Welcome to the first installment of an exciting new series here at Everything Action where we resurrect Total Recall with an epic rewatch of the first three (and in everyone’s mind, only) seasons of Sliders. Each week I’ll bring you a recap and thoughts about an episode of one of our favorite Sci Fi shows. This week we’ll be diving into the 90 minute pilot.
Of all the pilots I’ve watched, I would have to say that Sliders is probably one of the best. It starts out with one of our hero Quinn Mallory’s (played by “Hollywood treasure” Jerry O’Connell) video diaries where he’s super excited about something that he’s accidentally discovered. Quinn is your typical genius Quantum Physics student living in San Fransisco: extremely messy, always late, cocky and oblivious to some non scientific issues. One of the things he’s oblivious to is that his best friend Wade Wells (Sabrina Lloyd) obviously has a crush on him but “We’re buds, that would be like incest” says Quinn later. The other main character we meet early on is Quinn’s professor, Maximillian Arturo, easily the fan favorite and played absolutely perfectly by John Rhys-Davies.
Through more of Quinn’s video diaries we learn that Quinn was trying to develop a device to create anti-gravity but accidentally opens up a portal. Quinn starts sending objects through the wormhole and getting them returned using a timing device he invents. Curiosity eventually gets the best of him and after three months of experimenting, he decides to go through the wormhole himself. After a trip through some awesome 90’s CG, Quinn arrives back in his basement lab (Quick side note: Where and how did Quinn get all that crazy equipment for his lab?) and thinks he’s failed. Heading off to class, things start getting weird when the traffic lights seem to have the opposite effect and strange things are being talked about on the radio. This is one of the things I love about early Sliders, the attention to little details to help sell the alternate earths. If you listen you can hear about Global cooling, vinyl beating CDs as the main music format, Jack Kennedy not going for a second term and Americans going to Mexico to find jobs. The thing that clinches it for Quinn is that he sees a billboard for Elvis: Live at the Mirage. Returing home, he finds his mom pregnant and their gardener is his stepdad. Quinn fortunately doesn’t have time to process this as the timer returns him to his Earth. Quinn excitedly heads off to class to share his discovery with the Professor but learns that he apparently said something earlier that pissed Arturo off royally. He storms out and Quinn heads off to his job at a computer store confused. Things get more confusing when Wade tells him that he just got fired and that they also kissed. Quinn thinks he’s losing his mind and returns home to his lab. Finding an equation he was working on solved he also finds a double of himself. The way they have two Quinns on screen is an absolutely horrible effect, the double Quinn even seems to go into slow motion at one point but hey, it was the mid-90’s so I’ll chalk it up to lack of technology.
Anyway, Alternate Quinn gives Quinn and us a lesson is Sliding 101. He explains that every time you slide, you wind up on a random parallel Earth. Shortly after Alternate Quinn slides out, Quinn calls Wade and Arturo over, they believe to explain why he was acting so strange all day. Quinn then shows them the portal and invites them to go on a five hour slide with him. Wade is super excited but Arturo believes they should conduct extensive studies before they go. Seeing Quinn and Wade aren’t interested in waiting, Arturo agrees to go “in the interest of science”. Quinn increases the power of the timer and the portal goes out of control, sucking in the trio and then moving out of Quinn’s house to suck in a passing Cadillac driven by our fourth Slider, Rembrandt “Crying Man” Brown (Cleavant Derricks). Rembrandt was a big hit during the Motown days with his band The Spinning Tops (hits include “Cry like a Man”). Rembrandt quit to go solo and was on his way to start his big comeback by singing the National Anthem at the Giants game. Looking back, the portal moving kind of bugs me since it never does that any other time in the show. It might have been the only way to get Rembrandt in on the sliding but it’s still incongruous to how the portal works for the rest of the show.
Anyway, the Sliders end up on an Earth where some sort of climactic catastrophe has occurred and San Fransisco is an arctic wasteland. Trying to wait out the five hours they have until they can slide back in Rembrandt’s Caddy, the quartet is threatened by an ice tornado that is bearing down right at them. Quinn is reluctant to slide prematurely, as Alternate Quinn was trying to warn him about something , but he agrees to do it anyway and the group escapes to what they think is their Earth in Golden Gate Park. Arturo reasons that maybe Quinn’s double was trying to warn him that if you slide before the timer is up then you get unforeseen side effects. Wade goes off to call her parents and Quinn and Arturo stroll through the park but are horrified to discover that the statue of Abe Lincoln in the park is now a statue of Lenin. Wade also gets in trouble with the phone operator and the group realizes they are on an Earth where the Soviet Union has conquered the United States. It’s a horrible nightmare where people are gunned down in the street and arrested for seemingly no reason. Rembrandt gets into trouble as well by giving a US dollar bill to his taxi driver, which is the sign of the American Underground.
Arturo accidentally does this as well but fortunately for the trio, the sausage cart owner they are at is a member of the resistance. Arriving at resistance HQ they learn that Wade’s double is the leader of the resistance and that Arturo’s is a Soviet general and warden of a prison for high ranking prisoners. They also learn that the Domino Theory actually played out on this Earth after the US lost the Korean War. Alternate Wade is being held captive at Alternate Arturo’s prison and, after a disastrous appearance on The People’s Court, so is Rembrandt (Comissar Wopner is a bastard). The Sliders convince the underground to raid the prison, with the plan being to sneak in since they have Citizen General Arturo on their side. Things seem to go smoothly but one of the guards at the gate is suspicious and finds out the Alternate Arturo is at home in bed. Alarms go off and a massive shoot out takes place. Quinn desperately tries to find Wade and drags her to one of the resistance’s trucks when he does. The convoy blasts it’s way out but Wade is fatally shot in the escape. Quinn is devastated but learns it was actually the Alternate Wade. Back at the resistance HQ, the rebels quickly dismantle their base to spread the fight to other parts of the country. Quinn and Arturo are able to repair the timer, which wasn’t working since they arrived on Soviet Earth, and the Sliders run to Golden Gate Park to try and increase their chances of sliding home. Seeing the Lincoln statue and everything back to normal the group thinks they’re home. Having a celebratory dinner at Quinn’s, the group debates about what to do about the timer and sliding in general. All debate is settled quickly though when Quinn’s father arrives home from work, except he’s dead on their Earth. And so the great journey to return home begins for the Sliders and next week the Sliders will find themselves on an Earth filled with hippies.