The Return Of
Ladies and gentlemen, Midlife Crisis on Infinite Earths is back! For those of you who are unfamiliar with my regular column, I used to write it for another website. You can find uncensored versions of those articles on my personal website here. Now that we've moved over to Trouble City, I am going to expand the scope a bit. Originally, MLCOIE focused entirely on comic books. Since I have a lot more creative leeway, I will be expanding to other forms of popular culture. The scope of the column is to look at how long running or highly popular parts of popular culture --even the most respected franchises -- have not aged very well, and it's hilarious.
Now that those of you who are unfamiliar with the column are up to speed, I thought it would be apropos to start our first edition on Trouble City about Sliders.
For those who are unfamiliar, Sliders was a science fiction show that ran from 1995-2000. The show was about a young scientist named Quinn Mallory (Jerry O'Connell) who invented a device that could open portals to other dimensions. Unfortunately for Quinn, his mentor Professor Maximillian Arturo (John Rhys-Davies), friend Wade Wells (Sabrina Lloyd) and singer Rembrandt Brown (Cleveland Derricks), the device malfunctions and now they must travel between parallel worlds in an attempt to try and find their way back home. The series was supposed to be a quirky and fun science fiction series that explored what it might be like on worlds that are slightly different than their own. It's a textbook example of network interference on a television show. It was canceled twice, changed directions and tone three or four times, with cast members quitting often well before their personal arcs were resolved.
I really loved the show, but it suffered so many pitfalls that the majority of episodes ranged in the bad-to-awful with only a handful being pretty good. Another strike against the show is time, which has cultured it like a smelly cheese. However, even the stinkiest cheese is still edible and so here we are!
Anyhow, here are some of the most WTF moments on the show, presented in order, try and guess which season was the worst of the bunch:
Time Again and World
Down the Rabbit Vortex
In this episode, the Sliders are on a world where women have facial hair. Instead of delving into the social implications of prickly faced women and clean-shaven men, the Sliders witness a man getting gunned down in the streets. Since the show relies highly on Mary Sue level coincidence, the man who is shot dead looks like Wade Wells' father.
He hands her a disc that contains something very important. Unfortunately, they have to slide off this world and just so happen to land on a world that is almost identical. However, instead of women with facial hair, it is a world where police officers wear kilts. That's not all, but on this world the United States Constitution has been abridged and no copies of the original document exist. The world has been under martial law for decades. In what is the biggest plot contrivance ever, the Sliders discover that the disc they have is a scanned copy of the Constitution. Since every episode is a ticking clock, you can bet that the Sliders make sure the Constitution is transmitted all over the internet before they leave.
Worlds Without Consequence
The first problem that comes up is the fact that the Sliders don't seem to be aware of anything going on in the world with the mustached women. It took them all of 30 seconds to figure out that kilt-world is one that is under martial law and the Constitution is a lost document. This is not something you'd miss if you're a huge fan of truth, justice, and the American way?
Also, when they find out that they have a disc that contains the Constitution, they don't give a second thought that they took it from a world that probably also needed it. Granted, it's not like they could go back to that world, but you'd think they would have at least had a moment to think about the implications they caused.
On this world, J. Edgar Hoover took over the United States after the assassination of JFK. He then turned the United States into a police state and has all copies of the Constitution destroyed. This works because apparently everyone forgets what is in the beloved document. Now, I am from Canada, and say what you will about the education system in America, but I'm sure the Constitution is one of those things that are pounded into your mind as soon as possible if I am not mistaken. Even if the kids of this world weren't taught about the constitution over the past 30+ years between the death of JFK and this episode, there are past generations who knew about it. Yet, nobody can even remember what was in the Constitution?
I find this hard to believe, given that we live in a world where rednecks scream the 2nd amendment into the faces of high school students who just survived a deadly school shooting. We have preachers who scream how their freedom of religion is being eroded because there are suddenly brown people in town who worship something different. You're telling me that the so-called Greatest Generation Ever can't remember about the right to assembly and freedom of religion? America forgetting about the need for separation of church and state is something I can understand, but forgetting the Constitution? Come on.
The big plan to bring freedom back to America was for a disgraced judge to read the Constitution on the radio. A pirate radio station. Now, the average FM station could broadcast around 100 miles -- give or take -- how are you planning on reaching more than the local airwaves? What's the next phase of your master plan? Word of mouth spreading the news? These are people who forgot about something they learned in school for crying out loud.
However, they fail to read the Constitution on the air, and the Sliders have to leave that world. However, a solution stupidly falls into the laps of the people on this world. See, the Sliders forgot that they left a copy of the Constitution on a computer at the local Doppler Computers. There, one of the store clerks accidentally uploads the Constitution all over the internet.
You can tell this episode was written by someone who didn't really get how the internet worked. Sure, the internet was relatively new when this episode came out in 1996, but if there is one thing people can tell you, you couldn't just accidentally upload a picture all over the internet by pushing a few buttons.
