The Doctor and Rose arrive back on Earth and go to see Jackie, bearing gifts from their travels across the galaxy. Despite a warm welcome the travellers find their visit is sidelined when Jackie reveals another visitor is on his was; Rose’s granddad Prentis.
The young traveller finds this odd, as Prentis has been dead for years. She and the Doctor join Jackie in the kitchen where they are shocked to find a strange apparition forming, a jet-black humanoid figure surrounded by light. Jackie introduces it as Prentis but the Doctor is suspicious.
Soon they are on the streets outside the estate where they find dozens of ‘ghosts’ interacting silently with other human beings. Jackie explains the ghosts arrive in shifts and the Doctor is concerned that the apparitions worry nobody. Jackie then explains the shift is about to end and sure enough the figures begin to fade, but not on their own accord.
In an unknown location two scientists pull at heavy levers, reducing some kind of power output and sure enough as they do so across the city the ghosts fade away. The Doctor, Rose and Jackie all return to the flat where a flick through the television channels shows that the ghosts are appearing all over the world, not just London.
Jackie reveals that the ghost started appearing two months ago and after the initial panic it sank in that it was luck the dead were returning. Rose asks why she thinks the ghost in the kitchen was Prentis and she tells her it smells like he used to. Rose reveals she cannot smell it and her mother explains you have to want to see the person in order for the ghost before it becomes a reality.
The Doctor realises that the whole incident is faked; it is a trick of the mind, a psychic link. The ghosts are using this will power to pull themselves into existence. Jackie asks what the ghosts really are and Rose agrees that they do at least look human. The Doctor theorises that the ghosts are pressing themselves into the surface of the planet, and a footprint doesn’t look like a boot…
Back in the office with the levers the head of the operation, a woman called Yvonne Hartman is checking information with her various staff, before using her earpiece to contact a scientist called Rajesh, asking for information on his project. He reveals there have been no advancements, despite new machinery all possible readouts have shown ‘the sphere’ does not exist. After he has finished speaking he approaches a giant spherical object hanging in mid air. He reaches out to touch it but recoils and steps away.
In the office Yvonne orders that something be taken down to Rajesh to keep him occupied whist two of her employees; Gareth and Adeola communicate with each other over their computers. They arrange to meet and after making their excuses they each make their way out of the office. They arrive in a part of the building under construction; reduced to a maze of semi-transparent sheeting. Gareth goes ahead and steps inside but Adeola is more sceptical. After he gives no answer to her questions she follows him inside. She finds no sign of him but is confronted by a tall well-built figure standing on the other side of a piece of sheeting. She asks if it has seen her friend but it gives no reply. It pulls the sheeting separating them away and reveals itself; it is a Cyberman. Adeola screams as the metal monster approaches.
Back in the TARDIS the Doctor has mounted a strange rucksack to his back and outside a triangle of beacons sits on a strip of grass, which will help him to trace the ghosts. Jackie asks if he does not find the dead returning to their loved ones beautiful but he claims it is horrific. He returns inside the ship and gives Rose instructions of what to do when the next ghost shift starts. He returns outside to power up the machinery and Jackie joins them.
In the office Gareth and Adeola return to their desk and apologise to Yvonne for their lateness. She tells them the next ghost shift is about to start and as the scientists pull the levers to increase the power levels, Adeola and Gareth, now wearing two beeping ear pods instead of the usual one, pluck the data surrounding the levers onto their computer screens.
As the Doctor continues to power up the beacons Jackie observes Rose leaning over the TARDIS console. She comments how similar to the Doctor she has become and then asks what she will do when she is dead and gone. Rose tries to avoid the question but Jackie notes that when she is gone Rose will have no reason to go home, she will keep on changing and in forty or fifty years time she will be on some alien planet a million miles away. “But she’s not Rose Tyler. Not anymore. She’s not even human.”
Soon the ghost shift is starting and as the Doctor waits outside a ghost forms between the beacons, trapped by a ring of electricity. Rose and Jackie watch on the scanner as the Time Lord puts on a pair of 3-D glasses to watch the apparition and back in the office, an alarm goes off. Yvonne rushes to see what it is and another worker called Matt begins to trace the interference of the ghost shift. She orders the shift to be closed and the levers are set down, meaning the ghost the Doctor has trapped fades.
In the office Yvonne and Matt trace the source of disturbance closer and closer to an exact reference and when they patch into a local CCTV network they find a solitary item standing near a playground; a large blue Police Box. Yvonne watches it with misty eye and realises it is him.
