On the bridge of the ship Captain Hardaker gives the rest of his navigational crew leave on account of it being Christmas on the planet below. However, Midshipman Frame refuses to leave as ship regulations state two crewmembers must be present on the bridge at all times. The two men continue to monitor the ship’s orbit around the Earth, as the Captain tells his colleague about the traditions of planet’s festive celebrations.
The Doctor views an information screen displaying a recorded message by Max Capricorn, the proprietor of the company who own the ship. He then walks over to one of the angel-shaped robots and it tells him they are called Hosts, information points for the guests. It explains that the ship originates from the planet Stow, and its mission is to offer guests cultural experiences from the planets it visits, which is why it has been named and designed after a famous vessel from Earth and is visiting the planet at Christmas time.
Suddenly the robotic Host malfunctions and is taken away by members of the crew. They deliver it to Deck 31, where they find theirs is not the only Host ceasing to function properly, many across the ship are beginning to go haywire and the technicians have no ideas why.
Back in the lobby a young waitress accidentally spills a drink on one of the partygoers, a businessman named Rickston Slade. He indignantly dismisses her and claims the cost for his cleaning bill will be deducted from her wage packet before leaving her to pick up the remains of the broken glass. The Doctor appears beside her and offers to help. He introduces himself and she tells him her name is Astrid Peth.
After he tells her that he is on the cruise alone the two begin to talk about travelling. The Time Lord recognises in his new friend a year to visit other worlds and entrances her with talk of other worlds and other skies. He reveals to her that he is a stowaway, and tells her the Titanic hit his own ship when he forgot to arm his defence shields. She agrees not to tell anyone of his presence and goes to get him a free drink.
The Doctor then joins two portly partygoers at the buffet, who much to the amusement of the other guests have mistaken the even for a fancy-dress occasion. The explain to him that the wealthier guests look down on them as they won their tickets for the cruise in a competition, and would rather they stayed in the service decks. In response the Time Lord aims his Sonic Screwdriver at the snobbish guests, causing their champagne bottle to explode much to the amusement of the couple he is seated with, who introduce themselves as Morvin and Foon Van Hoff.
Back on the bridge Midshipman Frame discovers some of the ship’s power is being diverted to Deck 31, and that a meteor storm is approaching the vessel from port side. Captain Hardaker dismisses the events as nothing out of the ordinary and continues his control at the helm.
In the lobby the Doctor, Morvin, Foon, a small red spiky alien named Bannakaffalatta and various other guests prepare to take shore leave, and the Time Lord invites Astrid to join them. A kind elderly man named Mr Copper conducts the visit, and explains to his guests about the traditions of Christmas on the planet Earth, only to get many facts wrong (despite claiming to have a degree in Earthanomics). He hands his guests special teleportation wristbands, and they all beam down to the planet below, only to find the streets deserted.
The other guests are not perturbed by this but the Doctor is somewhat concerned. After Mr Copper explains to the group that he has petty cash stored on a credit card should they wish to purchase anything, the Doctor speaks to a nearby newspaper vendor at the side of the road who explains that following attacks by the Sycorax and the Rachnoss the city of London has been deserted for Christmas in fear that another alien ship will soon appear in the sky. Some people still remain, including the Queen, who is spending the festive season in Buckingham Palace.
Astrid meanwhile marvels at the scene surrounding her, and joins the Doctor as they look around. Suddenly they are returned to the Titanic and Mr Copper explains there has been a power fluctuation. Astrid is not saddened by this and instead thanks the Doctor for taking her with him, before returning to her work.
On the bridge Midshipman Frame looks on as the meteors outside appear to change course and begin flying toward the ship. He warns the Captain but he is busy at a computer bank, appearing to magnetise the hols so the approaching projectiles will be drawn toward them..
The party continues in the lobby but the Doctor is concerned about the power problems. He approaches another of the computer screens displaying the recorded message from Max Capricorn and manages to augment it so it shows him technical information about the ship. He discovers the defence shields have been taken off line and then sees the meteors outside approaching the ship with increasing speed.
He contacts the bridge to warn the crew but the Captain, who continues to fiddle with the controls, ignores him and orders his men to bring him to the bridge. Sure enough several members of the crew escort the Doctor from the computer screen. Up above in the bridge Midshipman Frame moves to restore the defence shields but the Captain pulls a gun on him. Frame ignores this threat and tries to continue his work, only for Hardaker to pull the trigger.
In the lobby the Doctor tries to warn the other guests of the approaching danger but is dragged away by the Chief Steward. Astrid, Bannakaffalatta, Foon and Morvin all try to help and Mr Copper approaches, wishing to know what is the reason for the disturbance. As they leave the room Rickston Slade asks one of the Hosts what is going on. It replies:
“Information: You are all going to die.”
