The story begins in 1917 with an attack on a church in No Man’s Land in northern France. A small army of soldiers charge towards the building chanting the word “die” over and over again. The air is filled with the sound of screaming and gun shots…
Some time later, Hex wakes up in distress. He’s not sure where he is, but is reassured by the presence of Ace who tells him they‘re safe. He ears are still ringing from a noise and he vaguely remembers a light, but not much else. Ace says they were caught in a blast, although she’s not sure if it was a shell or a mine. The Doctor is with them, but he’s unconscious and although he appears to be breathing, she can’t find a pulse. Hex wants to examine him, but Ace assures him the Doctor does this sort of thing from time to time as a kind of emergency shutdown system. Their main priority now should be to find out where they are. Hex can recall mud, barbed wire and a terrible stench, but now he can smell antiseptic in the air - so they’re obviously in a hospital. The door to their room is locked and Ace deduces that their ‘captors’ aren’t sure what side they’re on. The Doctor revives and tells them he’s been listening in for quite a while but he’s still not entirely conscious and can’t open his eyes. They appear to be in an old farmhouse, but it’s obviously seen better days. Ace can hear music…
In another room, Lieutenant-Colonel Brook is listening to a gramophone recording when there’s a knock at the door. It’s Sergeant Wood, delivering new orders from their base. He also tells his commanding officer that their ’guests’ appear to have woken up as their voices have been heard. Brook plans to see them shortly, but when he reads the orders he’s been given, he’s taken aback. He asks whether they were delivered by the usual lad, but Wood isn’t sure and says he’ll find out. Brook now wants to see their visitors straight away and orders the Sergeant to double the patrols within the building. If his new orders are to be believed, there’s going to be trouble soon.
The Doctor realises they’ve landed in the middle of the First World War and the music on the gramophone record finally confirms his suspicions. Ace studied poetry from this period at school, including Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, so she knows this isn’t the most pleasant of environments. Hex wants to go back to the TARDIS, but then there’s a knock at the door. The Doctor is curious that whoever locked them in is being so polite and he invites them in. Lt-Col Brook enters and immediately apologises for their harsh and undignified treatment. The Doctor introduces the group and Brook explains that when they were found close to the enemy line, they were all suffering from concussion. The Doctor has now regained control of all six of his senses and gets up, saying they’ve wasted enough of the Colonel’s time and they ought to be leaving. But Brook hands him the note containing their orders and assures him he would never have left them in these conditions if he’d known the situation earlier. He knows this is the Doctor because they heard Hex calling out for him in his semi-conscious state. Brook invites them to his office on the first floor and tells them they’re at Charnage Hospital, about five miles from the front, not far from the town of Arras.
Captain Dudgeon is grateful to Sergeant Wood for showing him around the hospital, although he finds the set-up here rather ‘odd’. He notes that the facilities are much better than he’d expected and Wood explains that the War is swinging in their favour at last and resources are coming through all the time. There are usually about 20 injured men here, with a handful of assigned soldiers and six nurses to look after them, but there’s no doctor as Lt-Col Brook oversees all the treatment himself. When Dudgeon questions whether he’s qualified to do that, Wood simply remarks that he’s never seen him do anything that wasn’t for the good of the men. Wood begins the tour by showing Dudgeon something he calls the morning ‘Hate’ - and they enter a large room where the patients are being “reminded” of the enemy to help them stay focused. As the men listen to phonographic recordings of Field Marshal Hindenburg from Brook’s own personal collection, they start to chant the word “die” over and over again and begin attacking dummy German soldiers with blank ammunition. Wood explains that it’s a way of releasing the men’s anger. Dudgeon sees one of the men shouting “kill them all” and recognises him as Private Taylor, but the Sergeant tells him it’s time they left them to get on with their treatment.
Brook shows the Doctor, Ace and Hex into his office overlooking the grounds and he hands the Doctor the note containing his orders. He admits that he’s still waiting to establish their veracity, but communications have been a problem recently. The Doctor reads the note and announces that Lt-Col Brook has been told to expect the arrival of a senior official and his two companions. It also states that the Army advisor prefers to be known as the Doctor and every possibly assistance is to be given to him. Ace is surprised to discover they were expected for a change but when Hex whispers his admiration to the Doctor, he assures his friend it’s no trick on his part. The note also says that the three of them are to investigate a murder that is due to take place sometime over the next 24 hours! It would appear that they’ve been sent to look into a crime that hasn’t been committed yet…
Captain Dudgeon seeks out Private Taylor and the younger man is pleased to see him again after so long. Dudgeon explains that he’s only just arrived at the hospital after suffering a shrapnel wound to the hip. He’s surprised to see him hammering away on an old typewriter and Taylor tells his friend he’s writing to his girlfriend Lilly to try to keep her spirits up while he’s away. They discuss how strict the rules are about written communication, but Taylor likes to remember that there’s still a world out there beyond the war. The last time he was back home it was like nothing had changed and the front seemed so far away. He admits that he was secretly hoping his wound would be serious enough to get him sent back, and Dudgeon sympathises with him. Taylor explains that he was taking part in a small night raid a few days ago but although his sporting days may be over, his injury is not severe enough to stop him being sent back to the front line. But Lt-Col Brook had told him there was more to being a fighting man than just his physical health, so he’s being kept on for a while to undergo further treatment. Dudgeon mentions seeing him at the morning ’Hate’ and notes that he seemed somewhat preoccupied during the session.
Realising that time is of the essence, the Doctor decides to begin his investigations. Ace and Hex are surprised that he seems to be taking the message seriously, but Brook insists that his superiors genuinely believe a murder is imminent. The Doctor’s plan is to get to know everyone in the hospital, including every member of staff and every patient because they’re all either a potential victim or a potential killer. Brook is happy to show them around but as they leave, the Doctor asks him whether he finds it difficult not being on the front and he admits to feeling a certain frustration. Left behind, Ace and Hex decide it’s time to do some snooping around…
At 11.00 o’clock sharp every morning, the soldiers gather together at the drill ground to begin their training, then they do the same again in the afternoon. The Doctor observes that the patients in the hospital all seem very healthy and Brook points out that it’s imperative that they’re all fit for service in body and mind. He does, however, single out one patient - Private Taylor - who is not fit enough for this level of exertion and is therefore required only to take part in the morning session. Taylor is introduced to the Doctor who learns that the soldier has a badly injured foot, yet he insists that he’s fighting fit and is looking forward to going back into battle. Brook is suitably impressed, but the Doctor is not so sure…
Hex still wants to go back to the TARDIS but Ace can’t understand why as they’ve been in tight spots like this before. He tells her that at his school, they concentrated on the facts of the First World War rather than the poetry and he knows that eight million people were killed over a four-year period. Ace argues that this has already happened, regardless of whether he’s here to see it, but Hex explains that his problem is with the Doctor ending up in the pocket of the British Army. Ace assures him the Doctor was simply interested in protecting Earth’s history and she says it’s bad enough that they’ve ended up in this period without knowing that someone was not only expecting them, but is actively encouraging them to tamper with future events. Hex wonders what will happen if they successfully stop the murder from happening, but Ace doesn’t know. She’s sure they’re here for a reason and she’s not going to sit around while someone gets murdered in cold blood. She warns Hex of the dangers of letting something slip accidentally - imagine the soldiers here fighting their way through the “war to end all wars” only to discover there’ll be another one in 20 years time.
