Hex is seeking solitude in the peaceful surroundings of a snowy mountain range when he’s joined by a concerned Ace. She’s brought him some tea and he invites her to sit down. Although they’re inside the TARDIS, she insists the mountains are real and she actually climbed the middle one once. She offers to show him, but all he wants is to be by himself. She understands and admits she often used to hide here herself when she had arguments with the Doctor back in her teens. Their last adventure was a tough one for Hex and she tells him they can’t undo what they’ve done. He’s not ready to talk about it yet, but he can’t get what happened out of his head…
The adventure began when the Doctor told Hex he wanted him to develop his observational skills. The TARDIS has landed and Hex’s task is to establish where they are. He notes that they appear to be in a small town, with buildings that might possibly be medieval, - but Ace advises him to try using his other senses. In the background, they can hear a sound like thunder, and Hex notices there aren’t any people around. Before the Doctor can stop him, he calls out and a man emerges from a house who was looking after his pregnant wife. The Doctor adopts an authoritative tone and tells the man, Kieran Fitzgerald, that his companions are students. Believing them to be monks, Kieran explains that they have a common enemy and although he understands they are forbidden to fight, he’s sure they will join the townsfolk in spirit during their struggle against the monster. They notice the sound in the distance has stopped…
Hex wonders whether the Doctor took them there on purpose and Ace admits that he did once take her to a haunted house to face her greatest fear. Hex can’t believe it was a coincidence that they landed right in the thick of things. Ace believes the TARDIS latches onto hotspots in history, events so big they affect the vortex. They’re like moths to a flame, and sometimes that means they can expect to get burnt. Ace regrets not having listened to the Doctor and Hex earlier as they both knew what was going to happen. She admits it was her fault, but he assures her it wouldn’t have made any difference…
At first, Hex is delighted to discover they’ve landed in the middle of a battle. The Doctor realises the fog around them is actually limestone dust from where the town’s walls have been bombarded. From afar they watch as soldiers begin to charge against the townsfolk, and the Doctor suddenly tries to rush his friends back to the TARDIS. He tells them they’ve arrived in the Irish town of Drogheda during the siege of 1649 where the fortified town, protected by 3,100 troops of English Royalists and Irish Confederates, came under assault from a 18,000 strong army led by Oliver Cromwell. Hex realises they’re about to witness a massacre - one of the worst atrocities in Irish history.
A highly emotional Oliver Cromwell bellows out to one of his staff, Dr Jonathan Goddard, and warns him to expect brisk trade today. Goddard assures him the surgery is ready, and for a moment Cromwell softens his tone and asks his doctor to look after the men. His tone then returns to normal and he confidently declares that their assault on the town can’t possibly fail.
The Doctor insists the history lesson is over and it’s time for them to leave, but Hex and Ace both refuse. Neither of them want to run away and leave these people, and their ethical debate with the Doctor becomes heated. Kieran insists that his people did not start this war, but he’s heard what English soldiers do to the women they conquer and he‘s worried for his wife Mary, who couldn’t be evacuated in time because of her condition. The Doctor assures him that as long as she remains out of sight, she should be fine, but Kieran suspects she may actually want to join in the fighting! The Doctor agrees to stay with her to make sure she’s safe, but he demands his companions agree to stay out of the fight. Under no circumstances must they even pick up a weapon. He makes Ace responsible for Hex’s safety, then he leaves to find Mary. Hex is baffled by the Doctor’s attitude and wonders why he won’t help these people. Ace asks Kieran for a gun, but insists she will only use it to defend herself. Suddenly the townsfolk start to cheer as the enemy army retreats, which confuses Hex even more as he knows this isn’t what happened…
Inside the makeshift hospital, Dr Goddard tells Cromwell they’ve lost seventeen soldiers so far, including Captain Castle who was shot in the face while leading his men into the fray. Cromwell is inconsolable, blaming himself for not having enough faith in his men. He rallies the troops and orders them into action again - and this time he’s going with them and they will show no mercy to anyone who tries to stop them.
Ace leads Hex right into the thick of the action, keen to see history right as it happens. Hex knows this is a really bad idea, but Kieran recognises the spirit of a determined woman and tells him there’s no point in arguing. He sees the enemy troops advancing once again and orders the townsfolk to man the barricades. Ace rallies Hex to join her and Kieran in helping keep the invaders out of the town.
