"I've been sliding through an inter-dimensional wormhole seeing how many different ways people like you can screw up civilization!"
— Quinn Mallory, to a government scientist
The cast members of seasons one and two, looking at something awful happening off-camera.
Sliders (1995-2000) is a Science Fiction show about four people who try out a device for traveling to Alternate Universes, then get lost and spend the remainder of the series trying to get back to their world of origin. It started out as an extremely fun Adventure Series revolving around the "What If...?, scenarios offered by alternate worlds ("What if the US lost World War II? What if dinosaurs didn't go extinct? What if you were born the opposite sex?" etc.), but when Fox executives took over, putting in their own man and reducing the original producers to "executive consultant" level (and apparently not consulting them much), the series steadily self-destructed, most of its episodes being ripoffs of movies that were popular at the time, and becoming dark and mean-spirited, dumping most of the characters (via death or worse) and developing a Myth Arc about a race of killer-ape-descended villains called 'Kromaggs' which eventually took over the show. The first and second seasons are generally considered the series' best, with the mid third season marking the start of the Executive Meddling described above, which led to the series' decline.The surprisingly competent final episode ended with a Cliff Hanger meant to try and push the Sci Fi Channel into giving them a 6th season; it had been clear from the start of production on Season 5 that Sci Fi intended to cancel it, having picked it up to get its viewers to watch their new shows (which failed; Season 5's ratings actually were good enough to normally get it renewed, but Sci Fi had committed to other shows already.)Over the years, the series has been slowly released on DVD. Season 5 was finally released January 2012. Reruns can currently be seen on The Hub, and all 5 seasons are currently on Netflix.
Above the Influence: In "Love Gods," a man is hiding from a country of beautiful women wanting him to fertilize them because he wants only his not-pretty-enough, not-young-enough partner. Awww.
Apocalypse Anarchy: This is the story of several episodes, particularly "Last Days" and "The Exodus, Part 1," in which the end is near and society has degenerated in this way.
"Fever"—The crew visit an alternate Earth decimated by plague. Eventually they realize that antibiotics were never discovered in this timeline, so Arturo creates penicillin, which becomes the Chemical Messiah for this world.
In "New Gods for Old," nanite-tainted water absorbs people into a Hive Mind.
Digital Head Swap: In a universe where criminals are tried and executed live on television, a corrupt TV host killed someone on camera and then framed another guy by editing his head onto his own body.
E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: "The Return of Maggie Beckett" — The Roswell crash did happen, but instead of being covered up, a trade agreement was struck. The Greys gave Earth new technologies, allowing for significant advances. This included DNA advances, allowing for a Half-Human Hybrid to appear.
Fake Shemp: The shots from above during the first episode of the last season, after Jerry O'Connell left the show.
Genius Bonus: The For Want of a Nail element is often implied, rather than stated outright, or is assumed but turns out to be wrong. For instance, the pilot assumes that the difference is that the US lost the Korean War, triggering the Domino Effect, but a passing remark implies that the Soviet Union and China united to become The Empire, rather than viewed each other as enemies as in the real world.
Kangaroo Court: "Dead Man Sliding" — The Sliders end up in a world where the justice system has become a Game Show and lawyers are banned. When Arturo tries to object to this attitude that Quinn may as well be convicted, the host warns him not to try any other "lawyer tricks."
In "The Young and the Relentless," Arturo uses the expression "kangaroo court" to describe his treatment on an Earth where everyone over 30 is subject to a nightly curfew.
Rembrandt Lives: In an episode where that world's Rembrandt Brown was a hugely successful singer who died young, Rembrandt Prime decides to "come out of hiding" and take over where he left off. But then the "real" Rembrandt decides to really come out of his self-imposed exile, taking over from Rembrandt Prime at his comeback concert and declaring Rembrandt Prime "the greatest Rembrandt Brown impersonator in the world."
Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman: In "Stoker," which takes place in a world where vampires are real, Nixon is said to be the worst vampire of them all, equivalent to the legend of Dracula on Earth Prime, only real.
