Last summer, I made arguments that the shows Lost and Dollhouse deserved remakes, albeit with some major caveats. Lost needs a lot of work, but mostly that work consisted of ‘tighten that shit up.’ Nobody needs a whole God damned episode about how someone got their tattoos. Dollhouse mostly needs to be freed from the constraints of network and probably even cable television and get put on a streaming service that will let it be as freak-narsty as it deserves to be (also, I wrote that before I knew what a God damned nightmare of a human being Joss Whedon is, so new caveat: remake it without him). Ultimately I think both shows, despite their flaws, were still competent pieces of 2000s science fiction. I mean, Dollhouse more than Lost, obviously, but still.
Sliders makes Lost look like Casablanca. Sliders is a dumpster fire, if that dumpster were filled with used adult diapers, and if those adults had eaten nothing but asparagus and all-you-can-eat crab legs for three days before filling them, and if those all-you-can-eat-crab legs had gone off three weeks before. Sliders is a three-way collision between network fuckery, hack writers who didn’t know what the fuck they were doing, and a fucking clown car filled with all the worst omens you can have for your prime-time television show.
And the worst part is, Sliders is one of the best examples of wasted potential.
Because, my God, what a concept.
Let’s All Go to the Multiverse
At its most basic description, Sliders is about four people who are lost in the multiverse trying to find their way home. There you go. That’s it. Best show ever. The amount of concepts and storylines you could draw out of something like that is practically infinite because it’s a fucking multiverse. The creators essentially gave themselves a free pass to do literally whatever they want, every single week.
And then everybody involved showed up and said,
What Happened to the Original?
Sugar coated Santa, what didn’t happen to the original?
The first season of this show is actually pretty good, with star ratings in the 7-8 range for each episode on imdb. It starts with Jerry O’Connell’s flannel-clad, Joey Lawrence-haired grad student Quinn Mallory trying to put the finishing touches on a device (known as the ‘timer’ throughout the show) that will let him travel the multiverse when another Quinn from another dimension beats him to the punch. He tries to tell him how the timer works and where he’s been but before he can finish one final warning he gets sucked back into the wormhole to his own dimension, and, like…we’re taking advice from this guy? On wormhole traveling? When he can’t even finish a sentence without the wormhole he opened himself malfunctioning and sucking him back up to wherever-the-fuck? I mean, it’s your show, dude, but…fucking yikes.
Predictably, everything goes to shit just a few minutes later and Quinn becomes lost in the multiverse, of course with a cast of characters somehow including John Rhys-Davies. Apparently, between being Sallah in the Indiana Jones movies in the 80s and Gimli in the Lord of the Rings movies in the early 2000s he decided to spin the wheel on a tiny little science fiction show airing on Fox.
Oh, have I not mentioned this was airing on Fox? Answers a whole lot of questions already, huh? We’ll get to it.
The first season feels like what the creative team that pitched the show actually wanted to make: actual science fiction, which is thoughtful and inquisitive, instead of what science fiction usually turns into aka shooty-shooty-bang-bang in space. Episodes include a world where the Soviet Union took over the US, where antibiotics have never been discovered, and where intelligence is celebrated the same way athleticism is here (although I really have never gotten over the fact that this episode seems to totally miss its own point, because the big thing is called Mindgame and…it’s still sort of a sport? They’re all wearing wrestling outfits and tossing a rugby ball at each other while they answer questions, and all the eggheads are beefcakes, like…what??). It wasn’t winning Emmy’s or anything, but it was quality B-movie type stuff and overall enjoyable.
And Then Fox Happened
Oh, Fox. How do you always manage to be the villain in these stories? For simplicity’s sake, let’s just list out the shenanigans:
- Right from the very first season Fox was airing the episodes in whatever order they wanted regardless of what the creators intended. I have no idea why this a fucking thing they do with every show they have.
- Even by the second season, the writers had stopped thinking up their own ‘alternate history’ plots and just started stealing from other popular media, including The Wizard of Oz, Jurassic Park, and Goodfellas.
- By the third season Fox really started stepping in, because they wanted the shooty-shooty-bang-bang kind of science fiction. Episodes started to be less inquisitive and more actiony.
- It was the 90’s, so you can bet there was some misogyny going on! Fox executives rejected the writers attempts to add a recurring female character because she wasn’t ‘sexy enough,’ and writers turned the main female character into an annoying waste of space whose ultimate fate was to be stuck in an alien breeding camp.
- John Rhys-Davies was the first to jump ship but after that the cast was practically rotating, with everyone who could find an excuse to get out of their contracts doing so.
- The ratings started to tank because of all the fuckery, so Fox cancelled it and it got picked up by SciFi, which, back in the 90’s, was never a good sign.
- Eventually some genius decided that these heroes needed a recurring villain and introduced the Kromaggs (fun fact: as I was thinking up this article before I did any real research, my brain kept calling them Sleestaks). I’m not going to go into the Kromaggs, but just understand they were the final nail in the coffin that took any remaining fun out of the show.
It Is So Fucking Easy to Fix This
Take it away from the networks.
Take it away from the networks.
Take it away from the fucking networks.
I know the streaming services aren’t perfect, but in every single one of these ‘remake’ things I do there’s always some bullshit pulled by network TV that ruins everything. Both television makers and viewers alike have grown beyond network television and it’s continued existence is only dragging things down.
Put a Sliders remake on a streaming service. Find a creative team that’s actually excited by the concept and isn’t just ripping plot lines from Tremors whole-cloth. Let them make their episodes without interference. It’s that fucking easy. After that all that’s left is the fine-tuning.
Stand-Alone Episodes or Overarching Plots?