The Doctor knocks on the door of a nearby house and the woman inside warns him she has a gun. He introduces himself to Mary and tells her he was sent by her husband. They hear the fighting resume and he becomes frustrated that it’s always left to the peacemakers and diplomats to clear up the mess in situations like this. As the Doctor gains her confidence, Mary opens up to him and reveals she has a secret. She, her husband and his twin brother James all grew up in Drogheda and they’ve known each other since they were children. The two brothers were very close, finishing each other’s sentences and laughing at the same things. Then James became envious when she started dating Kieran, so he left town. This broke his mother’s heart and she’s never forgiven Mary for splitting up the family.
Despite his officers’ attempts to keep him back from the front line, Cromwell appears in the midst of the fighting, demanding more guns be brought into the area. Swearing vengeance in the name of Captain Castle, Cromwell orders his troops forward… Ace, Hex and Kieran are struggling to keep up with the battle and eventually they decide to withdraw and they try to make it back across the river. Suddenly a grenade explodes right next to them and Hex becomes lost in all the confusion. Before long, Ace and Kieran are surrounded by Cromwell’s troops and although she fires her gun to warn them off, they aren’t going to be intimidated so easily. Elsewhere on the battlefield, Hex has also been challenged by a soldier named Turner, and even though he refuses to fight, the soldier steps forward to kill him. Before he can carry out his threat, Turner is ordered away by Cromwell who was impressed by the way Hex stood up to him.
Mary tells the Doctor that she and Kieran were married as soon as they discovered she was pregnant. The baby was conceived on the same terrible night that they heard the King had been murdered. The priests said the Devil had come to take over the Earth and both she and Kieran just wanted to reach out to each other for comfort. They were only together that one night, but now the people in the town are saying the baby is cursed and is responsible for bringing the current conflict upon them. The real reason she wasn’t evacuated with the other women is that she’s considered to be bad luck. Just then, there is a knock on the door - Cromwell’s troops have finally reached the town…
Kieran and Ace battle valiantly against the soldiers in a ferocious sword fight, but fortunately she’s been taught by the best - a friend of a friend was Cleopatra’s personal bodyguard. Trooper Jenkins reports to Cromwell that only isolated pockets of resistance remain, including some men believed to be hiding in a church. Cromwell demands they burn the building down and that no mercy should be shown to anyone who resists. Hex objects to such drastic action, but when the General learns of his name, he is accused of being a witch. Cromwell summons his officers and orders Hex to be burned at the stake!
The Doctor tells Mary they have to surrender as the soldiers have been ordered to kill anyone who resists. He tells her she must think of her baby, and reluctantly she puts away her gun. The Doctor lets the soldier in and assures him they won’t give him any trouble as Mary is pregnant. The soldier’s response is to knock the Doctor unconscious and drag Mary out…
Hex was shocked to see the church on fire, especially as Cromwell was supposed to be a man of God. So many people dead, thousands of bodies everywhere he looked, with their guts all over the street. It wasn’t a monster that did this, it was just people doing it to other people. Ace and Hex are finally starting to feel the cold of the snow, so they decide to head for the TARDIS kitchen to make some fresh tea and toast. Ace tells Hex that the Doctor has met lots of famous people from history, but if you ask him what they were like, he just becomes evasive and mysterious. She assures Hex that he’ll be fine, but it takes time to recover from something like this. He tells her that Cromwell promised that the women and children wouldn’t get hurt, but Ace thinks the soldiers must have been too busy to remember that…
Cromwell and the soldiers burst into laughter. He knows there are no such things as witches and he was having a joke at Hex’s expense. He orders his troops to secure the town and search every building. Elsewhere, the soldiers promise Kieran and Ace that if they throw down their weapons they won’t be harmed. Realising they have no choice, they agree - and the unarmed Kieran is immediately executed. Ace is horrified and, as she finally realises what they’re up against, she wonders what fate has befallen Hex.