Back in the TARDIS the Doctor tells Rose that the ghosts have been brought into existence from one specific point and he can trace it. He flicks at the controls and soon they have taken off. In the office Yvonne realises what this means; he is coming. She contacts Rajesh to tell him and he in turn looks at the sphere, telling it that now they will have it under control.
The Doctor rushes around the console room activating controls and talking excitedly to himself. He realises Rose is being more reserved and when he asks her why she reveals he has forgotten something; Jackie is still onboard. Sure enough when he looks around he sees her sitting on the service balcony mounted to the wall; telling him sternly that if they end up on Mars she is going to kill him.
Deep beneath the office building, down in the basement a patrol of soldiers ready themselves, guns aimed as the TARDIS hones into view. Inside the ship the Doctor, Rose and Jackie observe their actions on the scanner and the Time Lord realises that they have lost the element of surprise. Nevertheless her prepares to leave, warning the others to stay inside. Rose warns him that the soldiers have guns but he simply tells her that although they can shoot him dead the moral high ground is his.
He steps outside alone and the soldiers cock their rifles. Yvonne approaches and they all applaud him. He looks on stunned and introduces himself. They applaud again and after he realises they known him she tells him none of them would be here without him. They applaud again and Yvonne asks where his companion is, their record show he always travels with a companion. He reaches into the TARDIS and without looking accidentally drags Jackie outside instead of Rose.
Nevertheless he introduces her as Rose and tells them that only the other week she looked into the heart of the time vortex and aged fifty-seven years. She protests but amidst other light-hearted put downs she remains silent and soon she and the Doctor are following Yvonne and the soldiers out of the basement. Rose watches them leave once more on the scanner and is left to her own thoughts.
As they make their way around the building Yvonne tells the Doctor that it was only a matter of time before he found them. She welcomes them to the institution they are walking through; Torchwood. As she pushes aside doors the sight before them becomes massive, giant machines moving alien pieces of technology across a grand basement. The Doctor identifies various pieces of alien technology and Yvonne reveals that the institute utilise alien technology they either find or take by force; one such incident being the ray that killed the Sycorax spaceship on Christmas Day. The motto of torchwood is “If it’s alien, it’s ours.”
Yvonne tells them that the technology is used for the good of the British Empire. Jackie tells her there is no Empire but she merely tells her there isn’t one yet. She continues to show them different alien artefacts such as particle guns and magna clamps, devices capable of lifting tonnes of material with one hand.
The Doctor asks what the ghosts have to do with Torchwood but Yvonne tells him that is to come. Suddenly, Jackie realises the TARDIS is being driven away on a lorry and as Yvonne reminds them of the Torchwood motto, the Doctor tells her they will never get inside. The doors of the ship open a crack and Rose peers out. The Doctor nods at her and she disappears back inside, where she retrieves the psychic paper from the Time Lord’s jacket pocket.
Back in the main office Adeola is now computer messaging Matt, asking him to come with her. She gets up and leaves, and after glancing at his screen he follows. Elsewhere, the Doctor asks why after all of the times he has visited Earth he has not heard of Torchwood. Yvonne tells him it is because he is the enemy and tells him he is listed in the Torchwood foundation charter as an enemy of the crown. The Time Lord remembers his encounter with Queen Victoria and the werewolf in Torchwood House and Yvonne confirms that it was Victoria who started the institute to protect England from alien life, and as the Doctor is the enemy he is also the prisoner.
Soon they arrive at a new room, the room containing the sphere. Yvonne asks him to analyse it and after Jackie explains it gives her a very bad vibe the Doctor approaches it, again putting on his 3-D glasses in order to inspect it. Rajesh explains the sphere gives off no form of existence, no weight or mass. The Doctor explains that the sphere is a void ship, a vessel that exists outside of time and space in the void between dimensions. Some call it the void, the Eternals call it the howling but others call it hell. He explains something could live for an eternity inside and confirms something is inside.
He declares that it must be sent back to hell then asks how it came to Earth. Yvonne tells him it came into this world and the ghosts followed. The Doctor asks her to show him and they depart, on their way to the main office.
Adeola leads Matt to the network of sheeting and tells him to go inside. Reluctantly he does so, into a pool of red light and as he disappears from sight the sound of whirring drills and his screams ring out.
In the basement Rose emerges from the TARDIS and takes a lab coat. Putting it on she begins to scout around, finally seeing one of the other lab-coated scientists and with slight confusion, deciding to follow him.
