Sliders: Seasons One and Two
Rated: Not Rated
Program Length: 16 Hours and 59 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Audio: Episodes: English – Dolby Surround (2.0)
August 3rd, 2004
Somewhat similar in theme to Quantum Leap, the series Sliders, created by Bob Weiss and Tracy Tormé, chronicles the adventures of four people traveling between parallel universes in search of the reality they belong in. The series hit the airwaves in March of 1995, and like Quantum Leap it was also somewhat under-appreciated, but it did have a nice five-season run, totaling 88 episodes.
The adventure of the “Sliders” began when a young genius named Quinn Mallory (Jerry O’Connell) failed in an attempt to create a functional anti-gravity device. Though a failure, this ambitious effort resulted in something even more spectacular, for the device proved capable of opening wormholes to parallel dimensions!
In testing this “gateway”, Quinn is whipped through the tunnel between dimensions, and lands back in what appears to be his own basement, so he deems what had appeared to be an amazing discovery yet another failure – at least until he heads out for the morning. It is at this point that Quinn realizes that the world around him has changed. For instance, at intersections, red traffic signals tell drivers to proceed, while green signals mean stop, JFK is still alive and well, and there is a big difference in Quinn’s mother Mrs. Mallory (Linda Henning)! But just as this final shocking revelation occurs, and he is about to flip out, the timer Quinn had programmed into the device goes off, pulling him back through the wormhole into his own familiar world.
Once again, however, things are not what they seem! Picking up his normal routine, Quinn goes to the university for class, but is surprised to find that his professor, Maximillian Arturo (John Rhys-Davies), is not at all pleased to see him. Indeed, he is so miffed that he asks Quinn to leave the classroom. Of course, Quinn has no idea why Mr. Arturo is so upset, and really wants to fill him in on the amazing discovery he has made, but Arturo feels that Quinn is mocking his theories and wants no part of it, so he leaves the room!!!
Confused, Quinn heads over to his workplace, where his coworker/best friend, Wade Welles (Sabrina Lloyd), asks him what he is doing there. Perplexed by the question, Quinn explains that he is just showing up for work, and she responds by telling him that the manager just fired him after a heated verbal exchange. Wade also asks him why he kissed her. Having no memory of either of these events, the flummoxed Quinn heads home to try and figure out why his life has suddenly been turned upside down.
Returning to his basement, he discovers a “parallel universe” Quinn with an appetite for mischief lurking in the shadows. Suddenly it becomes clear – apparently this other Quinn stirred Arturo’s wrath, got Quinn dismissed from the computer store, and laid a lip-lock on Wade. This “evil” Quinn is not without his uses though, for he offers information on some of the parallel Earths he has explored, and explains some of the dos-and-don’ts of traveling between parallel universes, or “Sliding”. Unfortunately, as this mischievous Quinn attempts to warn Quinn of a restriction of the timer (you are not supposed to go back before the programmed time) on the anti-gravity device, a wormhole opens and his words of warning are drowned out.
As you might expect, this little twist of fate sets up the rest of the series! Specifically, Quinn tries to make amends with professor Arturo, and invites him to witness his amazing new discovery. His good buddy Wade is also in attendance for the demonstration, and is instantly very eager to hop through the wormhole. Understandably, Arturo is more concerned about going through, so Quinn eases his nerves by offering to set the timer to return them in five hours – which should give them enough time to “look around”.
Since there are three travelers this time, Quinn also decides to increase the power to his device, so the trio will be able to “slide” into another dimension without incident. This decision sucks an innocent bystander into the vortex as well, when the increase in power causes it to move beyond Quinn’s basement and swallow up a car being driven by a has-been singer, Rembrandt "Crying Man" Brown (Cleavant Derricks).
After sliding to a deserted, frozen-over San Francisco, the four travelers (one of them unwilling) try to brave the bitter cold until the timer reaches zero and opens up the portal back to their own world. But as luck would have it, a tornado is heading right for Rembrandt’s Cadillac, which forces Quinn to activate the timer early for a slide to another earth. After this fateful turn of events, the travelers arrive safely in yet another San Francisco, but quickly discover that this is not the Earth they belong on.
Indeed, on this parallel world, the United States lost the Cold War, and is being controlled by the Soviet Union. Further, Wade’s counterpart is the commander of the rebels that seek to free the States from the Soviet Rule! Realizing that they have to slide yet again, Quinn, Arturo, and Wade try to free Rembrandt (who has been arrested for using American currency) and provide hope for the rebellion, before they can make another attempt to get back to their own universe.
