Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.
The alternate-Earth-traveling series Sliders bowed on FOX in 1995 and has since become a cult favorite among sci fi fans, but a few years before that show debuted ABC considered a pilot with a very similar premise titled Doorways. In this one, a woman from an alternate Earth (Cat) is on the run from the minions of the Dark Lords and a doctor from our Earth (Thomas) gets caught up in her parallel-world traveling when he tries to help her. The premise suggested in the pilot would have these two traveling to a different Earth each week while Thane (leader of the minions of the Dark Lords) would be in pursuit. I watched this on YouTube (at this link, though it is rather low quality) and found it flawed but still interesting. It was ploddingly slow and quite cheesy, but then what do you expect from 1993 (seriously go back and watch the first season of X-Files for some cringe-worthy moments). And the two leads didn’t really stand out as characters strong enough to carry a series. In fact, none of the characters made much of an impression except Thane (played by a young Robert Knepper). The parallel worlds aspect of the show had promise, but the idea of of constantly being on the run from the Dark Lords could get old quick. But what is most interesting about this pilot is several of the names attached. As mentioned, Robert Knepper (Heroes, Stargate: Universe) was onboard as well as Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix, Jessica Jones), George Newbern (the voice of Superman in multiple DC animated shows), Kurtwood Smith (multiple Star Trek guest starring roles), Max Grodénchik (also multiple Star Trek guest starring role), and more. Most interesting, though, is the creator and writer of the pilot: George R.R. Martin who was fresh off his stint working on Beauty and the Beast for CBS. This was early in his writing career (he had also written for The New Twilight Zone and would do a 90’s Outer Limits episode) and before he had seen the publication of a little book titled The Game of Thrones. So even though the pilot for Doorways seemed rather clunky, I’m betting he could have pulled out some decent episodes if this did get picked up to series. And ABC execs were happy with the pilot and had ordered six additional scripts for the show. But ultimately it ended up getting cut from their schedule and the series never happened. If it did, though, does that mean that Sliders would have never happened because FOX wouldn’t want a show too close to the ABC series? Maybe we should do some alternate-Earth traveling ourselves to find a reality where Doorways is a cult classic sci fi series and the creator of Sliders (Tracy Tormé) went on to writer an acclaimed fantasy novel series . . .
But in the meantime, you can watch Doorways on YouTube at this link or purchase a digital copy (that will certainly look much better) from Amazon Instant Video. It hasn’t been released to DVD or Blu-ray unfortunately, though it did have a VHS release if you want to search that out. It may not count as classic sci fi, but it is worth a look for all the talent involved that would go on to bigger and better things. And one additional note of interest: the year after Carrie-Anne Moss worked on this pilot she starred in a short-lived and little seen Canadian sci fi series called Matrix (which had no relation to the Wachowskis’s movies). More on that one at this link.
Aired: ABC, 1993
Created By: George R.R. Martin
Starring: George Newbern, Anne Le Guernec, Robert Knepper, Kurtwood Smith, Carrie-Anne Moss, Max Grodenchik