Mary throws a potty at the soldier and covers him in excrement. As he strikes her in revenge, the Doctor revives and reminds him of Cromwell’s instructions not to hurt country people. Only the other week he hanged two of his own men just for stealing some chickens. Mary throws a chair at the soldier, but the Doctor urges her to be careful. Cromwell has a reputation for discipline and is very strict about how civilians are treated, but only if they don’t fight back. They wait for the battle to die down a bit, then they go looking for Kieran and the others. On the street, Mary is shocked to discover that the soldiers have killed everyone. The Doctor is forced to tell her to slow down, especially as the soldiers are still jumpy. He’s sure that Kieran and his friends will be safe, so long as they did what he told them.
Cromwell surveys the battlefield, issuing orders for buildings to be torn down and the bridges to be guarded. Hex follows close behind and meets Dr Goddard, who admits that he held back from presenting his report to the General until the fighting was over. He’s intrigued by Hex’s description of the town as resembling an abattoir and recognises that the young man has a medical background. He tells him that Cromwell reacts strangely to pressure and was observed behaving like a naughty schoolchild when he signed the King’s death warrant. Cromwell calls for the two medics to join him as he wants them to watch him execute some prisoners. As the men plead for mercy, Hex warns Cromwell that he’s butchered thousands of people already and Ireland will curse his name for centuries. His words seem to get through to the General and he allows the grateful prisoners to leave for the nearby town of Dundalk. Hex wonders why his actions seem so random - why let some of them live, but not others? Cromwell passes a note to a soldier named Chidley Coote and tells him to take a couple of regiments and follow the prisoners. He is to give the note to the Chief Officer at Dundalk. With any luck, he hopes they might even abandon the town completely if they believe the stories of the men he let live. He then gives orders for the troops to prepare to move off by first light.
As the Doctor and Mary search the bodies looking for Kieran and she’s devastated when they eventually come across his corpse. The Doctor realises he must have fought back, trying to protect Ace and Hex. To his horror, he then finds the body of Ace. Fortunately she is only unconscious and when she comes round she admits that she couldn’t just stand back while the soldiers were killing everyone. Ace is convinced that they’ll have killed Hex too, but the Doctor still wants to find his body.
Chidley Coote reads out the note from Cromwell to the Chief Officer at Dundalk. Cromwell claims to have offered the people of Drogheda the chance to surrender and only moved in by force when they refused. He advises the people of this town to surrender their garrison to the Parliament of England to prevent the same thing happening again. Coote awaits their response and the people surrender immediately.
In the hospital, Dr Goddard and Hex pack up the limited medical supplies. Goddard tells him that Cromwell has the full support of his men, despite their poor pay. He knows the name of every man that serves under him and they will do anything he asks of them. Cromwell enters and opens a bottle, happy to share it with those who deserve it, including Hex if he’s not feeling too self righteous to join them.
As the Doctor and Ace search the town for Hex, Ace notices that they don’t seem very welcome here as the other women are talking about them, just out of hearing. The Doctor tells her that the town thinks her unborn baby is cursed. Just then, Mary joins them with news that Hex has been seen alive at Cromwell‘s side. That explains why everyone is whispering about them, but they wonder what’s so special about Hex that Cromwell could have taken him under his wing. The Doctor asks Mary if she’s planning to stay with Kieran’s brother James, but she says he lives in Wexford - and the Doctor suddenly realises this is where Cromwell will be heading next and it will be another bloody massacre. Ace suggests dropping Mary off there and picking up Hex at the same time.
Cromwell and Hex have talked throughout the night, slowly getting drunk while Goddard sleeps. Cromwell is explaining about the terrible stories they heard back in England in 1641 about the Protestants coming under attack without warning. Thousands of women and children were cut down without mercy, leading Hex to conclude that the current situation is his revenge. Cromwell disagrees and says he doesn’t enjoy sending his troops into battle. Hex believes they’ve acted like butchers, but Cromwell denies this - his army is unlike any other in history, they’re well disciplined and even pay for their own board and lodgings. He believes what they’ve done here will ultimately save lives. Hex becomes angry and argues that wholesale slaughter cannot be justified on moral grounds. Cromwell admits that no one really expects him to take Ireland. Parliament simply wanted him out of the country as he’d got too big for his boots. He tells Hex he was brave to shout at him, and Hex is worried that he may have gone too far. But Cromwell seems genuine in his admiration of a man with convictions and says he’s finding it increasingly hard to find people who will stand up to him. He admits he has a terrible temper, but thinks Hex might be good for him. Until his friends come looking for him, he wants Hex to help him become a better man.
