The once-golden hills of Gallifrey are burning. The wrecks of Dalek saucers litter the ground at the foot of the broken glass dome surrounding the Time Lord citadel. Inside the crumbling walls the Lord President and his aides arrive at the inner sanctum that houses the select committee of war.
The President's first concern is the whereabouts of the Doctor. Reports confirm that he has fled his home world once again, now in possession of 'the moment', which the council claim will allow him to destroy both the Daleks and the Time Lords. Across the table, a seemingly-deranged Time Lord known as the Visionary professes that the end of Gallifrey is approaching - the last day of the Time War, and the fall of the Time Lords is upon them.
Another of the committee bravely claims that the extinction of the Time Lords is justified; the Gallifreyan stand at the outer edge of the war, but those at its heart are being tortured by the anomalies caused by the conflict; endlessly slaughtered and resurrected by the temporal decimation.
The President turns on her and, using a gauntlet worn permanently upon his arm, blasts her with some unknown energy that reduces her to dust. Incensed, he yells at the rest of the council, screaming that he will not accept death nor let the history of the Time Lords come to an end whilst he is in power.
Timidly, one other of the councillors recounts that part of the Visionary's written prophecy does predict that two of the Time Lords will survive their planet's destruction - two men locked in 'the Enmity of Ages' - the Doctor and the Master. Furthermore, another part of the prophecy indicates the planet Earth, repeating its name over and over again. Perhaps, the President muses, that is where they shall find their salvation.
At the Naismith Mansion the Master straps the Doctor to the 'Hannibal' trolley and ties Wilf to a chair. Turning to a massive Communications Screen he observes his cloned self, now possessing the highest ranks of office, from President of the United States to Commander of UNIT - he now has charge of enough weapons to turn Earth into a warship.
Suddenly Wilf's mobile phone rings. The Master, after finding the rifle the old man has hidden in his coat, grabs the handset and answers - it is Donna, protected from the Immortality Gate's metamorphosis by the memory wipe the Doctor placed on her when they parted company. Having witnessed the worldwide transmutation she has fled onto the streets, now begging her grandfather for help. The master orders his minions to trace the call and then lets Wilf have the phone, telling him to say goodbye.
Wilf orders her to run and immediately she does so, but there is nowhere she can hide. The hoards of Masters entrap her, still hungry from the failed resurrection. Soon Donna's head is filled with her forbidden memories again, and her mind begins to boil. However, the Doctor has made sure to protect his old friend, and instead of dying, Donna instead collapses on the ground asleep, releasing as she does a wave of golden energy that knocks out the clones surrounding her.
The Doctor explains this to Wilf and the Master before his nemesis turns on him and demands to know where he has hidden his TARDIS. Instead of answering he tells him:
"You could be so wonderful."
He claims that the Master is a genius, but that he does not have to own the universe, merely see it, for that is ownership enough. He suggests that they travel the cosmos together, and the Master asks if that will end the drumming in his head. Wilf enquires about the noise and the Master explains that it began when, at the age of eight, he was taken to gaze at the Untempered Schism - a gap in the fabric of reality.
.On Gallifrey the tale is also recounted and the President, with the help of the Visionary, realises the rhythm of four the Master has heard in his head all his life is not merely a sign of insanity - it is the rhythm of the heartbeat of a Time Lord.
The Doctor offers to help find the source of the noise, but the Master already has a plan to do so on his own. Now the noise is inside six billion heads, he can triangulate each signal and find its source. Recalling the prophecy the Doctor spoke of in the wasteland, the Master gleefully decrees that it must refer to himself. Again he demands to be given the TARDIS, and threatens to have Wilf shot by one of his guards if the Doctor doe not relent. However, the Doctor points out that the helmeted guard is an inch taller than the Master and therefore not one of his clones. It is in fact Rossiter, who swiftly knocks out the Master with the butt of his rifle and with the help of Addams sets about releasing the two prisoners.
Realising that they have little time, Rossiter abandons this plan and instead wheels the Doctor on his trolley out of the room whilst the freed Wilf (who has retrieved his revolver) and Addams follow them back down to the basement. Soon the Master's guards are on their tail but before they can recapture them Addams teleports the four escapees away from Earth and onboard Hesperus the Vinvocci ship.
The Doctor protests, knowing the Master will not let them escape, and demands to be released from the trolley. As Wilf marvels at the view of Earth far below them, he disarms to the teleport with his Sonic Screwdriver so that the Master cannot follow them nor reverse the process and bring them back to the mansion. He also anticipates his enemy's next move - to blast them with Earth's missiles - and runs to the flight deck. Dragging Wilf along with him he arrives and promptly destroys the ship's navigation equipment, draining away the craft's power thus preventing them from being picked up by any radar scan.
Sure enough the Master is unable to trace them, but nevertheless decides to take precautionary measures to ensure the Doctor cannot return by destroying the Earth-bound half of the teleport controls.
On the Hesperus, Addams and Rossiter are furious that the Doctor has decimated the engine, leaving them stranded. Wilf assumes that his friend will have a plan to save them but the Time Lord is silent.
On the Earth far below, as night falls over England, the Master readies his plan to locate the source of the drumbeat. Forcing every on of his clones to concentrate on the sound, they begin to listen. Suddenly it becomes louder, tangible to be detected. The Master suddenly realises that this has been designed by someone; it is there for a purpose...
