Tales from /lost+found 112: Sideways

1×17 April 11, 1997
SIDEWAYS (Serial 11, Episode 2*)

Setting: San Francisco, California, Present
Regular Cast: Hugh Laurie (The Doctor), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Lizzie Thompson)
Guest Starring: Jerry O’Connell (Quinn), Sabrina Lloyd (Wade), Cleavant Derricks (Rembrandt), Kari Wuher (Maggie), Neil Dickson (Rickman)

Plot: Despite his reservations, the Doctor and Lizzie follow the sliders through the wormhole to avoid being crushed. They find themselves in a futuristic world, but one which seems devoid of life. The Doctor is severely affected because the different temporal constants of this universe affect his Time Lord senses. They soon discover that this world was depopulated by a mutant species of insect. They find a group of survivors who treat them with suspicion. Rickman has already been and gone, leaving one of their group comatose. Despite his own affliction, the Doctor devises a treatment that helps Rickman’s victim make a partial recovery. Having watched from hiding as the sliders arrived, Rickman opens a vent to allow the insects into the survivors’ stronghold. While defending himself, Quinn discovers that the signal generated by the timer repels the insects. Quinn and the Doctor work together to create a defense for the survivors while Maggie goes to confront Rickman. Rickman has also learned to use his timer to fend off the insects, and drives them toward Maggie. The Doctor and Lizzie attempt to save her, the Doctor using his sonic screwdriver to interfere with Rickman’s timer, damaging it. In spite of the damage, Rickman manages to slide away. Despite the risk of losing Rickman’s trail, Quinn agrees to use their timer’s recall function to return the Doctor and Lizzie to their own universe after building a device which will protect the survivors on this world from the insects. After returning to the Doctor’s universe with only a few minutes on the timer, the sliders discover that Maggie has been infested with insect larva, which erupt from her body, killing her. In shock from Maggie’s sudden death and unwilling to condemn this world, the sliders allow the timer to run out. Since the insects are still few in number, they devise a plan to use the sonic screwdriver and the timer together to attract and destroy the insects. The insects multiply more rapidly than they expected, and Rembrandt sacrifices himself, remaining behind to activate the makeshift weapon rather than waiting to get to a safe distance. While it is normally forbidden for the Doctor to change the past, he realizes that his instinctive discomfort around the sliders is because they are not part of this universe’s web of time. Leaving Lizzie behind to comfort Quinn and Wade, he disappears in the TARDIS, then reappears a moment later with a surprise: he has fetched Rembrandt and Maggie from the compactor a moment before they slid. He warns that they should not return to this universe, as it may cause a paradox. Quinn reminds him that, having missed their window, they will not be able to slide again for 27 years. The Doctor reveals that he had pocketed the timer before departing and waited out the delay. It now shows only a few minutes before they can slide. Quinn is still unconvinced about the possibility of time travel, but can come up with no other explanation. Once the sliders depart, Lizzie notices that the Doctor seems older, and he confesses that it took him several tries to get back with the right amount of time on the timer.
Note: This episode aired as part of Fox’s “When Worlds Collide” event. Part 1 of this serial aired as Sliders episode 3×20 “What the Doctor Ordered”.

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