At 5 pm in Berkshire on a summer’s day a clock chimes. Flowers fan widely in the light of the day. Mike Yates is having tea with friends as he sits in Cho-Je’s study. Cho-Je (the regenerated K’Anpo) thanks them all for their wonderful help during the horrific visit from the Planet of the Spiders. The danger is finally all over.
Sarah-Jane Smith is still scared from the recent ordeal with the Spiders, and as memories flood her mind she holds Yates’ hand for comfort. The Brigadier -- tall, implacable and eminently British -- adds to her comfort with an arm around her shoulder. Off to the side of the study, Benton feels like a bull in a china shop as he stands in his high boots, the desire to crush more Spiders still lingering. Cho-Je is a picture of still serenity. As his friends converse, Mike himself dreams of high buildings and his thoughts wander into the hills. Mike is amazed to realize that not a stone’s throw away from the monastery is the home where he lived as a child from age three to nine. Mike recalls his childhood, which was very lonely due to the fact that during World War Two his parents had been forced to move 11 times before they evacuated to the lonely chalk hills.
Sarah breaks Mike’s reverie and the two friends continue to talk. Cho-Je thanks Mike for his assistance and asks him if he likes the view, citing the need for all to reflect more on their lives. Mike believes he is lucky, notwithstanding his unlucky childhood. Nevertheless, he shares his mother’s positive attitude. Mike continues to reflect upon his youth and remembers how for much of that life he had been alone, without a permanent circle of friends, and so he grew up wanting companions but unable to get them: a fun loving individual not able to have much fun. But it was that solitary youth that also developed within Mike an independence and imagination which he found to be quite useful in UNIT. For Mike, UNIT had not just been a job but his family for the last several years. Because of that close bond, Mike feels his involuntary retirement from that organization as a personal disaster. But, like his mother taught him, self-pity is not his line and he holds to her personal philosophy: ‘Laugh and the world laughs with you.’ But he is still depressed.
Mike’s reminiscing is broken again as the Brig calls him back to the present. Mike feels he needs to go home to North Yorkshire and rises to depart. He doesn’t remember what he does next; he’s confused with so many feelings as he leaves. It is only minutes later in his MG convertible that he is finally aware of his surroundings, as he drives along the M4, M25, M1, M18, A1M and then to his home in Yorkshire, where he finally and fully realizes that the part of his life with UNIT is over. What next?
Even the warmth of the summer’s day grows chilly, and Mike finds himself, hours later, finished with his dinner: roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, summer pudding, and fresh egg custard, with the local ale to drown it all down. Shortly after, with Irish whiskey in hand, Mike leans upon his fireplace thinking of his retirement at the age of 23. He feels the entire situation is unfair, and himself misunderstood. He reviews his life in his library (formerly a chapel in years gone by) and as he feels that his time with UNIT is over his spirits plummet. He sits in his grandfather’s chair, finishes his drink and, remembering his mother’s philosophy, decides not to brood. But again the persistent question arises in his mind: What to do next with himself?
At that moment the phone rings. It is the Brig, hoping to find out if Mike made it home without too much traffic. Mike says he’s ok, and the Brig asks him what he’ll do next -- if he has plans already laid out. Mike says he wants simply to relax and think but the Brig declares this to be a bad idea: thinking causes problems. What Mike needs is action, and to go on vacation. The Brig insists that Tangiers is as good a place as any, or even better if one considers the belly dancers in Morocco. Pleasantly surprised and with his interest piqued, Mike says he just might take that vacation.
Mike, always a man of action, sits in the lounge of the Rock hotel on Gibraltar only 48 hours later with Gin and French (his favourite drink) in hand. He’s killing time before the local ferry takes him from Spain to Morocco. The desire to seek out the country’s famed belly dancers with their hypnotic movements is very much on his mind. He agrees with the Brigadier’s assessment of his situation; he wants a break from his troubles, but he also wants a red clay amphora -- a vessel for carrying water used since early history and probably earlier -- for his collection, and Morocco is the perfect location to satisfy all of his curiosities. Little does Mike know that his interest in pots and bellies will soon be overtaken by less innocent objectives.
After a quick crossing from Spain, Morocco approaches from out of the sea to greet its visitor: Mike Yates, who is unaware that this is only the first stop on a life-threatening adventure. That night Mike sleeps sound, but another gaze is already upon him, watching and thinking and waiting. Dark, vaguely middle-eastern eyes see him through his shuttered windows, checking him and determined to follow him to an inevitable destination.
