The story begins ten years ago, when Major Dickens supervised the administering of an anaesthetic to a patient in a makeshift operating room. But just as the surgeon, Joe Hartley, was about to make the final preparations, he realised he couldn’t go through with it. The Major reacted angrily, pointing out that as a team they’d all agreed he should be the one to perform the task…
Ten years later, the TARDIS materialises near a lake on a remote Scottish island and Ace exits, munching on a sandwich. She and Hex can’t help noticing that the Doctor seems to be in a very bad mood, but what they don’t realise is he’s in pain. He can sense the taste of death, although the feeling is neither physical nor mental. Ace notices something bubbling under the surface of the nearby lake and moves off for a closer look. Even Hex agrees that the night air is bad and the Doctor wants to hear more about the dream he’d mentioned earlier. The previous night, Hex had the most vivid nightmare featuring a weird group of people in a makeshift operating theatre. They were like a bunch of well-meaning amateurs and one of them, a man named Hartley, was being forced to operate on what appeared to be a toy. Suddenly they hear Ace cry out as she falls into the lake.
At Sibley Hall, Major Dickens switches off a radio announcement about impending power cuts to allow the voice on the end of the phone to hear him. He rebukes the student who claims that weather conditions have prevented him from submitting his thesis at the arranged time. His mood is not improved when the student, Perkins, hangs up on him. The Deacon and the young housemaid Sue are playing Snap with a pack of Tarot Cards when the Major enters and threatens to stop the maid’s pay unless she returns to her duties. They don’t know when the next power cut will occur, so he will not allow her to waste gas by letting the milk boil over. The Deacon tries to defend the young girl, but the Major reminds Sue that when he employed her they agreed on strict guidelines. She’s been here a month now, which is long enough for her to have found her way around. He admits that because of his military training it’s in his nature to be “all shouting and hot air”. Dr Colin O’Neill joins them downstairs and lightens the mood. He mocks Major Dickens’ tone by reporting that the phone lines are down but a squadron of hot water bottles are on standby and he’s now off to bed. Faced with the prospect of an isolated and cold few days, their best ally is sleep. When the Major leaves the room, the Deacon warns Dr O’Neill that the man is not used to people questioning his judgement. However, he’s starting to get on everyone’s nerves and O’Neill likes winding him up. The Deacon reminds him that the four of them go back a long way…
The Doctor and Hex race to Ace’s rescue and help her out of the lake. She tells them she was creeping up on a strange rippling in the water when she thought she saw someone in the blackness - it was the face of a woman drowning, submerged just beneath the surface. Ace jumped in to assist and felt the weeds pulling her down, then suddenly she was free. It was obviously a nasty shock for her, so Hex wants to get her back to the TARDIS - but the Doctor has spotted a solitary house that’s much closer and is hopefully nice and warm.
When Major Dickens returns, the Deacon tells him the Bursar went out with a torch to assess the storm damage as the phones and electricity seem to be down. The Deacon suggests an evening of quiet prayer then an early night and the Major approves, although he still objects to the Bursar going outside in her condition. Joe Hartley points out that she prefers to be independent - after all, a woman in a wheelchair is no more likely to be hit by a falling tree than anyone else. The Major refuses to accept that argument and accuses the Bursar of putting all their lives at risk. He asks the Deacon to assume sentry duty by the window and she reports that the weather is getting worse, like a Biblical storm is brewing up.
Hartley spots three people coming towards the house and the Major demands they be let inside before they die. The Doctor and Hex apologise for the intrusion and explain that Ace is wet to the bone and would benefit from spending an hour here while she warms up. Hartley prescribes a hot bath and a warm bed, but Major Dickens advises that the new arrivals could be common thieves for all they know. He warns them that the house is fully alarmed, with a system of his own design. Hex whispers to the Doctor that Hartley looks suspiciously like the man in his dream. Before they can discuss it further, the Bursar returns and asks what they were doing outside, but the Doctor sidesteps her questions. The Deacon hands rounds drinks to warm everyone up and the group is pleased to discover the two men are medically trained. The Major was trained too, as an anaesthetist in the Army, and he asks what the Doctor’s field is. The answer he gives is macrocosmology, although he admits that he just dabbles mainly.
Hartley shows Ace to a bedroom and points out how lucky she was. Few people know they’re here and the three of them could have ended up roaming for miles. As he runs her a bath, she notices a photograph of a woman and her daughter, and Hartley reacts to it with extreme anger. He takes the picture away, saying not all photographs bring happy memories.
