Appellate Judge Elizabeth Skipper's love for this show may surprise you, like a curveball.
"I'm starting to think our Earth only exists in our minds."
I was in high school when these first two seasons of Sliders aired, and I'll admit it, I was geeky enough that I watched every single episode. I'll also admit that, despite its obvious flaws—the ones I recognized then and the ones I didn't see until now—I genuinely enjoy this show.
Facts of the Case
This set offers all nine episodes of Season One and all 12 episodes of Season Two:
In the second half of this two-hour episode, the sliders encounter an America that has been conquered by the Soviet Union and join the rebellion. (Judge Wapner cameos.)
• "Last Days"
• "The Prince of Wails"
• "Summer of Love"
• "The Weaker Sex"
• "The King is Back"
• "Luck of the Draw"
• "Into the Mystic"
• "Love Gods"
• "Gillian of the Spirits"
• "The Good, the Bad, and the Wealthy"
• "El Sid"
• "Time Again and World"
• "In Dino Veritas"
• "Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome"
• "The Young and the Restless"
• "As Time Goes By"
The second half is a tribute to Stephen Hawking's theory that time is an arrow that can point in any direction. The time of this world is moving backwards in relation to the time of the sliders. Unfortunately, at the end (or is it the beginning?), Quinn, never able to mind his own business, changes the future (or is it the past?) and rips a hole in the fabric of time.
As I said, I really like Sliders. I was captivated by it when I first saw it (it filled the void left in my oh-so-cool life by the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation), and I still find it charming now. Despite my bias, though, I see its flaws, the most important of which is that Sliders is an innovative idea that never reached its full potential. Sending characters to parallel Earths that are similar to ours but changed in some fundamental way is a perfect concept for a sci-fi series—the possibilities for new and intriguing episodes are endless—but somehow the writers never quite moved past the seedling stage into a fully-fleshed-out show with arcs, character development, and continuity. (Or at least they didn't in these first two seasons. I can't remember the successive seasons well enough to comment definitively.) Other than the obvious attempts to connect the episodes with cliffhangers and teasers, each show stands basically alone. We know the goal—to return to Earth Prime—but the characters never find a way to make lasting progress towards that end, so the overarching story never progresses either.
As well, the episodes themselves fall into the same trap. Each is a neat idea, but they rarely go further than that. In fact, other than the cute "inside jokes" (e.g., the sliders turn on the TV to find Skipper's Island instead of Gilligan's Island), they don't offer any reason to keep watching past the reveal of the twist of the week. Once you know what the hook is, you can probably figure out the rest for yourself. In my opinion, though, just the concept is enough. Of course I'd be happier with idea and follow-through, but the various ideas—women as the dominant gender, wars that never happened, discoveries that were never made—were original enough that I can live without the follow-through. (Although I know that many of the episode ideas have been seen before in various TV shows, movies, and books, I feel justified in calling them original, because I think Sliders's approaches to the ideas are almost always unique.)
The second major flaw of Sliders is Rembrandt. He is a throwaway character. He has no initial connection to the rest of the group and was very obviously thrown in there for a little color (double entendre intended). Cleavant Derricks, despite the praise bestowed upon him by cast and crew alike in the DVD's featurette, is not a good actor. Perhaps he intends to play Rembrandt as a caricature and his over-emoting can be explained thusly, but I don't find him funny in the least so all he succeeds in doing is grating on my every nerve. And don't even get me started on his tacky wardrobe. There is no excuse for dressing like that past the late '80s.
While I'm focusing on the negative aspects of the show, let me ask this: Why didn't the sliders ever learn their lesson and stop getting involved? Their time on each Earth would have been much simpler if they had stayed in their hotel room, only emerging when absolutely necessary, until the next slide. Then again, I guess everyone's lives would be easier if they stayed in their houses, only emerging when absolutely necessary, but that's no way to live. Furthermore, I suppose I'd have even more to complain about if they never got involved—boy, what a boring show that'd be!—so nevermind.