The next morning, Mike opens his window and marvels at the new countryside. He feels free. Hours later, however, Mike spends an uncomfortable ride on a bus into the city. Hour after hour passes and the sun falls low as the bus climbs. It reaches the peak of its journey, and Mike can see, 30 miles away, Marrakech basking in the dying sun. Inside the city, through its gates, all is hustle and bustle. Mike finds himself surrounded by the hungry urchins of a poor land. One lad is his porter and they converse in French over the best place for dinner. Later, Mike discovers that his new room is disgusting; the bed and the floor are filthy, but Mike is exhausted. To bed… or not to bed. Mike chooses the first option but compromises by sleeping on top of the chest of drawers. He never hears the floorboards creak or sees the dark eyeball glinting through his keyhole.
Mike wakes early thanks to his military training and youthful experiences of watering horses in the morning. He goes out into the Babel-like world where all types of money making are found. Mike wanders, a powerful fascination for seeing all types of activity seizing him. He sees a group listening to Bible stories with the aid of a local prophet. But all fun has to stop and his next experience is not so good at all. The fateful time is near, but still he doesn’t know it yet. Mike turns around and sees it 20 yards away: the Amphora vase. Moving towards the jar, Mike sees a crowd surrounding it, and at the centre is the owner of the jar: a man with jet black eyes of unbelievable profundity. It is clear that the jar is in use and not for sale. The dark man squats on a small Persian mat and begins to play a tune on his pipe. As he begins Mike jokingly thinks how much the man looks just like the Master. But that is ridiculous.
The Man smiles a little, but continues playing his enticing phrase on the pipe, and after a few moments a snake rises from the jar. Mike instinctively flinches as the snake searches in all directions. It now stands on its tail, stretching at least 6 feet into the air, its end hidden deep inside the 4 foot jar. Its head turns sharply and its tiny black eyes glint evilly... Mike stands mesmerized as the pipe increases its shrill pitch and hysterical urgency. He is transfixed as the music climaxes, the snake sees its target, and spits its emerald bile into left pupil of Mike’s eye. Mike screams, his body convulses and he collapses lifelessly to the ground. The crowd closes in, but the snake hisses again and they back away. The Snake Charmer’s smile is now fixed. He kneels down to Mike’s body and, holding his head, blows into his nostrils. Mike stirs. Mike recognizes the eyes; he’s seen them at least twice in the last couple of days -- the black button eyes accompanied with a neat black beard and moustache and a cold smug smile. He should remember the owner of this face but he’s only semi-conscious, mentally confused and filled with anxiety. Then, he feels his consciousness leaving again…
He wakes hours later in the evening in the same square, alone. He sits up from the dusty ground, hearing chanting in distance. He checks and finds that he’s okay, which is strange but a relief. Questions whirl in his mind: is the amphora still there? Is the snake still there? He finds a confirmation to the first as he spies the jar before him with a label tied to the handle, which says: “You came for this, didn’t you? Please accept it as a small souvenir. Something to remember me by, something to add to your collection. Something to make up for the pain you’re going to suffer. I hope.”
Mike rises to feet and feels fine, surprisingly. As he leaves he takes the amphora -- an elegant object indeed. He decides he deserves a night of luxury and seeks out the city’s most luxurious hotel. Mike ponders the note. It was written in good English but how did the charmer know Mike was English? He focuses on the last sentence of the note: ‘Something to make up for the pain you’re going to suffer. I hope.’ 13 words. Mike doesn’t like what’s going on and probably would like it less if he knew who the vaguely familiar charmer really was and the physiological role Mike himself was unwittingly playing in his master plan. But he doesn’t know and he’s not the type to worry long about things, so he heads to the hotel, enjoying the aroma of hibiscus in the air. The event is already out of mind as he’s welcomed into the hotel, and soon after is relaxing in his suite with another Gin and French. After all that has happened, Mike thinks he’s had a lucky escape. But soon he’ll find that he hasn’t.
Mike sleeps like a log in silken sheets and a large bed. He wakes with a start and realizes that the charmer was really the Master, who has once again entered into his life -- and worse, his body -- through the snake: the famous Spitting Snake of Morocco. But Mike is relieved to remember that, though green and deadly in appearance, it’s not poisonous. He thanks himself for his interest in zoology, brought on by experiences with Autons, Axons, Daleks, etc. He assures himself that the spit of the snake may cause immediate pain including shock, mental confusion and unconsciousness, but certainly no lasting effects. But if so, why then would the Master -- and yes, it is the Master -- want to introduce a non-lethal substance into his system? There seems to be no rhyme, but there must be a reason.