Mary explains that she can’t go to Wexford as her baby will be due before she gets there, but the Doctor knows a good shortcut. They talk about possible names for the baby and Ace admits that she was named after “The Wizard of Oz”. Mary is thinking of something loyal to the King, such as Charles. They arrive at the TARDIS and Mary is shocked at first by the inside of the ship, but then she feels at peace as though she is in a church.
Hex has spent weeks in the company of Cromwell, trying to make the best of things. He advises Cromwell not to gloat about his military success and allow the townsfolk to retain some pride, but the General believes it’s humility they should learn to show. Hex thinks surrendering is a good enough demonstration, but even though Cromwell thinks they’re taking too long about it, he agrees to relent. A man enters the tent and Hex believes it is Kieran, but in fact it’s his brother James. He’s already given up any hope about Kieran, but Hex can’t be sure about his fate, which reminds him that he doesn’t know whether Ace is alive either. Cromwell insists that if the people of Dundalk accept his very reasonable terms and agree to show Parliament some obedience, and they will avoid the fate that befell Drogheda. James assures him that they will have that obedience, but in return they would like guarantees on some small points. He proposes ten resolutions, but Cromwell mocks his naivety and screws up the paper in disgust. Hex intervenes and tells James that they would like time to consider the proposals before responding.
The Doctor, Ace and Mary are drenched as they walk for miles through the rain towards Wexford, but as they come to the brow of a hill they see a massive army is already on the outskirts of the town. It should have taken the soldiers weeks to reach here, and the Doctor admits they may have lost some time during their journey in the TARDIS. They realise they can’t take Mary any closer, so Ace goes ahead to find James and bring him to her, while the Doctor and Mary find shelter.
Dr Goddard and Cromwell admire Hex’s diplomatic skills, but reveal that although the soldiers are no longer fighting, they have a serious problem with dysentery. Hex recommends they improve the sanitation and give the troops more fluids, but Goddard says they really need to be in the town itself rather than camped out in the bog.
James reports back to Colonel Sinnot and tells him they’re running out of time. However, the Colonel argues that even though Cromwell has agreed to most of their demands, they can still stall him a bit longer to give their reinforcements time to get there. News arrives that Mary has arrived from Drogheda to see James, but the woman who enters the tent is Ace. She explains that his brother Kieran is dead, but Mary is safe with them. Sinnot asks whether it’s true that Cromwell really did kill all the women and children as they’ve been told and she urges him not to surrender, no matter what Cromwell promises them. But Sinnot is still not convinced and he believes Cromwell to be a man of honour. In the distance, they hear the roar of gunfire.
Hex races back to Cromwell and demands to know why he’s gone back on his word not to take any action against the people of Wexford. Cromwell insists they’re not attacking the town, just giving a demonstration of their might in order to encourage them to speed their negotiations up. He’s already waited a whole week while Sinnot claimed to be getting the “proper authority” to reach a decision, but the General is now convinced that he’s been deliberately stalling for time. Hex is worried that any pre-emptive action will only increase the resolve of the town not to surrender and his criticism of Cromwell’s conduct becomes too much. He is outraged that Hex dare to instruct him on siege warfare and worse, had the nerve to use the Lord’s name in vain right in front of him. He strikes Hex and ponders whether the young man is a witch after all. He believes he’s been under the boy’s spell for days. He calls for his men and announces it is time to show the town who’s really in charge. He accuses Hex of blasphemy and the soldiers move in to punish him…
Colonel Sinnot responds to the approaching attack by ordering his men to attend to the barricades, but he’s still finding it hard to accept that Cromwell went back on his word after days of genial correspondence. The evidence becomes irrefutable as the bombardment brings the walls crashing down around them. It’s clear that the negotiations are now over and Ace is concerned that she and James will no longer be able to reach the Doctor and Mary. Sinnot warns her that if she tries to slip away now, the army will cut her down. She must accept that she is now trapped inside the town.
