The location of where any tv series is filmed gives the series a particular aesthetic. In essence, locations are characters all themselves. This in particular is yet another reason why Sliders is so unique. It even changed the story of Sliders itself.
Keep in mind San Francisco is the main setting yet things must vary since sliding to alternate worlds is like rolling the dice. The Pilot episode did see some shots throughout San Francisco particularly with Rembrandt. Sliders though, chose Vancouver, BC Canada as it’s main filming areas throughout seasons one and two. It gave a darker more serious undertone to each episode. For example, how could the majority of “Into the Mystic” hold up in a studio versus the great outdoors. It couldn’t compare.
The main drawback is the weather in Vancouver which is often much more cold and rainy compared to San Francisco. It even played a factor in the story of “As Time Goes By”. Professor Arturo explains, “Mark Twain once remarked the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Even one the main characters of the episode gets in on the fun, “kind of nippy out here, eh? Reminds me of Vancouver.” If you look hard enough you can even see it snowing in that episode. Remember the story’s location is San Francisco, but with the wonders of alternate worlds one can suspend belief.
With season three moving it’s filming crew to places like Los Angeles and Pasadena California the series needed a cover story and “Double Cross” delivered. In the episode, nemesis Logan St. Claire switched the timer’s geographic spectrum stabalizer to a 400 mile radius, as Quinn explains it they could “land in L.A., San Francisco or anywhere in between.” The onset of Los Angeles brought in a new life to the series. The surroundings were brighter, refreshing and more upbeat. Beach, mountains, and desert gave it a new tone versus the darker more serious setting of Vancouver. One of the casualties of moving to L.A. were the reoccurring actors from Vancouver, like Pavel and Hurley. Although the Universal backlot was beginning to be used in season three it wasn’t as evident as it was in the following seasons.
As production costs were cut the atmosphere was steadily declining as the seasons went by. Seasons four and five saw the Universal Studios backlot as it’s main medium for each episode’s environment. It gave those seasons a campy aesthetic apart from the open landscapes we previously saw. It does, however have it’s advantages. It can be positive to reuse a set primarily for alternate worlds by changing it up and linking it to each story. Yet it is degrading all in the same instance by it being recycled multiple times. After all who can forget the cave set used time after time in season three. The failure to alter that set in any way was quite a loss, it was just a plain same old cave.
If Sliders was to return to TV or as a movie, what location should it be shot? LA? Vancouver? Pasadena? Perhaps Seattle? Or why not the real San Francisco? What usually stands in the way for any location is as always, time and money. The varying locations in which Sliders was shot did aid to the alternate world theory. However having multiple episodes grouped together rather than random locations throughout the seasons made it apparent expenses were being cut. It almost feels like Sliders has three to four series wrapped all into one. The first two seasons of Vancouver, season three’s LA, and the backlots of seasons four and five. It’s interesting how the closer the series got to the “home” of the entertainment industry it’s filming expanse steadily declined.
No matter what the show, the location creates a unique atmosphere in the minds of all who watch them. After all what would the original Batman or Star Trek be without their campiness or the X-Files’ mysterious atmosphere from Vancouver. Sliders took a different approach with varying locations, which in some aspects led to its decline particularly with the Universal backlot.
Nevertheless, it’s variety that can make or break a scifi show. Beach sounds nice. Sun, surf, margaritas! See you at the beach …it means good luck.