The phenomenon at the heart of “Sliders” refers to a group of young, improbably attractive humans who “slide” through vortexes that provide access to parallel dimensions of Earth. Call it coincidence, then, that for the drama’s fourth season of 22 originals, it has performed an impressive slide of its own: From its previous home on Fox to the parallel dimension of basic cable and the Sci Fi Channel or, in less ethereal terms, from Rupert Murdoch to Barry Diller. Yes, the dreaded mogul vortex.
Of course, these things don’t happen overnight. And in the case of “Sliders,” it took more than a year to get up and running on Sci Fi after completing season three on May 16, 1997. But after getting the ax from Fox, here it is, ready to conquer a shiny new vortex each week. For the typically obsessed sci-fi fan, there is no purer nirvana than to have a beloved series brought back from the near-dead. For the rest of us, the new segs will elicit pretty much the same yawns as did the old ones.
If, as they say, there are only eight plots in drama, there are likely only two in science-fiction: earthlings at war with evil alien oppressors in a distant galaxy or earthlings at peace with beings who are yet to turn evil. And always, the earth folks are struggling to find their way home, wherever that may be. Such is life in “Genesis,” the fourth season opener of “Sliders,” which sports some cool effects from Eddie Surkin and his team, but feels predictably derivative.
To attempt to describe what happens in a “Sliders” episode from the perspective of an unplugged mortal critic is to invite embarrassment and certainly contempt from the sci fi geek universe. But here goes:
Quinn Mallory (the likable Jerry O’Connell) and Maggie (Kari Wuhrer) have been on a world sliding binge, going through a whopping 10 in three months, hoping to follow their pal Rembrandt (Crying Man) Brown (Cleavant Derricks) and rescue him from Quinn’s home world. It seems that things haven’t been the same since the world was invaded by the sinister Kromaggs (like Klingons, only dumber), who look and behave an awful lot like guests on a particularly nasty episode of “Jerry Springer.”
Indeed, the Kromaggs are trademark sci-fi monsters: swine-like, sadistic, power-mad, needy of cosmetic surgery, with Hitler-esque delusions of grandeur. They start breeder camps for cross-species replication and enjoy devouring glazed eyeballs in their own sauce as a between-meal snack. They also carry these nifty laser torture devices that work like intergalactic tasers when applied to the temples. Swell group of guys, really.
So anyway, the upshot in the complex opener, written by executive producer David Peckinpah, is that Quinn finds out his mother isn’t really his mother and that he has a brother (leaving open the entrance of O’Connell’s real-life sibling Charlie as a series regular in a month or so). And Quinn and his sliding pals want out of this dimension, pronto.
Episode, smartly directed by Reza Badiyi, shows “Sliders” to be significantly less annoying than many sci fi efforts. At least it sports a compelling premise (how many of us have tried to escape the Kromaggs in our own lives at one time or another?) and a believable leading man in O’Connell.
Tech credits are sharp.