Dudgeon finds Taylor watching the other men training and invites him for a cigarette. Their conversation comes around to the subject of Sergeant Wood, and Taylor suggests that he’s a professional soldier who looks down his nose at people who enlisted. Dudgeon also sensed some hostility from him and has heard that he can be an absolute pig if you get on the wrong side of him. Taylor doesn’t like the way Wood and his soldiers keep themselves to themselves, as though they’re planning something. It reminds Dudgeon of his Sergeant-Major at army school who used to say the only good German was a dead one, and instructed his soldiers not to waste too much of the bayonet on them - three inches will do. Taylor and his friend Billy also had bayonet practice with the same officer and says he made quite an impression on them. Dudgeon asks how Billy is and Taylor says he’s fine, but he misses being around him as luck seems to follow him around. It was Billy who dragged him from the battlefield when he was injured.
Hex notes there are soldiers younger than him fighting for their lives in the trenches and thousands of them will never get home. Ace suddenly hears a noise behind them and realises someone’s been listening to their conversation. She catches a glimpse of Sergeant’s stripes, but he gets away before she sees who it is. Hex is sure their arrival won’t have gone unnoticed so perhaps the murderer already knows they’re on to him? They wonder how far the murderer would go to stop them sticking their noses in - in fact, how can they be sure that the murder victim won’t be one of them anyway? Hex rushes off to warn the Doctor.
The men are enjoying a momentary period of calm playing cards when Sergeant Wood arrives and accuses Lance-Corporal Burridge of relaxing while their men are spilling their guts fighting the Hun. His attitude is starting to become aggressive when the Doctor cheerily strolls in and asks if he can join the game. He allows them to believe he is a civilian medic who’s been instructed by Brook to observe procedures within the hospital, but Wood regards him with contempt and suggests his time would be better spent patching up some of the injured men. Hex rushes in and the Doctor tries to introduce him to the men, but Wood ignores him and encourages the others to turn in for the night. Before they leave, the Doctor asks what happened to cause them men to end up in hospital and Burridge explains they were all involved in an assault on an enemy position, but found themselves outnumbered. Wood assures him they will all be back on the front line as soon as they receive new orders. The Doctor asks more questions about the assault and Wood becomes suspicious, asking what that has to do with the way the hospital is run. He suggests the Doctor seek his answers from Brook instead and he leaves. When they’re alone, Hex warns the Doctor to be careful. If there is a time anomaly here, there’s nothing to stop either of them or Ace from being the victim! It’s obvious Wood is extremely volatile, so the Doctor shouldn’t go around winding him up.
Ace bumps into Captain Dudgeon and warns him about the dangers of smoking. He realises she isn’t a nurse and she explains that ’base’ has sent her here as part of an investigation, but she can’t say what into. He’d heard rumours that she and her friends were found wandering around in No Man’s Land and she admits that they did get a bit lost. Ace can’t believe how quiet it is out here, but Dudgeon tells her that even on the way to the battlefield you can pass fields of poppies and corn, with farmers working the land. Sometimes he can’t work out which is the real world and which is the false one. He’s been here three years now and he thinks this is long enough. He explains that he volunteered to fight even though he’s not a natural soldier, but Sergeant Wood and his people have no time for him. Ace wonders whether Wood is brave at all - perhaps he’s just too thick to do anything else. Dudgeon thinks she’s trying to trap him into speaking out of turn, so he decides to go back inside.
Sergeant Wood reports to Lt-Colonel Brook’s office and says he’s been able to observe their new arrivals. He thinks Ace is strong and knows her own mind. He says he wouldn’t like to cross her, and Brook can think of no better recommendation than that. However, Hex is trouble. Wood heard him virtually admit to being a coward and he can’t understand why someone like that is working for the Army. He adds that he also has similar concerns about Captain Dudgeon who is clearly a bad influence on soldiers like Taylor. Brook declares that their priority will therefore be Dudgeon and Hex, and if they can turn up the heat on Taylor as well, so much the better.
Back inside the hospital, Dudgeon meets Lance-Corporal Burridge for the first time and tries to introduce himself, but the man won’t shake his hand, claiming that he’s too greasy from working. Dudgeon offers to assist in whatever he‘s doing, but the offer is turned down. He then asks directions to the kitchen, but again Burridge makes an excuse not to answer and he quickly departs.
Sergeant Wood spots someone walking around outside the building and orders them to halt. It’s Hex, who claims he just needed some fresh air. Wood demands to know where the young man was going at this time of night and accuses him of heading for the gate. He believes he may be a deserter, but Hex points out that he’s a civilian and in any case he was unconscious when he first arrived so he doesn’t even know the way back. Wood wants to know where he wanted to get back to, but Hex refuses to engage in a discussion so the Sergeant decides to take him back inside to answer directly to the commanding officer. Then he has a better idea, something that would better suit a patriot. He attacks Hex and knocks him to the ground, then tells him he’s going to the Hate Room for a personal session of his own. And he needn’t worry about being disturbed as the morning Hate session won’t be for at least another six hours…
Brook has arranged for a chat with Private Taylor and says he has some bad news. Unfortunately he’s just received word that Taylor’s friend, William Collingswood, has appeared on a list of fatalities. He offers his sympathy as he knows how close the two men were. He’s made some enquiries and discovered that he died in a cowardly attack by German soldiers, adding that they’re well known for waging war without honour or decency. That’s why Brook’s soldiers must show them no mercy - each German death will bring them a step closer to finishing their business here. Taylor says he’s been expecting bad news after having nightmares over the last few days.
Wood drags Hex into the Hate Room and straps him to a chair, threatening to kill him if he resists. He tells Hex that the morning Hate binds the men together and gives them a common enemy, but occasionally they need something extra to use on individual people. He switches on a recording of people screaming and says this is what English women and children will sound like if they ever live under the rule of the Hun. When Hex resists, Wood tells him there are electrodes in the arm of the chair. Every time he flicks a switch, he’ll get a massive electric shock. He gives a demonstration and Hex screams out in agony. Wood begins a lecture about their ‘true enemies’ and says it’s about time he worked out what side he’s on. When Hex replies that he’s not on anyone’s side, Wood declares him a coward, even worse than the enemy. He puts a tongue depressor inside Hex’s mouth to stop him screaming and then says it’s time he had a little sense knocked into him. He starts the electrocution process again and Hex cries out in absolute pain.
