Quinn Mallory, a physics student at the University of California, accidentally discovers a means to form a portal to access, or “slide” to, other dimensions. To control this portal, he perfects a timer which allows him to return safely after each slide. Together with his good friend Wade Welles and his professor Maximillian Arturo, he intends to use this new invention to do a bit of exploring. A power overload inadvertently sucks washed-up singer Rembrandt Brown into the vortex as he drives by Quinn’s house, and all four are deposited into an icy San Francisco. Quinn believes they should wait the five hours he’d preset the timer for initially, but an ice tornado forces their hand. What they believe to be home is really another parallel dimension, this one dominated by the Soviet Union.
Rembrandt is arrested for using rebel currency and Wade is found out to be an alternate of an America rebel leader who is being held prisoner. A plan is hatched to rescue both Rembrandt and alt-Wade by having Arturo pose as the warden of the penitentiary. The raid is successful, though not without casualties. Quinn repairs the timer and the four slide again, only to find that they’ve become untethered in the multiverse.
Basically, this is our world. Everything that we know of life on Earth also exists on this world — its history, pop culture and laws are all the same. Some fans argue that this really isn’t our world, in that on our world Quinn Mallory, Prof. Maximillian P. Arturo, Wade Kathleen Welles and Rembrandt Lee Brown would be actors on a television show, but for the sake of clarity, let’s assume that we’re watching a show about true events.
Very similar to Earth Prime, except for the global cooling, the ten-term President John F. Kennedy, Americans flocking to Mexico for jobs and some red light/green light confusion. Oh yeah, and compact discs lost out to vinyl. Still sound similar to you?
Nuclear winter or a shifting of the earth’s axis? You be the judge, but the result is the same — frigid, uninhabitable wasteland.
The Domino Theory isn’t just pizza in under 30 minutes — The Russians, and communism, have swept the globe after an American loss in the Korean war.
Public Transit World
Virtually identical to Earth Prime on the surface except for one small thing — Quinn’s father is alive and well.
The Quinn Mallory of this world had a younger sister and never lost his dog Bopper, a black labrador retriever, before the cataclysm came. It’s unknown if he and his family slid before the devastation, but the basement lab wasn’t there, so it isn’t likely.
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On Soviet World, America lost the Korean War in the 1950s, which opened the door for the Sino/Soviet Empire to make a bid for world domination. First, the empire conquered Indochina, then Europe and finally South America. Eventually, in what’s called the Domino Theory, the United States became politically and economically cut off from the rest of the world. In the end, there weren’t any allies for the Americans to call upon and Russia finally had its way with the U.S.A. As a result, many of the Soviet Union’s societal traits came over to America.
In this America, there is only one communications company called the People’s Telephone and Telegraph which branches off into two services, PT&T and PT&T 2. These government-controlled firms don’t allow direct calls so callers must first identify themselves to the operator with a telephone permit number then the call will be made through that operator. Failure to provide the identification number violates section 33956 of the California Penal Code and prompts and investigation from a communication security team.
Anyone even suspected of being a fascist sympathizer is forced to stand trial in the “People’s Court.” On Earth Prime, the “People’s Court” is a televised small claims court but on Russia World, it’s a televised criminal court.
The Russian one dollar (or ruble) bill is similar to the American dollar except that the ink is red instead of green, the saying reads “in the state we trust” and the picture replacing George Washington is that of 1960s Russian Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev.
Political prisoners are sent to the NorCal Federal Penitentiary, which is run by Maximillian Arturo.
“The inspiration for Sliders was twofold,” says Tracy Tormé. “I was reading about George Washington nearly getting killed in the American Revolution, and I wondered, ‘What might have happened had the bullet hit him just a few inches from where it did?’ There would have been no United States, and I would never have been born.”
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“It had been a concurrent thought in both my mind and in Tracy’s,” says Robert K. Weiss. “For years, I’d wanted to do a show about parallel worlds. I’d been a great Time Tunnel fan, and there had been a few Twilight Zone shows about alternate realities that stuck with me. Over the years, there have been a few series involving time travel, but nothing about parallel universes.
“The shorthand in my head for this was ‘Time Tunnel sideways,’ where it was the present year in each visited universe, but small or large details were different, with alternate histories and cultures producing variations on our own.