Personally, I think a remake would benefit from sticking to the original first season and having each episode stand alone in different dimensions. Any overarching plot lines could come from drama between the group sliding. At one point in the original the writers were trying to add a new character to put in some love triangle business, which could have worked. Drama within the group sliding around would add for some extended plots overlaid over the dimension-of-the-week aspect. Fox shut it down because they wanted every episode to be totally standalone without even a hint of plot you might have to follow along because we don’t want the idiots at home to get scared of missing an episode and totally losing the plot, amirite?
And if we do end up doing overarching plots…
Fuck Everything About the Kromaggs
I have to get into them just enough to explain why they were such a terrible idea. The show got cancelled by Fox and shipped to SciFi, who also wanted to lean into the shooty-shooty-bang-bang elements and wanted an overarching villain. Enter the Kromaggs, a race of people who had also figured out how to slide and was using that discovery to continually invade new universes, strip them of their resources, and then move on (still stealing ideas, eh, guys?).
I mean, do you already see the issue here?
Our protagonists are four people, two with a science background, one who I think worked at an electronics store, and a washed-up RnB singer. Basically just four average schmucks. And they’re supposed to be going up against an entire warrior race with better sliding technology and the ability to roll over neighboring dimensions like a tank rolling over a stuffed animal parade.
It would be like, I don’t know, let me pick a movie randomly here, Independence Day if instead of the entirety of the earth’s military might banding together to fight back, it was just Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Will Smith, and Vivica A. Fox. What, precisely, were these four Gen Xers, barely holding it together and making poor life choices as is, supposed to do against an advanced race that had been conquering for so long they had whole fucking departments set up? A whole fucking bureaucracy dedicated to sliding into a new world and taking the whole thing in over in a matter of weeks, but here comes the cast of Blossom to show them what’s what!
They’re overpowered for our protagonists, is what I’m saying.
If They Insist on an Overarching Villain…
Which I really don’t think they should because there’s too much risk of things getting weird and sloppy, but if they insist, the villain should at least be on the protagonists’ level.
Another guy has another way of sliding. Maybe a small group of people. Certainly not an entire race with a government and various branches of military. Maybe the villains are completely unrelated to our group, they just keep running into each other, and because the villains are cutting a bloody path through every world they go through our protagonists feel a moral duty to do something about it. Maybe they are related. Maybe the main villain is from a dimension where another sliding Quinn showed up and destroyed everything so now the villain is looking for revenge and doesn’t particularly care which Quinn he gets it on. I don’t know, I’m not working on the minor details until I start getting paid in some capacity.
The important thing is to scale down the villains so a sensible victory is actually in reach.
Concepts They Should Keep from the Original
- The remake should definitely keep to the thoughtful side of science fiction, and I think the ‘drama with hints of levity’ tone from the first season is the way to go.
- I do not want anyone to think the way to fix the Kromaggs problem is to just increase the protagonists’ power. I fully loved the fact that of the four of them, only two of them sort of understood what the fuck they were doing.
- I actually really liked the idea that they needed the ‘timer’ to slide, and that they never knew how much time they would have in a particular universe until they got there. It’s a clever way to add drama as long as it’s not milked to death.
- The cold opens would often show the sliders minutes before they were leaving one universe for the universe the story was going to take place in, and that first universe was usually goofy as fuck, and that is a definite keep. I especially loved the universe where the only appreciable difference was that women could grow facial hair, and the universe where everyone was so sue-happy they were trying to get cheeseburgers before sliding but ran out of time signing all of the waivers to get them.
New Concepts I Want to See
- I want the Quinn or equivalent character to come to the realization that they actually have only the barest idea of what the hell they’re doing. I don’t think the original character ever confronted the fact that he only knew enough to blow himself up. I want remake Quinn to not only come to this conclusion, but get there with serious consequences. Major pathos. Somebody better get maimed, at least.
- Now that we’ve taken the show away from the networks and we’re no longer concerned about self-containing the episodes, I want multiple part episodes taking place in the same universe. As appropriate, obviously, I don’t want this turning into ‘Cliffhanger: The Series.” But what happens when our heroes are stuck in a world not for a few days, but for a few weeks or even months? What happens when they can’t just ride it out, and have to get jobs and a place to live in a universe where they don’t have identification, or don’t exist, or do exist just a few blocks away? What happens when they make friends and attachments, all while watching the numbers count down? There’s so much to work with here.
- On the other end of the spectrum, I want a much lighter episode where the timer keeps fucking up and they’re shooting through universes too fast for anyone to catch their breath. I think this happened a little bit in the original series, but I want it to go for an entire episode. And maybe the tone of the episode gets darker as it goes on as the sliders realize that sliding actually takes a physical toll. One they can heal from when they have a few days, but that gets harder and harder when they’re sliding every five to fifteen minutes (think that episode of Lost where they’re getting zapped around the timeline so fast Charlotte’s head explodes).
- I want a recurring, or even a regular, cast member who isn’t sliding, they’re just in the same city in almost every universe and every single version of them is super chill about the whole thing. Until, of course, they find the one that isn’t.
The bad news is they’re working on a reboot and the creator wants everyone from the original cast to come back and specifically whined in an interview about people being ‘hypersensitive’ to his ideas and said that it won’t be ‘woke,’ which…yeah, again, put this shit on a streaming service and you can do the darkest, most fucked-up ideas you’ve got in your shriveled heart and people will eat it up with a grapefruit spoon so I don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about except I do, he tossed some racist/misogynist/homophobic shit out there, didn’t he? And he’s probably still pitching to the fucking networks. So, they’re going to try to revive the original version of this show that is honestly so broken I don’t even know how you’d fix it enough to build on it, and they want to ignore twenty years of progress while they make it.
This continues to the be the darkest timeline.