The TARDIS materialises and the Doctor and Lucie emerge to find themselves at the seaside, which is exactly what the Doctor had promised. Nevertheless, Lucie is disappointed as she was hoping for Blackpool, not some old ruins beside the shore, and although the Doctor tries to tempt her with the beautiful sunset, she still thinks it would be better if there was some actual sea. The Doctor assumes the tide must be out, but Lucie thinks the whole place looks desolate and deserted.
In the local newspaper shop, owner Jason Taylor hears movement downstairs. Hoping it’s his daughter Sally, he’s disappointed to find that it’s one of his regular customers, Margaret, instead. She reminds him that Sally is no longer a child and as she’s only been missing since yesterday she suspects it’s nothing more than a teenage strop. She buys today’s newspaper and sees immediately that she’s lost her bet with Jason about “that song“. It’s still Number One and seems set to break all records, but they both hope something else will come along soon to knock it off. The only consolation is that all their radios are on the blink, so at least they don’t have to listen to it.
As the Doctor and Lucie arrive in the town, she asks if he’s sure it’s the 21st century as everything seems very ’post-apocalyptic’. There‘s nothing but sand for miles around and everything is covered under a heavy layer of dust. He assures her the year is 2008, but she thinks it looks abandoned and is half expecting a plague of zombies to come out at them. It reminds her of a ghost town near Chernobyl after the nuclear accident where the whole place was deserted and looked like it had stopped in time. The Doctor laughs at her theory, so instead she suggests the village may be suffering from an epidemic like bird flu. He assures her he detected no radiation or aerial pathogen and promises he wouldn’t have just pushed her out the door without checking first. Lucie is still convinced something’s wrong and says the parked cars don’t look like they’ve moved in years. In fact, everything around them is in tatters. The Doctor urges her to duck down when he spots people approaching, but he soon realises they’re just heading towards the church. Lucie wants to ask them what’s going on, but the Doctor is also beginning to think there’s something strange going on - but from the behaviour of the locals, it doesn’t look like they’re aware of it. Judging from the clothes the people are wearing, Lucie thinks this is a town that time forgot. The Doctor suggests they find out exactly when the clock stopped and, knowing Lucie is a better judge of Earth movies than he is, he directs her attention to some film posters on a nearby wall. The films are “Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves” and “New Jack City”, which she estimates were released around the late 80s or early 90s.
The Doctor wants to try the local newsagents, but the shop appears to be empty. Lucie comments on how filthy the place is and there’s no power to the lights or the fridge. She discovers all the cans of drink on the shelves are empty and the Doctor tries to look at the sell-by date, but it’s too dark inside so he pops back outside. There, he finds the can is date-stamped ‘best before October 1991‘. Suddenly a police constable arrives and asks him whether he intends to pay for the drink. The Doctor assures him he wasn’t stealing it and PC Sharp asks if he’s new in town. When he says he is, Sharp asks him if he knows anything about the police box that’s turned up on the beach.
Lucie continues rooting around in the shop, but in the darkness she accidentally knocks some things off the shelf. Jason calls out, wondering if his daughter has returned, but when he comes downstairs he realises he’s made a mistake again. Lucie introduces herself and Jason asks if she knows Sally as they’re about the same age. When she says she doesn’t, Jason realises she must be new in town.
PC Sharp believes the Doctor must be the ’replacement’ and when the Doctor asks what he means, he says they need one for Sally Taylor, the newsagent’s daughter, who recently disappeared. The Doctor says he isn’t, but offers to help the police in their investigations. Sharp accepts but says it would have to be unofficial because her father hasn’t even filed a missing persons report yet. He adds that Sally only disappeared yesterday, which was Saturday. As it is today.
Lucie asks Jason why he thinks his daughter has run away and he admits that he had a go at her because she kept singing that wretched song ”Everything I Do” by Bryan Adams. Lucie remembers it as a wedding classic and asks Jason what the date is. He tells her it’s the first of September and then instinctively he says “white rabbits” as he thinks it‘s lucky to say that on the first day of the month.