Now while that's a cute idea and all, you also have to remember that the internet back in those days was a god damn eyesore. Blinking text, horrid backgrounds, pop-up banners, frames. If someone uploaded the Constitution to the internet back then, it would look like this:
Also, how are people even going to find it? We're talking about a point in time when Google was in its beta phase.
The Dream Masters
As the Wormhole Turns
This episode is an exercise in patience, and I'd argue that it is one of the worst ones ever made. In it, the Sliders arrive on a world where there are a bunch of assholes called the Dream Masters. Somehow, using telepathy and drugs they can enter people's dreams. The Slider's run afoul of the Dream Masters after Quinn tells one off for being reckless on his bicycle. Said Dream Master reacts as you'd expect: By wanting to dream rape Wade Wells.
The other Sliders save the day when they scrape the psychotropic drugs off the hand of a Dream Master and use it to enter Wade's dream and save her. Does this make any sense? No. No it doesn't.
Slidemare on Yawn Street
If it is not painfully obvious, this movie is a really awful rip-off of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Except, if you removed everything enjoyable from the experience and replace it with snotty losers with pentagrams on their hands. This is kind of funny to point out that they did hire Robert Englund for an episode that same season, but that one was about robots. I guess you could say that it was an ideal choice to cast Zack Ward -- the bully from A Christmas Story -- However, he loses all of his evilness when you see him bicycling around in spandex shorts during the first act. The fact that it's this guy dream stalking Wade is laughably bad, at best. Credit where credit is due, Zack Ward tackled the role with a total lack of awareness of how stupid the character he was playing was. We're talking about the guy who was in the Postal movie. Anyone who can stare into the noodly abyss that is Dave Foley's penis and keep a straight face is a grade A actor in my books.
It's at this point I should also point out that this episode was written by Melinda Snodgrass. Silly name aside, she used to write for Star Trek: The Next Generation, so I would have expected something boring but not necessarily anything bad. Was there interference from the network? Another writer? There is no way you can churn out something this awful without a bunch of idiots sticking their fingers into every orifice of your teleplay.
Some of the cast and crew said that this episode is "spooky" and "scary". I hope for their sake, they were paying lip service for the network before going home and crying about the poor career choices they have made. Here is a list of things that were deemed to be spooky: Pentagrams, red and blue lighting, smoke machines, getting shot, quicksand, and snakes. End of list. That's about as scary as a 2nd grader's Halloween drawing.
The Prince of Slides
Be My Slider Daddy
In this episode, the Sliders land in a world where the British never lost the War of Independence, a plot line that they've done before. Other than filling the episode with "Britain be different from America" gags like the shitty 80's era open mic act, they needed a twist. On this world, a virus has made it impossible for women to carry children to term. That's where science has stepped in to save the human race. They have developed artificial wombs so men can carry the children to term. Coincidentally, as things so commonly happen on this show, it turns out that Rembrandt's double on this world happens to be the father of a child who is next in line to the royal throne. When the Remmy from this world goes into hiding, it's up to the Sliders' Remmy to step up to the bat.
Every Fanboy's Dream: Pregnancy
If I were to hazard a guess, this episode -- like many Sliders episodes in the third season -- was basically a rip off of a big budget Hollywood movie. If that's true, this episode was probably was -ahem- "inspired" by the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Junior. You know, the movie where Arnie shits out a baby?
This episode was a pioneer in the art of writing fiction where a male character of a popular series gets impregnated. It's almost like someone made a mistake and instead of producing a legitimate script, they got a catastrophically bad erotic fan-fiction.
However, the entire episode plays out about someone who heard about pregnancy one time when they were a kid and figured they were an expert. Strangely, this episode was written by Eleah Horwitz, a woman. However, she wrote some of the most sexually bizarre episodes of the show. More on that later. Let's get onto this pregnancy thing...
That's Not How Pregnancy Works...
First of all, since every Sliders episode is a ticking clock, they had to come up with some hocus-pocus to explain how these artificial wombs work. Apparently, when you put an artificial womb with a baby into a male body, it speeds up the gestation period. How? Your guess is as good as mine.
Also, why does an artificial womb need to be put in a man's body? While artificial uterus technology is in -- pardon the pun -- it's infancy, the idea of putting such a device in a man is impractical, especially when -- you know -- a man lacks the anatomy to sustain a living embryo.
But let's just say, for fun, that this was possible. If you are having trouble with this, I recommend a blow to the back of the skull. It would require a great deal of surgery. The only way this would even be possible would be through some kind of c-section to get the baby in and out of the man. That's all well and good, but when Rembrandt goes into labor, the only medical tools around are the ham-hocks that Professor Arturo calls hands.
Professor Arturo is a physicist, not a doctor in any capacity. He could barely make penicillin to cure a plague on one world, yet you're expecting him to perform an abnormal pregnancy without any tools? I get that this was network television in the 90s and they couldn't really show anything so graphic, but come on.