Downstairs, Hex admires the display of hunting trophies. There are birds, fish and even a 7-foot stuffed bear. Nobody knows what it’s stuffed with exactly, probably sugar and spice. The Deacon explains that they’re all from the nearby University, which is currently closed for the winter break, and they’re here to run a few medical experiments. Oddly, she reveals that Hartley is a taxidermist by trade, although he does teach veterinary science. The Bursar and the Deacon are here mainly to “jolly everyone along” and Dr O’Neill, who the Doctor and Hex haven’t met yet, is the team’s newest arrival. The Doctor tells a story about a group of doctors who eagerly experimented on the life of an ancient dying bear. First, they played music but the bear did not dance. Then, they tied the leg of the bear to a post and the bear danced merrily. From this, the doctors concluded that bears like to be snared. And then, he says, they set upon its eyes… The Deacon becomes upset so they all agree it’s time to retire for the night. Hex is shown to his room, but the Doctor remains behind to help the Bursar into her stair-lift, which fortunately is powered independently. She apologises for the Deacon’s behaviour and explains that she’s had a tough few years, including time as a military chaplain on the Falklands, which is where she first met Major Dickens. They both left the Army together after a bit of an ‘incident’, but the Bursar doesn’t know any of the details.
Ace is interrupted during her bath by a knock on the door, but when she answers it, no one is there. She can hear a female voice crying, and as she’s about to investigate she bumps into Hex, who then retires to his room. Ace joins the Doctor downstairs and asks Hartley about the woman crying. He thinks it was hat’s probably Sue, who’s working there for the holidays. She just turned up one day and Major Dickens saw fit to take her on. Ace remembers her mum crying for days when her grandmother Kathleen died. Ace was only three but the memory has burned itself into her mind. Hartley says they should make allowances for his colleagues as some of them are not well, and the Doctor states that one of them, Major Dickens, has cancer of the soul. The Major returns and the Doctor says they were just about to turn in for the night. The Major directly challenges the Doctor to a battle of the minds, and the Doctor responds by saying how nice it was for his opponent to come unarmed. The Doctor recommends that Ace stays in her room until dawn as things may get very nasty. She’s embarrassed about her behaviour by the lake and says she’s been bottling things up, but the Doctor already knew how she was feeling. As they leave, someone emerges from the shadows and plays back a tape recording they’ve just made of the Doctor’s voice.
As the clock strikes five o’clock, Hartley goes downstairs when he hears someone calling for him. It’s too dark to see anything, but he lights a candle and realises the person he was expecting to see is in the cellar, rather than the hall where he would normally expect to find them. He’s lured further in by the Doctor’s voice, unaware that it’s a tape recording. He begs the other person not to hurt him and insists that what happened wasn’t his fault - in fact, he argued in their defence! Suddenly he screams and he is pushed down the flight of stairs. As his lifeless body hits the floor, the door closes behind him and a casual whistle of the tune “Oranges and Lemons” can be heard moving away…
The next morning, Dr O’Neill greets Hex at the breakfast table and introduces Sue, who has just turned 16, and Sue’s toy rabbit Happy - through which speaks to him like a ventriloquist, but n a creepy voice that scares him. He starts to tell a story about a rabbit and a dog, but changes his mind when he realises it isn’t suitable for a young audience. The toy rabbit angrily insists he continues, but Hex makes his excuses and leaves. Hex asks O’Neill whether Sue is mental, and the doctor is surprised by his unprofessional attitude. He apologises, explaining that he hasn’t been sleeping very well recently. Just then, Major Dickens summons everyone together in the main room and announces that Hartley is dead. It seems he had a heart attack in the middle of the night.
Later, O’Neill tells Ace he’s beginning to regret responding to the advert that invited people to join the academics over Christmas for some uninterrupted study. She asks whether his wife objected, but he says that isn’t an issue for him. He says Major Dickens has taken care of Hartley’s body by sticking it in a chest freezer until the local mortuary staff can collect it. The Bursar is devastated. The group has been together for 13 years and Hartley was a fine and gifted craftsman.