“Tracy, meanwhile, had read a story that, if I recall properly, concerned a world where George Washington had been killed in a Revolutionary War battle, and how things had turned out differently. Then he and I met, and right around that time, Discover magazine ran a story about parallel universes, and right on the cover was an illustration depicting parallel Earths, multiple images of the planet with each one colored a bit differently — in fact, you’ll see some resonance with that image in our main title.
“So when the two of us began to talk about working together, and this particular topic came up, we wound up talking for hours. We made a list of the Earths we might like to visit, and that’s what sparked it. We decided to work together on this as co-creators.”
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“Parallel universes are not a wild theory, they’re now accepted as fact,” says Weiss. “Scientists can’t explain quantum physics unless they assume that multiple worlds really exist.”
“If alternate worlds do exist, someone will discover them by accident, a scenario which we mirror in our show,” adds Tormé. “In Sliders, our lead character is not looking for parallel universes, but it happens when he’s working on something else.”
In science circles, there is some confusion as to the origin of Einstein-Rosen-Pudalski Bridge because the bridge is more commonly known as the Einstein-Rosen Bridge.
“[The Pudalski part] was something that Bob Weiss insisted on and we later found out that he was kind of confused,” Tracy Tormé says with a chuckle. “There were actually some arguments at the time and the director [Andy Tennant] was convinced that it was Einstein-Rosen and Bob was convinced it was Einstein-Rosen-Pudalski and Bob, being the executive producer, won the argument.
“I think it was actually a mistake,” Tormé admits, “and then we sort of stuck with it so it’s almost like a running joke.”
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Tormé says he came up with the idea of Quinn’s video diary to serve as a kind of prologue to give the audience some insight as to what has been happening in the Mallory basement for the last few months.
“The video diary was really a device that I created to try to get the technical back story into the viewers’ head as quickly, and hopefully, as visual as possible.”
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According to the September video diary, Quinn created the bulky timer prototype on September 13 — which also happens to be the birthday of Tracy Tormé’s father, singer Mel Tormé.
“I tend to do that in a lot of my scripts,” Tormé admits. “I always put little things, names, characters, whatever, into them that have some meaning for me.”
Other inside character names include Bennish, named after Tormé’s friend since the second grade who has a lot of the same hippie-like characteristics.
“He’s not a physicist, but he’s a smart guy,” he says. “And that was funny because his mother saw the show and called up and said ‘Oh my God, my son’s a drug addict!’ and freaked out. It was great.”
Reportedly, the character of Michael Hurley is based on former Star Trek: The Next Generation producer-writer Maurice Hurley whom Tormé worked with during ST:TNG‘s first and second seasons. When asked about the connection, Tormé chuckled and said only “you’ll have to use your imagination with that one.”
Also, the name [Ross J.] Kelley pays homage the popular Australian singer-songwriter Paul Kelly who helped Tormé write the song “Cry Like a Man,” as well as Larry H. Parker, a popular shyster lawyer in Los Angeles with commercials similar to the one seen in the show.
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Tormé gives some insight into the genesis of the classic scene in which Rembrandt, getting ready for his big comeback, comes out of the bathroom sporting numerous ’cause’ ribbons on his lapel.
“I saw the character … as a guy who was really out of touch with the world,” Tormé says. “He had been a big star [but] as soon as he left his group they had 13 number one singles and now he’s like playing bar mitzvahs on the side and [the anthem] is going to be his big comeback, you know? So, originally, when he stepped around the corner and he was wearing a red ribbon … and the deal was that he didn’t know what the red ribbon meant. He had just seen all these people wearing at thought ‘Oh, this is cool,’ you know ‘I’m back!’ Well that, of course, caused a big problem [with the network]. That was one battle we could never win because they thought we were going to offend the gay audience or offend people who were into the AIDS issue and all that. So then we put eight ribbons on him. That was the solution to that.”
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Rembrandt may not have made it to Candlestick in the final cut, but his version of the National Anthem was filmed.