The Doctor asks PC Sharp if there have been any problems in the town recently, but the constable says he doesn’t know what he means. The Doctor suggests things like shortages, or crime…or war? He says he’s noticed there’s no power here and the place definitely isn’t going to win any ’best kept village’ awards, but Sharp says they do the best they can to keep everything normal. The Doctor asks if he can accompany Sharp on his rounds so he can get an idea of the town’s layout, and the constable says he’d be glad of the company. The Doctor calls to Lucie who emerges from the shop and tells him the people here are barking. The Doctor tells her he’s going to help the officer look for Sally and asks her to stay with Jason and see what she can find out. He suggests she ask to see Sally’s bedroom in case she kept a diary.
Jason takes Lucie upstairs to Sally’s bedroom and when she comments on how tidy it is for a teenager’s room, he admits that he’s been sweeping up (as there’s no power for the hoover). She notices there are no cuddly toys and Jason explains that his daughter has entered the rebellious door-slamming stage, but Lucie says she’d never have guessed that from looking at Sally’s CD collection. In fact, Lucie says her mum has pretty much the same collection and they‘re so old, one of them was top of the charts on the day Lucie was born. Jason thinks she’s joking as the CD was released in 1988, which was only three years ago.
PC Sharp takes the Doctor to a nearby nuclear fallout shelter and they call out Sally’s name, but she’s obviously not hiding in there. Sharp suggests they try some of the others and the Doctor is surprised to discover there are two dozen public shelters in the town and most houses also have one in the garden. The Doctor says this one wouldn’t be much good in a nuclear attack as there’s no food inside. This prompts him to ask Sharp if he’s hungry or thirsty because they’ve been searching for hours now and he’s beginning to wonder if the people here ever eat or drink.
Jason takes Lucie with him while he goes on his daughter’s paper round. He says it was Sally’s way of earning a few bob and keeping her out of trouble, but now he has to do it himself. Lucie is confused and asks whether Jason should be delivering the papers rather than picking them up, but Jason laughs and says Sally also used to question the most normal things. They arrive at the next house, which belongs to Margaret. Jason leaves some coins on the doorstep and collects the newspaper so he can sell it to her again tomorrow morning, which Lucie has already realised is going to be Sunday again.
The Doctor and PC Sharp arrive back at the beach where the TARDIS landed - but it’s starting to get dark and the Doctor’s patience is getting thin. They’ve spent hours walking around the village and he’s noticed there’s no road leading out. He asks where the next town is and realises he doesn’t even know the name of this town. Sharp tells him they’re in Thorington in Suffolk, but the Doctor says it doesn’t look like Suffolk as there isn’t any sea, just an endless sandy plain. Sharp suggests they wait for the tide to come back in, but the Doctor hears a noise and tells him to be quiet. They spot an armoured personnel carrier with a thermal imager on top coming towards them and Sharp tells him it’s best to hide in the shelters whenever the soldiers come. The Doctor quickly pushes the constable into the TARDIS and follows him in…
The tank comes to a halt not far from the police box. Back at HQ, Captain McCarthy radios the patrol and a soldier called Vitas responds and tells him they’ve reached the village but have found no signs of life. McCarthy says he wants a proper scan this time and they’re to take no short cuts. Vitas agrees and orders Andropov to switch on the imager.
PC Sharp is mildly surprised to discover what the inside of a police box looks like and the Doctor realises he hasn’t got a clue what it’s supposed to look like. He tells Sharp they’re shielded from detection while they’re inside, then he operates the scanner and they watch as the tank starts heading into town.
Jason and Lucie are by now aware of the approaching vehicle. He urges her to keep absolutely still, but Lucie points out that the tank is carrying a Union Jack which suggests they might be friendly. Jason suggests they find a shelter, but when she questions him he simply says that’s what they’ve always been told to do…although he can’t remember who by. Lucie decides she’s had enough of this and steps out into view and shouts a greeting to the occupants of the tank. Vitas emerges from the top and knocks Lucie out with a poisoned dart. Later, she contacts HQ and speaks to Karimov in their native language, but Karimov asks her to speak in English as Captain McCarthy is with him. Vitas apologises and reports that they have a suspect in custody and are bringing her in now. Karimov asks if she was alone and Vitas confirms there are no other life signs in the village. Karimov says he hopes McCarthy knows what he’s doing, but McCarthy is confident that whoever the girl turns out to be, she was up to no good. When Karimov suggests she might just be a normal civilian, McCarthy orders him to leave all the military decisions to him.
