Sliders: The ’90s sci-fi TV show where alternate earths were just a wormhole away

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Sliders TV show
‘Sliders’ is the story of four adventurers who discover a passageway between dimensions that transports them to parallel worlds.


John Rhys-Davies as Maximillian Arturo
Jerry O’Connell as Quinn Mallory
Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt “Crying Man” Brown
Sabrina Lloyd as Wade Wells
Years: 1995-2000
# of seasons: 5
# episodes: 88

Sliders: Adventurers find a passageway to alternate earths

FOX TV press release – March 1995

John Rhys-Davies, Jerry O’Connell, Sabrina Lloyd and Tony Award-winner Cleavant Derricks star in ‘Sliders’ — a new adventure series premiering Wednesday, March 22 [1995] on FOX.

‘Sliders’ is the ongoing story of four adventurers who discover a passageway between dimensions that transports them to parallel universes. Whenever they land, it is always earth and always the present day, but it is never home.

Sliders TV show cast

They are on a cosmic roller coaster ride, where they see firsthand what our world would be like if history had been different or if they, themselves, had made different choices in their personal lives.

Led by Quinn Mallory (O’Connell), a handsome physics grad student who accidentally creates the gateway while working on an experiment in his basement, the interdimensional travelers include Wade Wells (Lloyd), a beautiful computer tech; and brilliant, but arrogant physics professor Maximillian Arturo (Rhys-Davies).

Sliders episode 1995
Quinn Mallory (Jerry O’Connell, left) and Professor Maximillian Arturo (John Rhys-Davies) transport to parallel universes in Sliders.

Slide into a seat for a fun ride to new worlds

By Hal Boedeker in the Austin American Statesman (Texas) March 22, 1995

Elvis lives. John Kennedy is president. Vinyl records have pushed CDs off the market.

It’s an upside-down world, all right, and whiz-kid scientist Quinn Mallory (Jerry O’Connell) has transported himself there via a homemade gizmo in his San Francisco basement.

In this parallel universe, red stoplights mean go, and US citizens are moving illegally into Mexico.

This will be the first of many alternate Earths that Quinn leaps into in Fox’s hugely entertaining “Sliders,” debuting tonight with a two-hour pilot.

Next week, the hour-long series moves to its regular 8 p.m. Wednesday time slot. A better time period would be 7 p.m. Fridays, where more kids could see this imaginative sci-fi show.

“Sliders” made me feel like a kid again, a pretty neat trick for a time-traveling series. Take the leap yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.

Sliders - 1995

The premise will thrill anyone who enjoyed “Quantum Leap” or the “Back to the Future” movies. “Sliders” exploits “what-might-have-been” for some way-out adventures.

In tonight’s nifty opener, Quinn meets a cleverer version of himself.

This ‘slider’ from a different dimension explains that jumping into the alternative universes, through a wormhole filled with psychedelic colors, is a lot like playing a roulette wheel. Each slot represents another dimension, and there could be hundreds of places to land.

SEE YOUNG JERRY O’CONNELL: Stand by Me: Look back at the classic movie from 1986

The veteran “slider” holds out the enticing prospect of visiting a nearly perfect world. but departs before giving Quinn some crucial information about the gizmo’s timer. That oversight proves costly.

Sliders cast

Eager to demonstrate his discovery, Quinn takes a joy ride with adoring pal Wade Wells (Sabrina Lloyd) and overbearing professor Maximillian Arturo (John Rhys-Davies).

Soul singer Rembrandt “Crying Man” Brown (Cleavant Derricks) has the misfortune to be sucked into the wormhole while driving to Candlestick Park to perform the national anthem.

The nearly perfect world is nowhere tonight. The four travelers tumble into a nuclear winter. San Francisco is frozen over, and terrifying winds force a hasty jump to another world.

The travelers think they have come home. Far from it. They have fallen into a world where communism triumphed. The United States lost the Korean War, and the old domino theory became reality.

Later season TV show Sliders

A Lenin statue stands where Lincoln was paid tribute. Making a phone call can be a crime. A telethon demands viewers support public television “or else.”

A homeless man in Quinn’s world has become a U.S. senator in the communist system. And in tonight’s loopiest scene, the communist version of People’s Court unfolds, presided over by Commissar Wapner.

The travelers join the underground, and Wade learns that her parallel self is a much-respected freedom fighter. The dialogue has some choice puns, none better than: “She’s off looking for herself.”

Vintage Sliders TV show cast
Charlie O’Connell, Jerry O’Connell, Kari Wuhrer & Cleavant Derricks (Sliders season 4)

At the fade-out, the four jump again and think they’ve arrived home, only to experience another shocker. They seem doomed to travel among the parallel universes and never make it home — which is their misfortune, but a delight for viewers.

How to explain the show’s weird and satisfying tone? Just look at the creators’ past credits. Tracy Torme wrote for “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Saturday Night Live,” and Robert Weiss produced the “Naked Gun” films and Kentucky Fried Movie.

Sliders is hardly a perfect show. The soul singer is inserted awkwardly into tonight’s plot. The action stops for a conventional battle between the rebels and the communists. And the cheesy special effects in the nuclear winter sequence will make you long for big-screen dazzle.

No matter. The premise is the thing here. The show builds such goodwill through its engrossing plot twists and likable stars that you sit back and enjoy the ride.

This is not the kind of show that allows a lot of room for characterization and showy acting, but the four stars impress through sheer personality.

ALSO SEE: Star Trek: The Next Generation had a bold new mission from 1987-1994

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