After breakfast, Mike relaxes yet again on a mountain of pillows, his head filled with thoughts of belly dancers. His waiter can’t or won’t give an address, but confirms that there is dancing that night and that he will lead Mike to whatever clandestine location it might be. They meet under a palm tree -- one Mike had marked for a sketch the previous day -- and wait for the evening. The two head for their unknown destination: a cellar at the end of an endless alleyway. Mike hopes his guide won’t abandon him or he’d be lost and a prime target for a mugging. But he banishes the thought as the beat of drums speeds his heart and the two descend into the cavern. A girl appears with a jewel in her navel and a skimpy fringe. Other girls appear and the dances begin. Mike is transfixed by the movements of the girls’ stomachs, but when own stomach muscles begin to ripple and he finds himself having to concentrate on himself more than the dancers, Mike realizes something must be wrong. Mike feels strange in the stomach and a deep pain grows inside -- not sharp, but one that brings fear and panic. Mild pain then becomes acute agony, swelling inside. The last thing he remembers is wondering how much longer he can tolerate the pain…
A well-modulated voice asks Mike how he feels, awakening him back in his hotel suite. The voice belongs to a doctor visiting Morocco on a surgical convention with his wife. He informs Mike that the waiter carried him back to his room the night before. He states that Mike had an acute chronic attack, and although it’s passed, he might have another; but the doctor can’t give a perfect diagnosis without proper hospital equipment (not trusting the Moroccan hospitals). Although Mike feels fine for the moment, he anxiously asks for the doctor’s professional opinion, which he gives as gallstones, recommending surgery as treatment. The doctor suggests scanning Mike to confirm this, but thinks he’ll probably need a cholecystectomy within the next 6 weeks. Based on 30 years’ experience, he feels that Mike has developed a stone or stones which are blocking his bile duct, hence the pain and fear he experienced. They will need to remove his gallbladder.
Immediately after the doctor leaves, Mike telephones his father -- a world renowned surgeon and expert in that very field -- who agrees with the diagnosis but feels any operation is up to Mike. Dr. Yates is puzzled however, as stones usually take years to develop and Mike has never had any such problems before. Mike’s mind races -- could there be a relation between the snake spit and the sudden stone growth? Mike’s father suggests taking an examination in the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh and promises to write a letter to its top man. Two nights later, Mike is in Scotland, where the tests confirm the presence of an enormous gallstone and recommend immediate surgery. A kindly Scottish sister and nurse comments on how lucky Mike was that the stone didn’t rupture in the desert, or it could have killed him. Mike muses that if the Master wants to kill him, his methods are rather elaborate. Does the Master want the stone itself for some unknown purpose? Of course, Mike discovers, if he dies in the operation, it’ll be all the easier for the Master afterwards. He’s sent to the operating ward and a prick in the thumb with anaesthetic sends Mike to oblivion.
Later, with tubes coming out of him in all directions, Mike is resting in his bed as the formidable but efficient and caring nurse organizes his condition. She shows him the gallstone in a jar filled with formaldehyde. It is an inch long and, to Mike’s amazement; it is in exactly the shape as the amphora water jar. This somehow links the jar, the spitting snake and the Master together. He is about to relate this fact out loud, but he stops himself, thinking the nurse would think he’s gone mad and add to his discomfort by wrapping him in a straitjacket. He instead asks to keep the stone, joking that he might disguise the stone as a genuine part of his collection of Phoenician and Greco-Roman tier vases. It would be a perfect way to fool the experts. The nurse places it in his bedside cupboard and orders Mike to sleep. Mike is left alone.
Moments later, the door is opened silently by a black-gloved hand. A porter -- who is certainly not a porter -- enters the room and quickly crosses to the bedside cupboard, taking in hand the jar with its stone. But, as he turns to leave, the sister (returning for her forgotten scissors) appears in the doorway and asks the intruder’s identity. She sees he has the jar and demands its return. The man with black eyes and beard and moustache purrs that he’s from the research department, sent to run tests of the stone. He wishes to pass but the sister refuses to budge. The man tries to use a hypnotic trick, but the sister firmly states that she’s insusceptible to such devices. Complacent, the dark man simply pushes the nurse aside, not knowing she’s a black belt Aikido, and he finds himself eating the dust of the hallway outside the room, with the nurse holding the jar safely in her hands. Her calls for help alert two housemen close by, but just as they seem sure to catch him, the Master -- and yes, it is the Master in yet another disguise -- leaps from the first-storey window and races into the darkness, disappearing into the moonless city, a city made darker by Burke and Hare.
