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Remembering the Time the Sliders Actually Made it Home, and Didn’t Know it
You get one newspaper, one gate, and one minute to decide if this is your reality.
The basic premise of Sliders (streaming now on Peacock) is a goldmine for science fiction storytelling. College student Quinn Mallory (Jerry O’Connell) engineers a machine in his basement which opens a portal onto a random world somewhere in the multiverse. It’s always Earth and it’s always within a defined geographic region on the planet, but the other characteristics of reality are totally up for grabs.
After a technological mishap in the pilot episode, a quartet of sliders made up of Quinn, Professor Maxamilian Arturo (John Rhys-Davies), Rembrandt “Crying Man” Brown (Cleavant Derricks), and Wade Welles (Sabrina Lloyd) are stuck jumping from one random universe to the next, for a random duration, trying to find their way home. Early on, however, they actually succeeded at returning to Earth Prime, but slid out less than a minute later due to a tragic bit of cosmic miscommunication.
The Sliders Get Help from a Sorcerer in Season 2 Episode “Into the Mystic”
The Season 1 finale ended on a cliffhanger with Quinn shot in the back seconds before the sliders jumped into a new world. When they returned in Season 2, Quinn was at the tail end of a three-day fever dream. He was on the mend, but in need of a doctor, unfortunately this world only offers superstition and a nameless, faceless, Sorcerer.
When they realize that Quinn isn’t going to get any actual care from a witch doctor, they leave without paying the bill. Having broken a medical contract, the witch doctor is entitled to an organ of his choice to use in his experiments. He chooses Quinn’s brain, something Quinn needs to stay alive, and all of them need if they ever want to get home. The only one who can help them is the Sorcerer. Allegedly, he has the power to slide between worlds; the power to send them home.
Visiting him at his black castle on the other side of the Golden Gargoyle Gate Bridge, the sliders are greeted by a spectral form, the floating and unfriendly visage of a fanged wizard. What happens next should be familiar to anyone who’s ever taken a few steps along the Yellow Brick road. The Sorcerer claims to be all powerful, he says he is the master of the passageway between worlds, and that he can reward them for their courage by sending them home. But when they look behind the curtain, they find Quinn’s double in place of the Sorcerer.
He has Quinn’s face, framed with long hair and glasses. He is obviously intelligent, having also invented sliding and grabbed hold of a lucrative distribution opportunity, secretly selling medicine in a superstition-filled world. But he is timid, reserved, scared to show his face and ashamed of who he has become. Despite the incredible challenges of their journey, the Sorcerer envies Quinn’s life and vows to start living himself, beginning by helping them out.
Could You Recognize Your World in One Minute or Less?
Quinn Prime, our Quinn, describes the multiverse like a vast roulette wheel. The challenge is knowing which slot corresponds to their home reality. Sorcerer Quinn uses his knowledge of sliding to modify the timer with the coordinates for Earth Prime, but the sliders have been burned before. They are cautiously hopeful.
Leaping into the wormhole, the four of them land in front of Quinn’s house as they have so many times before. It looks like Earth Prime but that’s not unusual, most worlds do, at least at first glance. Usually, they have a few hours or a few days to look around and get their bearings, but the timer is ticking down from 53 seconds. They need to make a decision fast. That might seem easy, but you have neighbors who think they've jumped realities because they misremembered how to spell the name of some cartoon bears.
Quinn goes for the front gate; it has been squeaking since he was 12 and he knows the sound like he knows his own name. The other sliders grab a fresh newspaper from the sidewalk. The headlines, which include O.J. Simpson going on trial for double murder, feel to them like the sorts of things that might happen on an alternate Earth. The kicker: the gate opens quietly.
Crestfallen, the sliders open their next portal and jump someplace else (it’s a world where biological warfare has killed off the majority of males, the remainder live in breeding camps to rebuild the population) hoping the other side of the wormhole might open up at home. As soon as the portal closes, leaves on the trees still rustling from otherworldly air, the front door opens upon Quinn’s childhood home. His mother steps out alongside a groundskeeper who proudly shows her a silently opening front gate. “All it needed was a little oil,” he says.
They were home. In the sprawling fields of infinite reality, they managed to find their way back... if only for a moment, and they might have known it but for a few more seconds or a squeaky hinge.
Because of that, we got four more seasons of reality-hopping adventure, and you can watch all of it right now on Peacock.