Sliders should have been one of the greatest science fiction shows of all time. It had so much going for it: a fun cast, decent writing, creative premise, The first season and a half were some of the best science fiction television you’ll see anywhere. But the show fizzled out quickly when the writers abandoned what made the show so good.
What made the show so good?
The premise of the show was pure science fiction. The lead protagonist, Quinn Mallory, constructed a device that was the result of gravitational theories he had. That device (thanks to modification from another Quinn that came from a different parallel Earth) created a Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge, making a link between two worlds. The device was referred to a sliding technology, as it was how the protagonists were able to move from parallel world to parallel world.
This is science fiction for a very simple reason. The show used that piece of sliding technology, that scientific principle, to tell a fantastic story of exploration. Science, at its heart, is about expanding human potential. It allows us to go farther, do more, survive places and situations we couldn’t before, understand the universe, and.. hopefully.. make us better people in the process.
The show was supposed to be about exploration. Tracy Torme, the creator of the show, wanted it to to be intellectual, political, and satire. The worlds that the heroes would go to were different from their home world. And as the heroes learn about why they are different, they start to see how the consequences of past decisions have a radical result in modern times. The show was thought provoking in a way that very few other shows were.
For example, one episode looked at JFK’s assassination and asked what would have happened if J. Edgar Hoover took over. Well, since Hoover tended to wield power like a tyrant, he would probably do the same as President and declare martial law…. gutting the Constitution and doing away with civil liberties. Our heroes entered into that world. They saw how important the Constitution was. More than that, there was something Maximillian Arturo, known as the Professor, said which struck a cord with me. Yes, it takes great men to carry an idea. And yes, freedom is important. But there is only one Constitution of the United States of America. Only one generation made it. If the Constitution was lost, that generation that made it will not be back to make another one.
It taught that we should appreciate the legacy of freedom we were handed, never to take it for granted. I think that’s a great lesson.
Another thing that made this show great was the dynamic between the cast. You had Quinn, the rebel genius. He was the smart guy who took risks. Those risks sometimes turns out for the best, sometimes turned things far worse. Either way, it made things interesting. You had the Professor, the father figure. He was the group’s moral center and the voice of reason/caution. The Professor grounded everyone, giving the group a sense of security and a huge fount of knowledge. You had Wade Welles. She was the spiritual believer in the group. She accepted the mystical side of life a lot easier than anyone else. She looked at each world with fresh new eyes. Yes, she was the love interest of Quinn, but she wasn’t limited to that. She investigated with the best of them. And finally, you had The Crying Man: Rembrandt Brown. He was the colorful everyman character, swept up in a situation outside of his control. The character had charisma to spare, instantly likable no matter the situation is was in.
The characters play off of each other perfectly. I wish there were youtube videos that I can show you. There was one where Quinn, Professor, and Rembrandt were huddled up, peeking out from a tent’s entrance talking about the cannibals on the world there were in. The youtube video for this one is horrible (bad sound and bad video quality), not capturing the beauty of the scene. It was comedic, speculating who would be eaten first. I was left with the feeling the characters sincerely liked each other. They were friends on an adventure, exploring parallel worlds.
What Went Wrong?
The Fox Network wanted Sliders to be an action series rather than an exploration series. I kid you not. Keep this in mind. The Fox Network rejected the initial premise. Why does this matter?
It doesn’t matter what the background story for these guys were (it wasn’t too bad, actually). What matters is this: they were trying to invade and conquer the many parallel Earths. They turned the series away from exploration and towards survival. The show turned its back on its main premise. There were a number of stories that had the protagonists battling the Kromaggs, struggling against them rather than exploring new worlds. They replaced what made the show work. This was so bad that the actor for the Professor left the series, causing a downward spiral….
When the actor of the Professor left, they had the character killed. The one who killed him stole the sliding technology and left. So Quinn and the rest were all about vengeance for awhile… because you know… vengeance is just as fun as exploration, right? Right? Because watching the characters get all angsty over the death of the Professor is just as lighthearted as everything else they encountered, right?
The actors for Wade and Quinn left as well after awhile. The other actors were pretty good, but didn’t capture the same magic of the original.
So what went wrong? The show abandoned their main premise because of the Fox Network. This led to the actors leaving and the show being dropped by Fox (low ratings… go figure, right?). The show headed to the Sci-Fi network, but kept on their strange direction. The series ended with the last remaining character, Rembrandt, going back home with a virus weapon to kill the Kromaggs that invaded. So it wasn’t about exploration and scientific discovery to get home… it was about war.
Sliders shouldn’t have turned into vengeance and war. The moment the show abandoned it’s original premise… it changed from what science fiction was supposed to be toward.. well… something far less.
If you’re going to watch this, just watch the first two seasons. Ignore everything else and you’ll experience one of the greatest science fiction shows ever. If you watch any more, you’ll see a television show self-destruct, becoming an antithesis of what it was supposed to be. Human spirit and potential is removed, leaving pointless action in its place.
Yes, I hate what it became. Everyone should. Do yourself a favor and watch the first two seasons. You will not regret it. I promise.