The next morning, the sister informs Mike of the inexplicable events of the previous night, events which are however not inexplicable to Mike. The pieces of the puzzle are fitting together: planet Earth is under threat again by the Master, but the role of his gallstone, though significant, is something Mike is, as of yet, still uncertain. Nevertheless, the stone must be guarded at any and all costs. Mike realizes that, once again, he’s in the thick of a dangerous adventure, and he’s not sure if he likes it or not. But no, he likes it!
Mike returns home and makes a quick recovery. A stable lad brings in the morning mail and hot Hexam. One letter catches Mike’s eye. It is a message from the Brig: an invitation to a shooting party at Melmerby, four miles from Mike’s house, with a Green Jacket friend; Mike will be called for first. The letter, although first class, has been delayed and the party is the next day. Mike phones the Brig and they soon make plans to meet. Mike then adds, with hidden mischievousness, that he picked up a rare and unique object from Morocco for his collection which he wants to show the Brigadier. Interested, the Brig agrees to the demonstration and enlists Sergeant Benton as his weekend chauffeur. Mike is very excited at the impending reunion of his UNIT family, minus the elusive Jo Grant.
Mike then spends the day busily choosing the food to provide for his best friends and organizing for their arrival, when, before one could say Greyhound One, the Brig and Benton arrive, the latter cutting a dash through the top layer of gravel on Mike’s drive. After a warm greeting, Benton is given repair duties on the gravel drive. After completing this task, Benton passes through a series of cracks: first his head on low beam of a cabinet upon entry of the house, then by cracking an appalling joke, which in turn cracks up the stable lads. All this leaves the Brig with a blank face but Mike with a simple, comforting truth: nothing really has changed.
Mike invites his friends for a drink, and while he and the Brig indulge in the gin, Benton, as a responsible driver, engages his first in a series of orange juices. Benton then brings up the subject of Mike’s “souvenir,” which Mike specifically categorizes as a most rare pre-delphinium amphora-shaped tier vase. All three study the stone, which sits in a cabinet amongst Mike’s other (and real) Greco-Roman exhibits. The Brig, adding his own simplified explanation of the piece, likens the stone to a small version of a water or wine jar. He admires its colouring and asks for its date, which Mike supplies as around 300 B.C., which the Brigadier announces as accurate. All the while Mike hates himself for deceiving his friends; his little fun is working out too well. Taking an alternative appraisal, Benton comments on the jar’s shapeliness, noting that many a woman would desire such a figure. This slightly bawdy comment recalls within the Brig’s mind eye an image of Doris, causing his eyes to mist. Mike chooses that moment to end his test and reveals that his “artefact” is really his gall stone. He then invites his friends to lunch.
Benton makes up for his lack of alcohol in food (including the consumption of 11 potatoes) and, with a good belch, declares his satisfaction. Then Benton (to both Mike and the Brig’s worry) announces an idea he has about Mike’s stone: that they play the same joke about its authenticity on the Doctor, since he thinks he knows everything about the old world, and he likes old crocks; he has Bessie after all. Mike notes that the Brigadier also likes old crocks and the Brigadier himself adds that so does Doris. Benton further jokes, with considerable amusement, that the Doctor probably doesn’t even know the difference between a Greek myth and a Roman missus. He then comments on how the newly regenerated Doctor is no different from the previous one.
Despite the “Bentonism,” Mike and the Brigadier approve of the idea, and with a Polaroid camera produce a snapshot of the gall stone (under the guise of a genuine ancient vase) which, with an appropriate note of explanation, is sent to the Doctor using Mike’s new fax machine. Mike and the Brig then decide a good walk is in order to help digest their meal, but Benton volunteers to stay behind to watch Mike’s house and, after a long drive and eleven spuds, decides to have a nice snooze.
Immediately after Benton waves off his friends, however, an immaculate black Bentley Continental S1 comes up the drive, and as Benton waits at the front door, the driver-owner of the vehicle -- an immaculately dressed man in a dark suit with a neatly trimmed beard and moustache, his eyes hidden behind impenetrable dark glasses -- approaches. He asks Benton if the residence belongs to Captain Mike Yates. Benton confirms this, but announces that the Captain has gone out. The man asks if he can wait inside for him, and Benton replies that Mike won’t return for probably a couple of hours, or more. Unperturbed, the man answers that he can wait for as long as required, having all the time in the world. This last mysterious comment is not lost on the Sergeant, but although a voice in the back of his mind urges him to be careful, he suppresses his anxiety for a simple reason: his gut feeling for second-hand car salesmanship, peaked by the sight of the newcomer’s splendid machine, rules out any danger on the part of its owner -- not with a car like that.
