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Stuff for the Teen Age

Sci-Fi Summer Television We Love to Watch: Into the Vortex! "Sliders"

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"What if you found a portal to a parallel universe? What if you could slide into a thousand different worlds? Where it's the same year and you're the same person... but everything else is different. And what if you can't find your way home?"

As far as science fiction concepts go, Sliders kind of cornered the market on weird. Our story starts with the main protagonist, Quinn, played by Jerry O'Connell (Scream 2, Stand by Me). The story goes... nerdy yet oddly attractive grad student Quinn Mallory loves to build things. While experimenting with anti-gravity, he builds a device that does something unexpected: it opens a wormhole to another dimension. After traveling to an alternate world for a brief time to try it out, he shares his discovery with his Professor, Maximillian Arturo, and his best friend, Wade Welles. Of course, they both want to try it out, too. So he fires up his device, a handheld “timer” that looks similar to a remote control. Then... things get out of control! There’s a power surge and the three of them, along with a washed up singer named Rembradt Brown, get sucked up into the vortex. The world they end up in? Not so much fun... it’s one where the Ice Age basically never ended. Facing certain death, Quinn decides to use the timer to “slide” out of the world early... causing the device to loose the coordinates for their “prime” Earth. Now stranded in a vast infinity of alternate worlds, the foursome of Quinn, Aruturo, Rembrandt, and Wade have become “sliders” moving from one world to the next.

This was another show that aired on Fox, premiering just three years after the debut of The X-Files. Sliders probably owes a lot to the success of The X-Files: It’s unlikely a show this unique and strange would have been greenlit if Fox didn’t think there was an audience for it. Early episodes of the show often explored unique divergences in the United States’ timeline. You can usually sum it up with a “What if...?” statement, as Quinn tells viewers in a voiceover during the opening credits. Episodes deal with stories such as: What if the United States Constitution had been outlawed? What if San Francisco were a preserve for dinosaurs? What if prohibition had never been repealed? Or, what if the United States was still a colony of Great Britain? Each of the characters often deal with their own individual storylines, including the concept of “doubles” — alternate versions of themselves who are sometimes extremely different from what they expect. Quinn, for instance, lands on one world where he meets a female version of himself. Even for Quinn, that had to be slightly unnerving.

The show was plagued by constant shifts in tone and story after the first two seasons. In the third year, one of the original characters was replaced by a new character named Maggie Beckett. After hinting at a growing romance between Quinn and Wade for years, Maggie now seemed to be Quinn’s love interest and... well, things just got more confusing from there. Parts of the third season also closely resemble several major motion pictures at the time, including the episode “The Breeder,” being a nod (or knockoff) to the movie Species. In the fourth year, the show moved to the Sci-Fi Channel (now named Syfy), which also aired Battlestar Galactica. This change in the show saw less standalone episodes and more of a cohesive story arc dealing with sliding aliens named the Kromaggs. The show lasted a total of five seasons, with Cleavant Derricks as Rembradt Brown being the only character to be a regular cast member in every season. While Sliders wasn’t always the easiest show to understand and love, it nonetheless made a distinct and lasting impression in the world of sci-fi television.

Star Trek. X-Files. BSG. V. 4400. Fringe. What's next? There's still a few weeks left of Mid-Manhattan Library's Sci-Fi Summer. And remember, it's not too late to sign up for Summer Reading — you can log DVDs you watch as well as books you read!

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