Sliders: First Two Seasons


Sliders: First Two Seasons is an excellent presentation of an imaginative series

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Perhaps one of the oldest themes in fiction is the hero searching for a way back home. From the Odyssey in ancient times to such television shows as Quantum Leap and, for us older viewers, The Time Tunnel, there is a certain continued interest in a lost hero that can’t get back home. One of the more imaginative twists to this theme was Sliders.

The basic premise followed Quinn Mallory (Jerry O'Connell), a near genius graduate student that discovers a practical application for some of Einstein’s theories. Quinn discovers that there are an infinite number of parallel universes, multiple variations of our own planet earth. Using a device that opens a portal he can slide between these universes. While demonstrating his device to his mentor Maximillian Arturo (John Rhys-Davies) and his girlfriend Wade Wells (Sabrina Lloyd) the vortex gets out of control and takes the trio to another world. The vortex also manages to entrap a singer Rembrandt Brown (Cleavant Derricks) and the four hapless heroes start on a quest back to their earth. What gave this series an edge was the fact that each earth they visit inevitably is slightly different from our own. The difference may be as small as a green traffic light means stop to a world where dinosaurs never became extinct. The four main characters are archetypes of fiction. Quinn is the adventurer, a person driven by exploration and discovery. Arturo is the typical stuffy scientist. Proud of his intellect and English demeanor he is the father figure of the group. Remmy is the artistic type, he lives to express his gift of singing to others. Frustrated that he never reached the peak of his career he is the reluctant traveler. Lastly Wade is the most emotional of the group, representing love and compassion she is the heart of the group.

Because the series employs alternate universes the writers have a field day with just how strange they can make the worlds. In one first season episode of Sliders, the British never lost the war of independence and the United States is still a British colony. In another episode everything west of the Mississippi belongs to the nation of Texas, complete with gun slinging lawyers. Each world presents its own particular difficulties for the group. Since they can only stay on each world for a limited time there is a bit over utilized plot device, they are always losing their timer, a remote control like device that opens the portal so they can leave to the next world. While the science fiction is always there the human interactions are never left behind. Sliders relies on people not effects.

Sliders was a well considered cast. Jerry O'Connell has come a long way since his childhood breakout role as the fat kid in Stand by Me. Here he has definitely grown up into the handsome leading man. He gives Quinn an enthusiasm, a love of exploration that helps carry the series. Sabrina Lloyd is a very talented actress. After Sliders, she went on to a incredible role in the television series Sports Night. In both series she displays an innate wit and comfort in her roles.

The chemistry between her character and Quinn’s is present but rarely overdone or played too overtly. There is tenderness between their characters rather than the all too over done passion of youth seen in most series revolving around twenty something characters. John Rhys-Davies may be best known for his role in two of the three Indiana Jones flicks and all three of the Lord of the Rings blockbusters. This talented actor has a commanding presence on either the large or small screen. He not only grounds the troupe but is usually the source of great one liners. Cleavant Derricks provides his character with true pathos, the Sliders audience can readily identifier with him personal as well as is plight.

Since each world is different the usual use of various directors really works out. While each director brings something new to the table with each episode they remain consistent within the boundaries of the story line. One director frequently used is Mario Azzopardi, who has worked on numerous Outer Limits episodes and such shows as Jeremiah. Each episode of Sliders has excellent pacing; the story is resolved in the 45 minutes allowed but rarely seems to drag. The special effects and sliding device never are the focus of the episodes. Each one explores some aspect of the human condition and provides the ultimate in the path not taken tales. There is intelligence to the Sliders series without being over preachy.

Whenever I see a television show presented on DVD, especially one that is in heavy rotation on the tube I have to wonder why buy it? With Sliders the answer is easier than most times. The video quality is excellent; there is excellent contrast between the light and dark sections of the screen and a fairly good color balance through the presentation. The audio is Dolby stereo. There is reasonably good separation in the channels, crisp and clear. The set is a bit light in the extras. There is a commentary featuring Co-Creators/Writers Tracy Torme and Robert K. Weiss that provides some insight into the inception and execution of the series.

There is also a little making of type featurette that gives a little glimpse into the behind the scenes work of Sliders. Usually I am not impressed with novelty packaging but I really like the way Sliders one was done. The discs six discs are embedded in foam rubber slits, each one offset from the other just slightly. This gives the impression of the multiple earths seen in the Sliders series opening. It also makes it very easy to remove one disc for use. Rather than release one season at a time Universal committed to a two season box set giving more bang for the buck than most season sets.

In all Sliders is a must have for fans and a good introduction to a fine television series for the uninitiated. Sliders is an excellent presentation of an imaginative series.

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