The clock strikes three o’clock in the morning and the mysterious whistling of “Oranges and Lemons” can be heard again in the corridors. Hex wakes up Ace and tells her he heard someone in a hood using the stair-lift, but he couldn’t tell who it was. He wants her to join him downstairs, but she refuses and goes back to bed. Hex lights a candle and goes to the kitchen, When he opens the chest freezer, he is terrified to find the dead body of Hartley, which he’d forgotten was there. As he looks closer, he sees that the eyes have been poked out! He tries to leave, but finds the kitchen door is stuck. He hears the Doctor’s voice, but realises straight away that it’s just a tape recording. With mounting horror, he realises that the mysterious hooded figure is in the room with him. It starts to whistle as it slowly advances towards him…
The door suddenly comes unstuck and Hex races out. Two hours later, everyone is grouped together again and Major Dickens explains that Hex has made a serious allegation about Hartley’s body being disfigured. Unfortunately the corpse has now disappeared and he points out in fact there’s no evidence to show that Hex didn’t do the monstrous act himself . More importantly, they cannot rule out murder now as the reason for Harley’s death. The Doctor suggests that Hartley’s body is still somewhere in the house and perhaps one of those present in the room took it either as a macabre joke, or for fear of being caught. The Bursar asks how hard it would be to remove the eyes from a semi-frozen body, but the Major argues that anybody could probably do it with a sharp penknife in five minutes. As the Deacon is already searching the upper floor and Sue is scouring the garden, the Doctor suggests that the Major and O’Neill explore the attic and the roof, while he and Hex search the rest of the ground floor. The others should stay in the study as a base of operations. He whispers to Ace that he wants her to stay with the Bursar and as soon as they’re alone, Ace asks why the group seems to revolve so much around the Major, particularly as they all seem to hate him. The Bursar denies this and simply says they all go back a long way. They hear a noise coming from the attic and wonder if something’s been found. Despite the Doctor‘s instructions, Ace decides to join the group upstairs and leaves the Bursar alone.
Outside, the wind is subsiding. The Doctor and Hex find the external door leading to the back of the kitchen and next to it is a convenient hatchway going down into the cellar, which was presumably the escape route used by whoever stole Hartley’s body. The Doctor asks Hex about his nightmares. He says it wasn’t like a dream, it was as though he was really there, watching people bickering over an operation. They were standing over a doll, the size of a child, and when they pulled the mask away, the doll had no eyes. That was why he freaked out last night when he saw Hartley’s body. The Doctor thinks his night thoughts were more of a mental distress call. Hex remembers that whoever was wearing the hood had a tape recording of the Doctor’s voice. They meet Sue tells them Ace is missing.
On the main landing, there’s a set of pull-down steps leading up into the attic. As Ace explores, she hears the Bursar groan downstairs. She calls out, but there’s no reply. She’s about to go back when she notices a smell, like a morgue or a chemistry lab, and then she finds Bunsen burners and animal parts. Suddenly, the attic door slams shut and the light goes out. She hears someone breathing heavily and is grabbed. There is a struggle, but then Ace feels the prick from a hypodermic needle and she collapses. Downstairs, Hex tries to wake up the Bursar and discovers she’s not just asleep, she’s comatose. The Doctor finds a syringe on the floor. The Doctor and Hex join the Deacon and the three of them climb up into the attic where they find Ace unconscious on the floor, next to another syringe. The Doctor tries to talk to Ace and they’re relieved when she’s able to indicate that she can hear them. He and Hex carry Ace back to her room.
The Major and O’Neill have found Hartley’s semi-frozen body in the cellar and they drag it back to the freezer. The eyes have indeed been gouged out, just as Hex described. The Major decides it’s time for him to take control and O’Neill announces that tomorrow he plans to set out for civilisation and inform the police. Major Dickens assures O’Neill that he’s already sent for them by using a transmitter in the outhouse and they can expect the police to arrive by boat by sunrise.
The Deacon continues to explore the attic alone and finds a locked fridge. She picks up a nearby hacksaw and forces the fridge open. She looks inside and then screams in pure terror! She hears someone coming up the steps and as the door slams shut, she hears the tape recording of the Doctor’s voice. She knows who the new arrival is and asks them to accept her word that she knew nothing about the lengths the others had gone to until just now. She agrees that she deserves to be punished, but she begs for forgiveness…
Despite her protests, the Doctor demands Ace get some rest until the drugs, whatever they were, wear off. The Bursar has also been taken back to her room as she took an even larger dose. The Doctor asks Sue to keep Ace company and she speaks to Ace in the chilling voice of her toy rabbit Happy. She claims the rabbit is just a friend and Ace admits she had an imaginary friend once too. Sue doesn’t like Hex because he wouldn’t tell the rest of the story about the rabbit, so Ace agrees to tell her own story - an aunt was once asked to keep an eye on her neighbour’s house while they were away. One day, her dog brought in the dead body of their neighbours’ rabbit, so she washed it clean of mud and put it back in the hutch. When the neighbours come back they visited the aunt in tears and told her the rabbit had died before they left and they’d buried it in the garden. To this day, they still believe the rabbit had been buried prematurely and had clawed its way out of its grave and returned to its hutch to die. Sue has heard this story before, so Ace asks about Sue’s family. Again using the creepy voice of Happy, she reveals that her mother is dead, her father has gone and her sister had drowned. She was adopted by foster parents who gave her the name Susan McVee, but she escaped and came to work at Sibley Hall. She then becomes hysterical, claiming ‘they’ killed her baby. She’s determined to find out which one of them did it, and she will hunt them and gouge the truth out of them like they did to her baby’s eyes. She flees the room in floods of tears.