Adeola returns to the main office where Yvonne shows the Doctor a large blank wall at one end, a hole in the world. Torchwood Tower was built to house the breech and Jackie realises the tower is actually Canary Warf. The Doctor starts cockily stating how they have been making the hole in the universe bigger but Yvonne claims that the energy it emits could power the entire country. She begins to make preparations for the next ghost shift but the Doctor warns her to stop it.
She declines so he shows her using a pane of glass and the sonic screwdriver how creating a hole in the fabric of space and time creates fracturing fault lines, which the ghosts are using to walk through via the void. As the glass splinters he explains that in the end, with too many ghosts, it will smash and sure enough the glass, the universe, collapses into pieces. Yvonne ignores him and makes preparations, claiming the levers can close the breech as well as open it. The Doctor again protests then mockingly gives up. He pulls up a chair and sits and watches as the countdown to the shift starts He stares at Yvonne and she realises he is right. She stops the shift and orders the glass be cleaned up. All the while, Adeola, Matt and Gareth are at their work, programming the levers…
Rose is still following the scientist through the basement levels of the tower and eventually comes to the door of the sphere room. She goes inside and shows her psychic paper to Rajesh, not knowing that all Torchwood employees have a low level of psychic ability, he can see that the paper is blank. As she looks on the other scientist turns and shows his face, it is Mickey. Rajesh orders the room be sealed and orders Samuel, alias Mickey to check the door seals.
In the office the Doctor theorises that the ghosts must have built the sphere as Yvonne is told that Rose has been captured. He is forced to tell her who Jackie really is then asks her not to add the incident to his records. Yvonne however has bigger problems; the ghost shift has been activated and as Adeola, Gareth and Matt type blindly at their computers the shift is activated. The levers slowly rise and the Doctor realises Adeola is in control, overriding the system. He looks up and sees that the blank wall is beginning to glow.
In the sphere room Rajesh’s communicator has gone down but as he speaks the room is rocked, pivoted around the sphere, it is active.
In the office the Doctor recognises the earpieces controlling Adeola, Gareth and Matt then unwontedly zaps Adeola with the sonic screwdriver. She screams and collapses and the others do the same. Jackie accuses him of killing them but he claims they were dead already. Yvonne tries to remove one of Adeola’s earpieces and with it comes an entrail of tissue; it is latched onto her brain.
The Doctor monitors the increasing power behind the ghost shift and tries to trace the source of the hijack. In the sphere room the sphere starts to vibrate and begins to register signs of mass and true existence. As a result the doors are automatically locked, they cannot get out. Mickey meanwhile tells Rose they have beaten ‘them’ before and will again.
Down below the Doctor and Yvonne, along with some soldiers arrive at the maze of sheeting and as in the office Jackie is left to watch the wall glow and the levers move on their own free will the Time Lord realises the ear pod technology signals the collision of two worlds, one he has seen before. Suddenly they are surrounded by giant metallic forms, which cut through the sheeting and step forward; the advance guard, the Cybermen.
In the sphere room Mickey explains that in the parallel world he was left to fight in, they had been fighting the Cybermen until they disappeared into this world. They followed and he is here to destroy what is inside the sphere, something he believes might be some form of leader of the Cybermen.
In the office the Cybermen bring the Doctor and Jackie back inside and destroy the other scientists trying to cancel the ghost shift. They maximise the power input and across the world, including in the Torchwood tower, hundreds of ghosts march through the void.
In the sphere room the sphere begins to separate into sections and separate, opening to reveal what is inside.
In the office Jackie asks what the Cybermen has to do with the ghosts and the Doctor reminds her of what he said about a footprint not looking like a boot; the ghosts are not spirits, they are an army of Cybermen. Sure enough the jet-black humanoid figures morph into Cybermen, in every location across the world and soon panic is sweeping the nation. The metal monsters stamp into peoples homes and places of work. Yvonne realises it is an invasion but the Doctor tells her it is too late for that, it is a victory.
In the sphere room, Mickey pulls a gun from under the table and prepares to kill what is inside, as the sphere opens further and further.
Back in the office the Doctor realises the sphere is not of Cyberman design, and sure enough the Cyber Leader tells him it was not theirs. The sphere broke through between dimensions, but the Cybermen merely followed it.
In the sphere the inhabitants of the void ship, the sphere begin to glide up out of the empty shell. Mickey realises they are not Cybermen, but Rose has seen them before; they are the creatures she has feared ever since she first set eyes on one lowly creature deep beneath the Arizona Desert. The creatures within the sphere are her and the Doctor’s worst nightmare; they are Daleks…