When I was younger (so much younger than today), my favorite show (aside from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) was Sliders. It’s hard to imagine the impact the show had on my younger self — certainly it sparked my interest in science fiction and in alternate history. But it also sparked something else: the knowledge that even a good show can become bad over time, as Sliders gradually became worse and worse and ended up as a complete and total disaster.
So, hey, it might be rebooted! At least according to the best actor on the show, John Rhys-Davies, whose departure from the show signaled it’s long, long death knell.
I’m going to put that spoiler warning here, because I don’t know how many of people here have actually watched Sliders. In any case, I’ll right a quick synopsis, to catch everyone up:
Sliders was a show that originally aired on mid-season on Fox in 1995. Created by Robert K. Weiss and Tracy Tormé (yes, the son of famed singer Mel Tormé), Sliders was a science fiction show about Quinn Mallory (Jerry O’Connell), a scientist who manages to create a device to travel to other parallel universes, Earths where the timeline is slightly or significantly different. Along with his mentor, Professor Arturo (John Rhys-Davies), best friend/future love interest Wade Wells (Sabrina Lloyd), and random passerby/lounge singer Rembrandt “Crying Man” Brown (Cleavant Derricks), they travel from parallel Earth to parallel Earth, trying to find their way back to their own Earth, because, oops, Quinn forgot to save the coordinates during his first trip and all of the trips are randomized. (Yes, really. Quinn is kind of stupid.)
The show when it started out was, well, fun. The characters explored various alternate histories, like one where the Russians won the Cold War or where the British still ruled America, alongside worlds that were more radically different. The show definitely had a sense of “Let’s try to be an American version of Doctor Who” with them going to different Earths each episode and getting into trouble and so on.
The problem, of course, started almost immediately as Fox aired the first two seasons out of order. And then Fox insisted on not following up on a cliffhanger. And then they insisted on the show having a overall meta-arc, similar to The X-Files, which required the introduction of world-hopping backguys called the Kromaggs. And the more and more Fox took control of the show, the more and more it suffered, until, finally, Fox fired John Rhys-Davies. The third season saw the introduced of sexy army captain Maggie Beckett (Kari Wuhrer) to replace him and a dramatic shift in tone to become more “action oriented.” The alternate Earths didn’t so much explore different timelines now as they did, uh, “replicate current blockbuster movie plots.” Yes, Fox decided that the sci-fi show about traveling to alternate Earths was the best place to rip-off current movies and have the characters be in Twister and Jurassic Park. The season ended with Tracy Tormé leaving the show, declaring it the episode where Professor Arturo died as the “worst pieces of television ever produced” and Fox, of course, subsequently cancelled it.
And then the Sci-Fi Channel picked it up, where a young me watched it. Yes, I know, at that point, the show was terrible (and would continue going downhill), but I still loved it. I would watch reruns the first two seasons (which were infinitely better) while the fourth and fifth seasons were coming out. And the fourth and fifth seasons were...not good. They tried, certainly, but it seems as if nobody understood what the show was about anymore. Was it a show exploring alternate history? Was it about an invasion of Kromaggs from another Earth? Was it a monster of the week show? Was it supposed to be like The X-Files?
Furthermore, the remaining cast from the beginning of the show starting leaving one by one. Sabrina Lloyd left for Sports Night and her character was sent to a, god, Kromagg breeding camp (yes, this show had a problem with how it portrayed female characters and the fact that it essentially left one female main character to be continually raped was a huge issue). Quinn somehow merged with his own doppelganger, which meant he now looked like a completely different actor, because even Jerry O’Connell didn’t want to keep going. By the end of the show, only Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt Brown was left.
And then the show ended up a massive cliffhanger, as a big “fuck you” to the Sci-Fi Channel. You see, apparently, Sci-Fi was going to give it another season, but at the last minute decided, you know, not to do that. And the writers and producers eventually realized that Sci-Fi wasn’t even reading the scripts they were sending in, that’s how little they cared about the show. So the show blew it’s entire budget on its second-to-last episode and the series finale was a low-budget talk-fest that ended on a cliffhanger that they had no intention of ever resolving. Yes, really.
So: should the show be rebooted? Well, my answer to that: god yes.
The show has a fascinating premise and a good cast of characters. The only reason it suffered its decline was because of some horrible meddling from Fox and the Sci-Fi Channel (and, yes, that time Jerry O’Connell wanted them to hire his brother Charlie, even though his brother is a terrible actor). Rebooting it back to its original premise and this time giving it enough time, money, and leeway to get things right would be amazing. Hell, they don’t even have to use the same characters, they could use completely different characters, and it could still be interesting.
The problem is, of course, nobody actually knows who owns the show. Is it Fox, who originally aired it? The Syfy Channel? Is it NBCUniversal, who distributed the show? The rights are just all mixed up. But if they do sort that out, I would love to see it brought back.
Oh, and bring back John Rhys-Davies.