Captain Hardaker checks his watch as the wounded Frame nurses the gunshot wound in his side. He warns the Captain he will be killed by the approaching storm but he claims he is dying anyway.
“Six months. And they offered me so much money…for my family.”
Rickston joins the Doctor, Astrid, Mr Copper, Foon, Morvin, Bannakaffalatta and the Chief Steward as they move along a service corridor en route to the bridge, having also noticed the state of the shields. However his concerns, like the Doctor’s, fall on deaf ears and as Captain Hardaker looks on from the bridge the three meteors hit the side of the ship.
The guests are thrown to the floor as balls of fire erupt across the craft. On Deck 31 the Hosts gather together whilst the turbulence comes to a halt. In the service corridor the Chief Steward tries to apologise and decides to find out what is going on. He opens a nearby door; unaware the meteors have destroyed the room beyond. He is sucked out into space and the others are forced to struggles not to follow him.
The Doctor manages to restore order by repairing the Oxygen Shield. He warns Astrid the meteor strike may not have been an accident, then promises he will save her and the others. He explains he can take them to safety in his own ship but when he glances outside he discovers the TARDIS has also been sucked into space, and is now drifting down toward the Earth.
On Deck 31 one of the technicians finds himself seriously injured and calls to the Hosts for help. However, the robots tell him they now have only one purpose; to kill. One of the angelic droids removes the metallic halo from around its head and flings it towards him; moments later his screams out in agony.
On Deck 22 the Doctor contacts the bridge where the ailing Midshipman explains to him the Captain is dead, crushed under falling debris. He then tells the Doctor the nuclear storm drive engines are failing, and when they stop the ship will loose orbit and crash down to Earth. Over the intercom the Doctor manages to assist in patching up a temporary solution to make the engines last longer then tells Frame he will make his way to the bridge to help avert disaster.
He turns back to his group of companions and promises he will save them, but they will have to get to the bridge first. Rickston Slade seems unimpressed with the Doctor’s claims and asks what authority he has, and who he is. The traveller turns on him and replies:
“I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Katerborous. I’m 903 years old and I’m the man who is going to save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?”
Slade concedes and the group make their way to a staircase, which is littered with wreckage. Clearing some of it aside the Doctor discovers a Host that has been damaged in the explosion. He realises it can help them clear the rubble once it is fixed and Foon and Morvin offer to help, telling him they are experts in robotics.
They stay behind and the others move on but find their way blocked. They locate a gap small enough for Bannakaffalatta to fit through and he makes it to the other side, followed by the dainty Astrid. The others start making the gap wider for the rest of the group to fit through whilst on the staircase Foon reveals to her husband that they are in serious debt, having entered the competition to win the cruise tickets 5000 times, at the cost of one credit per entry. She expects him to shout at her but instead he laughs at her integrity, and tells her that he will always love her no matter what.
Up above them Astrid begins dismantling the remaining blockade but discovers Bannakaffalatta has been hurt. He reveals to her that he is a cyborg, a race frowned upon by the people of Stow. She claims he has nothing to fear as cyborgs now have equal rights, they can even get married. The tiny red alien cheekily claims he could marry her, and she laughs. Setting him to recharge, Astrid returns to the wall of debris and calls back to the Doctor, jokily claiming she has just got engaged.
On the bridge Midshipman Frame receives a call from one of the kitchens, where some of the staff are still alive following the collision. He tells them to make their way to the bridge but they claim the doors are locked. Seconds later the heavy metal portals open and the Hosts enter, killing the survivors with their razor sharp halos.
Frame contacts the Doctor and warns him the Hosts may be dangerous. The Time Lord tries to warn Foon and Morvin that the droid they are repairing is dangerous but it is too late, it has been fixed. Immediately it begins chasing after them, ready to kill. The Doctor gets the others to safety beyond the blockade but then stops and asks the droid where it receives its commands from. It tells him they come from Deck 31 then resumes its attempts to kill him, but the Doctor manages to make it through the blockade, which collapses, destroying the robot once and for all.
Midshipman Frame manages to defend the bridge from another group of the robots but is forced to seal the doors with a maximum deadlock, meaning nobody else can get inside. He contacts the Doctor and warns him, but the Time Lord is more concerned about Deck 31, which Frame tells him is used for storing the Hosts. He sends the Doctor a map of the ship via a nearby information screen and he identifies an area on the Deck that is sealed off, showing no source of power, light or energy.
Frame signs off and the Doctor returns to his group of friends. He and Astrid speak with Mr Copper, who again displays a flawed understanding of Christmas traditions and Earth culture. He reveals to them his degree in Earthanomics is something of a fake; he was forced to lie to the company to secure a job, having spent his life as a travelling salesman with no money and no home. He fears that should he survive the Titanic disaster he will be imprisoned for fraud, and as an old man will not survive his prison sentence.
