see worlds like our own through new eyes. We’ve used him to great advantage both in serious and comedic episodes. It’s great fun to see Charlie get comfortable wit the role and flex his acting muscles. We’re giving him a wide variety of notes to play, and both he and we are having a good deal of fun with it.

I was wondering which repeating characters like, Bennish, Pavel the cabbie, and Logan St.Claire, will be returning? Will new repeating characters be developed?

We haven’t used them this season (partly due to the show being filmed this year in L.A. rather than up north). We haven’t introduced new characters that we meet more than once. Our main focus this season has been to examine and expand our regulars.

Has John Rhys-Davis expressed a desire to be a part of Sliders again, and is there a way to make that happen?

I haven’t talked with John Rhys-Davies. At this point, there’s no plan to bring him back. But the good side of this is that not having Arturo has allowed us to focus more on the others, who have grown as a result. Quinn is now more the leader and expert. And Remmy has become something of “the wise old man.” Fun stuff.

What episodes will be rerun in March on the Sci-Fi Channel? Is there a way Sliders fans can vote for what episodes they want to see?

The episodes to be rerun have not been set yet. Naturally, the key episodes that establish Sliding, the characters and the Kromaggs would be likely candidates. As to the fans voting, I’ve mentioned the idea to the Sci- Fi Channel and they’re open to it. You might want to drop them a note via DOMINION, their website.

I was wondering if the show would get some of the humor back it had in the first season. Many fans including myself would like to see a few episodes like “The Weaker Sex” where it was mostly a comic episode instead of “uh oh someone stole the timer again”.

We here on staff all agreed that was a great idea. Bill Dial, our co-exec producer, and Chris Black, our executive story editor, both come from comedy writing backgrounds. So a number of our episodes have both big laughs and sharp social satire. And in some of the other ones we just blow stuff up (just kidding…).

I know the main story arc is the Kromaggs but will there be a story arc that last only a few episodes and will there be any two part episodes?

The answer is no, at this time. However, we do have various character beats that we set up in one episode and pay off in another, etc.

How come a window can be “minutes on some worlds and months on others” – why not years, or even 29 years; if the next window is 29.7 years (if they miss their slide), why are their stays limited to minutes or months, and not years (besides the obvious TV complications this would present to the series)?

I could give you a pseudo science answer, but the real reason is whatever serves a given story. Besides which, it’s fun to have them one place for an hour in one story and a few days in another, it shakes up the mix.

What has Torme’ had to say about the ideas for this season? In my opinion, they look close to what he had tried to do with the Kromaggs the first time, but Fox wouldn’t let him. Has he had any input thus far in the fourth season of Sliders?

In terms of Tracy Torme’s role this season. He’s busy with many other projects, so he’s not hands-on this year. But we do speak to him periodically. We’re glad to be brining back the Kromaggs. They’re great characters and have sparked a number of fun episodes this season.

Will there be an episode where we go over the rules and explanations–like why do you have to wait 29.7 years if you miss the slide and just can’t build a new timer, why does the timer count down, etc..

We have a bit of that threaded here and there throughout the episodes but we don’t linger. For one thing, we want an hour of adventure, drama, humor, etc. – not a lecture.

Hasn’t most every slide been random? Why would Max say at the end Egyptian world that, “if we advance this here Egyptian timer, it means we’re back to random sliding”?

I guess we should ask Max. 🙂 Seriously, though, the slides remain largely random this season, with the exception that if the Sliders find the coordinates of a specific world they can slide to it – but only when the timer counts down to zero. There are exceptions to this, however, which we learn about in my episode “Slidecage.”

If you had to say that season 4 was most like one of the other seasons, which would you say it was more like, 1, 2, or 3?

I’d have to say I think we’ve taken what’s best of each and jettisoned the weakest elements. We’ll see if the audience agrees. But we’ve definitely tried to get a good mix of action, humor, science fiction, social satire and moving human moments.

Will the look of Sliders be more like it was before, or like other cable shows, like Mission: Genesis for example?

The look this season is great. We have the same Director of Photography as before and are shooting on the Universal Lot on 35mm film.

If you could have the Sliders slide into any other TV show, what would it be?

Co-executive Producer Bill Dial replies, “If we could have the Sliders slide into any other show, it would be ER – for the ratings.”

How did you get into scriptwriting? Did you attend a film-oriented school or was it fate?

I loved TWILIGHT ZONE, OUTER LIMITS and STAR TREK as a kid. Wrote THE TWILIGHT ZONE COMPANION right out of college. Broke into TV writing animation (SMURFS, SUPERFRIENDS, etc.), then segued into live action — the recent TWILIGHT ZONE, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, STAR TREK – TNG, and so on. It wasn’t so much fate as obsession.

If Sliders is picked up for a fifth season (as we all hope it will be), do you see yourself returning in the same capacity or even another capacity in the show’s production?

If there’s another season, what will my role be? Um, on to the next question…

Do you know if the SciFi Channel has a policy on the delay between airdates in the US and in Europe? In short, when can we expect to see Sliders here in the UK?

I don’t know when it will air in the UK, but I’m sure it will be soon.

Could they somehow let Sabrina Lloyd visit once in awhile? And even Arturo so he could help them out on some worlds? And if Sabrina can visit, they could let Colin be interested in her so that Quinn would open his eyes a little more and realize he misses her?

We won’t see that this season, but in the future anything is possible.