The elegant man enters and passes to Benton, with a black gloved hand, his card: Mr. Adolph H. Lehrer: Antiquities, Stuttgart. Directing Herr Lehrer to an uncomfortable-looking wooden hall chair (itself one of a collection Mike is starting), Benton learns that the visitor has become interested in Mike’s collection of old world tier vases. After all, who in the art world has not? Benton decides not to let on that he hasn’t. Lehrer, being in the area today, had read Tenant’s catalogue sale in Laban and, learning of Mike’s collection, hoped to discuss with him the possibility of including some of Mike’s items in Lehrer’s upcoming international exhibition in Paris.
Though he can’t speak for Mike, Benton is sure his friend will be amiable to his visitor’s request, and as he relaxes into conversation with the rich and important man, the Sergeant attempts to form another original witticism: noting, as Lehrer is from the Black Forest, how nice a gatto they have down there. Benton’s remark only coaxes a scornful look from the dark man who merely turns his attention to an available magazine. Silenced, Benton suddenly decides to spring upon the German Mike’s gallstone gag and get him back one for lack of humour. Herr Lehrer literally leaps up at the chance to see the Captain’s latest acquisition and orders Benton to show him the “vase,” shouting impatiently at Benton in German. Unsure if he’s being complimented or not, Benton leads Mike’s dark visitor to the display case and introduces Lehrer to the “amphibious delphinium which belonged to a tearful Roman -- mint condition, 500 B.C.” Lehrer, harshly reminding Benton that he can date the artefact for himself, offers 500 pounds for Mike’s “vase” on the spot. Benton doubles the price, countering that “the Captain” wouldn’t settle for anything less than 1000 pounds. Surprisingly, Herr Lehrer accepts the high price and provides the exact amount in new notes. The stranger drops any charming pretences and quickly departs with the gallstone, suddenly having no time at all to waste.
Mike and the Brig return shortly after having nearly been thrown off the road by the speedily departing Bentley. Mike asks about the owner of the black car and Benton gleefully hints at having sealed a wonderful deal for his friend, playfully making Mike to guess which hand behind his back holds his surprise. Suspicious, Mike quickly gives up and Benton announces the sale of Mike’s gallstone and offers Mike the rich sum paid by the dark owner of the Bentley. Mike accepts the money with a soft but effective curse and, with a distant look in his eyes, announces that he’s going out for a while, leaving Benton in charge of the house with explicit instructions not to sell anything else while Mike’s away. He then informs Benton and the Brig of dinner at 8:30 and promises to meet them back in the Library at 8:15. After Mike leaves, Benton is most surprised by the fact that Mike never even thanked him, but the Brig doubts Mike was very pleased in the first place. Later that night at dinner, no more is said about the gallstone and Mike, with characteristic generosity, treats his guests to an excellent feast with a sufficient supply of bubbly, which Benton, relieved of driving duty, partakes of freely, to the point of needing an escort to bed that evening.
While both the Brig and Benton recover from their imbibing during the night before until 10 am the next morning, Mike and the stable lads are up to see the dawn. When the two finally come down to breakfast, Mike is already nearly finished, giving some small bits of smoked salmon to his cat, Charles Tyrone Smith. Mike greets his friends warmly and asks how they slept. The Brig qualifies his sleep as “like a log” while Benton mutters the same assessment unintelligibly, suffering from a terrible hangover. As soon as the two settle themselves at the table to attack their boiled eggs, the telephone rings and Mike, answering, hands the receiver over to the Brig, announcing the caller as none other than the Doctor, who doesn’t sound very pleased. Mike assumes the Time Lord has received their fax.
Hesitating a split second whether or not to take the call, the Brig ultimately addresses the Doctor in his most resolute and firm tone befitting the commander of UNIT. The Doctor responds very simply: “You’re an idiot, a first-class idiot!” Surprisingly (or characteristically), the Brig agrees in the hope his companions hadn’t heard the Doctor’s greeting, though with the volume of both the phone and the Doctor’s voice at maximum their conversation is open to all present and the general area. Mike and Benton suppress giggles as the Brigadier reddens under the Doctor’s heated insults. The Time Lord berates the Brig for not being able to recognize an amphora calculosa when he sees one.