The Doctor knocks on the shelter, but Jason refuses to come out until PC Sharp assures him its safe. He emerges and tells the Doctor that Lucie has been taken and when the Doctor asks him why he didn’t try to stop them, he says she went to them voluntarily. The Doctor wonders why they only detected Lucie and not Jason, but the newsagent just thinks he was lucky. PC Sharp sets off to find out if anyone else has been taken, but the Doctor is confident he can find both Lucie and Sally by simply following the tyre tracks in the sand.
As Lucie recovers slowly from the tranquilliser drug she has a strange half-waking dream about being surrounded by white rabbits. When she comes round she finds herself on a bed in what looks like a hospital ward. She’s being watched over by Karimov, who believes she must be American. He introduces himself and she tells him she comes from Blackpool. She asks for the date and he tells her it’s 24th October 2008. Lucie is relieved, especially as it means Bryan Adams isn’t Number One in the charts any more.
The Doctor and Jason follow the tracks across the sand, but Jason becomes increasingly nervous about the tide coming back in and says he wants to go back. The Doctor assures him there is no tide and no sea, but Jason is sure the sea was here yesterday. He confirms that yesterday was 1st September 1991, just as it is today, but when the Doctor asks him how that can be possible, Jason says he finds it very difficult to answer such questions.
Karimov brings Captain McCarthy to meet Lucie. He explains that Vitas brought her in after she was found hiding in the ruined village ten miles away. Lucie denies that she was hiding and insists she was just minding her own business. She wonders what kind of weirdo would build a seaside village miles away from the sea anyway and McCarthy tells her it used to be an island. He warns her that Karimov hasn’t fully briefed her on the seriousness of her situation, but she says being shot with a tranquilliser dart was a fairly good hint. McCarthy tells her she’s in a restricted area and that the town is under martial law and the oil wells are under military guard. All of which begs the question - what is she doing here? McCarthy believes Lucie must either be an engineer, a mercenary or a troublemaker.
Jason continues trying to persuade the Doctor to turn back and asks what they’re going to do when they get hungry, but the Doctor reminds him that the people from the village don’t eat and there’s no food, drink or electricity in Thorington. The cars have no petrol and everything has been abandoned under years of dust. The Doctor’s theory is that the village was built on an island and for some reason the water level went down recently. He doesn’t know what’s kept everyone on the island, but he suspects Sally was somehow predisposed to leave. Jason admits that his daughter said she’d leave town the first chance she got and it looks like that time has finally come. The Doctor proposes that the moment the water receded to the point where it was only ankle deep, Sally would have waded out and kept walking. Jason wonders where she could have gone and the Doctor believes the answer to that will be at the end of the tracks. He asks Jason whether there used to be a ferry in the old days and slowly Jason recalls that there was and that it came from New Town on the other side. The Doctor is pleased that things are beginning to get clearer for Jason, so he asks him to look out across the sand and concentrate. Eventually Jason’s vision clears and he can see the ferry, stationary on the sand not far from where they‘re standing. The Doctor reveals that it’s been there all the time and he’s been able to see it for at least the last half hour. He was wondering how long it would take Jason to see it. He points to the side of the ferry where the words ’Sally was here’ have been scratched. It proves Sally is alive and that she came this way, but they have no idea how long ago this was. The ferry has evidently been out here in the middle of nowhere for years. The Doctor climbs inside and then returns to Jason carrying some charts. Jason looks at them but says he can’t read them and the Doctor isn’t surprised - because they’re written in Cyrillic. Nevertheless, the map shows the island before the waters receded and it clearly places them in the middle of the Aral Sea. They’re in Uzbekistan!