The others are examining the body of the Deacon, which has been badly scarred by sulphuric acid which she appears to have swallowed. Hex had seen this happen once before, on night shift, and he hoped he’d never see it again. The Doctor reads out a suicide note in which the Deacon clears anyone else of blame and she confesses to a terrible error of judgement made ten years ago. Her final wish is that she is not to be mourned - no funeral, no flowers, no fuss. The Major vouches for the handwriting and says that, despite her wish, he for one will mourn her. O’Neill asks if anyone has told the Bursar. Hex agrees to do this when she wakes up as it’s sometimes easier to hear this sort of news from a stranger. The Major is grateful, but asks for them to wait until the police arrive.
They hear Sue run past in tears, so the Doctor visits Ace to find out what happened and to tell her about the Deacon’s suicide. Ace admits to being scared by Sue’s toy rabbit and says it seems sad, like it has a secret. The Doctor wonders if it holds the key to this mystery and he decides to speak to both the girl and her rabbit. At that moment, Sue returns to apologise to Ace and to get her rabbit back. When the Doctor leaves, Sue tells Ace that the secret of her family is contained within a tape cassette. It’s the most valuable thing she possesses, more valuable even than Happy.
The Doctor looks in on the recovering Bursar and admires her collection of state-of-the-art, high-brow science books, especially one written by J J Bartholomew. He’s confused because earlier the Deacon had given him the impression she was just there to “jolly” the group along. At first it appears that they’re just like-minded scientists grouped together to run a few experiments, but he believes they’re holding something back from him. He asks the Bursar to tell him who she really is.
The Major is recounting some of his army experiences in India, but when the conversation comes round to Hex, the group realise they never got a satisfactory explanation as to his presence here on the island. Hex is momentarily surprised - he didn’t even know they were on an island! The Major will no longer accept his story of being lost travellers and thinks it’s time for bit less hospitality and a bit more straight-talking. Until the police arrive, he’s decided to take a more interventionist approach. Ace hears some locks clicking into place as Major Dickens activates his security system. They’re now completely shut in and even the bedroom window leading to the fire escape has automatically locked. Sue has experience of breaking out of hostels, so it takes no time at all to release the window and they both climb out and head for a disused Chapel about half a mile away.
O’Neill criticises Dickens for locking everyone in, but the Major is interested only in admiring his own handiwork. The monitor shows a circuit break in Ace’s bedroom and they realise the two girls have escaped. Hex is delighted. Ace and Sue both seem resourceful and he’s confident they’ll be able to get help - but the Major reveals there are a dozen or so bear-traps in the area, designed to snare animals for Hartley’s taxidermy, and they would have been automatically set at the same time as the locks. He agrees to open the front door and recommends Hex finds the girls before it’s too late.
Ace and Sue race through the forest and manage to reach the sanctuary of the Chapel. They hear Hex calling for them and Ace runs out to meet him, but soon gets lost in the dark. When Hex arrives at the Chapel, he finds only Sue lighting a fire. He tells her about the bear-traps and they call out to Ace. Hearing their voices, she runs towards them and suddenly screams out as one of the bear-traps snaps shut!
The Doctor finds Ace lying motionless on the ground of the forest. She feels numb and may have blanked out after being yanked off her feet. She starts to panic, but he has good news and bad news. The good news is that the bear-trap snapped on her dressing-gown cord and she’s only numb because she’s been lying in the freezing rain. The bad news is that her right leg is lying neatly in the middle of another bear-trap and the slightest move could cause it to snap shut. Even if they can stop the bleeding in time, she’ll probably be crippled for life.
Hex has returned to Sibley Hall and is demanding Major Dickens un-sets the traps before anyone can get hurt. He claims that he didn’t know the bear-traps had genuinely been activated and that he only told them that to scare Hex and bring him down a peg or two. Despite his theatrics, he says he would never deliberately hurt anyone and, in fact, the traps can only be set manually - which then leaves the question, who went outside to activate them because everyone seems to be accounted for. Dickens asks Hex if he knows the history of Gravonax Island and he explains that of the hundred islands of the Outer Hebrides, this one holds a macabre exclusivity. Guide books devote entire chapters to it, but wrongly describe it as uninhabitable. During the war, the army relocated the dozen or so inhabitants and used the area for toxic experiments, smothering the place with Gravonax Gas. Everything on the island withered and died - trees, fish, wild animals, the lot. In fact, the animals suffered a long and lingering death and the first symptom of the gas is when the victim’s eyes literally pop out. Years later, the island was decontaminated but no one wanted to return and this is why their group chose the location for their work.