The series grabs this theme and runs with it, as each episode finds the four “Sliders” taking another interesting step forward on their quest to return to their native earth. Unfortunately, about halfway through in the third season, the series hit some creative speed bumps, and John Rhys-Davies’ character was eliminated to bring in a sultry young female character named Maggie Beckett (Kari Wuhrer). Hmmm…I wonder if this move was made by the studio bigwigs to try and improve the show’s standing with the young male demographic?
Sadly, the producers of the show also altered the whole tone of the show by introducing conflict into the relationships between the four main characters. Personally, I hate when shows introduce sudden, jarring changes into a program, especially when the show is several seasons along, as Sliders was. In any event, the attempt to jump-start the show with these tweaks failed, and at the end of the third season, the network cancelled the show. At this point, it was picked up on cable by the Sci-FI Channel, and ran for two more seasons (neither of which I tuned in for).
Sorry about the lengthy description of the pilot episode, but I though it was necessary to give non-fans an idea of what the series is all about. Hopefully, I kept things vague enough so that you will still be able to enjoy the pilot if you have not yet seen it! The following is a much more concise description of the rest of Sliders’ first two seasons worth of episodes:
--- “Pilot” – Air Date 3/22/1995
The pilot is described in greater detail above, so I will only provide a very brief synopsis here. Basically, while attempting to fabricate an anti-gravity device, a brilliant student named Quinn Mallory (Jerry O'Connell), accidentally opens an inter-dimensional gateway. Subsequently, this invention sends him and three companions on a trip to alternate Earths. Unable to safely return to the Earth on which they belong, they foursome find themselves in a Soviet-ruled United States, where they must is help an imprisoned rebel leader to escape.
--- “Fever” – Air Date 3/29/1995
In the series’ second installment, Wade becomes infected with a deadly virus on an Earth wracked by an epidemic. As a result, Rembrandt and Arturo must race to find a remedy for Wade’s ailment, and also free Quinn from a fascist health agency, after they accuse him for causing a massive epidemic.
--- “Last Days” – Air Date 4/5/1995
In “Last Days”, a large asteroid is threatening to destroy a parallel Earth, an event that Arturo and an ambitious young scientist must work together to stop, since it occurs before their time to slide. In the meanwhile, Quinn and Wade begin to confront their feelings for each other, and Rembrandt gets caught up in “end of the world” revelry.
--- “Prince of Wails” – Air Date 4/12/1995
This interesting episode transpires in the “British States of America” (England won the Revolutionary War in this universe), where the Sliders become mixed up in an assassination plot involving the heir to the throne.
--- “Summer of Love” – Air Date 4/19/1995
In this installment, the four “Sliders” find themselves in present-day San Francisco, only in this City by the Bay, the “Summer of Love” never ended, and the locals mistake Rembrandt and Wade for extraterrestrial prophets. Meanwhile, Quinn and Arturo work feverishly to repair the broken timer and rejoin the others, before the wormhole is due to open again.
--- “Eggheads” – Air Date 4/26/1995
During “Eggheads”, Quinn struggles with fame on an Earth where intellectuals are revered more than pro athletes are on our own Earth. Simultaneously, Arturo tries to reconcile the relationship with a long-lost love.
--- “The Weaker Sex” – Air Date 5/3/1995
In this episode, professor Arturo finds himself involved in the “men’s rights movement” during a violent political race on an Earth where men are treated as inferiors and women hold all positions of power.
--- “The King Is Back” – Air Date 5/10/1995
It seems like old times for Rembrandt when he is mistaken for a long-dead rock legend, but an old rival is unhappy about this sudden reemergence, and hopes to make the “Crying Man” disappear on a permanent basis.
--- “Luck of the Draw” – Air Date 5/17/1995
In “Luck of the Draw”, Wade wins the lottery on a seemingly utopian version of Earth, but soon discovers that sometimes even dream situations can turn into nightmares when the real “prize” that lottery winners receive is revealed.
--- “Into the Mystic” – Air Date 3/1/1996
This time out, the four homesick travelers find themselves on an Earth mired in mysticism and superstition, which is governed by a mysterious being known as “The Sorcerer”.
--- “Love Gods” – Air Date 3/8/1996
“Love Gods” has a pretty wild premise! Basically, on the world the Sliders are on now, biological warfare has killed off most of the males, so when Quinn, Rembrandt and Arturo show up, they are branded “runaway breeders”, which sets every nation in motion to capture them.