Video Game Cruelty Potential: In "A Thousand Deaths," the team arrives on a world with very advanced, holodeck-like video games. Rembrandt and Mallory play to win, but lose interest when they find all the other players are just interested in killing the VR characters. It gets worse when they discover that the video designers replicated human reaction by integrating (unwilling) human hosts like Maggie and Diana into the games. Each VR death is very real and a host can be used a thousand times.
The latter wasn't intended as a flashback episode. Because Fox mistakenly scheduled it after "The Exodus, Part 2" in which Arturo is killed, they had Universal film a brief prologue with Wade and Rembrandt in which it's established that Wade's bothered by memories of the events of "The Last of Eden."
This series provides examples of:
Aborted Arc: With maybe one or two exceptions, none of the multi-episode arcs this show started were ever resolved.
Arbitrary Skepticism: In "The Alternateville Horror," Colin claims to have seen a ghost, but is laughed off by the others for even thinking such a thing. They are no ghosts; just doubles of the Sliders trapped on another plane as a result of a sliding mishap. Aside from the many strange things they've seen in their journeys, this is particularly ridiculous when you consider that Quinn himself was rendered ghost-like in Season 2's "Gillian of the Spirits" and could only be seen by one person. Considering that, Quinn and Rembrandt should've been more receptive to what Colin was talking about.
Arturo seemed to run on this trope. Being a college professor, he was always intent on suggesting a simple, logical explanation to strange incidents.
Played with in "The Other Slide of Darkness," where both Rembrandt and Maggie express disbelief in the superstitious beliefs expressed by the locals. Rembrandt's disbelief stems from a personal tragedy; Maggie's, however, is played straight, which gets her snapped at by the more experienced Wade.
Lampshaded by Rembrandt in Season 5's "Please Press One":
"Sliders Rule #11: Never rule out the obvious no matter how weird."
Baby Factory: On some worlds women (or men) are forced into this trope due to population problems.
Better Than Sex: In the first episode, Wade claimed that sliding is better than sex.
Arturo: Well, I wouldn't go that far.
Big Bad: Rickman in Season 3, the Kromaggs in the fourth and fifth seasons.
Brilliant, but Lazy: Quinn. Hence the reason why Arturo is initially so pissed to discover the genius who invented wormhole travel, is the same slacker who never bothers to hand his homework assignments in on time!
California Collapse: In the Season 3 finale "This Slide of Darkness," they slide into a world where California has broken up into islands.
Canon Discontinuity: Season 3's "The Other Slide of Darkness" stated that Quinn's double from the first episode gave the Kromaggs the sliding equation and is responsible for the Dynasty's activities. Season 4 onward ignored this development, which some felt didn't fit into established continuity in the first place.
Comic Book Adaptation: Circa Season 3, Acclaim Comics produced ten issues with various creative teams (with the eighth, Narcotica, being written by Jerry O'Connell). A script for an eleventh issue (plus several pages of artwork) was completed and several future ideas (including a Quantum LeapCrossover) were being developed, but declining sales led to cancellation.
Dead Guy Junior: If dialogue that implies Maggie Beckett is Sam Beckett's niece is taken seriously, this makes her a Dead Guy Junior. Maggie was the name of a news reporter who died on a mission in Vietnam while working with Sam's brother Tom.
Disney Villain Death: Rickman dove head-first off a cliff in a failed attempt to follow Rembrandt and Wade through a wormhole.
Downer Ending: "The Breeder," which has the doctor being overtaken by the symbiote creature. As they have no time, the Sliders choose to slide out with a weakened Maggie rather than try to help. With the Sliders gone and the doctor overtaken, the symbiote is free to continue its goals unimpeded.
"The Dying Fields": The sympathetic Humagg soldier is murdered by her lover for betraying the Kromaggs. Worse, the Sliders aren't able to save the remaining human captives and the camp stays open, meaning business will continue as usual.
"Applied Physics": Diana attempts to make her double's life better with Geiger's help but, among other changes, she winds up erasing her double's daughter from existence. The team has to slide before she can set things right.
"Strangers and Comrades": Rembrandt learns the quest to find Michael Mallory's anti-Kromagg weapon was all for nothing. Turns out the weapon trashed Kromagg Prime's environment a month after it was used, and it would do the same to Earth Prime. Rembrandt is left lamenting that he's run out of chances.