The Doctor decides they’ve done about as much as they can tonight, so Ace prepares herself for the inevitable night’s sleep with the lice and the rats. The Doctor points out that their accommodation is luxury compared to being at the front, but he still can’t work out why most of the men are here as they seem to be perfectly healthy. He considers asking Hex for a medical opinion and suddenly realises neither of them have seen him for a few hours. Ace thought he was in a foul mood, but the Doctor’s thoughts have already turned to Wood and wondering whether he’s trying to hide something secret. When they reach their rooms, they discover someone has nailed a dead rat to the door! It’s obvious someone wishes they weren’t here. Just then, they hear Private Taylor approaching, as if in a trance. He keeps repeating the words he learnt earlier about the only good German being a dead one. Taylor is sleepwalking, presumably experiencing some pivotal event in his life. He pulls out a bayonet and moves towards them chanting the word “die” over and over again…
The Doctor and Ace struggle with Taylor and successfully disarm him. With Ace holding on to his arm, the Doctor manages to wake the man up and he talks about being back at the army school during bayonet practice. They tell him he was sleepwalking, but all he can recall is his old Sergeant Major calling him a coward. The Doctor wonders if his memories were triggered by someone else calling him a coward recently. Lt-Colonel Brook arrives with some armed guards and the Doctor tries to encourage him not to get involved, but Brook tells him this isn’t the first time Taylor has been wandering around the hospital at night in a trance, babbling to himself like a lunatic. Ace accuses him of turning up mob-handed as though he was expecting Taylor to attack someone, but he says he was merely being cautious as he has the safety of everyone in the hospital to consider. Ace takes Taylor back to his room and Brook orders the soldiers away. The Doctor is worried about Taylor being dangerous and asks Brook whether he has the final say over when the patients are able to return to duty. Brook assures him he isn’t planning to send Taylo back into combat just yet as a soldier rushed too speedily back into the trenches can be a liability. The Doctor tells him Hex has gone missing, so Brook offers to have a word with the patrols before retiring to bed.
The next morning Ace joins the patients having breakfast and sits with Captain Dudgeon. She tells him about the ’message’ that was left nailed to their door the night before and he recalls seeing Lance-Corporal Burridge with blood on his hands earlier in the evening. He believes Burridge is one of Wood’s cronies and suspects it’s exactly the sort of thing he might do if he thought they were poking their noses where they weren’t welcome. He’s also heard about Private Taylor and is concerned that he himself might have inadvertently caused his reaction by talking about their days at the army school. When he learns that Hex has gone missing, he agrees that the urge to go somewhere safe can be overwhelming sometimes. Sergeant Wood overhears this comment and accuses Hex of being a coward. Wood starts to mock Dudgeon in front of Ace, claiming that he “escaped” from his experiences on the battlefield at Mons. He suggests Dudgeon is too “heavenly minded” to be of any use to the other soldiers and the Captain realises he’d be wasting his time trying to change Wood‘s mind. Wood seeks the support from the others in the dining room, encouraging them to turn against Dudgeon because of his Eton education, but Ace intercedes and accuses him of talking to a senior office with disrespect. Dudgeon believes Wood’s anger comes from frustration and the Sergeant becomes aggressive, threatening to have the Captain shot as a coward. Ace asks him to leave and take his trained gorillas with him. When they’re alone, Dudgeon warns her to be careful as Wood is very close to Brook and the longer he stays here the more dangerous he seems to be getting. Ace’s bravery seems to put Dudgeon to even more shame and he admits that Wood is basically right - he is a coward!
The Doctor enters the Hate Room and finds Hex unconscious on a chair with gramophone recordings of German speeches playing in the background. He revives his young companion, who suddenly starts shouting about killing people… When he becomes more rational he explains that he went for a walk the night before and has no idea how he ended up here. He has a bad headache and is aching all over, and the Doctor finds evidence that he’s been injected with some sort of drug. The Doctor realises this room is being used to brainwash the soldiers, and when Hex remarks that it must be too early in history for that sort of thing, he points out that by this time Freud and Jung have already published works and research projects have been springing up all over Europe. He adds that when you consider the conditions that these soldiers are having to fight in, it’s not difficult to see how they might think the human mind is the weak link in the chain. He’s been re-examining the orders Brook passed him yesterday and they appear to be authentic, but so far there’s been no actual crime to investigate. It seems they’re being asked to be metaphysical detectives, investigating a murder that exists only as a thought. On the other hand, it could all be a coincidence or some strange temporal glitch. He sends Hex back to his room to get some rest while he goes to find out how Private Taylor is.
Ace notices that everything’s gone quiet all of a sudden and the other soldiers have all left for the morning Hate. She wants to know more about what happened to Dudgeon and he asks her to accompany him for a walk outside. He explains that he’ll never forget the first shot fired in the Great War between England and Germany, then the first battle, followed by the first retreat. He was the only survivor of his platoon and some people think he behaved abominably by not dying alongside the others. They’d been marching for days with very little food and their Colonel was riding up and down, congratulating everyone on their grit and pluck when a runner came with a message that the Germans were approaching from the woods. They were ordered to charge in and take the enemy by surprise, but they soon found themselves outnumbered. As he bent down to help a fallen comrade, he was injured with a scalp wound and passed out. He’s not proud of what happened, but Ace says none of this gives Wood the right to give him a hard time. But Dudgeon hasn’t finished the story. When he woke up, the battle had moved on and he found himself surrounded by dead friends and dead enemies. It was then that he saw an Angel of Mons staring down at him…
The Doctor finds Private Taylor in the hospital storerooms where he’s been banished after annoying the other soldiers with his constant typing. The young man says he isn’t surprised they want to see the back of him after what happened last night and he apologises for his behaviour. He’s tried several different methods to stop the sleepwalking but he never had any problems until he came here. The Doctor admires the army issue typewriter that Taylor uses to do some of the office work for Brook and notes that the letter ‘t’ sometimes sticks. Taylor is also using it to prepare the written tests which Brook uses to judge whether people are ready to return to active duty. Taylor asks whether the Doctor came here as a result of an incident the previous week when Sergeant Wood went berserk and had to be pulled off the man he was fighting. This wasn’t the first time one of the soldiers was involved in something like this. Discipline here is getting worse all the time and Taylor thinks it won’t be long before someone gets killed. Just then, Wood enters and immediately starts picking an argument with them. When he learns that Taylor is writing a letter home, he says he’d be surprised if more than one word in ten is allowed past the army censors. In any case, he imagines Taylor’s girlfriend is probably too busy fooling around to care. When Taylor reacts, Wood says he’s a bigger fool than he first thought. He orders the soldier to his feet - it’s time for him to take part in the morning Hate.
Dudgeon tells Ace the Angel wasn’t like the kind you see on stained-glass windows, this was a tall man with wings that seemed to cover half the sky. He had a quiver and bow and Dudgeon was absolutely terrified - but when the Angel bent down to touch him, he suddenly felt at peace. Ace has heard of the Angels of Mons, but she thought they were just a myth or mass hysteria, and although Dudgeon doesn’t doubt was he saw, it’s easy to understand why people like Wood think he’s soft. He asks Ace whether she’s ever seen anything that defied comprehension and she admits that she’s seen plenty of strange things, but never an angel (at least not like that one he described). Although the vision has brought him some comfort, it’s also left him with many unanswered questions. Whenever he sees the German soldiers up close he realises they’re just like him and he can’t help wondering whether both sides of the war are equally in the wrong…? He decides it’s time to go back inside as Brook has left some tests for him to fill out about war and morality. The answers he gives are supposed to reveal his state of mind and Ace realises it’s a form of psychological profiling. The soldiers have to complete these tests on a daily basis.