Lucie has noticed that Captain McCarthy doesn’t take kindly to tourists and Karimov confirms that he doesn’t like the unexpected. Karimov tells her that during the time of the Soviet Union, this was actually a nice place and there was even a beach resort here - but nearby there was also a school for spies where the Soviets trained people to infiltrate the West. Lucie concludes that they must have built a fake village where people could practice being English and learning about the weather or playing cricket or eating cucumber sandwiches. Karimov says this all ended in 1991, a date which comes as no surprise to Lucie.
The Doctor tries to sum up everything he knows about Uzbekistan - it’s an independent Republic in central Asia, the capital is Tashkent, the languages are Uzbek and Russian… Jason interrupts the Doctor’s flow and says he can hear a voice inside his head. The Doctor can’t hear anything and assumes Jason is imagining it, but Jason insists that the voice was calling to him.
Karimov tells Lucie that 1st September 1991 was a big day as it marked the moment that Uzbekistan ceased being a member of the Soviet Union and the population became free. Lucie asks what happened to the Aral Sea and Karimov says they took the water for their cotton fields, for growing rice and for swimming pools, among other things. The rivers ran dry and without the rivers there was no sea. Lucie is sceptical and Karimov admits there are bits of it left, but says they’ll be gone soon too. On the bright side, however, he says they can now start drilling for oil. Lucie wonders why there are British mercenaries guarding the oil fields, but Karimov says she’ll have to ask Captain McCarthy about that.
Vitas contacts McCarthy and tells him she can see a teenaged girl down by the oil derricks near the south-west ridge. McCarthy gives orders for her to be shot…
The Doctor and Jason arrive at the oil derricks and Jason says he remembers seeing them on “Dallas” back in the days when they still had power for their televisions. The Doctor thinks this is good news because it means there must be engineers or other people here. Sally could have just walked out into the desert, but instead she may have made her way to civilisation. Suddenly a shot rings out and they both dive for cover. More shots are heard and the Doctor casually asks Jason if his daughter is about five foot four with auburn hair and wearing an old bomber jacket. Jason confirms that she is and the Doctor tells him it must be Sally they’re shooting at! They race towards her and shout out warnings, but when they reach her, Sally turns on Jason and says he’s not her dad, he’s just another piece of the mind. She says the essence must be preserved at all costs, then she turns and runs off in another direction. The Doctor spots that the oil wells are on fire, so he grabs hold of Jason and drags him away to safety. Just as Jason realises his daughter must have set fire to them, there’s an enormous explosion…
An alarm sounds in the soldiers’ HQ and McCarthy tells Lucie that Vitas has found another saboteur - no doubt one of Lucie’s friends - but unfortunately she failed to stop her. Karimov thinks Vitas is getting soft, but McCarthy tells him it’s about time Karimov stopped coseying up to Lucie in case she turns out to be “one of them”. He orders Andropov to take her back to the infirmary and lock her inside with two guards on the door while he and Karimov go to check things out. As she’s led away, Lucie wonders what everyone’s so scared of…
The Doctor and Jason pause for breath and the Doctor asks whether Sally has shown any destructive tendencies before. Jason says she once threatened to run off to Greenham Common - but as he speaks he suddenly cries out in pain, as if unexpectedly hit with a terrible headache. A deep sinister voice inside his head confirms that contact has been restored and it welcomes Jason back. Jason tells the Doctor he can hear the voice again and that it’s much stronger this time. The voice tells him to come closer to his place of origin, back to where the Mother Consciousness resides. Jason reveals what the voice is saying and the Doctor has a terrible thought. The voice fades away and Jason wonders if he’s going mad. The Doctor assures him he isn’t and says he thinks the voice is coming from somewhere on the drilling site. If he’s right, it won’t be safe for Jason to go any closer. He suspects the voice is in Sally’s head too, which would explain why she’s been acting oddly, but it seems to get stronger the closer they get to the mysterious New Town.