Gave Up Too Soon: In the episode "Into the Mystic," the characters only have a few seconds to decide whether or not to stay on the latest parallel Earth they've landed on. To see if it's their home or not, Quinn tries a fence, knowing it is always squeaky (something he does in the pilot), and it doesn't squeak. After they leave, a gardener with an oil can comes into view.
In their defense, didn't they also see a newspaper headline about a sports team winning a championship; a team which in reality had moved to a new city since the start of the series or was that a different episode.
And since they had been gone, O.J. Simpson had been arrested and was still on trial, they had trouble believing that the world could have changed so much in just two years.
Giant Spider: In the episode "Summer of Love," the Sliders first land on a world where the United States has been mostly devastated by these. A mix of a spider and wasp (yes, flying spiders the size of your head), they were genetically engineered for pest control—namely the actual killer bees... And ironically enough, a few queens escaped from the labs and suddenly the cure became a lot worse than the plague.
In "Rules of the Game," one of the death traps sees Rembrandt stuck to a metal web and being threatened by three robotic spiders.
Girls with Moustaches: In one episode, the characters travel to a world where women have mustaches. Rembrandt complains about how it feels to kiss a woman with a mustache and Wade comments that now he knows how women feel.
Glory Days: Rembrandt used to be a singer in a Motown band, who dumped him once they got famous. He's in the middle of staging his "big comeback" when he gets accidentally sucked into a wormhole along with the rest of the team. For the first season, he refers to himself as "The Crying Man," a nickname he acquired from his one hit song, though this becomes less and less as the show goes on due to Character Development.
In "The Exodus," the conflict over using that world's timer to reach their home coordinates at the expense of that world is quite silly. At the very least, Quinn could have sent everyone but himself home with a literal push of a button, yet they keep acting like it's an all-or-none deal. Note that Quinn would end up doing exactly this in the season finale.
Every time Quinn gets access to his double's workshop or even a full laboratory. Quinn built the original timer in his basement out of a cell phone and over-the-counter equipment, so there is no reason he couldn't build a functional duplicate given just a few days (and has had several such opportunities). This would not only allow them to choose their slide window instead of the Race Against the Clock necessitated by the broke one, but in later episodes would have allowed them to slide home immediately. And to top it off, they leave their original timer (with their definite home coordinates) when it runs out.
Especially bad at the start of Season 2, where they meet Quinn's double who actually has created sliding technology and has quite a great deal of experience with it, but they leave almost immediately after meeting him. Worse in the fact that he actually did get them home if they hadn't decided to give up so quickly.
Stemming from the above, the notion that missing the slide-window renders them stuck for 29 years is ridiculous (except in Season 5, when they definitely cannot reproduce the tech). Quinn made the original timer. As long as they wound up on a world that progressed at the same relative pace as theirs, Quinn should have no trouble making a new timer and continuing on. One episode used this as a plot point to get Maggie to divulge the secret to sliding, and "Slide Like An Egyptian" has them use the Egyptian Timer once their original one fails.
Left Hanging: In addition to the main plot, many of the episodes use this intentionally—episodes tend to end with the group taking the next slide without the situation on the world they left being resolved. A great deal of the time the idea is that the future is uncertain...but hopefully better.
Making Use of the Twin: In real-life, Clevant's brother Clinton was used in "The King is Back," "Greatfellas" and "The Prince of Slides" to play an alternate Rembrandt.
Myth Arc: Pursuing Rickman in the latter part of Season 3, and the fight against the Kromaggs in Seasons 4 and 5.
Noodle Incident: The characters frequently mention worlds they've slid to that are never shown (for example, the world where everyone was naked, which we only saw their arrival: "So do you think that we're home?" "Ah, I don't think so, Rembrandt. I'm pretty sure on our Earth, the mailmen wear clothes.")
No-One Could Have Survived That: "Summer of Love" ends with them arriving a world, only to notice the 100ft tsunami rapidly approaching San Francisco. The next (intended) episode is "The Prince of Wails," which began with the group stranded on top of a large skyscraper surrounded by flood waters and giant sharks, with little explanation how they managed to get there in time.