Wood is summoned to see Lt-Colonel Brook to update him on how he got on with Hex. He says he did his best, but he’ll leave Brook to be the judge of its success. The commanding officer is delighted with Taylor’s progress so far - when he lied to him about his friend’s death, he could almost see the fire returning to his eyes. He feels this approach is much more subtle than the Hate Room, but Wood is less impressed and explains that Taylor attacked the Doctor and Ace after he visited Brook last time. Brook doesn’t see this as a bad thing and it indicates that Taylor is actually well on his way to being a fine soldier. The next step will be to divide and conquer. Brook knows it won’t be long before the Doctor starts asking difficult questions about Wood’s earlier foray into No Man’s Land, so perhaps Wood and Burridge can find a way to get rid of Ace and Hex, it will be much easier for Brook to deal with the Doctor.
Ace returns to their rooms and finds Hex. She was worried he’d gone back to the TARDIS and she doesn’t blame him for freaking out about this war. He says he feels much better now, like when you recover from an illness and feel you need to make up for all the time you’ve lost. He still can’t remember what happened to him last night, but something tells him Sergeant Wood might have an idea. He tells Ace how secretive the Sergeant was when the Doctor was asking him about some botched mission he’d been on. Ace just thinks he’s a dangerous bully, but he’s also a soldier, trained to kill people with his bare hands, so they need to be careful. She realises she’s starting to sound like the Doctor. She decides to approach Wood from a different angle - he obviously won’t respond to confrontation but what if she tried something a little more feminine? Hex realises to his horror that she’s actually thinking of trying to chat him up!
Brook is surprised the Doctor isn’t spending more time questioning the men rather than cooped up with him in his office. The Doctor assures him his assistants are more than capable of conducting that part of the investigation, which leaves him free to examine the files. If everyone in the hospital is a potential victim or a potential killer, he needs to study their case histories. Brook is becoming impatient and says there’s a limit to how much information he’s prepared to share, but the Doctor has already noticed a lot of the details from the files have been blacked out. Just then, the Doctor finds one of Private Taylor’s letters home which is awaiting censorship before being sent. As he looks more closely, he starts to get worried…
Ace and Hex watch the soldiers training under Burridge’s supervision. As he announces a five-minute break, they ask him about their latest mission and Burridge is not surprised that Wood has refused to talk about. It was a disaster - they came under enemy fire and it was a miracle any of them survived. He tells them it happened at an old church in the middle of No Man’s Land. The building is of great strategic value to both sides as it gives a vantage point over the whole of the area. Burridge insists that Wood is a decent man if he’s treated the right way, but he’s the only one who can tell them more about what went wrong. He tells them Wood is probably filling out his tests in a storeroom near the scullery, so they leave the Corporal to resume the training exercise.
Brook becomes irritated when the Doctor starts tearing his office apart, searching for something. Suddenly he finds what he wanted - the original communiqué from base telling Brook about the Doctor’s arrival. Brook doesn’t notice anything unusual about it, until the Doctor points out that the letter ‘t’ sometimes sticks and prints itself twice. He tells the confused officer that every typewriter is as unique as a fingerprint, then he asks where Private Taylor is. He rushes off to the storeroom to find him, but fears that he may already be too late…
Hex watches from a distance as Ace knocks on the door of the storeroom and calls for Sergeant Wood. There’s no answer, so Ace prepares to enter, deliberately calling his name in a sexually provocative manner. Suddenly the Doctor arrives and asks them if they’ve seen Private Taylor. They open the door to the storeroom and see to their horror that Sergeant Wood is dead. The murder has finally been committed and they knew it was going to happen…
Hex examines the body and discovers Wood was stabbed several times. If only they’d been a minute or two earlier! Ace points out that they couldn’t have stopped it happening anyway, but the Doctor corrects her. The orders they received asking them to investigate weren’t a time anomaly or evidence of psychic insight after all, they were a cry for help from Private Taylor. It wasn’t even a conscious act - they already know that he’s been sleepwalking and the evidence suggests he forged the orders and then killed Sergeant Wood in his sleep. He must have heard Hex crying out for the Doctor when they first arrived at the hospital. The treatment the soldiers are receiving is designed to increase their aggression and in his subconscious Taylor realised he was becoming capable of murder. The human mind is an extraordinary thing - he wasn’t asking them to investigate the crime, so much as pleading with them to prevent it happening in the first place. They don’t know why he targeted Wood, but perhaps in Taylor’s mind he came to represent everything he despised about this place. The Doctor also heard the Sergeant making a barbed comment, about the Private’s girlfriend and people have been killed for less in the past. Unfortunately the Doctor can’t prove any of this, and he’s not even sure he really wants to. All the patients here are being psychologically manipulated. In any case, they can hardly tell the Colonel that the order giving them access to the base is a fake. They have to tread carefully or the Sergeant’s murder won’t be the last…
Taylor shuffles back to his room in a semi-conscious state. He mumbles to himself about not showing weakness and not letting people off the hook. As he enters the ward, his comments about his girlfriend wake up some of the other soldiers. Captain Dudgeon realises his friend has been sleepwalking, so he helps him back to his bed.
Brook arrives at the storeroom and asks the Doctor if he’s discovered anything. When he sees Sergeant Wood he realises straight away that the man is dead and he finally believes that the orders he received were prophetic. Ace doesn’t think Brook sounds particularly upset, but Brook says he can’t afford to lose a soldier like Wood. Hex becomes irritated by his attitude and says nobody deserves to die like this, but Brook points out that many families are not fortunate enough to have a body they can bury. Hex thinks everything that’s happened is Brook’s fault, but the Doctor reminds him that they can’t be sure of anything yet. The Colonel asks for the Doctor’s medical opinion and he reports there are multiple stab wounds to the back. The first was aimed with precision and punctured the heart, but there’s no sign of a struggle and he was facing away from the door so his attacker would have been able to sneak up on him. After the first stab, the attacker must have gone berserk and continued to stab the body wildly as if he’d been trained to kill efficiently in a brutal and unthinking manner. This fits Brook’s description of the perfect soldier and the Colonel realises he’s being criticised. Brook has noticed a fibre caught in one of the wounds which indicates the killer was not wearing civilian clothing. He has his own suspicions as to who the killer might be and he decides it’s high time he acted upon them.
Taylor is confused and doesn’t remember anything that’s happened. Dudgeon tries to get him to relax and tells him everything is going to be fine. Just then, Lance-Corporal Burridge enters the ward and accuses Dudgeon of murdering Sergeant Wood and orders him to accompany him to see the commanding officer. The soldiers are all shocked, but blood has been found on one of his uniforms and Burridge refuses to listen to any arguments. As Dudgeon is physically grabbed, he tries to argue that last night he saw Burridge himself with blood on his hands, but the soldiers accompanying the Corporal raise their weapons and he realises he has no choice but to go with them.
