The Fall of Sliders: A Follow-up

Essay by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

How long till we slide?
I don't know... I left the timer back at the Chancellor.
What? You left it at the hotel?
I had just been attacked by an alien Q-ball, so I was a little preoccupied!

Sound familiar? It's been two weeks since the re-invention of Sliders, and two episodes, "Sole Survivors" and "The Breeder" have aired. It was hoped that the tinkering of the series would have actually improved it, however, it seems the opposite has happened.

In "Sole Survivors", basically a re-hash of all those zombie-genre movies, the four principals land on a world where a diet pill has caused an epidemic where people are turned into flesh-eating automatons that fear light (puh-lease!). While there was some exposition on Wade, Quinn, and Rembrandt dealing with Arturro's death and an establishment of conflict between Maggie and Wade, overall the writing was pretty bad, with some major cringe factor figuring heavily. For example, Maggie tells a survivor on this world "I'm a trained soldier. I'd feel better if I held onto that shotgun.". Of course, the survivor balks-- after all, these Sliders just arrived out of nowhere, they aren't staying for long, and the shotgun is the only weapon around. However, later on, after an attack by one of the 'zombies', Maggie exclaims "Now will you give me the gun?" and the survivor replies "Here, take it" and just hands it over. Speaking of Maggie (Kari Wuhrer, who can also be seen in the current obscure theatrical release "Sex and the Other Man"), a precedent is also set in this episode-- she is given every opportunity to take off her jacket and bend over in front of the camera.

It gets a lot worse in this week's episode, "The Breeder". It starts off with a scene straight out of the old Star Trek episode "Operation Annihilate!", with these jelly-looking parasites landing on the Sliders' backs. One of them lands on Maggie, and before you can say "Alien", the wormhole opens up and they slide to the next world. However, when they reach the new world, Maggie collapses. They take her to a hospital, where they find out that she has a parasite in her stomach. She escapes from the hospital, but the Sliders soon catch up with her. However, before they can get her back to the hospital, the Sliders inexplicably involve themselves in trying to stop the local authorities from making an arrest for this world's mandatory organ donor program (you'd think that after sliding for three years, that they'd be smart enough not to get involved with things they don't understand), resulting in the arrest of Wade and Quinn. And faster than you can say "The Fly", Maggie develops super-strength and the ability to cling to walls. Now from this point on, it really sinks to an all new low, turning into "Species". Maggie's parasite needs to find a mate, so she goes around bars in a skimpy dress looking or a man with a high enough body temperature with whom to breed. There is even a scene in a hot tub! The titillation doesn't stop there-- Sliders has now become downright exploitational with the first instances I can recall of nudity on the series. And if that isn't enough, the script is rife with contrived dialogue and plotting that will keep you cringing.

I used to be very forgiving of Sliders, tolerating the mediocre episodes in the vain hope of the writers finally getting the formula right, but I have completely lost my faith. I can't see Sliders lasting much longer, with this new lowest-common-denominator strategy. It's much like what happened when Battlestar Galactica was re-invented in 1980 as Galactica 1980-- the network executives wanted simple stories with appeal to families and lots of kids on the show, which alienated and insulted the audiences. It lasted 7 episodes. Next week's Sliders is a repeat of the Kromagg episode, which was one of the less mediocre episodes of recent memory. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than the crap that's been on in the past few weeks.

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