Not So Different: In "The Other Slide of Darkness," Quinn encounters his double from the first episode. A much more bitter and amoral person than before, Quinn's double invokes this trope.
"Strip your friends away, slide alone like I have—you'd be just like me. Here I am, the undeniably horrible, the unimaginably disgusting proof that I'm you without your friends."
Our Wormholes Are Different: In order to generate a wormhole, you would have to convert the entire mass of the planet Jupiter into energy. It's hard to do that with a TV remotenote Egyptian timer, a cell phone note original timer, or a Sega Genesis controllernote Rickman's Timer.
Good news! The same theorists that came up with the "mass of Jupiter" equation have also postulated how much power it would take if you used Dark Energy as the source of negative pressure. Being a much more abundant energy source, you would now require the "mere" output of several megaton nuclear warheads to get a decent-size hole in the universe going.
Out of Order: The first few episodes were clearly linked, with "Summer of Love" meant to follow the premiere and then "Prince of Wails" up next. Despite the linking scenes remaining intact, the order was altered to bump up "Fever" and "Last Days." Tormé has stated that he agreed with this, however, feeling the latter episodes were better offerings. (Note that reruns tend to air in production order, making this rather moot.)
Precrime Arrest: During episode "Obsession", the main characters travel to a world where ten percent of the population have psychic powers. The Police Oracle identifies Arturo and Rembrandt as people who will kill Wade Wells, so the police make a Preventative Arrest. A Bewildering Punishment to all four at first. Basically, they're taken to the station, booked, and then released. If someone were to actually commit the crime, the police would have to chase them down, but otherwise the two are free to do whatever they want. This is all a Batman Gambit by the old Prime Oracle to make sure his successor is a compassionate man in addition to already being a powerful one.
Put on a Bus to Hell: According to Tracy Torme, this was what happened to Arturo, rather than being McLeaned. In "Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome", on a world almost exactly like Earth Prime, Arturo and his less-ethical double have a fight as the wormhole opens and only one makes it through. Fans debated heavily over which Arturo slid, until Torme finally confirmed in 2009 that it was the alt who managed to slide out. This means the real Arturo is trapped on a world not his own and separated from his friends but likely still alive, unlike the alt who ended up taking a bullet for Quinn.
Later, Colin became "unstuck," meaning that he would involuntarily travel from one dimension to the next for the rest of his life. Dr. Geiger (a character who has experienced this before but found an "anchor") has compared this experience to being caught in a violent storm.
Finally, Logan St. Clair, Quinn's Evil Half Identical Twin from another world, who was pushed into an unstable portal and never seen again. This is actually a Double Subversion, as she was intended to become a recurring villain, but like so many other story ideas, it was simply dropped and we never heard from her again.
Recurring Extra: Alternates of various folks would sometimes crop on different worlds.
A common complaint of later seasons, as diminishing budgets meant heavily re-using the standing sets (such as the Chandler Hotel).
"Slidecage" re-uses the futuristic standing sets from the short-lived Timecop TV series, which had been cancelled shortly into Season 4's filming. Writer Marc Scott Zicree has stated he wrote the episode to make use of the great sets that were going to be torn down.
Recycled Script: The Acclaim series of comic books are notable for putting forth stories and concepts that were later utilized on the show, or vice versa:
The two-part story "Armada" introduces the Zercurians, a race of two-dimensional beings sliding from world-to-world to raze all life. This mirrors the later introduction of the Kromaggs, whose premiere episode is near-identical.
"Ultimatum" deals with a religious conspiracy, which was later explored in the fourth season episode "Prophets and Loss."
"Narcotica," written by star Jerry O'Connell, mirrors the later drug-themed episode "Just Say Yes."
"Blood and Splendor" utilizes the common first-season formula of a parallel Earth ruled by a tyrant, only to be overthrown once the Sliders fall in with a group of revolutionaries.