Now that I've proven I can see Sliders's flaws, let me concentrate a little on what kept me coming back. First and foremost is Jerry O'Connell as Quinn. Maybe it's just that I have a thing for Jerry (see my rave review of Kangaroo Jack if you don't believe I'm a fan), but I think he's perfect for the role. He's an amazing combination of nerd, hottie, and romantic. Mostly hottie, though.
Just so we're clear that I don't always judge an actor by his pecs, let me move on to the next reason I call myself a Sliders fan: John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings) as Professor Arturo. No one can pull off righteous indignation with a dash of pretentiousness quite like Rhys-Davies. He is funny even when he doesn't mean to be, and he accomplishes with his outlandish character what Cleavant Derricks aims for and misses with Rembrandt—a semblance of believability. Plus, there's nothing quite as amusing as seeing Gimli fly head over heels out of a wormhole again and again.
The best part of Sliders, though, what makes me keep watching past the reveal of the hook, is its humor. It's easily missed, and I don't think I ever caught much of it when I watched the show in high school, but in the off-hand comments and the references to the worlds they don't show us (or show us much of), a sarcastic, almost satiric humor lies. For example, in "Into the Mystic," Arturo and Rembrandt, perplexed by the care Quinn is getting from a witch doctor, slyly remark, "One constant about every America we visit…the healthcare system always sucks." And brief glimpses of worlds such as the one where 84% of the population has attended law school and a waiver is required for an act as simple as ordering food give us brief glimpses of the show's humor as well. The humor blends nicely with the sci-fi; with what I call "nerd jokes" (those that not everyone will understand), it appeals to the show's core audience.
The audio and video transfers for these first two seasons are exactly what I've come to expect from television on DVD. While the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix certainly never wowed me, I never found it lacking either. I would have enjoyed a little more kick for this sci-fi action show, but I don't have any real complaints. The full-frame video transfer deserves a slightly better rating. It did justice to Sliders's nifty special effects and, other than some specks of dirt here and there, is without error.
Included on this six-disc set are a handful of extras, if you have a very small hand:
• Audio Commentary: Writers and co-creators Tracy Tormé and
Robert K. Weiss have a conversation during the two-hour series premiere. I
learned a few interesting tidbits, and I'd say it's worth your time.
Also proffered are a photo gallery, ads for various other TV shows on DVD, and a trailer for Stargate Atlantis.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention the space-age "3-D" packaging of this set. The left side of the box is graphics-covered cardboard that houses slotted foam. The right side is a clear plastic cover that displays the six discs, which slide into the foam on the left and therefore appear to be floating in mid-air. Very fun and surprisingly also very convenient. Kudos to Universal for the ingenuity. If only they had carried over that forward-thinking attitude to the creation of the discs' chapter stops. They didn't and instead included my pet peeve, the inability to skip past the opening credits to the next scene, forcing me to fast forward in order not to miss any content. What is this, videotape?
The Rebuttal Witnesses
You'll notice that I made no mention of Wade. I purposely omitted her because I am utterly and completely ambivalent about her. I don't feel she brought much to the show other than a feminine voice, but I didn't mind her either. She's innocuous.
And, hey, what ever happened to the FBI investigation that was launched on Earth Prime into the sliders' disappearance? They never returned to it in the first two seasons…do they ever?
I'm tempted to recommend you purchase this set merely for how cool the packaging would look on your DVD shelf, but I suppose that's a little too enthusiastic. I do think it's a show every sci-fi fan should watch, so at least rent it if you're a newbie.
Sliders has been found guilty of tampering with the balance of the
universe via inter-dimensional travel, but because this Judge was an English
major and doesn't really understand the concept of inter-dimensional travel, all
parties are free to go.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary on "Pilot" with Writer/Co-Creator/Executive Producer Tracy Tormé and Writer/Co-Creator Robert K. Weiss
Review content copyright © 2005 Elizabeth Skipper; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.