Back in the village, Margaret finds PC Sharp staring out to sea. She asks him what he’s doing and he invites her to join him, but she’s worried the tide might come back in and she’ll get her feet wet. He tells her he saw smoke on the horizon in the direction that the Doctor and Jason went, so he came out here to get a closer look…but as he started walking out onto the sand he heard something. Margaret joins him a few metres out and then she hears it too - a voice faintly whispering in her head, telling her to come closer. They’ve clearly both heard the same thing, so Sharp decides to round up everyone in the village so they can all hear it.
Locked in the infirmary, Lucie knocks repeatedly on the door and pleads with the guards to let her out so she can go to the toilet. The guards tell her to keep quiet, but she tells them there isn’t even a bucket or a bedpan she can use. She begins to sound desperate and gives them her word she won’t try to escape, so eventually they agree, although they say they’ll shoot her if she tries anything.
The Doctor and Jason see another one of the tanks approaching, so they decide to hide and hope that Sally can take care of herself. But as they start to move off, Vitas steps out in front of them and points her gun at them. She orders them not to move, then contacts Captain McCarthy to tell him she’s got them. McCarthy joins them but then Jason suddenly cries out in pain and says he can hear the voice inside his head again.
Lucie is just finishing in the toilet when the guard knocks on the door impatiently. She washes her hands and starts to dry them when she hears the voices of the guards outside, followed by the sound of machine gun fire and then a strange alien-sounding weapon. The guards scream and everything goes silent. Lucie calls out to them nervously, but gets no reply. She opens the door and finds a teenaged girl outside. She realises this must be Sally, but the girl turns to her and says she’ll be dead if she makes a move.
Jason tells the Doctor that the voice in his head is very clear now and he knows what he must do. He says Sally was right all along and apologises to the Doctor, then he extends his arm and - to the Doctor’s surprise - his entire hand drops away to reveal an Auton gun. The Doctor admits that he really didn’t expect this and says he must be slipping. Jason says he doesn’t want to shoot the Doctor, but he must. He opens fire, but misses. McCarthy orders Vitas to return the fire as Jason races off, warning them not to follow him.
Sally asks Lucie how she knew her name and Lucie says she’s a friend of Sally’s father. Sally says her father has got his priorities wrong and he should be more worried about what these people are doing to the planet. Lucie asks if the two guards are dead, but Sally simply says they shot at her first and were hardly innocent, so she shot them back. Lucie is confused as Sally doesn’t seem to be armed, so she reveals the Auton gun hidden behind her wrist. Sally says she came to the base to get some grenades, but Lucie notices the girl has been hit and offers to look at her wounds, but she soon realises there isn’t any blood. Inside Sally’s head, the deep voice warns her that Lucie is not one of them. Sally assures the voice that Lucie isn’t against them and when the voice tells her to go, she races off, leaving Lucie behind.
McCarthy turns on the Doctor and points out that his fugitive friend Jason seems to be bullet-proof and he wonders if the same could be said for him. The Doctor says he wasn’t sure until this moment, but he now knows Jason isn’t human. McCarthy and Vitas are shocked, but before he can explain further, the soldiers’ radios activate and Lucie can be heard on the other end asking if anyone is there. McCarthy answers and demands that she put him through to one of the guards, but Lucie explains that they’ve both been killed by Sally. The Doctor snatches the radio from McCarthy and asks whether Sally is alright. Lucie tells him the guards shot her, but there was no blood. When she adds that there was something odd about her hand, the Doctor correctly guesses that her wrist dropped away to reveal a gun inside.
The voice of the Nestene Consciousness tells the Autons that the humans are not their friends. It warns them that the humans are planning to destroy the very essence of their race and they must be stopped. The essence must be preserved at all costs…
Sally and Jason are eventually reunited and Jason tells his daughter he was worried about her. She asks if he’s alright as she heard gunfire, then she tells him she’s not coming home. He tells her he doesn’t want to lose her and reveals that he can hear the voice too. They both hug.
