Sliders: the TV series that gave the multiverse its original mojo? (classic retrospective).

Welcome to Sliders, the show that turned quantum physics into a spectator sport. It’s the late 90s, and instead of playing with Pogs or watching Friends, we’re sliding between parallel universes with a crew who can’t seem to catch a break. The concept is simple: Quinn Mallory, a bright but perhaps misguided young scientist, crafts a device in his basement that tears open the fabric of reality, allowing him and his unlikely companions to visit alternate Earths. What could possibly go wrong?

The adventure begins somewhat accidentally when Quinn demonstrates his new technology to his professor and a friend. A vortex sucks them into a frozen Earth, along with a soul singer named Rembrandt “Cryin’ Man” Brown who happens to be passing by. From there, each episode catapults them into new worlds, each with its own quirks—ranging from fascinating to fatal.

Throughout the first season, our Sliders are tourists who never chose the destination. Imagine worlds where historical twists have brought about drastic changes, such as the British winning the Revolutionary War or a plague due to the absence of penicillin. The stakes are high, and the exits are unpredictable, thanks to their malfunctioning timer, which often leaves them stranded minutes before disaster strikes.

By the second season, the series ups the ante with the introduction of the Kromaggs—imagine less friendly Vulcans with a taste for conquest—who use their own sliding technology to invade worlds. Our heroes are no longer just lost tourists; they’re refugees and resistance fighters rolled into one. The third season deepens the drama. A cosmic disaster threatens the world they encounter, and they have to contend with Colonel Rickman, a new antagonist known for his unsettling habit of harvesting human brain fluid. In the midst of chaos, they make sacrifices, test allegiances, and witness a plot that twists faster than a wormhole. The fourth season unveils Quinn’s origins, revealing his adoption and the entanglement of his biological parents with the sliding technology. The storyline twists through battles to free their home world from the Kromaggs, rescues, and even more familial surprises, including the addition of Quinn’s brother, Colin.

The fifth and final season does not shy away from complicating things further. In a bizarre turn of events, Quinn merges with a double from another dimension, creating a new merged identity. As the series races to its conclusion, the Sliders develop a virus deadly to Kromaggs and make one last stand to save their world—or at least one version of it.

Sliders is like that old, neon windbreaker from the ’90s—it might not hold up against modern standards, but it’s got undeniable flair and some serious retro appeal. At its core, Sliders takes a brilliant sci-fi dive into alternate universes, which could have been just another cheesy TV escapade. But here’s where it gets fun: the show mixes thought-provoking concepts with a dash of camp, served on a VFX budget that by today’s standards would barely cover a superhero’s cape. The charm of Sliders lies in its ambitious, if erratic, joyride through what-ifs and almost-weres. It delivers philosophical ponderings with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, as well as visual effects that occasionally scream arts and crafts hour. Yet, this is precisely what makes it a nostalgic gem for some and a head-scratcher for others.

Is Sliders a timeless classic or cliché nonsense? It straddles the line like a tightrope walker in a hurricane—sometimes graceful, often wobbly, but always worth watching for the spectacle. It’s the kind of show that invites you to laugh both with it and at it, offering a quirky reflection of our own world with a side of ’90s cheese. So, classic or cliché? Let’s just say it’s classically cliché and charmingly so.

Was there competition in this sub-genre? Plenty! First up, let’s not forget The Twilight Zone, which was twisting realities and blowing minds before colour TV was a thing. This classic series taught us to expect the unexpected and then question it thoroughly. It’s the grandparent whispering eerie tales of “what if” at the family reunion of sci-fi shows.

Then there’s Doctor Who, who has been bending time, space, and viewers’ minds since the 1960s. The Doctor zips across time and space in the TARDIS, proving that you can indeed fit a sprawling, high-tech space lab inside a tiny British phone booth—if you’re a Time Lord, that is. In the literary world, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series takes the concept of alternate realities to epic proportions. Here, dimensions overlap like pages in a well-thumbed book, and you’re as likely to run into your doppelgänger as you are to find a haunted hotel or a rabid St. Bernard.

Video games? BioShock Infinite throws players into the floating city of Columbia, where the multiverse is not just a theory but the playground for a dramatic rescue mission. This game doesn’t just flirt with alternate realities—it takes them out for a fancy dinner and then proposes.

And let’s not ignore the comic book universes, where Marvel’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse spins a web across dimensions so tightly woven that even the most arachnophobic can’t help but stick around. This film not only explores multiple realities but also brings them together in a vibrant, colourful extravaganza that’s part comic book, part blockbuster film, and all multiverse.

Films like Inception bend the concept of reality within dreams layered deep enough to require a flowchart, showing that even your subconscious isn’t safe from the multiverse.

Lastly, for those who like their reality-bending with a side of humour, there’s Rick and Morty. This show takes the multiverse, throws it in a blender with some existential dread, then sprinkles it with dark humour to serve up a cocktail that’s as bizarre as it is addictive.

Sliders ends with more of a cliffhanger than a conclusion, leaving its characters—and viewers—in limbo. Despite its often campy and chaotic approach, the show makes us ponder the eternal “what ifs” of our own decisions and the world around us. It’s a wild ride through the cosmos, where every slide is a gamble, and every world is a reflection, however twisted, of our own. So, grab your remote (ensuring it’s the correct one) and embark on a journey through the multiverse, where reality is truly subjective.


Colonel Frog is a long time science fiction and fantasy fan. He loves reading novels in the field, and he also enjoys watching movies (as well as reading lots of other genre books).

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