Slip Sliding Away

by Stuart Banks

Dreamwatch #33
May 1997

“What if you found a portal to a parallel universe? What if you could slide into a thousand different worlds, where it’s the same year, and you’re the same person, but everything else is different? And what if you can’t find your way home?”

Based upon this simple yet highly imaginative premise Robert K. Weiss and Tracy Tormé created a series of seemingly limitless potential and scope. The show chronicles the adventures of four friends who, having discovered a portal between dimensions, are unwillingly transported to an almost infinite number of alternate universes in their quest to reach home once again.

The group is led by Quinn Mallory, a brilliant young student who discovers the “sliding” process while working on an experiment in his basement. Played by Stand By Me‘s Jerry O’Connell, Mallory is an archetypal loner who devotes his life to studying at the expense of maintaining close relationships. When thrown together with the rest of the group, Mallory is forced to adapt to his situation, and soon discovers the value and importance of friendship.

Acclaimed actor John Rhys-Davies, perhaps best known for his roles in films Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Living Daylights, gives a marvelous performance as Maximillian P. Arturo, Mallory’s arrogant and egotistical physics professor. A brilliant yet undervalued scientist, Arturo has developed an air of conceit which conceals the anger and resentment he feels. Joining the Sliders, Arturo finds himself in a situation where his knowledge and abilities are finally appreciated, and essential for the group’s survival.

An accomplished actress, with roles in the film Chain of Desire and Father Hood, Sabrina Lloyd plays computer technician Wade Welles. Beautiful, yet initially timid, Welles idolizes Mallory, and holds an affection for the character that goes largely unnoticed. When thrown into the adventure as a member of the group, Welles soon discovers her own value and worth.

Playing Rembrandt “Crying Man” Brown, is Cleavant Derricks. With a history as a musical performer, appearing in Broadway shows Jesus Christ Superstar and I Have a Dream, and after winning a Tony Award for his performance in Dreamgirls, Derricks is the perfect choice for the role of a Rhythm and Blues singer who inadvertently joins the group on their travels as he passes Mallory’s house. Though initially concerned solely with his future in show business, Brown soon discovers that there are bigger issues to deal with when he inadvertently joins the other Sliders on their travels.

The parallel universes the Sliders visit are all present-day versions of Earth, yet have a history which, at some point in time, has diverged from that of “Earth Prime.” The changes can have varying effects, such as merely creating an Earth where traffic light colors are reversed, or, more significantly, causing the planet to be thrown into another ice-age. The initial experiment having gone awry, the Sliders are now deposited on these worlds, and must remain there for varying periods of time until their portal to the next opens. Should they miss this escape, the group will be stranded in that parallel existence for years. The Sliders must continue their interdimensional journey, should they hope to ever return to their own world.

Over the past two years, the series has taken the characters to worlds where the United States is under Soviet rule, the sixties never died, women are the dominant sex and dinosaurs still roam the planet. As their voyage has progressed, the characters have gradually evolved and developed. The originally brash and easy-going Mallory has matured under the responsibility for the position his new-found friends are in; Professor Arturo, while still with the tendency to be overbearing, is now rather less conceited; Wade Welles no longer hangs on Quinn’s arm, and has become a confident and assertive young woman; and Rembrandt Brown no longer serves merely as comic relief, having become a capable and vital member of the team.

While Sliders quickly developed a loyal and sizable fan following, the series has not been without its share of problems. Following the conclusion of its first season, the series appeared to have concluded for good. Following a vocal campaign by its fans, the show eventually returned as a mid-season replacement the following year. In an effort to reduce costs, the entire production relocated from its original filming location of Vancouver, Canada, to Los Angeles, California.

Tragedy befell the production when, in September 1996, guest star Ken Steadman was killed in an accident while filming the episode Desert Storm. In December of the same year, series co-creator Tracy Tormé stepped down from his position as the show’s Executive Producer due to contractual obligations to Universal Studios and a general unhappiness with the direction of the show. Most recently, series star John Rhys-Davies announced his intended departure from the series, following the loss of Tormé. What lies ahead for Sliders is unknown, but with a show based on such an intriguing and fascinating premised, the possibilities are surely limitless.

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