The army make preparations to move in on Wexford and instructions are given for the area to be searched, but care must still be taken with any women and children they may encounter. Hiding in a nearby building, the Doctor tries to reassure a concerned Mary that Ace will be back with James very soon. In the meantime, he thinks they should be safe where they are, providing they’re not discovered by the advancing soldiers. Unfortunately, it’s at this very moment that Mary reveals that she’s going into labour. The baby is on its way and the Doctor is going to have to be a midwife after all!
Back in the TARDIS, Ace is starting to recognise a pattern in things, a glimpse of something larger at work behind everything. She asks Hex whether he’s ever had the Doctor’s “you can’t change history speech”. She thinks it isn’t true, but Hex theorises that you can only change small things, things that don’t make too much difference. They’ve run out of milk for the tea and he suggests going to get some lemons from the tree in the library. Ace notices that Hex is still in pain, but he’s reluctant to talk about what happened to him. They reach the library and soon find an orchard next to where the Doctor keeps the Ladybird books. They discuss whether things could have turned out differently and Hex is surprised when Ace says she thinks Cromwell was probably asking himself the same question…
Ace urges Colonel Sinnot to evacuate the women and children before it’s too late and he agrees to have them taken to the harbour where they can escape by boat. James wants Ace to go back to Mary, but before she leaves she tells him he should be safe if he doesn’t pick up a weapon.
The soldiers try to wake up the unconscious Hex so they can continue with his punishment, but he won’t come round so they decide to leave him where he is. Suddenly Hex jumps up and tries to make a break for it, but they manage to grab him. He threatens to put a spell on them, perhaps turning them into a gerbil, but unfortunately they don’t know what a gerbil is, so they decide to call his bluff. Before he can do anything, they hear a woman crying out in pain. In the confusion, Hex manages to escape. Not far away, the Doctor is doing his best to help Mary through her labour. The soldiers arrive to find out who’s making all the noise, and the Doctor he demands they go to get some straw from the nearby stables.
Hex flees through the town and eventually finds himself at a house and begs to be let in. Inside, he finds James and is introduced to Colonel Sinnot, who knows how much Hex is trusted and asks for his advice. Based on his experiences of Cromwell, Hex tells them they have no choice but to surrender. Cromwell thinks he has divine right on his side and will kill every single one of them on principle. Sinnot is about to issue orders to his field officers when there is a massive explosion.
Cromwell tells Dr Goddard that the people of Wexford still haven’t surrendered yet, but he doesn’t think it will be much longer now. At least it’s giving their men something to do rather than sit around being idle. The General tries to rally one of the soldiers in the hospital tent, but Goddard points out that he will almost certainly be dead by nightfall. They also hear Mary crying out and Goddard is sent to investigate while Cromwell goes to see about setting up a raiding party to speed up the attack on the town.
Ace reaches the harbour, but refuses to join a group boarding a boat. They warn her that she’ll run straight into Cromwell’s cut-throats, but this is what she has planned all along. Before long Ace is stopped by a soldier and although her declaration of support for Cromwell has little effect on him, her claim that she’s just a harmless little girl eventually convinces the sexist soldier that she can do no harm and he lets her go.
Goddard tracks down the noise to a nearby house where he finds some of Cromwell’s soldiers watching as the Doctor helps Mary. He demands that Goddard assist him, a task not made easier by an increase in nearby bombardments. The Doctor rebukes Goddard for his request that Mary be covered up in blankets for the sake of decency. As they look after Mary, they discuss Cromwell’s great respect for science and the fact that he’s always keen to look out for medical advances that will improve things for the future. In pain, Mary calls out abusive comments about Cromwell, and both the Doctor and Goddard have to reassure the watching soldiers that this is normal for someone in these circumstances and that it’s cathartic for the patient.
Cromwell rages that although he has all the agreed resolutions ready to sign, no one from Wexford has come forward yet. A soldier named Roberts tells him that some of the men saw Hex fleeing into town and they launched an attack without receiving orders from the General. By the harbour, Hex has joined the others as they prepare to escape, but he’s concerned the boats are being overloaded and will sink. James seems to have disappeared, so Hex decides to go and find him. Meanwhile, James is confronted by one of the enemy soldiers and, following Ace’s instructions, announces that he will not fight. The soldier doesn’t care and moves in to kill his opponent - but Hex arrives just in time and together they fight the soldier off.
