The BBC showed the episodes confusingly out of order: a different out-of-order from the US out-of-order airings!
Physics graduate Quinn Mallory creates a "wormhole" in the basement of his San Fransisco through which he can travel to parallel dimensions.
A parallel version of himself warns him never to adjust the timer while on a slide -- but he has to, to avoid a tornado killing him and his friends in an icy world. At the end of this pilot episode, they realise they are not home when they see that the statue of Lincoln has become a statue of Lenin.
Quinn and his friends find themselves in a parallel universe where San Fransisco is run by a communist military government.
In this world, parallel Wade is the leader of an underground resistance movement. She has been recently captured, and is held in a prison run by parallel General Arturo. Brown has also been captured, for passing a green US dollar bill, and is held at the same prison. They organise a breakout.
Finally, they think they have managed to return home, because everything looks normal (even the gate squeaks). Then Quinn's father, killed in an accident, walks in...
The Sliders find themselves in a San Fransisco where the sixties never ended. The "Vietnam" war is in Australia, which the Russians occupied at the end of WWII. Oliver North is President. (It's not clear if the "sixties never ended", or whether they have only just started.)
The cliffhanager ending: they slide into the path of a massive tidal wave.
The BBC showed this as their 4th episode, after Last Days . But it is obviously the first 'after pilot' episode. Although it doesn't follow on from the cliffhanger -- Quinn's father -- there is an early scene back in Quinn's real home with the FBI investigating his disappearance, which feels like a 'previously on Sliders'; the timer is still broken; they say things that indicate they haven't done much sliding yet.
The opening finds the Sliders clinging to the top of a skyscraper, water inches below their feet, sharks circling, on a world where global warming has raised the sea level, waiting the few minutes until the can slide away. [Does this really link with the 'tidal wave' ending of the previous episode?]
Then they find themselves in the British States of America -- a dimension where America lost the War of Independence -- and Arturo's double, the Sheriff of LA, is plotting to kill the heir to the throne. A Robin Hood pastiche: they rescue the Prince, convince him the Sheriff means him no good, and get him to institute the Constitution.
Prince Harold: Ben Bode
The Sliders find themselves in a world without antibiotics, being devastated by a lethal disease, "Q". And parallel Quinn is "Patient Zero": the first to have the Q. Wade unknowingly catches it when her life is saved by an infected man. But Arturo easily cooks up a cure, from some mouldy bread.
Wing: Yee Jee Tso | Pavel Kurlienko: Alex Bruhanski | Waitress: Marie Stillin
Even though there are references that show the characters haven't been sliding that long, the BBC showed this as the last episode of the season!
The Sliders find themselves in a San Fransisco where an asteroid is due to impact in 48 hours. Arturo works feverishly with parallel Bennish to create an atomic bomb. (In this world Einstein had pretended it couldn't work, because he didn't want to build it, thereby extending WWII by five years). The others find different ways to spend their "last days".
The BBC disconcertingly showed this as their 3rd episode, right after the pilot. But it is different enough to feel almost like a different season's episode: the characters have different clothes; they say things that sound like they have been sliding for a long time; Wade has a different hairstyle.
The Sliders arrive in a world where traditional male and female roles are reversed.
The Sliders are running out of money, but Wade is the only one who can get a decent job, helping the Mayor's election campaign. Arturo, appalled at the lack of opportunities open to men, decides to run for Mayor, too. And he wins! (But he never knows this -- they slide out before the results are in.)
Apparently, women took over a few hundred years ago, because men's testosterone levels mean they aren't reliable. But, despite the lack of transfer of the hormone, men are now wimps, and women are the aggressors (in sex at least; apparently there's no war any more). Hmmm.
Quinn becomes an academic icon for the millions when the Sliders travel to a world where his double has achieved superstar status. But his double has gambling debts, and some sinister enemies. Arturo rediscovers the love of his life, who has not died young on this world, but instead is filing for divorce.
Professor Myman: William B. Davis (also "Cigarette Smoking Man" in The X Files )
The opening finds Quinn on trial for graffiti. He is found guilty, and sentenced to death, but, in a dramatic court-house rescue, they all slide away in the nick of time.
They slide to a world where Rembrandt is a legendary rock 'n' roll icon, the Elvis Presley of this parallel world. Rembrandt sees his chance to make a come-back, and get the fame and success he has always craved. But the original Rembrandt may not be dead, and one of his parallel singing partners is out to get him...
At the end, we see the sliders on a world where Rembrandt is still "the king" --- of ice-cream sellers!
Parallel Rembrandt: Clinton Derricks-Carroll
The sliders are overjoyed to learn that Wade has won the lottery, not realising the consequences. This apparently utopian world has taken Malthus seriously, has a population of half a billion, and advertises contraceptives in soft drinks. But the lottery is just one more means of population control...
Ryan Simms: Nicholas Lea (also Agent Krycek in The X Files )
Last in the first season, with Quinn getting shot as "end of season cliffhanger". And it's a real cliffhanger, because Simms slides with them: is he to be Quinn's replacement? But did the BBC show it as the last episode? Of course not: they followed it with episode 5, Fever .