Upon hearing the term, the Brig is shocked, as is Mike, who now understands why the Master had attacked him with the snake venom in Morocco. The Master had infected Mike with a deadly bacterium that required the human bile duct to complete its growth cycle: Mike had been the surrogate father to an alien. Benton, still in the dark, receives the essential facts from Mike: the amphora calculosa is the vital component of the Master’s TCE, which has been missing since the Doctor last purloined the weapon. Benton, more of a muscle than brains on his best days, of which this morning is not one, remains unsure what a TCE is, and Mike, with some impatience, further elaborates that a TCE is a tissue compression eliminator, which, without an amphora calculosa, is “as useless as a water pistol without water.”
The Doctor, still furious, chides the Brig for his carelessness, grateful that the Master isn’t around or there then really would be trouble for the Earth. The Time Lord refuses to return from deep space to solve the problem this time, however, and demands that the Brig drop everything and get back to London immediately with the amphora calculosa. After a very long pause on the Brig’s end of the very long distance call, the Doctor impatiently asks what the matter is. The Brig answers with more silence. And even more. Then he finally reveals that Benton has already sold it and waits for the inevitable verbal onslaught from the new, unpredictable Doctor, who reacts predictably in this instance. Bursting with fury and labelling the Brig as a “ham-fisted bumbling idiot” the Doctor orders the Brig back to UNIT HQ with absolute alacrity, lamenting that, as usual, he’ll have to sort out their mess for them. He can only hope the Master hasn’t already heard of the amphora’s existence.
With the conversation terminated the Brig, in a manner best described as fatalistic, rises and quietly announces his decision to return to London and orders Benton to drop everything, which he does, including his jaw and toast with honey. Benton complains mournfully of his headache, to which the Brigadier loudly voices his disapproval and briskly relieves his Sergeant of his chauffer duties, taking command of their transportation back to London. Thanking Mike briskly for his hospitality, the Brig collects Benton and the two quickly race off to UNIT HQ, leaving a 15-foot skid mark in Mike’s drive.
Nothing at all happens until three days later, the phone rings. At the other end of Mike’s line is Benton, stating that Mike, or Captain as Benton refers to him, will never guess what’s happened. The Doctor has received a letter from Adolph H. Lehrer, who has agreed to meet the Time Lord on the day before the object goes up for sale at Sotheby’s. They must meet in the way-in shop at Harrods. Mike, anxious that Benton provide him with all the facts, demands that Benton speak plainly. He is sounding more and more in command and at ease giving orders. Benton explains that the Doctor had received a complimentary Sotheby's catalogue detailing a sale set for the 13th of September, which the Doctor, always the connoisseur of antiquities, was delighted to have. However, out of this catalogue fell a complement slip which Mr. Lehrer had written on. Benton asks if he should read it and Mike curtly asks that he get on with it, as there may be not be time to spare. Benton jokingly scolds Mike for rushing before remembering their former respective ranks, and apologizes. Mike again curtly urges the Sergeant to read.
He reads: “Please refer to Lot 401A -- it might interest you.” Mike checks up this lot in his own copy of the auction, having become interested in the sale just two days hence. However, there’s no Lot 401A in his catalogue. Benton, one step ahead of Mike for once, reveals the lot is listed on a separate insert page and further announces that Lot 401A is in fact Mike’s gallstone. Laughing, Benton figures Lehrer is making as big a fool of himself as the Doctor, but Mike responds to his mirth with the adage, “He who laughs last…” The meaning of Mike’s retort is lost on Benton and Mike explains that this is why Benton is a Sergeant and Mike is a Captain. Benton then adds that the complement slip indicated that should the Doctor want a chance for a private bid on Lot 401A, he should visit Mr. Lehrer in the way-in shop at Harrods, on the morning of September the 12th, on the fifth floor, entering only through the door and coming up only by elevator, not the escalator. If the Doctor can offer 2000 pounds, the stone will be his. Mike, understanding the situation fully completes his quotation: “…laughs longest.” He also announces to Benton that unless they move quickly, it’ll be the beginning of the end of UNIT and probably life as they know it.
To Mike, it is clear that both the Brig and Benton are unaware that Lehrer is in fact the Master. However, he decides to leave them ignorant of this for a while longer; his primary goal in this event is to be reactivated as a member of UNIT and he intends to solve this crisis on his own. Wasting no time, he gathers into a sports bag his essentials, including a small item wrapped in his monogrammed silk evening scarf: his deadly and trusted Army Issue SPPK, which he had conveniently neglected to return upon his discharge.