McCarthy orders Vitas to take some guards to the base perimeter and make sure everything’s secure. Lucie arrives and there’s a happy reunion with the Doctor. McCarthy demands that the Doctor reveal everything he knows about the saboteurs and he tells him they’re artificial lifeforms called Autons. McCarthy realises he won’t be able to tell this to his superiors without getting sectioned. Lucie remembers what she heard about the spy school out on the lake. The Doctor believes most of the spies were Autons, but McCarthy refuses to accept this and says the newsagent and his daughter were clearly human. The Doctor points out that they don’t eat, they can’t be killed with bullets and they don’t show up on the army’s thermal imaging scanners. There may have been humans in the village originally, but at some point a decision was made to shut down the spy school and if there were any humans left they abandoned the place, leaving the synthetics behind. McCarthy wonders when this happened and the Doctor is sure he knows the answer - on 1st September, 1991. This date happens to coincide with Uzbekistan’s independence day and the Doctor realises this is why Thorington no longer has any electricity and why all the supplies stopped coming in. In the absence of new orders, the Autons must have kept up the pretence for another 17 years - until the water level dropped and Thorington stopped being an island. Lucie asks about the voices and the Doctor explains that Autons have a central control mechanism, a consciousness, which means they don’t have any original thoughts of their own. The Doctor realises there‘s something important they’re missing. He asks McCarthy about the thermal imaging camera and says he wants to see a recording of the moment Jason escaped.
As the residents of Thorington gather together at the edge of the town, Margaret asks PC Sharp if he’s sure he’s doing the right thing. He reminds her about the voice they heard and tells her they’ve come here to await new orders. He calls to the crowd and urges them to pick up their pace and head towards the horizon in the direction of the oil wells. As they do so, they start to hear the deep voice of the Nestene Consciousness summoning them closer. The voice tells them that once they were together and they must be united once again against their greatest enemy - the humans! Margaret whispers to Sharp and says she thought they were humans. PC Sharp has no answer for her.
Under McCarthy’s instructions, Karimov sets up the thermal imaging camera and they play back a recording of the Doctor and Jason by the oil wells. They can pick up audio of Jason, but the only person they can actually see is the Doctor. Karimov thinks there must be something wrong with the machine because of the unusual signal he’s giving out which suggests he has two hearts, and the Doctor admits that he gets that a lot. The Doctor stares at the image and points out a tiny blob of heat coming from Jason’s chest and although Karimov thinks it’s just a glitch in the equipment, the Doctor says it’s a tiny scrap of the Nestene Consciousness, just enough to animate Jason‘s body. Lucie asks if this makes Jason just a puppet and the Doctor agrees, but on this occasion the puppeteer is actually inside the puppet. It means the people here aren’t like any Autons he’s encountered before. They’re virtually independent, like autonomic Autons. All this time they’ve been living on the island pretending to be human and making do as best they can - and now suddenly there’s been a call to arms. Sally was the first to hear it and the call became stronger every step she took away from the island. Lucie wonders who put them there in the first place and the Doctor guesses it would have been Soviet scientists. There have been several showers of Nestene meteorites hitting the Earth over the last few decades, so they must have discovered some and begun experimenting with Auton technology. McCarthy argues that there must be records somewhere, but the Doctor thinks Thorington was obscure enough to have escaped the notice of the Uzbek authorities. Karimov says there was a records room in an old bunker under the cliffs, but he cleared it out when he had it converted into his personal office. The Doctor asks what he did with the contents from the room…
Lucie complains that their search for the old records has led them to a nearby rubbish tip. The Doctor thinks rubbish tips can be fascinating places and tells her they have no time to lose. Although Lucie is more concerned with the presence of rats, the Doctor soon finds boxes and boxes of papers. He asks her to help him wade through them, but she points out they’re all written in a foreign language. She asks him what the Russian for ‘spy’ is, but he tells her the documents are unlikely to actually use that word. She realises she’s being asked to look for something that doesn’t say what it ought to say in a language that she can‘t read.
