Every now and then a genre TV show comes along and promises so much and ultimately fails – often quite bravely – to live up to its potential. One such show is SLIDERS, Tracy Torme’s courageous little adventure series about a High school student (naturally) who manages to create a gizmo which can open up a portal which enables him to cross between dimensions, to travel to worlds which are just like Earth but with slight differences. What a concept! What can’t this show do! What fun! What a shame it all went a bit pear-shaped and never really found its feet…

It all starts very promisingly. The SLIDERS eighty-odd minute pilot is one of the finest first episodes of any new show in recent memory. Torme’s jaunty script effortlessly introduces its lead characters and its science is never techno babble or gobbledegook. As Quinn Mallory (O’Connell), his friend Wade Wells (Lloyd), Quinn’s science teacher (Rhys-Davies – Gimli to you) and passing soul singer (don’t ask) Rembrandt Brown (Derricks) are sucked through the ‘wormhole’ to find themselves in a frozen, windswept Second Ice Age San Francisco, it seems there may be nothing this show can’t do and that we might be in for quite a ride. The pilot runs out of steam a bit when the group land in a USA ruled by Russia and we fall into familiar ‘rebels-versus-invaders’ territory but it’s all done well with a nice line in wit and some good action sequences.

But SLIDERS was not to have an easy ride. Not exactly a huge ratings success the show was ‘pulled’ after nine episodes – a nice bunch of instalments which saw the group arrive on a plague-world, a world about to be destroyed by an asteroid, a world where men are the underdogs (I think I’ve slid onto that one!) and a world where the hippy movement still rules (man). The first brief season ended on a cliffhangar, with Quinn shot in the head as the Sliders escape a world where the lottery has a very different meaning. Despite its iffy reception, SLIDERS returned for another 13 episodes, also included in this boxset. New music and titles ushered in another batch of interesting stories – from the world ruled by magic, to a world where dinosaurs still roam free, via some supernatural high jinks in ‘Gillian of the Spirits’ and gangster antics in ‘Greatfellas’. They’re all watchable enough, performed with gusto and good humour – but there’s always the feeling that the show could be so much more, that the concept could be taken off in some far more interesting directions. Towards the end of series two we find ‘Invasion’, an ambitious ‘hard’ SF story which Torme had to fight to get made. Here we encounter for the first time the Kromaggs, over-evolved caveman-creatures from another Earth who have also discovered sliding and intend to use the technology to dominate all the dimensions. High concept indeed but, as the ‘making of’ feature reveals, not to the taste of the show’s core fans who preferred the quirkiness of earlier stories.

SLIDERS rolled on for three more seasons. Season three lost the plot (and eventually Rhys-Davies) when, in a bid to pull in more viewers, the show decided to ape recent Box office hit films such as TWISTER and JURASSIC PARK. The show fizzled out a little later, with only Derricks remaining of the original cast, an unloved cheap filler on the Sci-Fi Channel. If you remember SLIDERS at all, these are the episodes you’ll be interested in seeing again. If you never saw it but you think it sounds interesting – well, it is. But it was never really much more than that. These episodes are all you need of SLIDERS, the show with big ideas which never really knew what to do with them.

THE DISCS: Six shinies housed in a glossy silver and purple box. Good quality picture and sound but not much in the way of extras. Commentary on the pilot and an interesting but all-too brief ‘Making of’ which is quite candid about the network interference/indifference which stifled the show’s creativity from the start. Dreary picture gallery pads out these slim pickings.

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