The Doctor wants to have a private word with Ace and Hex. He tells them of a private report he saw in Brook’s office about Wood’s last mission which mentioned the church in No Man’s Land and the eventual rescue of what was left of the Sergeant’s group. It seems they were holed up in the church and unable to leave, presumably because they were surrounded by Germans, but Brook arranged for a small group to go in and bring them back. This means the soldiers owe their lives to Brook, and although he and Wood disagreed about many things there was a certain understanding between them. The Doctor is concerned there will be more deaths as order and discipline are beginning to break down. Hex has already been subjected to their methods but the Doctor needs to be certain in his own mind what drove Taylor to kill. Was it the brainwashing, drugs or even the testing they’re forced to go, or possibly a combination of all three. He wants his two friends to keep snooping around, but warns them to keep out of trouble. Once he’s gone, Hex suggests he and Ace try to find the church. They don’t know exactly where it is, but now that Wood is dead, perhaps Burridge will be more willing to talk.
Burridge reports to Brook that Captain Dudgeon has been locked up in one of the storerooms with a guard on the door. Before he leaves, Burridge tells the Colonel that some of his men believe Taylor may actually have been responsible for the murder, but Brook insists that Dudgeon is a vile coward who openly talks to others about going home and dares to question the validity of the war. He orders Burridge to collect Dudgeon so that he can show him some of the work they’re doing here.
The Doctor finds Taylor tapping away at his typewriter in the ward and wonders why he’s no longer banished to the storeroom. Taylor explains that the soldiers feel more comfortable with him where they can at least keep an eye on him. The Doctor assures him it’s only natural for them to be suspicious. Taylor says that although Brook is always encouraging him to see the bigger picture, he prefers to believe the smaller things in life are just as important. The Doctor asks him about the incident in the church - he already knows about the rescue, but he doesn’t know why Wood’s men were there in the first place. At first Taylor refuses to discuss the matter, but eventually he tells the Doctor that he thinks what happened in the church was all his fault…
Hex shows Ace to the Hate Room and they watch as the soldiers listen to the German recordings and build themselves up into a state of frenzy. At a signal from Burridge, the soldiers start shooting blanks at a range of dummies dressed in German uniforms and then urge each other into ever-more violent acts. Hex sees the chair where the Doctor found him, but he tries not to think about what happened. They call over Burridge and ask him how to get to the church. He points out that if the two of them enter No Man’s Land dressed in civilian clothes, they’re just as likely to be shot by their own side as by the Germans. Nevertheless, they still want to go, so Burridge agrees to draw them a map and one of his soldiers will take them part way to the trenches…and after that they’re on their own.
The Doctor doesn’t understand why Taylor thinks the incident in the church was his fault and he explains that it was he who told Brook about the church in the first place. He said it was deserted and that even a small group of men should be able to take it. This was shortly after Taylor was first admitted to the hospital and he now realises he was delirious and wasn’t really sure what he was saying. The Doctor points out that Brook should have treated his words with more caution, but Taylor believes he was keen to send in his men as an experiment to see how well the treatment was working. The Doctor begins to suspect that Brook has been trying to cover his tracks. Since the patients have come here, Brook seems to have done nothing but manipulate them. He asks Taylor about the tests they’re given, but although he’s under orders not to discuss his answers, an example of the questions they’re given is the classic dilemma: imagine there’s a baby who would one day grow up to be a mass murderer of thousands of innocent people - if you had the opportunity to kill that baby, would you do it? It’s a gruesome scenario in which the subject is asked to consider whether they would end an innocent life in order to save others. The Doctor argues that a soldier without a moral compass to guide him is one of the most frightening things in the world!
Ace and Hex trudge across the muddy landscape of No Man’s Land and argue over the sandwiches he saw her nick from the kitchen before they left. He starts to become agitated and she realises he’s been itching for a fight all day. He accepts her point and apologises. He thinks that what happened to him in the Hate Room has got him really fired up - but he only got one dose, whereas the soldiers have been getting that every day for who knows how long. Ace is determined to put a stop to it, but first they need to get to the church. According to the map, they’ve barely started. Over the next ridge there should be a service trench they can use to keep out of the rain. Hex is worried that they’re too close to the German trenches, but they can’t tell how up-to-date the map is as things are bound to have changed since it was drawn up. It also depends on how reliable Burridge is, and they agree that he can’t be trusted at all. Hex has noticed that Ace seems to be getting close to Dudgeon, but she says he’s just a nice guy and he wouldn’t hurt a fly. Just then they hear a distant noise and they see a bi-plane coming towards them through the clouds. They can’t be sure whether the plane is English or German as there aren’t any markings on it. It’s starts getting close so they decide to take cover.
Dudgeon can’t believe that Brook seriously thinks he killed Wood, but the Colonel tells him the soldiers need a scapegoat and he needs to appear to be in control of the situation. Dudgeon demands that he stop doing whatever it is he’s doing to his men, but Brook argues that his work has been quite a success. Every day that passes, he’s learning more about manipulation and the powers of suggestion, but the Captain thinks this is monstrous. Brook believes he feels this way because he hasn’t benefited from experiencing the whole treatment…something that can easily be solved. Brook has absolute authority to do whatever he wants. In an hour or two, Dudgeon will feel like a different man!
Hex notices the bi-plane looks structurally weak, but Ace points out that it’s still got a machine gun on the front, so she doesn’t want to argue with it. After a while, the plane disappears back into the clouds, so they assume it must have been on reconnaissance, trying to work out exactly where the front line is. Suddenly there’s an explosion and then the sound of gunfire. They realised they’re much too exposed where they are, so they both race for the relative protection of the nearest trench. Unfortunately they have to retreat another way as a bank of poison gas heads towards them. ..
The Doctor visits Captain Dudgeon in the storeroom and asks him how he’s feeling, but he’s still confused about being accused of Sergeant Wood’s murder. He was dragged away, but he can’t remember what happened to him after that. The Doctor notes that he sounds like Hex did earlier. Taylor has told him that everyone’s test questions are unique, tailored to the individual, so he asks Dudgeon what questions he was given. The Captain says he was asked about matters of faith and devotion, cowardice and bravery, belief and doubt. Taylor in particular has been finding the questions difficult, but then he was just a lad when he joined the conflict so he probably hasn’t thought much about these things before. All of a sudden he’s seen people suffering and is starting to look deeper into himself. The Doctor tells Dudgeon that he needs his help to stop Brook, but the Captain isn’t sure he wants to help. He’s been asking himself whether any among them is truly innocent - even those who were conscripted are still doing what they’re told, which is to kill the enemy soldiers. He doesn’t agree with Brook’s methods, but he suspects there are German officers engaged in similar projects. The Doctor argues that he can only deal with what’s in front of him and what he sees is very wrong, but Dudgeon would prefer that he get help from Taylor instead. The Doctor then tells him that he thinks Taylor was responsible for killing Wood and Dudgeon admits he was praying there would be some other explanation. When he saw the Private just after the murder, he’d noticed he had bruised hands and he didn’t know where he’d been. The Doctor insists that he needs people who are absolutely reliable, but Dudgeon believes he is too weak. He originally came to his hospital hoping it might help clear his head, but now he’s more troubled than ever. The Doctor argues that he mustn’t confuse being peaceful with being passive, but Dudgeon remembers being told that he was too “heavenly minded” to be of any use. He turns down the request as he believes he will only let the Doctor down.
