While Sliders may not rank in the upper echelon of sci-fi/fantasy series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel or its predecessor Quantum Leap, it is a very watchable show with endearing characters and witty writing at times. Quinn (Jerry O’Connell), a brainy San Francisco physics student, has perfected a device – in his mom’s basement, no less – that opens up a temporary wormhole between alternate Earths. By leaping into the wormhole, one can “slide” between worlds; but of course there’s … catch, which is the foundation of the show’s appeal. It seems there’s no way to return back from whence you came, so Quinn, along with his college professor Maximillian Arturo (John Rhys-Davies), Wade (Sabrina Lloyd), and, through an odd turn of events, fading R&B singer Rembrandt “Crying Man” Brown (Cleavant Derricks), are left to slide from alternate world to alternate world each week, finding themselves in some very strange places trying to find their way home.
Each episode finds our heroes exploring alternate realities – What if the Americans lost to the British during in 1776, what if the atomic bomb was never invented, what if modern medicine never discovered penicillin—those are some of the scenarios Quinn, Arturo, Wade, and Crying Man find themselves in; once you get past the all too convenient plot reliance on having one of the main characters just happening to be a key character in the alternate world (or one of their friends), you can focus on the fact that the writing is generally a whole lot smarter than most if the sci-fi series out there.
One of the show’s real strengths is Rhys-Davies, who, whether as the good natured turban wearing Sullah (from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) or as an axe-wielding Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, shows here that he has the right amount of frustrated, deep-voiced pomposity that keeps the motley crew together. O’Connell is genuinely likeable, Lloyd is entertaining, and Derricks’ Crying Man Brown may get all the belly laughs, but Rhys-Davies has a delivery that gives the show something approaching legitimacy, if for nothing other than his booming and distinctive speaking voice, which makes even the most tired exasperation sound engaging.
While Sliders did “borrow” quite a bit from Quantum Leap, the mix of characters and generally better than average special effects for a television show made this series very enjoyable.
Sliders is presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Colors are fairly bright, and the transfers hold up extremely well during brightly lit sequences, but the black levels do not share the same quality, turning many dimly lit interior scenes noticeably muddy. The skin tones are well reproduced and the image quality is relatively sharp.
Sliders is presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital surround. The dialogue comes through clearly for most scenes, but during the heavy action scenes sometimes it may sound lost in the mix. There is a decent dynamic range considering this was filmed in the mid 90’s. Your bass will get a mild work out.
There’s actually not much here in terms of extras, which is a shame considering the fanbase of the series, with Disc 1 containing a commentary track from co-creators Tracy Torme and Robert K. Weiss on the two-hour pilot episode. They promise to deliver the “inside stories of what went down”, and in between singing the theme to Petticoat Junction, we’re informed about their demo reels, finding doubles, shooting in Vancouver, and most pleasing, the small inside jokes sprinkled throughout the series. Torme and Weiss have a casual rapport, and even with a few silent gaps, this is easy, enjoyable track.
A brief featurette entitled “The Making of Sliders” shows up on Disc 6, and sports comments from Torme, Weiss, Jerry O’Connell, and Cleavant Derricks, sandwiched in between clips from the show. This short piece gives a neat snapshot of the show’s origins, and how Torme once read that George Washington was almost shot dead prior to the American Revolution. Disc 6 also contains a brief photo gallery.
The Sliders DVD set is well done although it’s a little light on the extras. I would recommend it for those who are fans of the series as well as those who have never watched the series before. As in just about everything else that he is in John Rhys-Davies steals every scene that he is in, and luckily he is in a lot of scenes in this better than average series.
Special Features List
- New making-of featurette
- Photo gallery
- Commentary by co-creators Tracy Torme and Robert Weiss on the pilot episode