Sue joins the Doctor and Ace in the wood, and he sends her back to the Chapel to collect some slate in order to smash the bear-trap. Sue spots up a heavy stone lying nearby and she and the Doctor struggle to pull it out of the mud. Later, the three of them return to the ruined Chapel where Hex has just joined O’Neill, who has come to find them. The Doctor asks Sue if she would mind Dr O’Neill listening to the tape recording that she was given by her foster parents when she was fourteen. The voice on the tape is that of a woman called Maude and this is her diary. She recounts that her daughter Eadie, aged 17, is dead. They told her she was dying, but she wasn’t…and now she’s dead because she wasn’t dying. The only place Maude wants to be now is in the lake, drowning, where she can find peace at last. When Maude said goodbye for the last time to her daughter’s body, she sang her favourite song, “Oranges and Lemons”. Sue believes the voice is that of her late mother. She didn’t know her father and has been passed around foster homes all her life. The Doctor wants to take Ace back to the house but in the meantime he asks Hex, O’Neill and Sue to have a scout around the Chapel. Sue reveals that Hartley’s taxidermy studio is attached to the back of the Chapel where he liked to work in solitude. The Doctor decides it’s time everyone was forced to show their hand - starting with the Bursar.
The Doctor speaks to the Bursar and she confesses that he was correct in his assumption - she is indeed the celebrated scientific theorist J J Bartholomew, whose books he’d spotted earlier in her room. The Major insists that her reasons for not revealing her true identity were altruistic because if word spread that she was here, their studies would be interfered with. Instead, they let the scientific world believe she was dead. The Doctor reveals that centuries in the future, J J Bartholomew’s experiments in the transmission of subatomic particles will be seen as a workable theory on time travel. The Bursar leads everyone to the laboratory and shows them the Bartholomew Transactor, which can take a sub-atomic particle and transmit it back to an earlier point in time where it can be captured by an identical piece of equipment. The only limitation is that you need a Transactor to receive the particle as well as to send it. The Major declares that their first test transmission was conducted earlier this week and it only failed because half way through the experiment there was a power cut. Ace asks for a demonstration and when the Major switches on an amplifier they hear Ace’s voice shouting out the words Marmaduke and Beech. Then Ace is asked to speak into the device and state the name of her first childhood pet and the first road on which she lived - Marmaduke and Beech. These words are now embedded into a particle and the Major fires it back in time. The Doctor congratulates the group, but he suspects they’re still hiding more secrets.
O’Neill shows Hex and Sue into Hartley’s taxidermy studio. Hex wonders how much stuffing he would have needed to complete the 7-foot tall bear in Sibley Hall. Sue used to come here and watch him work on a wide range of animals including eagles, wolves, deer and rabbits. The end result is like the Madame Tussauds of the animal kingdom. They notice a fox with a fully intact tongue and internal organs, and a deer head that still has it’s original eyes, leading them to wonder what kind of chemical preservatives Hartley used. There isn’t the slightest sign of decay and it’s more like a modern form of mummification.
The Bursar decides to tell the whole story. Ten years ago, four noted academics assembled in this room to demonstrate to one another their scientific findings. The event was interrupted by the arrival of a stranger, Maude, and her two daughters, who were seeking shelter from a storm. One of the girls, Eadie, became blind and one of the academics (the Bursar refuses to name which one) diagnosed the girl as having Gravonax poisoning. Gravonax was the deadliest of all the gases tested on the island during the war; it has no cure and the first sign of infection is blindness. To avoid slow and painful suffocation, Eadie’s death was “hurried along” on compassionate grounds and then the group agreed that in order to avoid scandal, they would bury the body in secret. Dickens is surprised to hear from the Doctor that a tape exists of Maude’s voice and the Bursar admits that sadly, the mother was later found drowned in the lake. In fact, her body remains there to this very day. They have no idea who she was as she carried no identification, only a few items monogrammed with the letters M O. They threw her things into the sea, and a few months later they were washed up. An inquest was held and an open verdict was returned. The other daughter’s name was Ruth and the group has always assumed that she perished in the lake along with her mother, although the body was never recovered.