Burridge sneaks up behind Taylor and surprises him, then asks him for some cigarettes. He tells him the Captain is being well looked after and is receiving the personal attention of Lt-Colonel Brook, but takes great delight in recounting how such a posh man as Dudgeon could use such language - and then there was the screaming… Taylor points out that the Doctor is going to put a stop to things here, but Burridge says he won’t be able to do much without his friends and they’ve developed an unhealthy interest in the church in No Man’s Land. Brook suggested Burridge “encourage” them to go, so he drew them a little map, but he can’t guarantee the map shows the safest or the quickest way of getting there!
Neither Ace nor Hex have brought any gas masks with them, so they try to make a hasty exit from the area, dodging bullets and explosions every step of the way. Unfortunately Hex receives a shrapnel wound to the leg, but with the gas coming closer by the second he has no choice but to struggle on, with Ace helping him as best she can. The trench they’re in appears to be empty, so they can’t understand why anybody would be wasting shells by firing on the area. They consult the map and head away…
The Doctor next visits Private Taylor and asks if he will help, but the young man can’t understand why the Doctor doesn’t just report back to base if he has suspicions about Brook. The Doctor admits that his connections don’t extend very far, but in any case he prefers to be a little more hands-on. Taylor realises that more people will die if they don’t do something so he agrees to help. The Doctor needs a distraction while he finds his friends and he’s particularly concerned about Hex after his treatment the previous night - for all he knows, Hex could be the next victim, or even the next perpetrator. He’s horrified when Taylor tells him that Ace and Hex have gone to the church in No Man’s Land - didn’t they realise that whoever attacked Wood’s men might still be there? The Doctor must act quickly, so he persuades Taylor to approach Brook and appeal to his worst instincts.
The Private enters Brook’s office and claims to have sensitive information that Brook might be interested in… He tells his commanding officer that he’s been thinking about his paperwork and about patriotism and he asks whether Brook has considered that the Doctor might be trying to shut the hospital down. This doesn’t appear to concern Brook unduly, so Taylor changes the subject to his own condition and explains that he woke up on the ward shivering and with bruised hands. Brook dismisses this as bad dreams, but Taylor points out this was just after Sergeant Wood was killed. Brook admits that things may seem peculiar at the moment, but it’s nothing he hasn’t seen before and the hospital seems to be making progress. He becomes agitated when Taylor queries how advanced their armies are, and he insists that with the end of the war in sight, this is not the time to think about withdrawing. Taylor tells Brook that he’s seen the Doctor snooping around in the north wing looking for evidence, and making enquiries about the medication being given to the patients. He adds that the Doctor said he was going to report Brook to HQ and he may already be preparing to leave. Brook decides he’d better find the Doctor “for his own safety”…
Ace and Hex are resting in the trenches during a moment of quiet. Ace makes an off-the-cuff comment about Hex’s mother, then realises she’s put her foot in it. Hex asks Ace about her own mother, but she says its easy to lose track of family when you’re travelling with the Doctor. She’s bumped into her once or twice and even met up with he brother once, but she doesn’t miss them. She asks about Hex’s mother, but he doesn’t know much as his dad didn’t talk about her. It suddenly occurs to Hex that the only photo he has of his mum is still in his flat in London a hundred years in the future. Her name was Sandra Elizabeth Schofield, but he doesn’t know how or why she died. But it’s probably the same for all the people who lie dead in No Man’s Land - none of their families will ever know exactly how they died either. Ace thinks the conversation is getting a little maudlin and reminds Hex that they’re on a mission. The gas seems to have gone now that the wind’s changed direction and the map shows the church should be just over the next rise, so they decide to move on.
The men in the ward stand to attention as Lt-Colonel Brook enters looking for the Doctor. Burridge hasn’t seen him and Brook is starting to suspect that he’s being led a merry dance. He announces to the men that he’s interrogated Captain Dudgeon and he no longer believes he is Wood’s killer. Instead, he now believes it was the Doctor, a German spy! He orders the soldiers to collect their rifles and track down the enemy before he causes any more deaths. Suitably riled, the officers charge out of the ward…
Ace and Hex finally see the church in the distance. It appears derelict, as if it’s about to collapse any minute. They slowly approach and go inside, but it’s a bit gloomy and they need time for their eyes to adjust. They hear a noise and realise there’s someone else in there with them...
The Doctor and Taylor enter Brook’s office - although it took the Doctor long enough to unlock the door as he’s getting a little rusty - and they start snooping around. They find a gramophone recording of Edna Thornton singing “Your King and Country Want You”, but that isn’t what they’re looking for. They find the psychological tests and gather up as much of the evidence they can, including a top secret document marked for authorised personnel only. The Doctor is amazed by what he reads, and everything finally makes sense to him now. Just then, Lance-Corporal Burridge enters and demands answers from them at gunpoint. He accuses the Doctor of murdering Wood and breaking into the office to cover up the evidence. He orders his men to move into single file to adopt the firing squad position. The Doctor and Taylor protest, but Burridge insists that the condemned must remain silent. The soldiers start repeating the word “die” over and over again - then Burridge gives the order and the men open fire…
Burridge is amazed to discover neither the Doctor nor Taylor are dead but as he orders the soldiers to reload, Lt-Colonel Brook enters and dismisses the soldiers. The two accused men are stunned by what’s just happened, but Brook greets them warmly…
Ace and Hex keep silent and try to hear where the noise was coming from, but there’s nothing and they start to wonder whether it was just a rat or their imagination. Ace sees some stairs leading up to a gallery and they slowly work their way up to the next floor…but one of the wooden steps is rotten and Ace steps right through it. She ends up hanging in mid-air until Hex grabs her and pulls her back. They still can’t see anyone, but when they look down onto the ground floor they can make out a number of spent rifle cartridges, indicating there’s been a pitched battle here. Suddenly a voice calls out and orders them not to move!
Brook admits that he owes the Doctor and Taylor an apology. The firing squad idea was just a grotesque charade, but he points out that they’ve broken into an officer’s room during wartime and people have been shot for less in the past. Taylor reminds him that the Doctor is there to investigate a murder, but Brook doesn’t like the methods being used and says he’s behaving like no army man he’s ever met. The Doctor believes the mock execution was designed to make him say something incriminating, but Brook says that wasn’t the reason at all. He’s tolerated his behaviour so far so that he can get on with the real business at hand, which is preparing the men for conflict. Battles, campaigns and even whole wars can sometimes hinge on the efficiency and preparedness of one squad of men, so he arranged the ‘execution’ with blank bullets just to test whether Burridge and the others were ready to go through with it. He’s now satisfied that they’re ready for war again and are willing to follow unpalatable orders. The Doctor questions whether the men’s families would be proud of a country that demands they execute people in cold blood on a trumped-up charge. Brook points out that the reason execution victims are blindfolded is not to help the accused, but for the benefit of the firing squad. Most people find it impossible to look someone in the eye and end their life, and many soldiers deliberately or subconsciously miss their targets. Each “sentimental” soldier relies on the callousness of their comrades to do their job for them, but the Doctor challenges his understanding of a love for life. Brook’s intention is to give every soldier in this war a killer instinct, an ability to follow orders without sentiment and without thinking of the moral consequences. The Doctor accuses him of stepping over the line long ago. Brook dismisses his lofty ideals and says there will be plenty of time after the war for them to discuss his sentiments, but until that time he will continue to do his duty. The Doctor intends to destroy the papers he found, but Brook orders him to hand them over or he will kill them both.