Ace has found the Doctor, Mary and Goddard, but unfortunately she was unable to get James to come back with her. The Doctor sends her back to the TARDIS to pick up some medical supplies from the infirmary, telling her she’ll have to run as it’s parked miles away. While they’re waiting, the Doctor and Goddard discuss Roman history in an attempt to distract Mary during her contractions. Eventually Ace returns with a set of forceps and Goddard is impressed with the modern equipment now at his disposal. Ace is no use to the Doctor any more, so he sends her to try to find Hex.
James and Hex flee from the army, unsure whether their best hope is to return to the harbour or try to reach higher ground. Hex already knows what’s going to happen from his history lessons - things will be even worse here in Wexford than they were in Drogheda. In the panic to escape the invaders, the boats carrying the refugees capsize not far from the harbour, and although many of them might still survive, some soldiers arrive and start shooting at the people in the water.
Cromwell issues orders for Goddard to be found and brought back to help the injured soldiers. Ace arrives and the General is surprised to be approached by a young woman, until she explains she is looking for Hex. He remembers the boy talking about his friends and he offers Ace a drink and a chance to shelter from the rain. She pretends her name is a shortened version of Elizabeth and Cromwell is pleased to be able to talk to someone with such a traditional English name. He tells her that the commander of Wexford Castle has finally surrendered and he has already given the order for the fighting to stop. He genuinely believes the massacre at Drogheda can be justified. Now that word has spread about what happened there, no other town will resist their advances and much bloodshed can be prevented, saving thousands of lives on both sides. She challenges his belief and is surprised when he momentarily weakens and starts to cry.
Ace assures Hex that she doesn’t forgive Cromwell for his actions, but when she saw him weeping she couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the great terrible man buckling under the strain. Hex observed that he was able to turn on a knife-edge and there was nothing surprising about him. Ace agrees that the people were fighting for a just cause and Hex himself proved to be a good leader. She’s proud of him, but he’s not so sure. He believes what happened to Wexford was a direct result of his decision to fight!
The soldiers move through Wexford, declaring that the siege is officially over, but Hex tries to warn everybody not to listen. He knows the entire town will be massacred. James decides it’s time they died like men and he urges the remaining people to pick up arms and resume the fighting.
Mary gives birth to a beautiful healthy boy and earns herself a round of applause from the watching soldiers. Goddard decides it is time he returned to Cromwell as his services will undoubtedly be needed there. The Doctor thanks him for helping and returns to the mother and child. At least he can be confident in the knowledge that both his young friends are away from the area and should be safe.
Cromwell opens up to Ace and tells her he’s always tried to let his conscience lead him, but he’s had to do some terrible things. As she comforts him, a soldier arrives and announces that the townsfolk have started fighting again and that Hex is leading them! Cromwell becomes enraged at this treasonous act and despite Ace’s protests, he’s now convinced that it’s Hex who was responsible for drawing out the negotiations. He was an idiot for listening to him, but all that is about to chance. He issues new orders for the men - everyone is to be killed! The order spreads quickly…there is to be no mercy, by order of the Lord General.
Ace thinks Hex is starting to look better and they conclude it must be the effect of being inside the TARDIS. Hex wonders why the Doctor ever leaves, but Ace argues that would be like staying in and watching the world on the television instead of experiencing it for yourself. Hex tells Ace that he’s thinking of leaving the TARDIS and he asks whether she would be willing to come with him. She ignores his question and concentrates instead on patching up his injuries.
Hex and James lead the townsfolk in a fight for their lives. Cromwell tells Ace that they’ve brought this upon themselves. He can’t show weakness now and he intends to make sure people remember this lesson. She agrees that they’ll remember alright - but for the wrong reasons. Whenever Cromwell’s name is mentioned in history lessons, they will talk about his warts, about him banning Christmas, about his body being dug up after his death so that he could hanged again. Cromwell remembers that Hex also talked about his reputation in the future, but the last time he listened to Hex, he was betrayed. He points out that it’s lucky for Ace that he’s a rational man, because if he believed in witches like his soldiers do, he’d have to have her executed!