“We did shoot [that scene],” Tormé says. “We went up to Candlestick Park in San Francisco, and in fact, the Atlanta Braves were playing here, and 40,000 people were attending and Cleavant went out to the pitcher’s mound, we all stood out next to him. It was really exciting. He sang his version of the national anthem before the game and with the cameras on him and his version is hilarious, it’s like an eight minute version. And the people in the stands had no idea what we were doing but they loved it. They just gave him a huge ovation afterwards. And we had planned to use that in a scene where he’s in jail in communist America and he’s daydreaming [about] singing the national anthem in Candlestick Park. And that was not in the [episode] because that was an editorial decision. That kind of slowed the story down a little bit at that point.”
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Two classic out-takes that regularly makes an appearance in the office blooper tape have to do with John Rhys-Davies trying to perform his own stunt work.
“John decided in the Pilot that he was going to do his own stunts,” Tormé says. “One [blooper occurred] when we were running, you know that shot that we use a lot where they’re coming across the bridge and they’re silhouette and we use it [in the opening credits] of the show and there’s a lot of smoke and stuff. They ended up diving into the wormhole near the statue of Lincoln in the park and John just landed … I mean, John dove into this flower bed [beside the statue] like an anvil … and, uh, we were like ‘Oh no!’ and he dusted himself off. He was a total trooper.
“Then there was a scene where they’re escaping the Soviet prison and John has to roll underneath a truck and come up on the other side. And I was watching on the monitor. This was like [at] three in the morning in Vancouver on like a freezing night and there’s John, he’s dressed as a KGB general, and he starts to roll under the truck and I hear this horrible clang. Then he comes up on the other side with a gash, and [he was] bleeding. He hit a pipe or something when he was rolling.”
Tracy Tormé also made a brief appearance. Miss him? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
“I had a cameo … as one of the American underground revolutionaries but it ended up on the cutting room floor,” he says.
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“The Communist world was fun to visit, and it was interesting to see what the world would be like if it as all governed by Communism, but I really wouldn’t want to live there!” enthuses Jerry O’Connell. “I was happy when they yelled ‘Wrap!’ and I was able to go home to watch my choice of capitalist TV stations!”
For O’Connell, the most interesting shot was the group’s arrival on Ice World. “We were supposed to have gone to an ice world,” he says. “They put snow on an entire street — foam and snow on houses for an entire square block. I had never really seen anything like that before in my entire life — I thought it was pretty extravagant!”
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At a Fox press conference on Jan. 14, 1995, Robert K. Weiss told television reporters that he might like to bring Judge Wapner and Doug Llewellyn back for another cameo in the future. “I mean, we’ve even talked about situations where we might return to the “People’s Court” and this time Rusty the bailiff is the judge and Judge Wapner is the interviewer outside and Doug Llewellyn is the bailiff,” he said.
Tormé, however, adds that the network really didn’t understand the subtle humor in the “People’s Court” segment.
“… [It] really horrified them because they thought, you know, ‘You’re going to do this sort of comedy thing right in the middle of a sci-fi show. You’re going to lose the audience, and everyone in Cincinnati is going to turn the set off the second this happens.’ [But] I really fought them for this … and just said ‘It’s gonna work, trust me.’ So we got to shoot the Judge Wapner stuff with the attitude basically they had that they’ll probably cut it out and it’s probably not going to work, but they’ll at least let us shoot it. And so we shot it and it was one of the most popular things that we did.”
Also unaccredited are Montague, the two executives in the computer store, the dim-witted construction worker in the Ross J. Kelley commercial, the angry driver who chastises Quinn, Remmy’s back-up singers on the music video, Rembrandt’s prison guard and the man in the trenchcoat who demands to see the Sliders’ papers.
|Written by||Tracy Tormé & Robert K Weiss|
|Network #||SL-101 & SL-102|
|Directed by||Andy Tennant|
|Music by||Dennis McCarthy|
|Edited by||Ron Spang|
|Next:||Summer of Love|
The final sequence, which is perfectly realized, showcases just what kind of emotional resonance traveling to different worlds can have. Arturo’s speech on the dangers of sliding, Rembrandt’s thoughts of gospel music, Quinn’s overwhelming enthusiasm… all leading to a crushing conclusion where they realize that their journey is far from over.
While researching anti-gravity, brilliant grad student Quinn Mallory accidentally opens an inter-dimensional portal which sends him and three companions on a cosmic roller-coaster ride to parallel Earths.