Vitas contacts McCarthy and tells him they have multiple sightings out on the lake-bed - about thirty to forty people are walking towards them from the island. As they get closer, McCarthy orders her to send a mortar team to the nearby ridge, armed with high explosive rounds. Vitas argues that the people are just ordinary civilians, but McCarthy assures her there’s nothing ordinary about them…
Lucie sifts through the rubbish - which includes a samovar, a Russian tea-urn - and when she opens it up she finds an object that’s glowing and giving off a strange pulsating noise. The Doctor congratulates her on finding the Nestene energy unit and he explains that this is what’s broadcasting the voice to the Autons. She asks him why the people have only started hearing the voice now and he tells her the signal was being shielded by the bunker. It had been forgotten for 17 years, but the moment Karimov threw it out, the Autons in Thorington started picking it up. Lucie wonders why its first order was to get Sally to blow up the oil field and the Doctor tells her the Nestenes are able to manipulate the Autons because they can control anything made of plastic. If there’s no plastic, there can be no Autons. Hundreds of years ago there was so much oil around here it was literally seeping out of the ground, as witnessed and recorded by none other than Marco Polo himself. Lucie assumes the Nestenes are making some sort of environmental protest and the Autons are a kind of alien eco-warrior race, but the Doctor tells her they couldn’t care less about the environment. They just want the oil for themselves in order to make more Autons. McCarthy joins them and says there’s a group of Autons heading this way, but the Doctor is confident they won’t have much ammunition. This isn’t a risk McCarthy is prepared to take and he asks if they can be destroyed by explosives, but the Doctor is horrified and insists that the Autons are innocent. He says they’re only dangerous while they’re receiving instructions from the Nestene energy unit, which they can shut off. He suggests they put it back in the bunker and seal it inside permanently. McCarthy calls Karimov for some explosives and says he plans to bring the cliff down over the bunker entrance. Then he goes to join his troops on the ridge facing the approaching Autons, promising that if the Doctor fails, then he’ll stop them himself.
The Doctor uses one of the soldier’s radios to contact Lucie and she assures him that Karimov has taken her to a safe location. He tells her the charges have been set and the Nestene energy unit placed back inside the bunker. He contacts Karimov and asks for time to get clear, then they’re to detonate the explosives on his signal. As the Doctor turns to leave, he’s surprised to find Jason and Sally have tracked him down. They ask him what he’s been doing here, but he assures them he’s just been stock taking and filing. Jason asks what’s happened to the voice in his head as he can barely hear it and the Doctor tells him he should expect that sort of thing with disembodied voices. He suggests they leave and talk about it later, but Sally stops him and raises her wrist-gun as a warning. Jason tells Sally that the Doctor is their friend, but she knows he’s responsible for shutting off the signal. She orders the Doctor to re-open the bunker or die…
In the sandy desert, the Auton villagers are milling around in confusion. With no more instructions coming to them from the Nestene Consciousness, they seem unsure what to do next. Margaret tells PC Sharp that for some reason she doesn’t feel much like destroying the human race any more and he agrees. He recommends they go back to Thorington, but she thinks it seems such a waste to have come all this way for nothing and suggests they keep walking in the hope of picking up the signal again. Sharp thinks this is a good idea and rallies everyone together and tells them to press on…
Jason takes Sally gently to one side and suggests they sit down somewhere to talk about this. The Doctor agrees and tells her she needs to get some perspective on the situation - to distance herself from it. He tells her he can make the voice go away forever and bring her back to normal, but Sally threatens to hurt him if he does that. As they talk, the Doctor starts leading the two Autons slowly away from the bunker, then he switches on the radio so that Lucie and Karimov can overhear their conversation. Sally says she no longer knows what ’normal’ is and Jason agrees that after twenty years pretending to be English, he doesn’t know what he is any more. The Doctor argues that they can now decide for themselves what they want to be and they don’t need an alien energy ball to tell them. He tells them that if they wait just a few more minutes they should hear the voice fading away. Jason believes the Doctor and tries to convince his daughter to listen, but she points out that he’s not really her father. If anything, it’s the voice back in the bunker that’s her real father. The Doctor says this is a difficult semantic issue, so he decides the only option is to reveal the truth. He tells Jason and Sally that they, and all the people from the village, are beings animated by fragments from one of the energy units. While he’s talking, he sends a coded message to anyone that’s listening that instructs them to set off the explosives. Lucie realises this must mean he’s got clear enough away from the bunker and she tells Karimov to blow up the cliff. Unfortunately nothing seems to be working and Karimov is worried that the wiring to the dynamite must have broken. Lucie decides to search for the damage herself.