The Doctor has built a makeshift crib for Mary’s baby. He offers to take them and James somewhere safe once this is all over, but she knows her husband’s brother well enough to know that he won’t be able to stop himself from joining the fight. During the battle, word reaches the soldiers that Cromwell wants the ‘witch-boy’ taken alive and eventually James is killed and Hex is dragged away protesting. Later, Cromwell persuades Ace to take him to where the Doctor and Mary are hiding. He then orders the Doctor to provide medical assistant to his soldiers, and even though he knows that if he helps them recover, they will only go on to hurt more people, he reluctantly agrees.
In the hospital, the Doctor finds Goddard is recommending amputation for a soldier who has bullets lodged in his leg. Instead, the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to remove the bullets and gives orders for the wound to be cauterised. They turn their attention from patient to patient. Goddard is amazed at some of the techniques he is witnessing, including a new method of stitching that will result in less scarring. Cromwell is still furious about the Doctor’s attitude and Mary accuses him of being the devil incarnate. Things are starting to turn nasty when Chidley Coote arrives with news that Hex has been captured. Ace races to tell the Doctor that the boy is about to be executed.
Hex is unrepentant and boasts to the soldiers that because of his and James’s actions, the women and children were able to get away. Cromwell mocks him with the news that, in fact, hundreds of the survivors later drowned when the overcrowded boats sank. Cromwell insists that none of this was his fault and the people brought it upon themselves. Hex accuses the General of being a tyrant who butchers anyone who doesn’t agree with him. Ace drags the Doctor away from Mary and they confront Cromwell just as his soldiers are about to hang Hex. When Hex sees his two friends in the crowd he is delighted, having thought they were both dead by now. Ace begs Cromwell to stop the execution, but he warns her he will shoot her himself is she tries to intervene. Dr Goddard arrives and urges the Doctor to return to the makeshift hospital as he can’t cope with the volume of injuries on his own. Cromwell refuses to listen to any of the Doctor’s arguments, but Mary arrives with her baby and once again accuses him of being the devil. The General shoots her on the spot, but immediately regrets his actions and asks Goddard to save her life. The Doctor assists and they discover the bullet has gone straight through her lung.
While Hex is taken up the steps to the gallows, Ace makes one last attempt to make Cromwell see sense, but the General argues that he’s only a soldier and has to make the best of his gift. Ace points out that he now has an opportunity to actually stop someone dying for a change. At that moment it stops raining and Goddard calls Cromwell over with the incredible news that against all the odds, Mary has been saved. Finally appreciating the miracle of life, Cromwell orders Hex to be cut down and released.
Ace and Hex have been thinking long and hard about his suggestion that they leave together. Ace decides to set the controls of the TARDIS for South Croydon in 1990 as a hint to the Doctor. Hex is disappointed when she refers to him as being like her little brother as he’s still keen to pursue a relationship with her. He realises that he’s feeling guilty for surviving the battle, whereas the townsfolk he was leading all died.
Much later, all is calm. Cromwell notes that the Doctor was at Drogheda as well as Wexford, and wonders why he didn’t leave long before the soldiers arrived. Cromwell argues again that from today, towns will surrender without the need for bloodshed and this will be a direct result of what happened here today, and the Doctor realises he is looking for him to condone his actions. He refuses to do so. The General may well have saved thousands of lives in the future, but the Doctor can only see the heaps of bodies around them from both sides. Surely no one could be proud of this? Cromwell agrees to think about his words and hopes they can speak again later. The Doctor explains to Goddard that he wasn’t answering Cromwell’s questions, but getting him to ask the right questions of himself. Goddard is keen to find out how he could possibly have saved Mary’s life, but the Doctor will only say that it’s better if he finds out the answers himself. He suggests he start a club of like-minded people.
Ace gives Hex the all-clear and says his injuries probably look worse than they are. He’s still in shock about how many people died and the fact that he killed people himself, but she reminds him of the people that survived, including Mary and her baby. Hex thought he was going to make a difference, but he’s still not convinced that things were any better as a result of their interference. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS and tells them Mary is going to be fine and her son already has a long queue of godfathers; Dr Goddard is going to set up the Royal Society; and Cromwell is going to try to be a better man in the future. The Doctor asks Hex whether he still wants to continue travelling with them. Hex believes he’s learnt his lesson - from now on, he and Ace are going to do exactly what the Doctor tells them…and the Doctor almost believes him.
|Source: Lee Rogers