Mike knows that precise timing -- which happens to be one of his strong points -- will be a key requirement for his plan, and the precise time Mike plans for is 5 pm that very night, when the world will hold its breath. Before that fateful hour Mike visits his solicitor’s office to make final adjustments to his will, mentally citing that discretion is the better part of valour.
He then visits a location just off of St. James’ Street. Although Mike has made certain no one is following him, he knows that had someone been following him they would have found his choice of destination odd: an exclusive theatrical costume shop. For Mike, tonight’s operation will not only be a triumph of detail and finesse, but also a slight indulgence to his thespian streak. Later, Mike leaves the shop carrying a large and exciting looking shiny black box. He hails a cab and directs his route to Knightsbridge, on his way to doom or glory.
At one minute to 5 pm, Harrods is still open and busy with the late evening business. Neither the good or evil players have shown any sign of arrival. 59 seconds later, at the stroke of the hour, a black car pulls up and disgorges three men. The first man wears a long knit scarf surely composed by a gaggle of dotty aunts and seems to carry no money at all. The second man (who offers the upset and quite explicit cabby a 50 pound note) is an obvious military figure in an immaculate grey flannel suit and suede shoes. To placate the cabby completely, this man turns to the third hapless person -- Benton -- who searches frantically through his coat pockets for exact change. Even with arrival of (most of) the heroes, there is still no sign of the Master. Mike himself watches inconspicuously from a distance.
With the cab driver off, the Doctor, the Brigadier and Benton enter through Harrods' front doors (conveniently and punctually opened by a discrete commissioner) and find themselves within the world’s most famous (and, today, most dangerous) department store. The Brig wonders aloud and loudly at the whereabouts of Mike. The Doctor grumbles about Mike’s unreliability while the Brig sputters defensively. While Benton hopes for Mike’s safety, the Brig firmly intends to go along with their mission without the Captain and strides forward to the nearest escalator, before Benton restrains and reminds him of Lehrer’s instruction: to use the lift only. The lift itself (or specifically double lift) lies directly before them. One, an express, travels straight to the way-in shop on the 5th floor, while the other visits lingerie, antiques, kitchen equipment and radio and television before reaching the top floor.
The Brig reaches forward to summon the lift, but it opens before he can and out steps an immaculately turned-out liftman, commanding them with a chilling voice to step in. The man himself has a sallow complexion, black hair and a neatly trimmed beard and moustache, with eyes slimy as plastic. However, at that moment the doors to the express lift open and another liftman, handsome, charming and ready for action emerges: Captain Mike Yates himself. He calmly commands his friends to join his lift, which they do without needing an explanation for his sudden appearance as if, by habit, they trust him completely as the Mike Yates of old.
As the three bundle into the lift and ascend, a group of American tourists wanting soap on the second floor are shocked when the other, darker, liftman fiendishly forces them from his station and makes his own ascent. Meanwhile, Mike’s express lift rises with such speed that its passengers are thrown to the floor, with Benton’s stomach feeling left behind on ground level. Mike quickly explains that their lift will reach the 5th floor first as the Master’s own will have to stop at each floor. Effortlessly stepping back into his role as a UNIT officer, Mike then instructs his friends on where they will position themselves upon their arrival: the Brig will hide behind the rack of shirts and trousers slightly to the right of the doors, Benton will take cover behind the rack of baby doll night dresses, while the Doctor, as arranged, with stand in front of the lift, nonchalantly looking at his watch, or something.
Mike notes that he’s already marked their places with white tape he borrowed from a stage manager he’d visited that morning. They will need to have the Master completely covered when he arrives. The Doctor asks Mike where he will be, but Mike gives no answer, instead warning all that the Master is now armed with a new, fully operational TCE powered by an amphora calculosa. This knowledge produces a collective gasp of horror from Mike’s audience. At that moment the lift arrives with the Brig and Benton exiting first, followed by the Doctor, cool as if on time for an appointment. Mike, the last out of the lift, closes its doors behind them. But the Master is already waiting for them, having somehow got there first. He confronts them, framed by numerous designer labels, covering them all with the deadly TCE.