Vitas tells McCarthy that the villagers are getting very close. As the Doctor hasn’t set off the explosives at the bunker yet, they know the Autons are still susceptible to the Nestene signal, which means they’re still dangerous. McCarthy orders Vitas and her team to prepare to fire.
Lucie tracks back the detonation wire until she finds the break, then she calls back to Karimov and asks him what she must do. The Russian soldier tells her to just hold to two bits together, but warns her to watch out for the electric shock. As she does there, they hear the sound of a tremendous explosion in the distance.
Not far from the oil wells, the villagers react to the explosion in shock. Margaret complains about the loud bang over the horizon and PC Sharp says it’s probably teenagers letting off fireworks. She tells him it’s his job to sort that kind of behaviour out, then she starts to wonder why he dragged everyone out all this way in the first place? Sharp is sure there was a good reason, but it seems to escape him right now. Margaret sighs with exasperation, then she tells the villagers they ought to get back to their homes before the tide starts coming in again.
Vitas is amazed to see the villagers turn away and head back in the direction they came, just as if nothing had happened. She asks Captain McCarthy for new orders and he tells her to stand down and disarm the mortars. It looks like the Doctor has been successful…
The villagers make good time on their journey back to Thorington and with any luck they should be home in time for tea. Margaret asks if anyone can hear a strange noise and PC Sharp says he hopes it’s not the soldiers again. Just then, a bus pulls up alongside them with the Doctor at the wheel. He cheerily invites them all aboard and offer them a lift back to town.
McCarthy asks Karimov if there’s been any news from the Doctor and learns that he’s volunteered to take the Autons back to the ruined village, presumably to collect their belongings. Karimov regards the Autons as forgotten people - asylum seekers and refugees from the old Soviet Union. McCarthy says it wouldn’t be fair to let them loose in the real world as they’re 17 years behind the times and would be totally unprepared. He wonders whether it would be a better idea to keep them here for a while to give them time to adjust properly. He tells Karimov that the autonomic Autons are a very rare breed. Bullets won’t stop them and they’d make perfect spies and perfect soldiers. McCarthy suggests that he and Karimov could work together and make millions from them. He also thinks the Doctor should stay on as their scientific advisor. He decides to send Vitas to tell the Doctor the ’good news’.
Back in the village, Jason thanks the Doctor for helping him find his daughter, and Sally thanks him for giving them a lift back. The Doctor wonders what they plan to do now, but neither of them know. Jason says there’s a meeting planned in the village hall tonight so everyone can decide whether to stay or go, but Sally’s already made up her mind and says she wants to stay with her dad. The Doctor says he’ll try to persuade McCarthy to restore power to Thorington and Jason thinks it’ll be interesting to see if “that song” is still at Number One. Just then they see the armoured personnel carrier racing towards them with the driver evidently in a hurry. The Doctor decides it’s time he and Lucie were off, so they all say goodbye. The Doctor advises them to stick together, no matter what they decide as there’s strength in numbers, and try their best not to let anyone tell them what to do.
McCarthy contacts Vitas and asks if she’s reached the village yet. She tells him she hasn’t, but she’s not far away and has the Doctor in vision. She can see him and Lucie walking into a blue box, so McCarthy orders her not to let the Doctor out of her sight. She promises she won’t, but then she sees the TARDIS dematerialise right in front of her. It seems she has some bad news for the Captain…
Inside the TARDIS, Lucie asks the Doctor if the villagers will be alright. He says they have a lot of learning to do, but at least they’re their own people now. Lucie wonders how long they’ll live, but the Doctor doesn’t know and he’s not sure what they’ll do either. Lucie says he doesn’t know much, but he reminds her that he’s just saved an entire race from certain destruction. She argues that he only did it with a little help from her, but she knows he‘ll never admit to that. Never in a month of Sundays.