Eye of the Storm

I mentioned last time that as the end of the season and very likely the end of the series loomed into view I was concocting some ideas of my own on how we might end Sliders. I thought about the characters both past and present — where they are now and where I’d like to see them at the conclusion of this fantastic odyssey. I pitched my ideas to Bill Dial, all of which had a number of different endings. In a way my stories were structured like a “chose your own adventure” type storybook. After presenting them to Bill he turned to me and said, “we haven’t gotten word on the status of our renewal. Why press the issue? Write a cliffhanger.” The man had a point. I wasn’t ready to see the show end and I still had a good season’s worth of Sliders ideas left in me. So I set off to work on The Seer.

Meanwhile during this period we had a freelance script called “A Slide is Just a Slide” that had been lying around for months. The story was supposed to be our mid-season encounter with our old nemesis Dr. Oberon Geiger. The original pitch from the writer Eric Morris was that our Sliders end up in sort of a “composite world”. A splinter dimension made up of fragments of worlds that our heroes had previously visited. The concept was interesting enough and sort of fit in with Dr. Geiger’s quest to combine the multi-verse. After a meeting with Eric we distilled the story down into a sliding version of Casablanca and had him write it.

Geiger’s combine experiments were broken down into stages. Stage one was the combination of an individual — the merging of the Quinn’s. Stage two was the combination of an entire city(s), Los Angeles, the attempt of which we thwarted in Applied Physics. Stage three was to combine whole worlds, which we would deal with in “A Slide is Just a Slide” (which for a short time also bore the name “As Space Time Goes By”).

In the story Geiger’s experiment is a dismal failure. The result was a not a combined world but a patchwork of worlds the size of three square city blocks. Our gang arrives in seemingly familiar terrain around the Chandler but are surprised to find this mini-Earth clogged with a hodgepodge of characters and structures that they’ve encountered on previous slides. This is not the smooth seamless utopian world that Oberon Geiger had envisioned. People from such noted places as skirted cops world, nudist world, gun slinging lawyers world, Egyptian world and Amish world to name a few, would wallpaper the varied environs. We would also meet a few familiar faces — Holly from The Alternateville Horror, Hal the bartender, the dreaded Kromagg Kolitar and even Barry Lipschitz. All of whom are thrown together into this extra-dimensional collage. All of whom are trying to find a way out through any means possible. When they discover that Remmy, Maggie, Mallory and Diana do posses such an out, they each try to entice, cajole, beg and even threaten our heroes for passage.

The problem with “A Slide is Just a Slide” is that we drew many of the classic film parallels to extremes and later regretted it. Almost beat for beat the story was definitely too close to Casablanca, from a scene with Holly feigning affection for Mallory in exchange for the timer, to another scene with a bar full of drunken Kromagg soldiers belting out war hymns. We even toyed around with the idea of having Remmy take on the Victor Lazlo role — fueling the resistance movement to undo Geiger’s work and return everyone to their own world. Our version was just a little (a lot?) too much on-the-nose. We put it aside for the time being with the intent of returning later to water down all our “Casablancisms.”

Weeks passed. Then months passed. Christmas came and went. As did New Year’s. The end of the fifth season was looming into view and we still had this script lying around — its future becoming increasingly uncertain. It was starting to look like we might end up “eating it.” To “eat a script” means that it’s bought and paid for but, for any number of reasons, never produced. This is something that we really couldn’t afford to do. In February we finally turned our attention toward our ostensibly poor unwanted child and decided that, more so now than before, we really didn’t want to do Casablanca. If we were going to use it, the piece would have to undergo what we commonly refer to as a “page one rewrite.” Basically a major rewrite of the entire script. That task fell to Chris Black.

The end result, as seen on screen, was quite a different story than that which I just described. The only elements that remained were Geiger, the miniature dimension and a bunch of pissed-off people who wanted to get out. Overall, we were pleased with it. My only complaint was that I didn’t want to kill off Geiger. I felt, in the event that we were renewed, that he was still a potentially useful deus ex machina for a Sliders grand finale. But we moved ahead with Geiger’s death, and Chris and I decided to use his demise to segue the last two episodes — by having Geiger show our heroes the way home.

We also contrived a rather fun teaser based on a suggestion by stunt coordinator Gary Baxley. I mentioned before that sometimes it seemed like there wasn’t a square inch of the backlot that we didn’t use. Well, for “Storm” we managed to squeeze in one of the attractions that was built for the visiting tourists. That huge gush of water seen ripping through the small village is actually part of the Universal Studios Tour. The sightseers’ tram momentarily pauses in the village, first to get rained on by a torrential downpour. Then it’s immediately pummeled by a constantly recycled, drenching flash-flood. We thought it might be exciting to have the Sliders running for their lives from the blitzing waters, only to swing out of its path at the last minute on a vine or rope. Unfortunately, the swinging part proved to be too dangerous, as well as a nightmare to choreograph. A safer and easier version of the idea was selected. Which is unfortunate, because it really lost the Raiders of the Lost Ark feel that we were hoping to achieve. But this was TV, not features, and those compromises are made all the time.

Oh… in that same scene the great god Cajero to whom Robert (Mallory) was praying to was named after our beloved line producer, Paul Cajero. Who, incidentally, went on to direct the final episode of Sliders, The Seer.

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