The next problem is that the Sliders have to slide out off to the next world almost immediately after Remmy gives birth. If they had to surgically remove the baby, the last thing Rembrandt should be doing is diving down into a long tunnel that usually ends with a rough landing. That's got to rip open any stitches that were used to patch him up.
Tis the Season, to Suck
If there is anything that can be learned from the Star Wars Holiday Special it's that science fiction and holidays never mix. Apparently, the writing team on Sliders did not get that memo. Which explains the travesty that is Seasons Greedings, the Sliders Christmas episode. On Christmas Eve, the Sliders end up on a world where capitalism has gone to ridiculous extremes. People shop til they drop in malls that are so big, they have to be in the sky. If you run out of money, that's okay, the mall will give you credit. However, this is a trap that forces people to work in the mall to work off their debt.
This episode finds the Sliders trying to track down an indebted mother who abandons her child in a church while she toils away in the shopping mall. Because this isn't enough of a personal investment in this turkey, Wade Wells discovers that her sister and father work at the mall on this world. One issue with that though: On this world, Wade was never born, and she struggles to try and teach family the true meaning of Christmas, even though they don't know who she is.
The Einstein Oedipus Rosen Bridge
This episode is another turd that came from the mind of Eleah Horwitz, and it has all the weird awkward sexuality you could ever ask from something she wrote. Here's the scenario: If you're looking at this from Wade Wells perspective, it's kind of touching that she is able to reconnect with family members she misses deeply, even if they are people from a parallel universe who don't know who she is. However, let's reframe the perspective to that of Wade's "father". When he first sees her she is dressed like this:
It's about an old man, who sees a young woman, who was just hired to play an elf in Santa's Village. After meeting her for a few minutes, he makes numerous comments about how she reminds him of his dead wife, then invites her over for Christmas dinner. There he continues to make comments about the resemblance to his wife. It's actually quite creepy.
Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before....
We're getting into the dregs here. At this point in the series, John Rhys-Davies had quit the show and he was replaced by Kari Wuhrer. Kari Wuhrer is a pretty decent actor, however, I don't believe that this is the reason she was cast on the show for that reason. Anyhow, in this episode, the Sliders escape from a world of parasitic creatures. However, one manages to hitch a ride on Maggie Beckett (played by Wuhrer). On the next world, they discover that Maggie wants to hump everything that moves.
If you're thinking "This sounds a lot like Species!", that's because this episode was a blatant rip-off of the sci-fi skin-flick about an H.R. Geiger Nipple monster that masquerades as a naked Natasha Henstridge. With scenes taking place in showers. swimming pools, and sweaty nightclubs, it can't be anything but a blatant rip-off.
Would you believe that this is yet another episode written by Eleah Horwitz? Whereas Species was a movie about an alien-human hybrid that can seduce her way into everyone's pants, this Sliders episode fails to titillate in the same way. In fact, everyone who Maggie tries to seduce acts more nervous than a high school kid with a boner in math class.
When you're done staring at the cleavage in the image above, I should point something out here. The character that Maggie is trying to seduce is Elston Diggs. A recurring character on the show as a familiar face on most worlds the Sliders end up on. Diggs is a bartender who is clearly portrayed as gay. This just adds to the lack of chemistry that is going on here.
This episode sidelines the b-plot about organ harvesting in favor of gratuitous, yet PG, T&A. Eleah Horwitz had one job,
that was to take Kari Wuhrer to act sexy in skimpy outfits. It takes a real commitment to ineptitude to take this concept from the written page to the screen and make it unappealing drivel.
Another example of how unappealing this episode gets is a scene where Maggie's character is shown a shower in a locker room. When Maggie drops trow and hops into the shower, the other woman runs to call security and is killed by the parasite. A woman strips down and hops into your shower and you're going to run off and tell mom and dad? What is even going on here?
So Much for Ethics.....
When this episode isn't focusing on Kari Wuhrer's breasts, the other Sliders (well Quinn at least) is trying to free her from the parasite. That's all well and good. Once again the ticking clock kicks in. Just as the slide window opens and while Quinn has time to free Maggie, they leave through the vortex.... leaving the parasite behind. The Sliders really don't give a shit.
Which is really interesting, because by this point the Sliders are chasing down a rogue slider who murders people for their brain matter. They are actively trying to stop one threat to the multiverse, yet they unleash another one without a second thought? I should also point out that by this time the Sliders got the means to return to worlds they have previously visited. It's used as an excuse to have two episodes with dinosaurs, but not to go back and stop a parasite from infesting an unsuspecting world.
An Infinite Number of Awfulness
I could go on for more, but trust me, Sliders has not aged very well. These are just some of the worst episodes I picked off the top of my head. There are more of these stinkers, maybe we'll revisit them some other day.