Hex tells Sue how brave she was listening to the tape of her mother and she tells them the group in the house are unaware the recording exists. When Hex asks about Sue’s father, she resorts to speaking in the creepy voice of Happy, the rabbit. She explains that no one knows where he is, and it’s assumed he went abroad or is dead. Hex tells her that he doesn’t know who his father is either and he was brought up by his gran, who he thought was his mother until the age of six. O’Neill returns and finds them hugging each other. He was curious about the stone Sue and the Doctor used to smash the bear-trap and when he places it on the table they see from the lettering that it was actually the headstone from a grave bearing the initials E O. If this was the grave of her sister Eadie, they now know that her original surname began with the letter O. O’Neill steps forward and declares that he is her father. He didn’t realise until he heard the tape recording and recognised his wife’s voice. Until now, he thought all three of them were dead, and the reason he came to the island was to find out what happened to them all those years ago. Sue’s real name is Ruth O’Neill.
Ace asks the group back at Sibley Hall why they didn’t tell the authorities what happened. Surely, everyone would accept that what they did to Eadie was a mercy killing? The Bursar finally confesses that they later discovered the girl did not have Gravonax poisoning at all. She only had a simple eye infection, but it was misdiagnosed. When Eadie’s mother found out the truth, she killed herself. The reason the group remained on the island to conduct their experiments was so they can undo their mistake. Through uninterrupted study, their aim has been to use the Bartholomew Transactor to send a message back in time ten years, instructing their earlier selves to abandon their attempt at euthanasia. There was a prototype machine in the operating room at the time, so it can act as the receiver. The Doctor assures them it will never work, but Dickens insists he’s wrong. In fact, they very nearly succeeded on the night the Doctor’s party arrived and this time there will be no interruptions to the power supply. The Bursar admits that for ten years she’s been held prisoner there against her will. The group’s desire to change the outcome of the operation on Eadie has become an obsession for some of them and on the one occasion she tried to escape, she was punished. She shows them her legs - she was the victim of the Major’s bear-traps and is now permanently disabled. Dickens assures her that once the experiment is successful, none of this will ever have happened. History will be re-invented and they’ll all be leading happier lives. Despite her promise ten years ago, she now refuses categorically to continue with the experiment. The Major has no option but to force her. The Doctor and Ace will be locked in the cellar with bear-traps attached to their limbs. Any sign of disobedience from the Bursar and he will activate them. When she still refuses, the Doctor assures Dickens there is no need for any threats. He’s read the Bursar’s thesis and is confident he can operate the machine himself.
In the operating room, the Doctor activates the Bartholomew Transactor and he sends back through time a message from Dickens telling the group to cease the operation on Eadie. Once it’s done, Dickens points out that they’re all still here and nothing has changed. The Doctor accuses him of being an arrogant fool. Of course nothing’s changed. The process of firing particles back through time has only a temporary and minimal effect on the current day, hence the popularity of the Bartholomew Transactor in later centuries as a plaything. The results of the process are tame and the users only experience a ghostly and short-lived taste of what might have been, like a double exposure on a photograph. It’s not powerful enough to have any lasting effect on history. The most that’s likely to happen as a result of this particular experiment is that Eadie’s bones will twitch a little in her grave as the forces of time try to puzzle out whether she‘s alive or dead. As there will be no muscles or tissues remaining in her body after ten years, she’ll be unable to come back to life. Dickens wonders whether the body would come back to life if it had been embalmed, and the Doctor concedes that if the body had been perfectly preserved then yes, it might be revived temporarily. It’s not something he would recommend trying.
The Doctor suddenly realises he’s been a little slow. He hadn’t understood why Hartley was crucial to the Major’s plans. The taxidermist had been held prisoner here too, after preserving Eadie’s body just before it was buried. So, if the message was successfully sent back through time, it’s possible Eadie’s body may indeed be coming back to life, albeit temporarily, in her coffin. The Bursar, Ace and Hex are now surplus to the Major’s requirements and he’s keen to go and play with the bear-traps.
In the forest, O’Neill and Sue/Ruth have bonded well and are pleased to have been reunited after all these years. They find the grave of her sister and place the headstone back where it belongs. They begin digging the grave up as Sue wants to be sure that it’s definitely her sister who is buried there. They find the coffin intact and for a moment they think they can hear breathing…or maybe it’s just the wind? They grab the lid and start working it loose from the rest of the box. Eventually, they open the coffin up - and Sue screams!!!
Sue and O’Neill recover from the shock of finding the coffin empty and they wonder why anybody would want to bury it without a body. He promises that as soon as they find out what happened to Maude and Eadie, they will leave the island together.
