Television show review. May contain spoilers.

Sliding through the vortex

Sliders is a US television series which ran from 1995 to 2000 with seasons 1 to 3 shown originally on Fox, with the show moving to Scifi Channel for the final two seasons. It is a twist on the science-fiction time-travel genre. Instead of travelling through time and space, the principle characters travel across dimensions.

What is it about?

Similar to Quantum Leap in that the characters end up in different scenarios as a result of a piece of technology, the characters have no way of knowing how, when, or even if they will get home.

Unlike Quantum Leap, though, where Sam Beckett travels alone through time, inhabiting bodies along the way and stays until he completes an unknown task, the Sliders travel together through different dimensions via a portal. The four protagonists share these interdimensional journeys, having a set amount of time before their device can take them to their next destination -wherever that may be. The amount of time they have varies from slide to slide but they remain the same people and always land at the same time - "The same year, the same Earth, only different dimensions." (Part of the opening monologue of Season 2).

Who are the main characters?

There are four major characters: Quinn Mallory (played by Jerry O'Connell); Professor Maximillian P. Arturo (John Rhys-Davies); Rembrandt Brown (Cleavant Derricks); and Wade Welles (Sabrina Lloyd).

Quinn Mallory is a post-graduate with a master's degree in physics. He is a student of Professor Arturo. Although both Mallory and Arturo have researched and been working on superstring theory (a branch of theoretical physics), it is Mallory who succeeded in creating the device which allows travel to parallel worlds.

Professor Arturo grew up in great Britain and served in the British Army before moving to the USA to pursue his studies. There he met Christina whom he married but Arturo became a widower when Christina died at the age of 27. Professor Arturo was jealous of Quinn for inventing sliding but, although he could come across as haughty and pompous, the Professor came to care deeply for his companions.

Wade Welles is Quinn's 'will they/won't they?' love interest. She and Quinn begin as colleagues at a computer store. Wade also attended college where she studied literature and poetry.

Rembrandt Brown came with the group accidentally. Originally lead singer with 'The Spinning Tops', Mr. Brown earned the nickname 'Crying Man'. Rembrandt Brown got caught up during a slide when Quinn widened the vortex too far.

Incidentally, Cleavant Derricks' twin brother, Clinton Derricks-Carroll, plays Rembrandt's double in several episodes. 

These four characters travel together from Season 1 to Season 3 when they lost Arturo. During Seasons 4 and 5, the sliders were joined by Quinn's brother, Colin; Maggie Beckett, whom they met as they helped the people of her Earth escape to another dimension as their world was destroyed; and Dr. Diana Davis, who joins the Sliders in Season 5.

Sliders Season 1 and 2 poster. Original cast

The device

Via superstring theory and quantum entanglement, Quinn Mallory devised a way to cross the Einstein-Rosen bridge (called the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky bridge in the series) which is a wormhole through which Quinn believed interdimensional travel possible. Scientists in real life, however, have speculated that such a bridge would facilitate travel from one part of the universe to another part of the same universe but not to a different one while the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky theory is often referred to as a paradox.

After throwing a ball through the portal and having it return, Quinn thought his invention to cross to parallel universes a success. He set a timer on the device to bring him home after fifteen minutes. However, when he stepped through, he believed that he was wrong as he appeared to be in the same place. Various subtle differences and oddities about his destination soon became apparent and the device returned Quinn to his own world once the timer hit zero.

Later, Quinn takes Arturo and Wade through the vortex with him but, caused by the additional power needed to allow more people through, the vortex widens too far and pulls in Rembrandt Brown.

At first, Quinn set the device to travel back home after each slide but due to an emergency use to escape before the time had elapsed, Quinn no longer has control over the device. Sliding to the next world, the quartet believed they were home but realised that, in fact, this was not the case and they had a long way to go when they continued to encounter differences from the very subtle to the blatantly obvious.

Parallel worlds

Quinn Mallory and his friends travel to many parallel worlds. It is always the same Earth, always the same time. There is a multitude of differences, though, even if most of the worlds appear the same.

The Sliders have encountered an Earth where humans are not the dominant species, another in which America is under the control of the Soviet Union, and the foursome has found themselves arrested and in trouble on several worlds.

As the worlds are similar, there are scenarios in which Quinn, Arturo, Rembrandt, and Wade have met their doubles. Sometimes this turns out to be a good thing, other times, the outcome has not been so favourable.