I thought Step 'n' Fetchit was dead, so Fox must have hired his
*Whatever* were they thinking of?!
I mean, I haven't seen such derogatory racial stereotyping since
GONE WITH THE WIND. While SLIDERS is not as bad as THE BIRTH OF A
NATION, I cannot understand how Fox executives let this get shown.
But I'm supposedly reviewing this as an alternate history show, so
let me cover that aspect first.
Quinn Mallory (played by Jerry O'Connell) is a college student who
just happens to have built a machine that will let him travel to
alternate worlds. (His parallel in one of those worlds also seems to
have built one, but also to have been married for two years. I'm not
sure this is entirely consistent.) After some initial (and fairly
boring) set-up of the characters, Mallory and his companions travel
jump through the "gateway." These companions include Wade Wells
(played by Sabrina Lloyd), his co-worker at the local computer store,
and the "love interest"; Maximilian Arturo (played by John Rhys-Davies
playing John Rhys-Davies), his college physics professor (now isn't
that convenient?); and Rembrandt Brown (played by Cleavant Derricks),a
soul singer who happens to be passing by Mallory's house and who gets
sucked into the wormhole by accident.
Actually, this is jumping ahead a bit. Mallory first makes a test
jump. At first everything seems the same, and he thinks he has failed,
but then we start to see and hear differences (he's a bit slower on the
uptake): the car radio is AM only and is talking about global cooling,
Mexico complaining about illegal immigrants from the United States, and
how the last CD is rolling off the line, having been displaced by
vinyl. The radio says that Jack Kennedy is not running for another
term, and the announcer says if he woke up every morning next to
Marilyn he wouldn't either. (Does this mean Kennedy wasn't elected
until 1992? He would have been 75 at the time, and 78 now.) Mallory
sees a billboard announcing Elvis is performing in Las Vegas. He gets
honked at and yelled at because here, it turns out, red lights mean go
and green mean stop. He goes home to discover that his mother is
pregnant by the man who in the original world is their gardener. Just
then, the timer runs out, and he pops back to the original world.
After this, his doppelganger shows up, tells him how all this
works (YACC [Yet Another Convenience/Coincidence]), tells him about
worlds where the Cubs won three World Series in a row, or where no one
is afraid, warns him about the timer (but the words are incoherent due
to the noise of the wormhole), and leaves.
Anyway, Mallory and company pop through and find themselves in a
San Francisco going through another Ice Age. Mallory's house is
deserted, but a photograph left behind (showing a surprisingly summery
scene for an Ice Age) shows him that in this world his dog didn't run
away and he had a sister. A tornado suddenly starts bearing down on
them and despite the warnings about timer, Mallory resets the timer to
get them out of there right away.
Again, they end up someplace that looks like home. Surprise,
surprise, it's not. Instead of Lincoln's statue on campus, there's one
of Lenin. (For that matter, what's the Berkeley campus doing in Golden
Gate Park?) The telephone operator says, "PT&T, we want you back," and
talks about their "Comrades Call Comrades" program. (The show goes in
entirely too much for this sort of silliness.) Brown, who was supposed
to sing the national anthem at a Giants' game, finds that the baseball
team is the Reds and the anthem is the Soviet anthem. The ranting
Socialist sidewalk speaker from the original world is now a candidate
for the Senate.
As we eventually find out, in this world, the Sino-Soviet bloc won
the Korean War and went on to take southeast Asia and Europe. So why
does the reference to the Berlin Wall seem to make sense to a member of
the resistance? And why does Arturo say Communism is almost extinct in
our world? Maybe the original world isn't our world after all.
(Having the Berkeley campus in Golden Gate Park might indicate this as
well.) But that's too subtle for this show. More likely the writers
don't think China, North Korea, or Cuba count. The American flag we
see later has fifty stars--does this mean the United States takeover
was after 1960?
But before that we're treated to some more terrible
characterization in a scene in a giant interrogation warehouse (at
least this is visually interesting, if not very logical), where we
discover that Brown died in the Detroit Uprising of fifteen years
earlier, and that the sleazy television lawyer we saw in the original
world is now a government interrogator.
There's also money that looks like ours, but red instead of green
and with Krushchev's (?) picture on it. There's some really stupid rap
music, a parody of a public television fund drive, and Judge Wapner
running the "People's Court." (I said this was silly, didn't I?) But
if this is a Soviet-run country, why does the oath in court end with,
"so help me, God"?
Our team connects up with the Underground (how convenient that
Wells just happens to be the Underground leader here--YACC) and
convinces them that they really do come from a parallel universe (yeah,
sure). Arturo's counterpart just happens to be in charge of the prison
where Brown is being kept (YACC), so getting him out is a lot easier
than it should be.
Eventually the team reunites and goes back to where the wormhole
dropped them off (Golden Gate Park--even they don't know why it wasn't
at Mallory's house), with the help of a slide rule that Arturo just
happens to carry (YACC). So they return to the original world ... or
at least think they do, until Mallory's father, dead in the original,
walks through the door.
Next week: Mallory goes to a world that he (or his doppelganger)
has infected with the plague.
Between the silliness, the coincidences, and the stereotypes, this
is every bit as bad as TIME TUNNEL used to be. (And Don Sakers
recently described that by saying, "The good thing about TIME TUNNEL
was that its scientific inaccuracies were more than overwhelmed by its
historical inaccuracies.") In addition, it seems to be "heavily
influenced" by George R. R. Martin's unsold DOORWAYS, which also had
"doorways" into alternate worlds. And oddly enough, Martin reports
that the creator of SLIDERS is a writer whose agent once approached
Martin asking about a staff position on DOORWAYS; the agent said the
writer had read Martin's script and "loved" the idea. Of course, this
could be just another coincidence....
I suppose as an alternate history junkie I will keep watching
this, but I can't recommend it to anyone not specifically interested in