--- “Gillian of the Spirits” – Air Date 3/15/1996
In this Sliders adventure, an lightning strike that hits the wormhole during a slide separates Quinn from his fellow travelers, and the only hope for a reunion rests with a troubled girl that is said to possess an ability to communicate with the spirit world.
--- “The Good, The Bad, and The Wealthy” – Air Date 3/22/1996
“The Good…” finds the Sliders in an America where all land west of the mighty Mississippi is part of the Nation of Texas. In this strange realm, Quinn finds himself at with a reputation for being a gunslinger after a shootout.
--- “El Sid” – Air Date 3/29/1996
This episode finds the Sliders in peril, when Quinn rescues a beautiful young woman in distress on an Earth ruled by violence! Specifically, the woman’s maniacal boyfriend swears to bring vengeance upon the foursome for slighting him, and follows the group through the wormhole.
--- “Time Again And World” – Air Date 4/5/1996
During this installment, Wade witnesses a murder seconds before entering a wormhole, so when the travelers arrive in a parallel San Francisco just as the same murder is about to occur, she intervenes. Unfortunately, this good deed involves the quartet of Sliders in a conspiracy involving a judge, an underground resistance movement and a U.S. where citizens live under martial law. This episode features a guest appearance by actress Rebecca Gayheart!
--- “In Dino Veritas” – Air Date 4/26/1996
Over the course of this episode, the Sliders find themselves staring into the jaws of history when they end up in a San Francisco that serves as a big game preserve - for dinosaurs! Things get even more complicated for the quartet, when Arturo is injured during a fall and loses the timer.
--- “Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome” – Air Date 5/3/1996
Finally! Apparently, this episode returns the Sliders to the Earth they are supposed to inhabit, only Quinn has some doubt about their good fortune. Meanwhile, professor Arturo is planning to use Quinn’s discoveries to secure the Nobel prize.
--- “Obsession” – Air Date 5/24/1996
The Sliders’ adventures continue, when the four travelers land in a society dominated by psychics, and Wade becomes attracted to the man in line for the position of Prime Oracle, the most powerful person in this world. Love comes at a price though, and when Wade discovers that this man wants her to remain with him forever, no matter the cost to her, she begins to question her future.
--- “Greatfellas” – Air Date 5/31/1996
“Greatfellas” finds the travelers in an America where Prohibition was never repealed, and where Rembrandt’s double is a famous crime-fighting figure. Unfortunately, the quartet becomes mixed up in this world of organized crime and corrupt government officials, when they slide into a wedding where the bride and groom are both from mob families.
--- “The Young and the Relentless” – Air Date 6/7/1996
In this installment, Quinn finds himself in hot pursuit of his double’s murderer when the Sliders fall into an Earth where Wade and Quinn’s counterparts are businesspeople at the heart of a crooked software deal.
--- “Invasion” – Air Date 6/28/1996
“Invasion” is an interesting twist on the age-old science fiction premise of hostile alien invaders conquering the Earth. You see, this time the Sliders encounter a savage alien race called the Kromaggs that is planning to use their advanced technology (they can “slide” at will) to conquer every Earth in the dimensional spectrum. Talk about an ambitious invasion plan! This episode, arguably among the best of the first two seasons, was nominated for an Emmy®!
--- “As Time Goes By” – Air Date 7/12/1996
The final episode from the second season provides yet another interesting scenario for the Sliders. Specifically, the four friends find themselves in a sort of “Groundhog Day”: as each time they travel to a parallel Earth, they encounter the same people as they did on the previous Earth. One person they keep running into is an old flame of Quinn’s. This becomes a problem when she is in trouble on one world, and Quinn wants to save her, but doing so might have dire consequences.
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
All 23 episodes from Sliders’ first two seasons are presented by Universal home video in their original aspect ratio (1.33:1), and as TV product goes, they look pretty good. To begin with, specks and other blemishes are almost completely absent, and aside from some minor bleed, colors are presented in an accurate and pleasing manner. Check out the gaudy costumes in the “Young and the Relentless” episode for an example of just how well the kaleidoscope of colors is rendered!
Blacks are also fairly deep, so the episodes have a decent amount of depth and shadow delineation. In some of the scenes that transpire in dimly lit interiors, however, detail is obscured somewhat. Similarly, I would say that fine detail is slightly above average, although people and objects in the background of a scene have a tendency to appear slightly blurry in some instances (the “Luck of the Draw” episode comes to mind). Most of these issues only present minor distractions, but there is one that is both pervasive and annoying, namely the liberal amount of edge enhancement that has been applied, which causes a significant amount of ringing around the edges of light/dark transitions.
