NO DON’T SUCK ME INTO TV TROPES! I HAVE TO MUCH WORK TO DO!
Did you know that George R.R Martin wrote the pilot for a show called Doorways which was similar to the show Sliders?
Much like the famous DS9 vs Babylon 5 controversy, the Fox show Sliders also had a interesting story behind it’s genesis. Sliders premiered in 1995 but in 1991 GRRM had written a script for a show with a similar premise. We begin at The Encyclopedia That Is A Vortex Into A Realm of Lost Time....No Not TV Tropes That Other One. Here is a synopsis of the plot for the pilot of Doorways.
A mysterious feral woman, known only as Cat (Anne Le Guernec), appears in the middle of a motorway, causing some cars to crash. She fires a weapon at a truck, which explodes, and she’s is injured by a fragment of the resulting shrapnel. She is taken to a hospital where she is cared for by Dr. Thomas Mason (George Newbern).
After he finishes work, Thomas visits his girlfriend Laura (Carrie-Anne Moss), with whom he discusses his mysterious new patient. Meanwhile, three dark-clad beings and a floating podium (containing a Dark Lord) appear on the motorway at the same location where Cat appeared.
The next day Thomas discovers Cat has been removed from the hospital and is confronted by FBI Special Agent Trager (Kurtwood Smith), who escorts him to a secret underground lab and holding facility. There, Dr. Roth (Max Grodénchik) explains to Thomas that Cat’s weapon (the “phut BOOM” gun) and her bracelet (the “geosyncronator”) have an unusual mixture of organic and technological properties, and don’t appear to have been designed for human hands. Thomas is brought to Cat, who is being detained; and he gives her back her bracelet, which allows one of the dark-clad beings, Thane (Robert Knepper) to track her.
Cat escapes the holding facility with Thomas’ help, and together the two drive towards a “door”. Cat explains that Thane is chasing her and that, unless they reach the “door” before it closes, she will be trapped and killed by Thane. She further explains that the “door” leads to a parallel universe safer for her.
The two reach the “door” and are confronted by Thane, who kills Trager and several FBI agents who were also tracking them. They manage to escape through the “door”, just before Thane can catch them, and end up in a world where, 15 years ago, a microbegene was created to clean up an oil spill, but it ate all petroleum in the world. They hitch a ride on a wagon with Jake (Hoyt Axton) and his granddaughter Cissy (Tisha Putman), who give them a ride to the nearest truck stop. While at the truck-stop, Cat detects that her pursuers have materialized in this world also and tries to steal Jake and Cissy’s horses to escape from them. Cat and Thomas are arrested by this world’s version of Agent Trager and are held overnight to be escorted to jail in the morning.
The following day as Thomas and Cat are being escorted to jail by Trager, they hear Jake and Cissy’s wagon being attacked by a bike gang, Cat rescues Cissy from being attacked, but Jake is shot by the bike gang. Thomas stabilizes Jake, and arranges with Trager to get Jake transported to a hospital in Denver. In Denver, Cat locates their next “door”, but they are blocked by Thane and his colleagues, until Trager (once again) sacrifices himself to allow the two to escape to a new adventure.
It looks like the plot would have involved going from world to world to stay one step ahead of Thane and the Dark Lord. While not exactly the same as Sliders, the same basic premise of people going from world to world through gates or doors is there. So how much influence did this pilot have on Sliders. Wikipedia states...
There has also been speculation that Sliders was inspired by George R.R. Martin’s 1992 ABC pilot Doorways, in which the main cast were fugitives fleeing through parallel worlds, while carrying a device that tells them where and when the next Doorway opens. Although six additional scripts after the pilot film were completed, Doorways never went to series, as ABC decided to launch Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman instead in the fall of 1993. At the time of Sliders’ launch, Evelyn C. Leeper noted the similarities to Doorways, and in response to rumors that Sliders creator Tracy Tormé applied for a writing position on the show, Martin clarified in a 1995 post on GEnie that it was Tormé’s agent that inquired about the position, and Tormé has denied any connection between the two.