Hex descends into the cellar and finds Ace and the Bursar tied up in the dark. The older woman is unconscious, either from the after-effects of the drugs she was given, or through fright after they heard something in the shadows topple over a short while ago. The lights aren’t working, so Hex slowly goes to find out what it was. At first he thinks it’s a fur coat until he realises it’s the stuffed bear from the hall. They wonder what it’s doing down in the cellar. Hex releases Ace, but they decide to leave the Bursar where she is as she should be safe.
The Doctor works out that the Major’s plan from the very beginning was to have Hartley embalm Eadie’s dead body in the hope of bringing it back to life in the future. Dickens insists his motives are honourable as the group felt duty bound to undo the wrong of their earlier mistake. In secret from the others, Dickens made sure the coffin was empty when it was buried because he wanted Eadie's body to be nearby when she revived. He also reveals that it was he that made the original misdiagnosis and he who ordered the lethal anaesthetic to be administered. He also persuaded the Deacon and Hartley to hold the Bursar here against her will. The Doctor accuses him of lying - he couldn’t possibly have misdiagnosed the effects of Gravonax gas on the girl as it’s one of the most identifiable set of symptoms known to man. Angrily, the Major dismisses the two girls and their mother as urchins that no one would miss. It was specifically so they could perform this experiment in the future that he insisted the Bartholomew Transactor was present in the operating room at the time. The Doctor realises he’s been tricked into performing what he thought was a harmless time experiment to send a message back through time. If the message is heeded, there will be briefly be two separate time lines in existence. One with Eadie alive, the other with her dead. He demands the Major tell him where Eadie’s body is, but he says only Hartley knew where it was hidden. At this very moment, a living corpse may be stalking the island. The Major has been waiting ten years for this night - he will be the first person in history to kill a living thing and then bring it back to life! It will be his name, and not Bartholomew’s, that will live in legend. He’ll get his commission back, be reinstated in the military and present them with the opportunity to bring any number of people back to life. In that case, the Doctor has no option but to travel back in time ten years and undo the harm the message has done. As Dickens threatens to stop him, Hex sneaks in behind them and knocks the Major unconscious.
The Doctor and Ace return to the cellar where the Bursar has started to wake up. He explains that the Major is being held by Hex and he must go back to the TARDIS to undo their misguided experiment. He asks Ace to stay with the disabled woman while he bolts them both in for their own safety. If there is a zombie version of Eadie loose on the island, they certainly don’t want to meet it.
The Major congratulates Hex on tying very good knots. He admits openly that he murdered Eadie, but he needed a death in order to complete the experiment. He certainly won’t apologise for such an insignificant sacrifice. However, he denies any knowledge or involvement in the deaths of Hartley of the Deacon. When Hex asks about the damage to Hartley’s eyes, the Major remembers how protective the taxidermist was about them because he collected them. In fact, none of his stuffed animals ever had replacement eyes. He recalls that when they’d finished killing Eadie, Huntley removed her eyes and it was when her mother caught them doing this that she killed herself. The Major recognises that Hex and Ace have both been trained by the Doctor to be loyal soldiers and he argues that they’re very similar to him in many ways. Hex is disgusted by hearing such a rational explanation from a psychopath. However, there are still many unanswered questions. Who pushed Hartley down the stairs and killed him? Who injected both the Bursar and Ace with anaesthetic? Who gave the Deacon such a fright that she committed suicide? Someone here is intent on killing them all, and he wonders who they’ll go for next…
The Bursar seems terrified when Ace tells her about the stuffed bear in the cellar. She insists they leave straight away, but Ace tells her they’re locked in from the outside. They look into the shadows and see the bear is now standing upright again. She explains that Hartley was always very protective of the bear and wouldn’t let anyone else touch it, and she always wondered why. It’s now clear that Eadie’s body is encased within the bear skin! The Bursar calls out her apologies to Eadie, and when Ace thinks she sees the bear moving, the elderly lady starts to have a heart attack. They hear the bear breathing and Ace calls for help.