Their conversation is interrupted by a group of Hosts, who have managed to follow them. They run for safety and emerge in a giant chamber suspended above the storm drive engines. The floor has collapsed and all that remains is a single walkway extending from one side of the chasm to the other.
The Doctor seals the door behind them but the Hosts are soon trying to break it down. The others seem concerned about being able to make their way across, especially Foon and Morvin. The Doctor claims the makeshift bridge will take their weight but tragedy strikes when Morvin looses his footing on the balcony beside the crossing and plunges down into the fiery engines.
The Doctor and Astrid try to comfort the distraught Foon but they are forced to move on and the party begins making its way from the balcony to the walkway, surrounded by the sound of metallic thumping as the Hosts try to break down the door. Rickston makes it across with Bannakaffalatta, Astrid and Mr Copper following behind. The Doctor tries to convince Foon she must cross but is forced to leave her behind when Rickston reveals the door on the other side of the ravine is locked and they need the Sonic Screwdriver. He promises Foon he will return for her then follows the others onto the walkway.
The noise at the door stops. The Doctor wonders what might have happened when suddenly the Hosts reappear, now flying down upon them from the decks above using their angelic wings. They remove their halos and launch them at the escaping guests, who manage to fend off the attack using pieces of fallen debris as shields. Bannakaffalatta manages to end the onslaught by disabling the Hosts with an electromagnetic pulse launched from his robotic body parts. However the massive loss of power has a devastating effect and with Astrid watching over him he dies.
Mr Copper removes a transmitter from Bannakaffalatta’s chest and claims they can use it as a weapon against their attackers, he might not have died in vain. Suddenly one of the fallen hosts reactivates and advances toward them, but the Doctor stops it by engaging the robot’s emergency protocol. He questions it and it tells him that killing the passengers and crew means there will be no witnesses to what has happened. The ship must be made to crash into the Earth, that is “the plan”.
It then advances towards the Doctor, ready to kill again. Suddenly Foon appears and binds the creature with a length of rope before throwing herself over the edge, dragging the Host with her. The Doctor looks on as she plummets and swears to himself that no more will die.
He and the others proceed to the other side of the chasm and pass into the corridors beyond. He hands Bannakaffalatta’s transmitter to Astrid and tells her to use it to ward off any other Hosts. He then tells Mr Copper and Slade to get to safety and send out an SOS, handing over the Sonic Screwdriver to help unlock sealed doors on the way.
He and Astrid then find a power point and charge up the transmitter. She asks him what he intends to do whilst she and the others reach safety and he explains he wants to try and find what is being hidden on Deck 31. The conversation topic then turns to travelling and Astrid asks the Doctor if he will take her with him in the TARDIS once the problems on the Titanic are over. He agrees, but they are interrupted when the ship is rocked by turbulence.
The Doctor again contacts Frame, who explains they only have eight minutes left until the ship closes down. He promises he will find a way to the bridge them turns to the others, telling them to get on their way. Before they depart Astrid rushes up to the Time Lord and kisses him, claiming it to be a tradition on the planet Stow.
Soon she, Mr Copper and Slade are fighting off Hosts whilst the Doctor makes his way around the ship until the robots surround him. He manages to convince them that he is a stowaway and therefore should be taken to the highest authority instead of being killed. He guesses that the relevant authority is on Deck 31, and sure enough it is there that the Hosts escort him.
Mr Copper and the others reach the lobby and Rickston seals the doors. Astrid begins trying to send and SOS but is distracted by the sight of the teleport wristbands sitting beside her. She calls Midshipman Frame and convinces him to transfer power to the teleport system in order to let her follow the Doctor down to Deck 31.
Down below the Hosts arrive with the Doctor on Deck 31, which like the walkway is also suspended above the engines. The Time Lord discovers the hidden area from the map is an indestructible impact chamber, capable of surviving the crash to Earth. Suddenly the doors of the pod open and from within emerges a motorised life support system, inside of which is sat the dismembered head of Max Capricorn, owner of the Titanic.
Unsurprised by this, the Doctor listens as Capricorn explains he has gone into hiding to keep the fact he has become a cyborg a secret fro the people of Stow. He goes on to admit he is no longer the owner of the company in charge of the ship; his business partners fired him.
The Doctor deduces that as an act of revenge Capricorn now intends to crash one of the company’s ships and then destroy life on Earth, causing those who crossed him to be arrested and put in jail for mass murder whilst he goes undetected. The company meanwhile will be liquidated. He will be retrieved from the wreckage and can then retire with a fortune his has accumulated elsewhere in the universe.
