The creature in the doorway, a curious beast covered in black feathers but sporting a copper mask, leaps up onto the side of a nearby building. The man calling himself ‘the Doctor’ quickly grabs a rope and lassos the creature, but it begins climbing the wall, dragging him with it. Soon the Doctor follows and the two men ascend whilst Rosita watches from below.
The Doctor, bemused his namesake does not recognise him, is left at the mercy of the beast – which he identifies as the result of a primitive conversion process – as it leaps through a top floor window. The two men follow and are soon being dragged along the floor at high speed. Soon the creature heads for another window but before it can pull the Doctors to their deaths, Rosita arrives and cuts the rope with an axe. Much relieved the two Doctors rejoice at their adventure, laughing off the danger.
They all return downstairs. Rosita decides to dismantle the traps she and her Doctor previously set for the creature and reminds her friend that they have a funeral to attend very soon. The Doctor still marvels at having seemingly met a future incarnation of himself, but is surprised he knows nothing of his past. To avoid confusion he introduces himself as John Smith. Soon the Other Doctor admits that large sections of his memory are missing – ever since he discovered the Cybermen at work in Victorian London.
He recalls the aliens, who fell to Earth, found him and subsequently he knows only that on that night something was taken from him, and something was lost. He then turns his attentions to the present and hurries away to attend the funeral, wishing his new friend Merry Christmas as he goes.
Somewhere below London the Cybermen are massing. Receiving transmission from a CyberShade (the creature that attacked the Doctors and Rosita) they identify the Doctor (the Other Doctor) as their enemy and warn that he may be a threat. The CyberLeader turns to a human woman standing nearby, and tells her that she must prepare herself for ‘the ascension’. Apparently on terms with the Cybermen, the woman agrees to do her best at ‘the intervention’, so long as the Cybermen keep their promise and herald her at the court of the new CyberKing. Turning to leave, she claims she has a funeral to attend.
Sure enough, a funeral carriage is being wheeled through the streets of London. Observing from a distance, the Other Doctor tells Rosita that the deceased is the late Reverend Fairchild. He then orders her to return to the TARDIS whilst he breaks into the Reverend’s empty house to conduct a search.
However, upon arriving he finds the Doctor, or rather John Smith, is already there, asking to see his Sonic Screwdriver. He produces it, and the Doctor is surprised to find it is a normal screwdriver; it is only sonic because when the Other Doctor hits things with it, it makes a sound.
Hurrying inside, the Other Doctor begins searching cupboards and drawers for something, all the while explaining that his latest investigation began some weeks ago when a man named Jackson Lake was murdered; his body was never found. More suspicious murders and child abductions followed until the latest killing, that of the Reverend; the pillar of the community and advocate of children’s charities, occurred.
The Doctor ponders why the deaths of Lake and Fairchild might be connected. However, the Other Doctor has ceased his explanations, he is more concerned by the fact he feels he can unquestioningly trust Mr Smith, for somehow he recognises his face. The Doctor answers by taking the fob watch the Other Doctor is wearing, claiming it is known that such devices can contain the memories of Time Lords. Expecting it to be a Chameleon Arch he opens it, only to discover it is an ordinary watch.
He then begins helping the Other Doctor in his search for something in the house, namely a metal object not of Earth origin. Using his own real Sonic Screwdriver, he identifies the location and uncovers a series of cylindrical objects he knows to be Info-stamps, mobile databases of information. He activates one and it projects onto the wall a series of pictures and articles charting the history of London dating back to 1066. He ponders why the Cybermen would need such basic technology, and theorises that being in the wrong century they must have very little power, and therefore rely on these stamps to conserve energy.
He turns to find the Other Doctor seated, apparently in some discomfort. He explains that he has seen an Info-stamp before; he was holding one the night he lost his mind; the night he regenerated. He recalls seeing Mr Smith on that night, and begs him to help find out what has really happened to him. The Doctor, Smith, agrees and claims they must return to the Other Doctor’s TARDIS. However, before going he checks the house once more, believing that if the Info-stamps are present then the Cybermen will follow.
Sure enough he opens a door to find a Cyberman waiting for him. He slams the door shut and then hurries away with the Other Doctor. However, the way out is blocked by another Cyberman and they are forced to ascend the stairs, the Doctor fending off the Cybermen with a cutlass previously mounted on the wall. He tries to talk with them, claiming he is the only man who can help them escape from 1851, and at last reveals that he is the true Doctor, and that they should leave the other man with him alone.
The Cybermen do not listen and continue their charge but are stopped when the Other Doctor, recalling something from the night he last met the Cybermen, turns one of the Info-stamps on them. Blasting them with the power source within, he causes their heads to explode. The Doctor is excited but his new companion is still unnerved. He allows the Doctor, who tells him he was calling himself ‘the Doctor’ to fool the Cybermen, to check his heartbeat with a stethoscope as he struggles to remember the night he changed. All he can recall is that the Cybermen took something precious from him, and now John Smith is trying to take all he has left – his identity. The Doctor, finishing his examination, promises that together they will uncover the truth about what happened that night.