As she’s dying, the Bursar recalls how ten years earlier, she assisted in the ‘operation’ on Eadie. Major Dickens administered the anaesthetic, but just as Hartley was about to make the final preparations, he realised he couldn’t go through with it. The Major reacted angrily, pointing out that as a team they’d all agreed he should be the one to perform the task. The Bartholomew machine suddenly activated and to everyone’s surprise they realised they were receiving a message from the future. The message was from Dickens himself, telling them they were needlessly killing the girl as she didn’t have Gravonax poisoning. The Bursar wanted to halt the operation, but Dickens didn’t trust the message, even though it was his own voice. Just then, a stranger arrived and introduced himself as the Doctor. The group explained that they no longer planned to kill Eadie as they’d been warned that their earlier diagnosis was incorrect. However, the Doctor had not come here to stop the operation, but to urge them to continue. He claimed the message they’d received from the machine was a trick played on them by Major Dickens and they were all going to die or be seriously injured as a result. He accused the Major of conducting a vulgar experiment with time and that history had already been written. They were horrified by his suggestion that they should kill the girl anyway, now that they knew she wasn’t ill. As they tried to revive Eadie, the Doctor persuaded Hartley to reveal where he’d been planning to hide her embalmed body. As the arguing continued, Eadie started to regain consciousness and the Doctor had no option but to switch over the oxygen supply to pump out carbon dioxide instead. The Doctor showed the Deacon her own suicide note from ten years in the future and asked whether he’d made himself clear…
As Ace tries to break open the cellar door, the Bursar tries to persuade Eadie that Ace should not be punished. There is a loud crash as the Doctor and Hex smash the door open, but by the time they reach the Bursar she is already dead, crushed by the fallen bear. The Doctor thinks it’s time they said goodbye. As they walk back through the forest, Hex asks why Dickens sent a message back in time asking the group to do the exact opposite of what he actually wanted them to do. The Doctor theorises that Dickens was an evil and callous individual who deliberately wanted to create a time paradox so that Eadie’s ghost would return to life. He wanted to be the first person in history to wake the dead and he relished in the mayhem and unhappiness he created. They finds Sue and O’Neill burning the remains of the stuffed bear after they discovered there were no human remains inside after all. They claim that Hartley put mechanics inside some of his animals, so maybe it was just some clockwork mechanism that had sprung to life. However, the Doctor notices a ripple on the bear’s back which indicates someone had tried to cut their way out. Hex believes the mysterious hooded figure was Sue all along and it was she that injected Ace with the syringe, but the young girl denies any involvement.
They say goodbye and the recently reunited father and daughter leave the island in a boat, heading for the police. Sue realises she’s left her toy rabbit behind, be she decides she doesn’t need him anymore. Hex still believes Sue was responsible for the strange goings-on, but the Doctor points out that the first experiment with the Bartholomew machine was on the night they arrived. Because there was a power cut half way through, everyone believed the experiment was unsuccessful, but perhaps it wasn’t. Ace and Hex suggest that if Eadie’s body did return to life that night, perhaps it ripped its way out of the bear skin and staggered semi-consciously to the lake where her mother drowned. After scaring Ace, she may have climbed back into the bear skin, emerging again only when she though the house was empty. This would mean Eadie killed Hartley and the Bursar and made the Deacon kill herself. To Hex it seems a bit wrong that Major Dickens was the only one to survive, but at least the police will be here soon.
The only thing that puzzles the Doctor is why Eadie’s corpse stayed alive so long as he expected the effect of the Bartholomew experiment to last just a minute or so…unless Eadie had found a way to operate the equipment herself and had set it to repeat the message, enabling her to stay alive as long as she wished. But what about the Doctor going back in time to counteract the message and persuading the group to kill Eadie as they originally intended? He reveals that he didn’t go through with it in the end as he couldn’t bring himself to kill a living being. That means that if the experiment on the night they arrived succeeded in bringing Eadie back to life, and if it somehow managed to climb out of the bear skin, and if the time patterns have not yet settled down sufficiently to return things back to normal, then a zombie version of her may still be on the loose somewhere in Sibley Hall. They’re nearly at the TARDIS and the Doctor shows them an important envelope he intends to post. It contains the Bursar’s unpublished thesis on time travel and he’s sending it to the Editor of ’The New Scientist’. He says it’s brilliant, one of the best such papers he’s ever read and now that J J Bartholomew is dead, he has a duty to see that it reaches the widest possible audience. Otherwise, it will change the whole course of time, and that is something he will never allow.
Back at Sibley Hall, the clock chimes five o’clock. Major Dickens is still tied to the operating table in the attic awaiting the arrival of the police. He hears a noise and calls out to them angrily, insisting that there’s been a terrible misunderstanding. Suddenly a shape enters the room and approaches him. Terrified, Dickens asks what’s happened to it’s eyes - and the chilling voice of Sue’s toy rabbit Happy speaks back to him! It draws a pair of shears and moves towards him slowly. He tries to reason with it, but the shape comes closer and calmly gouges out his eyes. As it leaves, it starts whistling the tune of “Oranges and Lemons” …
|Source: Lee Rogers