The voice in the church orders Ace and Hex to keep their hands up. They assure him they are friends and are working for the British Army. When they tell him they’re trying to get to the bottom of why most of Sergeant Wood’s squad didn’t survive their recent attack on this building, it suddenly dawns on them that the mystery man was actually part of that mission and has been here ever since. They offer him some of their food and Ace moves off to find something to keep the man warm, but he shouts for her to stand still. The floorboards in that area of the church are rotten and this was why he called out to them in the first place. He introduces himself as Private Peter Dixon. What happened here was a massacre and he thought he was the only one who survived - but it wasn’t the Germans who did it, it was traitors, spies and cowards… He’s buried all his friends outside, but he didn’t want to leave as nowhere’s safe any more. He’s so tired, so they offer to watch over him while he gets some sleep.
Brook tries to convince the Doctor that nothing would be achieved if he and Taylor were shot here and now - he wouldn’t even have to explain their deaths to his superiors as they don’t care. Questions will only be asked if Brook himself does the shooting so he gives his gun to Taylor and orders him to shoot the Doctor. The Private refuses, even when Brook tries to suggest the man is a German spy, so the Colonel plays one of the gramophone records from his collection. It’s the sound of women and children screaming, the same recording used during the Hate sessions. The Doctor tries to convince Taylor to ignore what he’s hearing, but Brook points out that the Private hears these sounds all the time - it’s the sound of his own guilt and he can’t escape from it. Taylor apologises to the Doctor and raises his gun, but the Doctor argues that it’s the paperwork and the Hate Room that’s to blame for the way he feels. He knows now that the daily test isn’t designed to test their frame of mind, but to deliberately change it. Brook starts with each soldier’s medical and service records, then probes them to find their weak spots, doubts and fears, and then he exploits that to change the way they think. He makes them stronger, but at what cost? Taylor wishes he was more ruthless and Brook orders him to tell the Doctor about his moment of weakness, his cowardice. Taylor recounts an incident from a year or more back when he saw a light flashing from the German trenches. He reached for some binoculars and saw a German having a shave, his mirror glinting in the sun. He seemed so ordinary, so content. Taylor took aim with his sniper’s rifle and prepared to fire…but he couldn’t do it because he was too “weak“. Ever since then, Brook has been taunting him - what if this German soldier goes on to kill British soldiers? What will Taylor tell the families of those who were killed? The Doctor argues that compassion isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. Taylor starts to cry out in distress, believing he’s let down his family, his friends and even his country. Brook encourages this view and tells him his nightmares are saying as much. The gun should feel welcome in his hand if only he can prove he is fit for service by shooting the Doctor!
Burridge places Dudgeon in a cell and tells him he can stay there until Brook sends for him. Dudgeon tells Burridge that their commanding officer is out of control and before he arrived here, he hadn’t even heard of Lt-Colonel Brook or Charnage Hospital. There are rumours flying around the trenches of a rogue element working beyond the remit of the British Army. HQ asked him to look into it and he started making enquiries, feigned an injury and ended up here where it soon became obvious that whoever Brook is working for, it’s not the Army! Burridge doesn’t believe Dudgeon and calls him a weak, pathetic coward. In his view, an officer is not allowed to have doubts and when Dudgeon describes the war as vile and disgusting, Burridge becomes angry and accuses him of being a disgrace to the Army. He attacks him and the two men start to fight…but Dudgeon is not so weak after all, and emerges the winner.
Taylor is finding the recording intolerable and Brook guarantees that if he shoots the Doctor all his bad dreams and guilt will be washed away. The Doctor urges him not to listen - he entered this war as a decent and honourable man and he must fight to remember who he is. Brook regards this view as romantic, and Taylor is starting to think that Brook might be right. The Doctor reminds him that he didn’t kill the German soldier because his conscience told him not to. Not shooting him took an act of great strength and pulling the trigger would have been the easy way out. One Private laying down his weapon could just be the start, followed by a second, a third, ten, twenty, five hundred, a hundred thousand. Soon people could be talking again rather than shooting each other - but it all starts with one Private putting down his gun. Peace isn’t a fantasy, it’s an ideal - one that Taylor took the first step towards when he refused to take another man’s life. The Doctor tells him he made the right choice then, he mustn’t make the wrong one now. Taylor eventually hands the gun back to Brook, who then orders the two men to stand against the wall. They refuse, but Brook doesn’t mind as he‘s more than happy to stare into their souls when he kills them. He claims he is guilty of nothing more than wanting to see the British Army emerge from this war in victory. The Doctor insists he’s an incompetent bungler, but Brook thinks he’s done quite well considering he has no medical training and the surgeons here are no better than butchers. He’s documenting everything he does to show what works and what doesn’t - which is precisely why the Doctor plans to destroy all his research to set back his plan. The two men face each other in defiance and Brook gives the Doctor his final chance to hand over the papers…but the Doctor grabs the files and then he and Taylor jump through the window, sending glass everywhere.
The Doctor and Taylor land on the ground outside, lucky not to have been killed. From the window above, Brook opens fire and the two men have to dodge a barrage of bullets. They know Brook is too sensible to attempt to climb down from a first floor window, so they should have at least a three minute start on him - but then they hear the sound of approaching guard dogs! They take cover in a nearby barn and discover it contains old tractors, uniforms and other provisions. Taylor finds just the thing, and he and the Doctor jump aboard a Model H Roadster, the first modern motorcycle and sometimes known as ‘The Trusty Triumph’. With the dogs hot on their tail, the two men drive off through the courtyard and across the landscape…
Private Dixon has gone to sleep, giving Ace and Hex an opportunity to talk. Dixon reminds Ace of her brother and she’s amazed that he’s survived here all this time on his own, with barely a scrap to eat. Ace has been outside to look for the graves and found dozens of bodies buried under rocks - and they were all wearing British Army uniforms, which suggests there were never any Germans here in the church. She thinks that Wood’s men actually turned their weapons on each other!
As they make their speedy getaway, Taylor wonders whether the soldiers back at the hospital will come after them. The Doctor reminds him that they have months of research contained within the documents they’ve stolen, so Brook will be rather keen to get them back. The treatments they’ve used; the tests; the Hate Room; even the drugs they’ve been using - they’re all incredibly sophisticated. It might be a problem if other people get to read his conclusions and try to do more of the same. The power to manipulate minds without a conscience is a dangerous concept, even in wartime. Suddenly they notice Lt-Colonel Brook and the others right behind them…
Ace spots movement on the horizon and Hex decides to wake Dixon up, but she wants to take a closer look first. She realises it’s a motorbike approaching - and although she can’t make out the person in front, she can see the Doctor hanging on for dear life. But not far behind, they’re being pursued. Fortunately the two riders are able to make it to the church, where they see Ace urging them on. She tells them they’ve found another survivor and the Doctor decides to have a word with him.
