Sliders: Third Season
One of the best things about science fiction is its ability to look at society’s problems in a novel, different way. It permits us to look at things they way they could have been. One television show that took this premise to the ultimate was Sliders. Imagine being able to move between alternate universes, you are still on the planet earth but the social structure and even in some cases the very laws of nature are different. In his native universe Quinn Mallory (Jerry O'Connell) was a young genius, he stumbles upon a way to slide between universes taking along his girlfriend Wade Wells (Sabrina Lloyd), his mentor Professor Maximilian Arturo (John Rhys-Davies) and a hapless bystander of the experiment Rembrandt "Crying Man" Brown (Cleavant Derricks). The foursome is unable to find their way back to their original universe and slide from universe to universe hoping the slide will take them back. It seems that in each universe they find some condition that they are compelled to help rectify, feeling that they should use their knowledge of other universes to correct others. In these plot lines they are kind of like Captain Kirk, assured that they can fix other societies no matter what. Their slides are controlled by a device that is built around a timer, if they do not slide out of the earth at an exact moment they will have to spend of the rest of their lives where they are.
In some of their slides in the third season they face the consequences of variations in history. In one universe the American government is a monarchy. There is also a variation in biology here when they discover that Rembrandt has a double on this world that is about to give birth to an heir to the throne. Yes, here men are the ones that give birth. On another world the writers seemed to have taken the plot of the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger flick, The Running Man, and combined it with a little premonition of the current trend in reality television. Here the justice system has taken the form of a televised game show with the outcome determining the guilt of the ‘contestant’. In other stories the goal of the group is much more personal. In another universe the Egyptian culture never waned and now rules America. On an earth where consumerism reigns supreme and there are giant malls in the sky the four try to reunite a child with its mother. One running themes explored in the third season is ecological disasters. One world was ruined by electrical tornados, another by almost sentient fire. Unfortunately, a bit of this fire slides with the quartet to a world where oil is even more the basis of society than we have here. Even the laws of nature are fluid in this series as the find themselves on an earth where time is twelve times slower than we consider normal.
About half way though the third season the over all arc of the story lines underwent a drastic change. In a double episode the four sliders come upon a world where the earth is about to be totally destroyed by a rouge pulsar. The people there have been developing their own slider technology and Quinn and his friends combine their resources so at least some people can slide to a safe world. New characters are added to the mix here. Maggie Beckett (Kari Wuhrer) is a captain in the army and quickly becomes a new slider. She is tough, by the book and hopes to save her world with the assistance of the strangers. It turns out that her commanding officer, Col. Angus Rickman (Roger Daltrey), is extending his life by fatally draining and consuming the spinal fluid of others. He winds up with the original Quinn timer while the group is now sliding with a timer that can save and direct slides with coordinates, a concept new to the series. The later episodes of the season concern the group of now five sliders chasing the heinous Rickman from one universe to another. Helping their quest to return to their original earth, now called ‘Earth Prime’ they manage to obtain the correct coordinates but are not able to use them just yet.
The series was built upon an imaginative premise, moving to alternate earth but the introduction of the Rickman chase and the new timer took the series in a new direction. It added another directive to their slides and gave them some glimmer of hope of finally controlling their slides and getting back home. One reason for this was without a doubt to give the writers a little more than the usual slide to a world, find a problem, resolve the problem, and slide away. This new twist added a bit more drama to the series and allowed for more detailed multi-episode story arcs.
Jerry O'Connell has come a long way from his break out role as the pudgy kid in Stand by Me. No he is far more buff and in control, also believable as the young genius. He is able to convey a character that is bright enough to think his way out of a jam but also rise to action hero when necessary. Sabrina Lloyd is one of those actresses on television that is always a joy to watch. She is pretty, intelligent and invokes empathy in the audience. John Rhys-Davies has the kind of voice that commands the screen. He is perfect as Quinn’s mentor, a man sure of science and his own importance. Cleavant Derricks is well cast as Rembrandt, often used for the more emotional stories and frequently for a little touch of comic relief. For the third season Kari Wuhrer provided a counterpoint to the character of Wade. Where Wade was emotional Maggie was all action, a trained warrior always ready to mix it up. She also provided a little bit of competition for Wade in her on again, off again relationship with Quinn. Not many rock singers can really act but Roger Daltrey is the exception that proves the rule. He is great as the over the top villain of this season.
Universal does its usual job of presenting this third season on DVD. The full screen video is well balanced; the color palette is true and free of most defects. The two channel Dolby audio is clear allowing every word to be understood. This is a plain vanilla presentation with no extras but the episodes make this a worth while addition to your DVD collection. This was one of the more interesting seasons of a very well done television series.