My question is, since JMS is about wrap up his epic saga(B5) on TNT…what would be the chances of getting him to write an episode for Sliders either this season or in the possible season five?

I’ll ask Joe (the Great Maker) next time I have lunch with him. But I wouldn’t count on it…

Will there be any new Sliders merchandise we can look forward to?

There’s an episode guide coming out in paperback, and the Sci-Fi Channel will have a cool website. Beyond that, we’ll see what develops.

Where can I find scripts from the show?

At this point, we don’t send out scripts, so I wouldn’t know what to suggest.

Will Remmy sing any new songs?

Remmy sings a song Cleavant composed in “Asylum,” a love story written by Bill Dial.

What episodes have been filmed so far?

We’re currently filiming our 15th episode this season – out of 22. I don’t want to give out all the specifics (let’s leave some surprises), but there’s a wide variety of stories taking place on many delightful and surprising alternate Earths. Best of all, each of our main characters gets to take center stage in several episodes, so it’s a true ensemble.

My question is will the direction of the show return to its roots and have a mix of genres so it incorporates many elements in to an episode like the first season?

Yeah, we’ll have a mix of genres like in the first season. Or put more simply, more of what we all like and less (or none) of what really ticked people off last year.

We know that Wade’s character will not be a part of season four, and the fans genuinely liked her. A lot of fans feel a degree of hostility towards Maggie’s character and Wade’s departure has exacerbated this. What reassurances can you provide Sliders fans with that the writers will be developing Maggie’s character to make her more sympathetic and less hostile as a member of the group?

Just watch the new episodes. You’ll be pleased. She’s funny, complicated, compassionate, charming – all the things we hoped she’d be. Just wait and see.

On Usenet, there are several moderated newsgroups relating to television programs. One of the main ones is the Babylon 5 moderated newsgroup that JMS uses to talk with fans and receive feedback. I was wondering if you would like to particpate in something like this for Sliders (especially if there is a season five)?

It’s a possibility.

Will there be any returning to worlds featured in past episodes to see what has happen since they left and will the sliders have the option to return to a world they visited in the past? If so, will they use this?

Possibly, if a cool story occurs to us.

Will the characters be more developed then they are now?

Yes.

Does the new Egyptian timer have limits(regarding how many people they can bring along, which the old timer did) as well or can it hold more capacity? Does the Egyptian timer have the same 400-500 mile radius as the old one?

The radius and number of people the Egyptian timer allows is similar to the other one. Or even identical (they push the button and it goes…).

How important is it to you to follow the Sliders mythology and stay within what has been established in previous episodes? Would you break the rules of sliding that has been set up before or make characters act in a way that doesn’t fit their personality?

We’re trying to stay as consistent as possible. We’re mostly concerned that the characters be smart and that they care about each other, treat each other with compassion. As to the rules of sliding, we’ll sometimes bend them a little (if we have a great story) but we try not to break them. And if we do bend them, we come up with some scientific rationale to explain it.

Will we be seeing anymore doubles of the Sliders?

We’ll be seeing more doubles of the Sliders – in ways we haven’t seen them before. It’s a lot of fun. One has to be careful not to use it too much, though. I think we’ve got a good mix this season.

Has any of the unproduced scripts from the previous seasons been rewritten or produced such as In the Heat of the Moment, Onliners, Twisted Cross, or Beauty World? If not, where could I find scripts to these unproduced episodes? And maybe could you give us a summary of those episodes?

We haven’t made any of them. And since they’re unproduced, we really can’t send them out. Sorry.

What exciting special effects sequences can we look forward to?

We’re doing an episode called “The Alternateville Horror” that should have some very fun visuals. It’s a very funny piece written by Chris Black, our executive story editor.

How can I become an extra on Sliders?

Bill Dial suggests calling Central Casting. Beyond that, I don’t know.

In “Genesis, will we find out who has the tracking implant from Invasion?

Watch and see.

Since Maggie can’t breath on Earth Prime, how is this dealt in Genesis when they go back to Earth Prime?

When Maggie comes back to Earth Prime, we find that her sliding to so many Earths has allowed an adaptation where she can breathe, albeit with some difficulty.

Can you give us some clues as to how Quinn will handle the loss of Wade this season? Will he go the “I blame myself” route, or just try not to react too much, like he did with Arturo’s death? (Unless he thought someone was blaming him for Arturo’s death… then he reacted!)

Quinn will mourn the loss of Wade and try hard to find her, but it won’t be something that takes center stage.

If Sliders happens to continue on into another season beyond this one, is there a chance(depending on the finale) that the character of Wade will be brought back..either being played by Sabrina Lloyd, or by another actress altogether? Fans seem split – some think that any Wade is better than none at all, while others don’t want to see Wade if she’s not played by Sabrina.

It won’t happen this season, but who knows.

If each daughter universe is a copy of its’ parent, how can it have a different quantum signiture?? Is not the physics copied?

Bill Dial answers, “I have no idea.” I think I’ll let that answer stand.

And that’s it! Let’s all give Marc a big hand for putting up with our questions! 😀 And, on a side note, if you’re interested in seeing some of Marc’s work, he passes along this message:

“Oh, and you might mention to the fans to watch DS9 the week of Feb. 9th. The episode is “The Far-Off Stars.” Yours truly thunk it up. It takes place in Manhattan, 1953, and all the DS9 characters have double roles as science fiction writers.”

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