Meanwhile, in a graveyard blanketed by snow, a crowd of mourners look on as the Reverend Fairchild’s coffin is lowered into the ground. Soon the woman from the Cybermen’s lair arrives, now adorned in a scarlet red dress. She casually walks up to the graveside and the service grinds to a halt. The mourners, all charitable men of the city, are disgusted by her apparel but she makes light of the situation. One of the men recognises her as Miss Hartigan, Matron of the St Joseph Workhouse. She explains that the Reverend Fairchild had to die in order to bring all of the men together in one place. Now they are gathered she can introduce her new friends…
A squadron of Cybermen march through the snow, advancing on the funeral party. Miss Hartigan, still calm, calls for Messer Cole, Scoones, Fetch and Milligan to remain still; the others are not needed. Soon the Cybermen and their slaves the CyberShades attack, killing every last man but the four named by Miss Hartigan, who ask why they are required. Hartigan tells them they are needed for their children, then casually remarks that in all the years these men have visited her hospital, they have never asked of her first name – Mercy.
That night the two Doctors return to Rosita, who welcomes them into the stables where she and the Other Doctor are staying on a temporary basis. The room is covered in packing cases, all belonging to the deceased Jackson Lake. As the Other Doctor laments his lack of bravery in facing the Cybermen, his counterpart uses his Sonic Screwdriver to scan the luggage, and soon begins rummaging through it.
Speaking with Rosita, he listens as she recalls how she and the Other Doctor met – she was working on the streets when she was attacked by a Cyberman and the Doctor arrived to save her. She calls upon her new friend to help her Doctor, claiming he has nightmares. The Other Doctor chides her, claiming that after all the Time Lord has seen he must surely have bad dreams. The Doctor agrees.
Soon the Time Lord finds what he is looking for – an Info-stamp hidden in the luggage. He claims that before he can deduce why it is there, he must see the Other Doctor’s TARDIS, which he soon discovers to be an ordinary air balloon (Tethered Arial Release Developed In Style). Soon the Other Doctor plans to depart, to be free with all of the time and space he needs – at last, as the Doctor notes, he will have the perfect escape. Now understanding how it is the man before him came to be ‘the Doctor’, he offers him the answer to what happened the night he lost his memories, and what he is running from.
Across London Miss Hartigan stands with Messers Cole, Scoones, Fetch and Milligan. The four gentleman stand to attention, their heads now fitted with primitive earpod devices, controlling their brains. After testing the men’s new obedience, Miss Hartigan sends them to do their appointed tasks;
“Bring them to me.”
In the stables, with Rosita and the Other Doctor listening carefully, the Doctor recounts the story of the Cybermen, explaining that they were once fought and trapped in a wilderness known as ‘the void’. However, some time later a greater battle caused the void to perish, allowing the last Cybermen to gain passage to Victorian London, where they found the Other Doctor. However, he was not alone. Another man, Jackson Lake, also found the Cybermen and like the Other Doctor, he took hold of an Info-stamp, and then disappeared.
The Doctor asks to see the Other Doctor’s watch again, and reveals it is engraved ‘JL’. The watch belongs to Jackson Lake – alias the Other Doctor. The Info-stamp Jackson Lake picked up was a book about the Doctor. Discarding his pseudonym, the Doctor explains that the Info-stamp must have backfired and filled Jackson’s head with all of the data about him.
Jackson brands himself a lie but the Doctor insists the bravery he has shown in saving Rosita, defending London and confronting the Cybermen is his own. Lake demands to know what else happened on the night he became the Doctor, for he realises there is something missing. The Doctor apologises for what he is about to make Jackson remember and comments upon the numerous cases he brought with him to London – far too many for just one man. He realises that Jackson’s head could only be filled with the data in the Info-stamp if the mind it replaced willingly surrendered. As the church bells chime midnight, Christmas Day, Jackson Lake remembers what he lost, what forced his mind to run away – his wife, a victim of the Cybermen.
As Jackson grieves, the Doctor notices that the Info-stamp has started to bleep, as has the one he picked up in the Reverend Fairchild’s house. He hears more bleeping and uncovers a cache of Info-stamps hidden in a nearby case. The sound denotes activation – the Cybermen are moving.
He hurries out into the streets and Jackson tells Rosita to follow – for he understands that the Doctor must always have a companion. She leaves the stables and joins the Doctor, in time to see a crowd of children being marched through the streets by Mr Cole, owner of one of the workhouses. Seeing Cole’s earpods, the Doctor moves to disable them with his Sonic Screwdriver but the growl of a nearby CyberShade, now acting as guard dogs, forces him to rethink.