After the Doctor calls him a loser Capricorn’s temper frays and, annoyed the ship has not already crashed, reveals he can stop the engines without returning to the bridge, he can shut them off from Deck 31, which he does much to the Doctor’s dismay.
On the bridge Midshipman Frame struggles to regain control as the vessel begins to shake uncontrollably. On Deck 31 Max Capricorn prepares to return to his pod but first orders the Hosts to kill the Doctor. Suddenly a voice calls out and they all turn to see Astrid in the distance, driving a forklift truck toward them. She accelerates forward and collides with Capricorn’s life support system, trying to push him over the edge of the crumbling floor and into the open engines below.
The Doctor tries to stop her but can only watch as the Hosts use their halos to severe the break lines of Astrid’s forklift. With a last look at her friend Astrid puts her foot down on the accelerator and she and Max Capricorn roll forward, through the barrier and down into the engines. The Doctor breaks free of the Hosts’ grasp and runs forward in time to see his friend disappear amongst the flames.
The ship finally looses power and starts to plummet. The bridge begins to break up in a shower of sparks, leaving Midshipman Frame to cry out in dismay. Copper and Slade are left in the mercy of the turbulence but down below the Doctor has a plan. Surrounded by flames he clicks his fingers and is joined on either side by two Hosts. They take him by the arms and fly him up into the air, until they break through the ceiling and appear in the bridge.
The Doctor begins flicking switches and then takes the helm, struggling to take control of the ship is it soars down towards Earth. The heat of the descent into Earth’s atmosphere engulfs the front of the ship but soon it cools and the computers indicate the impact zone of the craft on the planet below. Dismayed, the Doctor picks up a nearby phone and asks to be put through to Buckingham Palace.
Soon the palace is being evacuated as the starship Titanic plummets towards it. Suddenly the engines roar to life and the Doctor pulls the steering control violently backwards. The ship levels off then soars back up into the sky, leaving Buckingham Palace and the Queen safe. The Time Lord and his fellow survivors whoop with joy as the ship ascends back into the skies, the heat from the re-entry having been used to fuel the engines.
The Doctor laments that not everyone lived to tell the tale but then realisation dawns and he rushes off to the lobby, where Mr Copper and Rickston Slade are alive and well. He runs to the teleportation area and recalls that when Astrid fell she was still wearing a teleportation wristband. Mr Copper confirms that if a passenger has an accident while wearing the band their molecules are held in stasis, and can be recalled to the lobby.
Adjusting the teleport controls with the Sonic Screwdriver the Doctor manages to bring back a faint image of Astrid, but despite his desperation cannot return her fully. Mr Copper tells him the system is too damaged to return her; all she is now is atoms; “stardust”. The faint image calls out into space, claiming she is falling. The Doctor approaches and kisses his lost friend, before aiming the Sonic Screwdriver at her.
“Now you can travel forever…You’re not falling Astrid, you’re flying”.
He activates the Screwdriver and the image reduces to floating blue particles that fly out of an open window and ascend to the stars outside.
Some time later the SOS has been sent and the Doctor, Slade, Mr Copper and Midshipman Frame stand in the lobby. Mr Copper fears he will be arrested when the authorities arrive and Rickston finally thanks the Doctor for saving his life, before revealing jubilantly that he sold the shares he owned in Max Capricorn’s company and brought some in a rival business before the disaster occurred, and has thus made a fortune. He walks off and Mr Copper observes from the Doctor’s stern gaze that of all those who could have survived, Slade would not have been the Time Lord’s first choice.
“But if you could choose Doctor, if you could decide who lives and who dies, that would make you a monster.”
The Doctor, touched by Mr Copper’s understanding, offers him a teleport bracelet and together they beam down to Earth.
Some time later the two men walk together on a landscape covered in snow (or rather sediment from the Titanic when it entered Earth’s atmosphere). Eventually they find the TARDIS and the Doctor prepares to leave. Mr Copper asks what he is to do now he is stuck on Earth and the Doctor tells him to start his own life, albeit a quiet one.
He takes Mr Copper’s credit card and prepares to use his Sonic Screwdriver to add more money to it, but discovers it already contains a fortune. Mr Copper explains he added a million pounds to it by computer before the voyage began, having mistaken the exchange rate. He believed the amount would only be sufficient enough for the passengers to buy trinkets when they visited the planet. After the Doctor explains exactly how much money he has, Mr Copper is jubilant at being able to afford his own home. He thanks the Doctor and runs off into the night to start his new life, turning back to call one more thing to the Doctor.
“Doctor! I won’t forget her.”
Looking up at the night sky the Doctor observes a cloud of blue molecules dancing about amongst the snow and stars, and then glances back at the old man in the distance.
“Merry Christmas Mr Copper.”
He steps inside the ship and it dematerialises, leaving behind the snowy white landscape and the city beyond.