The Master cites Mike’s cleverness but mocks him for not being clever enough. Although theirs had been the express lift, his was not a lift at all but his TARDIS, which he had set in the regular lift’s place after arraigning for its “necessary” repairs. Bad luck, as the Master assumes humans call it. For only the second time in his life, Mike is crestfallen. He is not afraid to die himself, but he knows that he has failed his friends and let the world fall into the hands of the Master. There are not enough tier vases in the world that would be able to contain the tears of humanity’s suffering after this day. Mike turns to apologize to the Doctor, but the Time Lord assures him it isn’t his fault and praises his exceptional planning, execution and strategic thinking. The Doctor admits he would never have guessed Mike’s plan and arrogantly asks the Master how he managed it. The villain draws a deep triumphant breath and, after politely demanding his UNIT foes to step back into the lift, begins to say his valedictory speech which he has been preparing for a number of years in anticipation of this final elimination.
Suddenly, at the very moment he begins his address, Mike calmly steps forward and announces that there’s one pre-emptive detail that will force the Master to throw his speech into the nearest dustbin: it is not the real amphora calculosa -- the Killing Stone -- within the TCE but a clay copy Mike made earlier thanks to his Life Study arts experience at University. Mike stretches forth his hand towards the TCE and the Master glances down at the device in a moment of uncertainty. Mike seizes upon the opportunity and, leaping forward like a cougar out of the bush, knocks the weapon from the Time Lord’s hand to be lost in the masses of top quality designed material.
The Master himself side-steps however, and Mike finds himself sprawled upon the floor. The Master steps on and over Mike as he makes an escape for his TARDIS, but at that moment a large, matronly woman swipes the Master with her equally large handbag, sending the villain to the floor. The matron flies upon the prone Master and while the Brig orders a bewildered Benton to help, an entire platoon of porters and sales staff join the fray and in no time at all, the Master is trussed up “like a spring chicken.”
The matron rises and, with a sizable grin matched only by Mike’s own, removes her disguise to reveal none other than Corporal Smith. Following suit, the porters and staff undress and, to the Doctor, Brigadier and Benton’s surprise, stand proudly as the entire Number 1 Platoon, A Company, UNIT. The three congratulate Mike for his success and Benton retrieves and deactivates the Master’s TCE, handing the machine over to the Brig. The Doctor asks for the amphora calculosa copy, musing on the possibility of selling it at Sotheby's one day. That done, the Brig orders all to dinner at the Silver Restaurant for a cup of tea. They take the escalator.
Minutes later, the four UNIT friends are drinking together comfortably. The Brig notes his approval of Mike’s clever idea to fool the Master with the fake stone. Mike then reveals that there was no copy -- the Killing Stone had been the real article. At this, the tea cups of Mike’s three guests fall to the table. Benton, shocked and a little admiring, cannot believe that Mike had been only bluffing. The Doctor warmly praises Mike’s bravery and the Brig states how proud he is of the Captain. Mike grins, but the grin fades as a look of shock spreads on his face. The Brigadier had called him Captain! With even more pride in his voice, the Brigadier announces that Mike is re-instated into UNIT.
Mike is speechless and a tear appears in his eye. The Brig then reveals that Mike technically never left, as they never for a moment had doubted his loyalty, but when intelligence had pointed to the Master being on the verge of a new discovery UNIT needed a plainclothes investigator, and with Mike’s unfortunate “setback” from the Metebelis crystal, they had the perfect candidate for the investigation. Although Mike ruefully adds that he was also the perfect bait, he is honoured to have been chosen to serve UNIT and his country.
The Brig (perhaps to avoid sentimentality) quickly continues the explanation, noting that the Master needed to believe Mike was dead to UNIT so as to avoid UNIT faking Mike’s death and any unpleasant plastic surgery to mask his true identity. UNIT had known of the Master’s experimental bacteria housed in the Moroccan Spitting Snake and therefore surmised that if Mike and the Master coincidentally “crossed paths,” then, from the Master’s point of view, he could efficiently kill two birds with one stone. This was also UNIT’s viewpoint, as in setting up the encounter they could not only thwart the Master but also finally prove Mike’s fitness for duty.
Mike wittily notes that if he hadn’t decided on a vacation in Morocco the Brig’s plans would have been hard pressed to succeed. The Brig assures Mike that the required steps would have been taken to ensure success and, in the end, Mike came up trumps for reliability, judgment and courage. Mike agrees, citing the nine-inch scar on his side to prove it. Benton then asks to see the scar but, realizing he’s over-stepped his bounds, congratulates Mike on his return instead. Mike then raises a toast to UNIT’s next adventure and places two cucumber triangles in his mouth at once. In mock admonishment, the Brig asks Mike if that’s way they eat sandwiches at the Vicarage. Mike, his mouth full, can give no answer.