Soon Jed, the man looking after Jackson’s TARDIS, arrives and reports that more children are being moved further across the city. The Doctor and Rosita hurry away and indeed find more children, who are being led to a large building guarded by the Cybermen. This is the court of the CyberKing.
Back at the stables Jackson Lake is in tears. Suddenly he rises and, almost in anger, he begins rummaging through his luggage, looking for something.
Back on the streets, the Doctor and Rosita watch as more children are led inside the guarded building, which Rosita recognises as a route to the sewers. She and the Doctor run to find another entrance but are stopped in their tracks by two Cybermen. Miss Hartigan then arrives and the Doctor assumes her to be under some influence of the Cybermen. However, Miss Hartigan explains she has not been converted; she is working freely with the Cybermen to achieve her ultimate goal – liberation.
The Doctor then introduces himself (the Cybermen having to update their databases before realising their mistake in thinking Jackson Lake to be the Doctor) and asks what the children are needed for. Miss Hartigan tells him they are a workforce, helping to mould the arrival of a new emperor for Britain’s empire. Timed to coincide with Christmas Day, she vows to oversee the birth of a new saviour, as well as the death of his enemy. She sends the Cybermen after him but they are stopped in their tracks by Jackson Lake, who has grabbed the cache of Info-stamps and is now using them as a weapon to fight the Cybermen.
Given the chance to escape the three friends flee, but not before Rosita has had a swipe at Miss Hartigan. As they run off into the night Hartigan calls to the CyberShades, telling them that their plan has changed; instead of dawn, the CyberKing shall rise tonight.
Safe for the moment, the Doctor claims he must enter the Cybermen’s stronghold, and Jackson obliges by handing him the deeds to the house he and his wife were staying at – the house where they found the Cybermen. Although his memory is still clouded, he recalls there is something else in the basement of the house, something that may hold the key to saving the day.
Back at the Cybermen’s base, the CyberLeader agrees with Miss Hartigan that the ascension of the CyberKing must take place immediately, before the Doctor can interfere. After dispatching the now redundant Mr Cole, Mr Scoones, Mr Fetch and Mr Milligan; Miss Hartigan addresses her infant workforce, who are busy operating a myriad of machinery constructed by the Cybermen. She tells them the new industrial revolution is about to begin, and then orders them back to their work. As the energy levels required to raise the CyberKing escalate, Miss Hartigan walks with the Cybermen to observe the CyberKing’s chamber.
Beginning their ascent to below ground, the Doctor, Jackson and Rosita find more Cybermen on guard, which are dispatched thanks to Jackson’s Info-stamps. The Doctor finds the creatures are guarding a Dimension Vault, technology stolen from the Daleks in the void. He wonders if the device, which is ineffective as it has not been powered up fully, is the thing Jackson is struggling to recall, but he responds with more uncertainty – his mind is still not clear.
Miss Hartigan and the Cybermen arrive at the chamber of the CyberKing, in which is housed a large throne. Miss Hartigan tells the CyberLeader he will suit the new position but he turns on her, claiming that she is to be converted into the CyberKing, not he. She is outraged, having been promised she would never be converted. The CyberLeader claims that that promise was designated as a lie.
As the Doctor relates to Rosita the Cybermen’s plan to convert everything until it is like them, Miss Hartigan is strapped into the throne. The CyberLeader tells her that having lived a life wracked with anger, abuse and revenge, her mind is too emotional to be effective. Soon a crown descends onto her head and waves of electricity are zapped through her brain. When the process is complete the CyberLeader announces that the CyberKing has been born. Surely enough, when Miss Hartigan opens her eyes following the conversion, they are pitch black.
The Doctor, Rosita and Jackson arrive in the work room, which the Doctor notes is housing the workings of an engine, geared to creative massive amounts of electricity for some unknown cause. Jackson prepares to destroy the Cybermen standing guard but the Doctor stops him, and heads off in the opposite direction. He finds an energy readout. The power is now at 90%, and cannot be stopped without raising the Cybermen’s awareness. Suddenly an energy spike hits – the software is rewriting itself.
In the throne room Miss Hartigan, now with a partially-robotic voice, marvels at the new landscapes and scopes in her head. It soon becomes clear that her mind is too strong for the Cybermen to override; now she holds the might of an army and the passion of a human being. The CyberLeader moves to disconnect her but she fires a bolt of energy at him from her crown, which vaporises him. Now she is in control of the Cybermen.
Seeing the subsequent power fluctuations, which are now nearing 100%, the Doctor realises that whatever the engine is powering, it could be deadly, and rushes to help the children in the workroom. Sure enough, with the engine working and the children redundant, the Cybermen have been given orders to destroy them.