Dixon is disturbed by the new arrivals, but Hex manages to calm him down. He introduces the Doctor but then Taylor warns them Brook has arrived outside and Dixon becomes disturbed, refusing to go back. Ace assures him he’ll be safe, but he starts to panic and flees across the church. Unfortunately he reaches the section of the floor that’s rotten and falls through. Ace tells the Doctor that she thinks the soldiers all killed each other during the massacre - Brook’s conditioning drove them all to breaking point, so he has a lot to answer for.
The Army vehicle comes to a halt outside the church and Brook tells Burridge that his knowledge of the church will be vital in recapturing the Doctor. They suddenly see Private Dixon is still alive and he’s dragged over to his commanding officer. He confirms that the Doctor is inside and he’s ordered to fall in with the rest of the squad. Burridge is sent round to the rear of the building to make sure no one gets away while Brook shouts out to the Doctor to tell him there’s no chance of escape. The Doctor responds, but refuses to hand over the research. Brook threatens to have them all shot, but the Doctor promises that Taylor will set fire to the document as soon as the first shot is fired. He also warns that the sound of firing will almost certainly bring any enemy soldiers in the area straight to their location. The Doctor assures Brook that he realises the British Army is facing many difficulties and obstacles, but desperate times do not justify these measures. Brook disagrees and regards human life as nothing more than a resource. He promises that his research will continue, even if the document is destroyed, then he orders his soldiers to open fire…
The church comes under fierce attack, so the Doctor asks Taylor to do the honours and set fire to the document. He agrees, certain for once that he’s doing the right thing. Ace is watching from the upper level and has noticed that Brook seems to be having trouble controlling his men…and now she can see a whole line of Germans approaching from the distance. Brook orders his squad to cease firing, but the odd shot or two continues regardless. Just then, Lance-Corporal Burridge enters the church and tells the Doctor’s group they’re about to die. He’s determined to prove to his commander that he’s a good soldier by shooting them all. It’s his duty. He orders them all to line up against the wall.
Brook is frustrated with Private Dixon who continues to fire the occasional shot, despite his orders to cease. Dixon repeats the mantra that they’re to shoot their enemies and he no longer cares about his orders. He accuses Brook of leaving him to die, but the Corporal assures him he sent over some men to bring back as many survivors as he could. Dixon wants to know what went wrong - his mate Tom went mad and started shooting at his friends. Brook dismisses this as an accident, and he’s now starting to realise it was a bad mistake coming out into No Man’s Land after the Doctor. The Germans can’t be far away, so he gives orders to pull back. Dixon refuses, saying his earlier orders were to kill the Doctor, but Brook realises that if the documents have already been destroyed there’s no need for them to stay exposed. Again Dixon refuses to give up, even when Brook tries to convince him that their priority now is to retreat to safety. To Dixon this sounds like cowardice…and it seems like some of the other soldiers are starting to agree. Dixon insists that if the Doctor is indeed a traitor they have to stay. Brook gives his squad a direct order to retreat, but they turn on him, chanting the word “die” over and over again. A series of shots are fired and the dead body of Lt-Corporal Brook falls the ground. Dixon is satisfied that he’s done his duty, then he leads his comrades in a final attack on the church…
Inside the building, the Doctor remarks how this is starting to turn into a Groundhog Day. Burridge orders the group to make their peace and moves to shoot them - but he’s suddenly shot dead himself by Captain Dudgeon who’s arrived in the nick of time to rescue them. Ace is grateful, but wonders what he’s doing there. He explains that he changed his mind about helping out. He travelled out there with the other soldiers who were too preoccupied to look under the cap he pulled down over his face. Hex is amazed that he actually shot Burridge, but they’re still not safe as the other soldiers are preparing themselves to attack. As they creep out the now unguarded back, Dixon orders the soldiers into the church, where they fan out and search for the survivors. At that moment, the German squad arrives and Dixon’s group is now under siege themselves. A full battle ensues with both sides determined to wipe out the other…
Later, Captain Dudgeon drives the Army vehicle back into the courtyard of Charnage Hospital. He never thought he’d be so pleased to see this place again. The Doctor would like to see it restored to a place where the ill and the damaged are made better, and without Brook that should be possible. Dudgeon didn’t agree with Brook’s methods, but he’s starting to accept that if they were able to develop better and more aggressive soldiers, perhaps the war would be over more quickly. The Doctor points out that Brook was simply creating uncontrollable psychopaths. Dudgeon was only subjected to his treatment for a few hours, but when the moment came he was able to shoot Burridge without a moment’s thought. Although he saved the others, he’s still not sure what the cost is. The Doctor remembers that Hex was subjected to the same treatment and he starts to wonder what the long-term effects on him will be. Dudgeon says that when the time is right he will send a telegram to Burridge’s family, telling them he died bravely as a soldier. He reveals that he was sent there to investigate the hospital as one last chance to redeem himself and prove to his superiors that he wasn’t a coward. He kept it a secret and for a while he even thought the Doctor might have been sent to check up on him. He thinks Brook only tolerated the Doctor’s interference because it was important all the staff and patients believed what was going on there was normal and approved by the Army.
Dudgeon wonders what will happen to the remaining patients at the hospital. They’ve been subjected to the morning Hate for so long now, he doesn’t know whether they’ll ever be alright. The Doctor assures him that time heals all wounds and things will get better for them. Dudgeon is relieved. There’s much about this world he still doesn’t understand, but he’s decided he can no longer use this as a reason to do nothing. “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Dudgeon prepares to report back to his base, but Taylor wants a quick word with the Doctor before he leaves. He tells the Doctor that he’s finally accepted that he killed Sergeant Wood, even though he doesn’t remember doing it. The Doctor reminds him he was manipulated and his mind was not his own at the time. It was Brook that killed Wood. He knows it will be difficult for Taylor to live with what happened, but he needs to remember that he was just being used as a weapon by someone else. Taylor promises to tell his girlfriend Lilly all about the Doctor, although he’s not sure she’ll believe a word of it! The Doctor says the best story he can tell is how he made a brave decision, disobeyed orders and allowed another man to live.
The Doctor rejoins Ace and Hex and tells them it’s time they were going. Hex wants to know whether Dudgeon and Taylor will survive to the end of the war, but he doesn’t know. All he knows is that this war will end next year, but then influenza will rip through Europe soon after. Hex remembers hearing about people who were killed while waiting for the ceasefire on 11 November, but the Doctor points out that any death is a waste. He says they could travel back to Hex’s time, leave the TARDIS and be knocked over by a car. Everyone they’ve met here is a figure in history and as soon as they get back to the ship, they’ll just become names in books and on letters in museums and carved on village memorials.
Ace is still wondering how Taylor was able to fake the orders from HQ while in his sleep, but the Doctor will only say that the human mind is not just an amazing thing, it’s also immensely fragile and easily damaged. But there is another explanation…perhaps all the psychological torture Taylor endured did trigger some sort of time sensitivity? Perhaps he genuinely had a premonition? The Doctor senses that Brook’s true employers were particularly interested in such matters and although it wasn’t their major motivation, his methods, however clumsy, were throwing up all sorts of results that intrigued them. Hex asks who Brook was working for, and the Doctor explains that he found a letter in his office which confirmed his worst suspicions. There’s a rather nasty little group, motivated by self interest disguised as patriotism and completely amoral. They call themselves the Forge…
|Source: Lee Rogers