Hey Kids, remember GEnie?.....I do. Dear god i’m old. Anyway, moving on this is one of the good old Wiki’s better sourced articles so not a lot more will be needed from me. There are a few things I want to point out. #21 is for a website called DimenstionOfContinuity.com’s history of Silders. The unnamed writer wrote down thier thoughts on Doorways.
After having seen the “Doorways” pilot personally, it certainly doesn’t seem to have had much relation to Sliders. The plot involved these beast like people who are ruled by a giant talking cloud that come to earth in search of a fugitive from their earth (a woman who decided to no longer be servile). There she meets an emergency room doctor and they end up traveling to the next world (via a doorway) with no way back to our earth. The best part of the movie is the last few seconds...as they end up landing on top of Mt. Rushmore with the faces of Davy Crockett, Geronimo and a few others I didn’t recognize (since it would have been more appropriately named Mt. Claymation). And radius? None here...they just landed anywhere and everywhere apparently all over the world...and had a compass to find where the next naturally occurring doorway would be and how long till it appeared.
So...as you can see, there are some similarities if you stretch it further than silly putty. Tracy Tormé has personally commented to the allegation saying that he never saw the Doorways pilot until after Sliders was already in the works and that his supposed interest in “Doorways” is a complete fabrication.
One of the items on contention is that Slider’s creator Tracy Torme had applied for a job writing for Doorways. GRRM commented on the situation on GEnie that got posted and archived on the Usenet newsgroup uk.media.tv.sf.misc.
I had vowed not to discuss the DOORWAYS/SLIDERS situation any further, but a great deal of rumor and misinformation is getting passed around here, and the more things get repeated, the more distorted they become. GEnie and the Internet obviously function like the old game of “telephone” here, with people paraphrasing bits of news they’ve heard, and the facts malforming further with every repetition. So... sigh... let me set some facts straight. I have never been asked to write for SLIDERS. For obvious reasons... at least they are obvious to _me_. My reply, if asked, would likely be unprintable. Tracy Torme, the writer/creator of SLIDERS, was never involved in DOORWAYS, nor did he ask to write for the show... at least not directly. At the time when it appeared that DOORWAYS would be on the ABC Fall 1993 schedule, Torme’s _agent_ approached me while I was visiting my own agent (we are both represented by ICM) and said that his client had read the script, loved the concept, and would be interesting in writing for the show if we went to series. A mutual friend (named Harlan Ellison) has subsequently told me that Torme says he has “never” read the DOORWAYS script and never expressed any interest in writing for it. I have no way of knowing, one way or the other. I have a great deal of respect for Harlan and if he says that Torme says this, I believe that Torme says this. It was not Torme who approached me: it was Torme’s agent, speaking on behalf of Torme. I have been in the business long enough to know that agents sometimes, well... emrbroider if they smell a job. At any rate: I was never involved in any aspect of Torme’s show and he was he was involved in any aspect of mine.
My own take is that while there are similarities, I think it’s more coincidence than outright plagiarism. It makes for an interesting story to say the least. A couple last items of interest. This link goes to a website that has a bunch of scans of science fiction magazines from 1998. The one I suggest looking at is Cinefantasticque Magazine Vol. 30 #5/6 September 1998. The bottom four pages are about Doorways and it is a fascinating look into GRRM’s mind and how he writes. He doesn’t beat around the bush with his dislike of Sliders.
He thinks that the difference between the two shows is small but significant but not enough to matter for executives.
Last one, and this is a kicker in retrospect.
The man who wrote A Song Of Ice And Fire which became Game Of Thrones was not a fan of ensemble shows.
Fact Of The Day is the daily column where RobGronkowski’sPartyBusDriver shares some random tidbit of science fiction, fantasy or horror knowledge. If there is a show or movie you would like to see done, leave a note in the comments below. You can see the full archive of past columns here.