However, the Doctor arrives in the nick of time and with the help of Rosita, Jackson and the Info-stamps, manages to clear the area. Rosita leads the children back above ground and out of harm’s way, whilst the Doctor struggles to comprehend what the engine is for. Meanwhile, Jackson watches the last of the children leave, and begins to remember what was taken from him on the night he lost his mind – his own son, Frederick. He looks up and sees the boy, too scared to move, standing in the rafters. He calls to the Doctor to help but their way is blocked. Jets of fire begin shooting from the floor as the starter motor begins to disintegrate – no longer of any use.
With the Cybermen by her side, Miss Hartigan calls for the CyberKing to rise, and soon the throne room begins to ascend up out of sewers.
Back in the engine room the Doctor grabs his cutlass and severs a pulley rope, which pulls him up to the gantry on which Frederick stands. He grabs the child and swings back to the ground, where at last father and son are reunited. They head for the surface, the Doctor stopping only to pick up the powered-up Dimension Vault on his way out.
On the streets, Rosita hurriedly directs the children to a place of safety and then heads across the city, in time to witness the ascent of the CyberKing – a colossal vessel, shaped like a Cyberman – rising out of the Thames and towering above London, with Miss Hartigan sitting in the throne room at the top of the craft. She addresses London and announces herself as new CyberKing.
The Doctor and Jackson return to the streets, where the Doctor identifies the ship as the frontline of an invasion force, housing a factory inside that can convert millions of people. Soon the ship begins stomping across the city, crushing buildings underfoot. Miss Hartigan sees all, but is confused as to why the people below are not rejoicing at her ascent to power.
Sending Jackson and Frederick to safety, and acknowledging that unlike them he has little to live for, the Doctor returns to the stables, where he picks up another belt of Info-stamps. Meanwhile, Miss Hartigan orders a complete surrender from the people’s of Earth, before demonstrating the destructive fire power of the CyberKing that awaits those who refuse.
With the purchased help of Jed, the Doctor clambers into Jackson’s TARDIS balloon and prepares to take to the skies, despite not knowing how to operate the vessel. Down below on the streets Jackson is reunited with Rosita, and shows her his son.
Sensing an approaching vessel, Miss Hartigan turns the ships about to view the Doctor in his balloon, floating just level with the throne room. He offers her a choice; either she agrees to leave the Earth and find another world to live out her days, or he will stop her. Miss Hartigan refuses to leave, claiming the people of Earth will soon be converted into extensions of her mind.
The Doctor warns her that her words have forced him to action, and with the combined force of the many Info-stamps at his disposal, he fires at her. The pure data streams into her head but she does not die. The Doctor stops his assault and she belittles his attack. However, the Doctor explains he was not attempting to kill her; instead he has severed the Cybermen’s hold on her and allowed her to see what she has brought about. With a more open mind, and her eyes restored to normality, she screams out in desperation – her raw emotion ripping out of her crown and decimating both the Cybermen and then herself.
However, the CyberKing ship still remains, about to topple onto the city after sustaining a great deal of damage. The people on the streets, including Jackson and Rosita, flee for cover, but the Doctor has one more ace up his sleeve. Levelling the Dimension Vault at the ship, he opens fire and, as Jackson realises (for his mind still retains the data about the Doctor); he sends the ship into the time vortex, where it can safely disintegrate.
Rejoicing, Jackson turns to the stunned crowds around him and tells them that the man in the sky, the Doctor, has saved the day many many times before, but not once is he thanked for it. He calls for an end to this and leads the masses in a cheer for the Time Lord, a sentiment that echoes across the city in gratitude for their hero.
Some hours later, as the recovery of the city begins, the Doctor and Jackson make their way back to the real TARDIS. Jackson laments that now a new history is about to begin for him, although a widower he still has a child, and a good friend in Rosita to help care for him.
He invites the Doctor to a celebratory Christmas feast, but he soon realises that the Time Lord will not stay, he never does. Instead he turns his attentions to the TARDIS, and excitedly he goes inside, amazed by the interior, which he describes as ‘wonderful nonsense’. Overwhelmed but overjoyed he returns outside, where he has one more question for the Doctor.
He asks why, after having seen the Doctor’s travels and the many brilliant companions he has travelled with, he now sees the universe alone. The Doctor tells him that eventually all his friends leave him; some feel they must, others find a new life to lead, and some of them forget him. He admits to Jackson, and perhaps to himself, that in the end they break his heart, and he is left alone once more.
Jackson tells him that the request to dinner is now a demand and, agreeing to eat in memory of those they have lost, the Doctor – just this once – decides to stay behind. Closing the TARDIS door, he tells Jackson that he is glad he was the man who became the Doctor, and together they walk off into the snow, wishing each other a Merry Christmas.