"Deadly Secrets" sees Wade enter a world where she died in infancy and interacts with her parallel parents in a consumerist-driven world, much like Season 3's "Season's Greedings." This story also introduces the plot point of Arturo's terminal illness, which was revealed differently in the show.
Don't forget the Humaggs in Season Four's "The Dying Fields."
Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!: This is pretty much the Sliders' philosophy when it comes to running afoul of a bizarre rule or circumstance they had no way of knowing about. After all, it's hard for police or debt collectors to pursue you when you can jump from one Earth to another.
Episodes featuring worlds where some of the inhabitants have supernatural powers will invariably have at least one person who thinks this way.
Shout-Out: In "Gillian of the Spirits," Quinn is stuck in an astral plane, making him invisible and intangible. In one scene, he is talking to the only person who can see him (the titular Gillian) in the back of a taxi, and the driver, confused, asks twice "Are you talkin' to me?" then, after Quinn gets out, he says "There's no one else here, so you must be talkin' to me!"
The Smart Guy: Arturo. Quinn has his moments as well. Not surprising, considering the former is a lecturer in advanced physics and the latter is his grad student.
Smart People Know Latin: In one Season 1 episode, the protagonists end up in a world where being smart and well-educated is cool (they pass a punk on the street with a boombox blasting classical music). The episode's Big Bad is a mobster who constantly likes to quote phrases in Latin and gets annoyed when the others have no idea what he said. At the end of the episode, right before sliding, Quinn turns around and spouts a phrase in Latin, which turns out to be an insult.
Spiritual Successor: Sliders is this to Quantum Leap. The shows share a similar episode formula, Sliders was advertised at least once as "Quantum Leap with an edge," and dialogue in a later episode implies that Maggie Beckett may be Sam Beckett's niece.
Time Paradox: In one universe, time flows backwards. The Sliders still go forwards in time, however, and Quinn ends up stopping something that put him in jail, after he started out there. The result is...not pretty.
The Unreveal: At the end of "Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome," it's never made clear which Arturo actually slid with them.
Tracy Tormé finally revealed in 2009 that it was the wrong Arturo.
Unpredictable Results: Their own "sliding" device, about the only thing consistent is that it drops them in a location somewhere close to the entrance point between the two dimensions they travel between. Later seasons gave them the ability to at least control when they are going to travel and which dimension they are going to. But since they don't know their home destination, they still have to travel to different dimensions sequentially to find it.
Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Happens in "To Catch a Slider," where Mallory expresses interest in an actress who turns out to be a man. It's somewhat subverted in that this was public knowledge. It's just that none of the Sliders could've possibly known because they had just recently arrived.
Viewers Are Morons: Suffice to say, with all the Executive Meddling this show suffered, this trope cropped up. In "Slither," for example, snakes somehow knock down a door. This was so idiotic that Cleavant Derricks said he interrupted a script reading to ask how such an action was even remotely possible and a producer responded that the snakes possessed some kind of force, much to Derricks' irritation.
Wham Episode: "Genesis." The Kromaggs have conquered Earth Prime, Rembrandt has been their prisoner for months, Wade is missing, Quinn learns of his secret past (including a long lost brother) and the Sliders have a new goal of searching for an anti-Kromagg weapon.
Yank the Dog's Chain: In "Into the Mystic," the Sliders have a chance to go home, think they failed and leave—only for viewers to then see they actually were home. "Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome" also involves a great deal of this trope, with the Sliders landing on a near-perfect copy of Earth Prime.
You Can't Go Home Again: Subverted when they actually make it back to their home Earth, but only have a few seconds to decide to stay or not. They leave after Quinn tries a fence, knowing it is always squeaky, and it doesn't squeak. After they leave, you see a gardener with an oil can.
They make it home again in "Genesis," but with the world conquered by the Kromaggs, they leave to find a weapon to defeat them.
Your Mind Makes It Real: "The Dream Masters." Said group is able to enter other people's dreams and twist them into whatever horrifying nightmares they can think of. After Wade falls victim to them, the other Sliders manage to find a way to enter the dream and pull similar tricks to their advantage. After all, it's just a dream.
Rembrandt: I wish I had my gun right now. (shotgun suddenly appears in his hand)