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Sci-Fis Sliders Sliding Downhill

Sci-Fi Channel's Sliders wasonce an
interesting time-travel series, but its time may be running out, based on a preview of
early episodes due in its upcoming fifth season.

Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt and Kari Wuhrer as Maggie
are back as transdimensional travelers, but Jerry O'Connell as Quinn Mallory and
Charlie O'Connell as Colin Mallory are gone.

TV writers are often forced to develop story lines to
explain away cast members' departures, while also setting the stage for newcomers.
But Sliders' scribes came up with scripts that are more convoluted than most.

Producer Chris Black wrote the season-opening episode,
"The Unstuck Man," with executive producer Bill Dial.

Not only is the dramatic pace slowed considerably by too
much explication, but the two cast changes are a drag, so far.

In "Unstuck Man," the Mallory brothers enter the
vortex, only to become lost in midslide. Newcomer Robert Floyd then appears as another
Quinn Mallory from a parallel universe, supposedly with some of the original Quinn's
DNA mixed in.

It turns out a mad scientist, Dr. Geiger (Peter Jurasik in
a new, recurring role), purposely scrambled the Mallory brothers in trying to combine the
two universes and, thereby, to get himself "unstuck" from the laboratory force
field in which he must live. (Don't ask.)

The name game even gets to the cast regulars, who soon dub
Floyd's character "Mallory" to differentiate him from the earlier Quinn.
But that doesn't solve a bigger problem -- Mallory's annoyingly whiny split
personality, at least in the early episodes.

The series' other addition -- Tembi Locke as Diana
Davis -- comes across better. Introduced as Geiger's assistant, she soon switches
sides to help the sliders.

But in the fourth episode, "Applied Physics,"
also penned by Black, the Sliders script has Diana confront not one, but two
alternate Dianas, in yet another parallel universe. Again, don't ask.

Suffice it to say twin story lines should be banned from TV
land, since they rarely work. But that's not stopping Sliders from planning
still more doubles in future stories.

The series' ongoing villains, the Kromaggs, make only
a brief appearance in hologram form in this installment, but they'll play bigger
roles later in the season.

Sliders' new season on Sci-Fi begins June 11 at 9