Did "Sliders" get it right? Though later stories this season can be criticized for not delivering Quinn Mallory's archetypal lead character strengths, the season opener "The Unstuck Man" makes an inspired effort and works remarkably well in nailing Quinn's character successfully, as well as being one of the knock-out stories of the fifth season.
But of course, I'll save the real details of exactly where the pseudo-regeneration of "Sliders" worked and where and why it fell down for the more lengthy in-depth analysis reviews of each season five story, and chart the progress of the character and the regeneration across the settling-in period of his first few episodes.
Actor Robert Floyd really steps up to the plate and delivers in the opening episode, where he plays some scenes as our old familiar Quinn, and some as the new alternate half-double Mallory, with just a bit of an uncertain area of overlap. He proves that he can do an energetic, dynamic, take-charge Quinn here, and that's a performance I could easily watch for a whole season or more. The alternate Mallory on the other hand, makes a somewhat interesting side-character, but is far less exciting. Sadly, as the season goes on, Floyd's luck in getting scripts that allow his better side to shine on screen is sporadic at best, but he does still get some excellent ones in which he can do good work.
Diana Davis is yet another new regular character for the show introduced here. She appears to be a fairly background guest star in earlier segments, but starts to come into her own when awkward truths press some difficult decisions upon her, and she begins to become more interesting. As a technologically capable scientist, she can and does work as well as Zoe, Liz Shaw, Romana 1, or Nyssa on Doctor Who, or as well as Professor Arturo previously did on this show. The season's second episode is particularly notable for focusing on her and fleshing her character out well, while many of the stories late in the season explore her character more fully and round her out a little better. Actress Tembi Locke does a good job with the role, particularly when she does have a chance to be the focus of a particular story, and does get me invested in her challenges better than many of her co-stars when they have an adventure's spotlight.
Of course, we also have returning regulars Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt and Kari Wuhrer as Maggie, who continue their usual charm and get more good development this season. Maggie in particular gets the spotlight in many adventures of the first half, and perhaps has her best character story ever in "The Return of Maggie Beckett". Rembrandt doesn't quite seem to take the main focus of any particular story until almost the mid-point of the season, yet remains a strong leader of the group by often having wise and subtle advice that hits home for the other characters, or by deciding upon actions that the quartet will all tackle together.
The main premise of the series also continues strongly in this season, resulting in many interesting worlds and unmissable episodes. In particular, David Gerrold's "New Gods for Old" is an absolute classic that all fans of "Sliders" must see. It really is one of the best out of all seasons of the show put together.
As for the final episode, don't get your expectations up too high. It really is at cross-purposes whether it should resolve stuff, or re-open even more stuff to encourage a sixth season that didn't happen, and can't even do its own premise justice. Perhaps it is wise to take a moment to remember what your aftertaste and lasting impression of the series would be like if it ended one episode earlier, and then watch the finale and note how much that opinion may have changed.
The entire fifth season of Sliders has become available in a DVD box set.
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