Overall, however, with the exception of the edge enhancement issue, the episodes in this set boast better-than-broadcast image quality. As such, while it is certainly not the best it could possibly be, the image quality of the episodes from Sliders’ first two seasons should satisfy the vast majority of viewers.
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Oh, Universal, you’ve gone and done it again…
Like Quantum Leap before it, the packaging and press materials stated that the episodes of Sliders would be presented in mono, but what is actually offered is Dolby Surround (2.0). I don’t think most viewers will be too miffed about getting surround tracks instead of mono, but I find it troubling that Universal’s quality control people continue to make mistakes like this.
As far as sound quality is concerned, although the overall dynamic range is not terribly impressive, there is not much in the way of problems to report, as frequency response is satisfactory. Dialogue is also rendered in a smooth, intelligible manner throughout each episode, without any evidence of distractions such as sibilance or distortion.
And while I hesitate to call the aural experience engaging, the soundstage of these episodes is slightly more spacious than a monaural offering, particularly during the “slides”, or during scenes containing a lot of action.
Likewise, music and effects are reproduced in a respectable fashion, and there are even a few moments when the audio information that corresponds to what is happening on screen envelops the listener – particularly during the characters’ trips through the wormholes.
Taking all of the above into account, I honestly can’t see anyone being overwhelmed by these Dolby Surround tracks, but they do offer a better than average listening experience, as television programming goes…
Audio Commentary for the Pilot Episode
For the pilot episode, series co-creators Tracy Tormé and Bob Weiss reunite to deliver an engaging, humorous, and insightful audio commentary about their series, Sliders. Basically, over the pilot’s running time, they discuss topics like: the design of the worm-hole, John Rhys-Davies’ love of improvisation, the inspiration for the series, locations used (both in the U.S. and Canada), and ideas that were dropped from the show.
As I inferred above, in addition to being informative, the duo interacts well, and are enthusiastic about the material, which makes it an easy listen. Fans should get a real kick out of this track!
The Making of Sliders
This nifty but brief “making of” featurette, which runs for 14-minutes, consists of interviews with Jerry O’Connell, Robert Weiss, and Tracy Tormé, who discuss a variety of topics related to Sliders. To be honest, I doubt if there will be much here that hardcore fans don’t know, but the participants provided some insight into things like: the ideas that spurred the development of the series, how Sliders was similar to Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, the casting process, and how painful “sliding” was. In addition, there are some interesting comments about the loyalty of the show’s fans and the many battles its creators had with the network over the series’ content.
The photo gallery features a handful of production stills that play over some truly lame music. The gallery’s running time is one minute.
Disc One contains promotional “trailers” for the following upcoming television DVD releases:
--- Magnum P.I. – Complete First Season, The A-Team: Season One, and Knight Rider: Season One
There is also a teaser for the upcoming series Stargate: Atlantis!
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
Like Quantum Leap before it, Sliders was an under-appreciated inventive show that mixed a science fiction premise (leaping between parallel universes) with satirical humor. I will admit that I did not follow the series once it switched to the Sci-Fi network, but the episodes contained in this set, which ran before the network made the producers pit the characters against each other, are all pretty strong. The acting and writing are good as well, and it was interesting to see what sorts of predicaments the Sliders were going to encounter with each successive episode! If you liked Quantum Leap, I recommend giving this show a shot!
As for presentation, each adventure from the first two seasons of Sliders looks and sounds pretty good, and although the set is somewhat light on extras, the quality of the commentary and short featurette make up for that. As I mentioned above, Sliders junkies will probably have heard all of the information in the commentary and “making of” featurette, but the enthusiasm of the participants and some interesting anecdotes make them both worth your time!
The packaging, on the other hand, looks extremely cheap! The box is not only ugly, but it is also much more bulky than it needs to be, and the 6 discs are housed in a wedge of foam! Personally, I would rather have seen this set housed more securely inside of a digipak…but that is just my two cents.
Packaging quibbles aside, this 6-disc set offers arguably the best two seasons of Sliders, and the overall technical presentation is nice, including the surprise inclusion of Dolby Suround audio (2.0)! That alone is probably reason enough for fans to plunk down their hard-earned cash on this set. The inclusion of a good commentary track and featurette are just gravy! Recommended!!!