Far across time and space, the doomed Time Lords of Gallifrey transmit the rhythmic beat back through history to the moment the Master first heard the noise as a child, imprinting it through his life so that they have a faint link between the moment the noise was first created by them and the moment it is amplified on the planet Earth in the year 2009. However, something tangible is needed to make the link strong enough to be traversed. The Visionary again guides the President into producing a small jewel from his ceremonial staff, which he hurls at a projected image of Earth hanging above their heads.
On the Hesperus the Doctor listlessly begins making repairs to the ship when he sees a star falling across the sky towards Earth.
The Master sees it too and dispatches guards to find the object once it has landed. When they manage to locate the impact zone they search the crater and find a gemstone; but this is no mere diamond, it is a White Point Star.
Back onboard the Vinvocci ship Wilf searches the engine decks for the Doctor when the Woman he met in the Church on Christmas Eve appears behind him. She warns him that the day of reckoning is now upon them. Wilf confirms that he has armed himself for the occasion, and she tells him to give it to the Doctor but he protests, he knows the Doctor never carries a gun. Once again the Woman disappears, and Wilf wanders away.
He returns to the main deck to meet the Doctor. Once again he gazes at the view of Earth and ponders that he wife is buried on the planet, and he might never see her again. He asks if the Master would have imprinted his images on corpses too, and the Doctor seems to confirm that indeed the maniac would. Wilf then recalls his days of service in Palestine at the end of its mandate. The Doctor listens intently, claiming despite Wilf's assumption that humans are insects compared to Time Lords, that he sees humanity as a race of giants.
Seizing his moment, Wilf grabs his revolver and offers it to his friend, claiming he was too scared to use it himself when he had the chance in the mansion. He recalls the Doctor's prophecy - that when "he" knocks four times then he will die. Knowing the knocker to be the Master he tells the Doctor to kill him before the reverse can happen, but the Doctor again protests. He admits that he has taken lives before, even manipulated people into killing themselves.
"Sometimes I think the Time Lord lives too long."
He refuses to take the gun and Wilf asks what will happen if the Master is killed. The Doctor admits that the template he holds over humanity will snap and mankind will be given its own image. Wilf then orders him never to put the Master's life before those he has oppressed and pleadingly tells him to take the rifle as per the instructions given to him by the Woman. Once again, the Doctor refuses.
Suddenly the Master's voice fills the air on an open broadcast. He addresses the Doctor and tells him of the fallen star, revealing its true identity. The Doctor's face is steeped with terror as the Master explains that he has prepared to amplify the signal of the drumming in his head, in conjunction with the star, and produce from it a lifeline. He signs off.
The Doctor explains to Wilf that the White Point Star is only found on Gallifrey, which means the lifeline must be meant for his people - the Time Lords are returning. Suddenly he grabs the revolver and pockets it before fleeing to the flight deck with Wilf in hot pursuit.
Back on Earth the Master fuses the crystal to a nuclear bolt. As two of his clone technicians man the one-in-one-out control cubicle, he prepares to ramp up the drumbeat so that the link made by the star can become a pathway. He activates the computer and the drumming begins, growing louder and louder. Soon contact has been made.
Back on Gallifrey the Lord President, sensing his approaching triumph, addresses the High Council for a vote - whether to die at the end of the Time War or to return to the universe and initiate the Final Sanction.
Aboard the Hesperus the Doctor hears the signal being transmitted from Earth and explains to Wilf, Addams and Rossiter that although the Time War is time locked with Gallifrey and the Time Lords trapped inside, it is possible to break the lock if something from Gallifrey has already escaped - the signal imprinted in the Master's brain which survives because he fled the planet long before the end of the war.
Wilf asks why the Doctor is so scared of his people returning if, as he has heard him claim before, they are so wonderful. The Doctor claims he chooses to remember them as such but in actuality they have the capacity to be far more dangerous than any of his enemies. With a flourish he effortlessly returns power to the ship and orders Rossiter and Wilf to man the two laser cannons strapped to either side of the ship.
With the power restored to the Hesperus the master is able to locate it, and gives order for the missile bases of the planet to prepare arms.
Addams, the captain of the ship, objects to the Doctor's plan of piloting the ship back to Earth but he is not listening. Without facing her he tells her:
"There's an old Earth saying Captain, a phrase of great power and wisdom, and consolation to the soul in times of need.Allons-y!"
He slams the ship into gear, hurtling toward Earth, but it is not fast enough to avoid the Master's missiles. A torrent of projectiles is unleashed and Wilf and Rossiter take them on with the laser cannons, like a dog fight in the skies above the Earth. At the Doctor's command they open fire and blast the rockets to smithereens before they can impact on the ship. Another wave is launched but again Wilf is able to shoot them down and the Doctor capable of dodging each one as he manoeuvres the Hesperus across the ocean.but too late.
With the vote cast and only two objections, the Time Lords prepare to make their return. Forcing the dissenters to follow him on his journey, masking their faces for their shame, the Lord President readies himself. In a rupture of light they are consumed.
At the Naismith mansion the Master beholds the arrival of his people, bathed in a pool of blinding white light that consumes half of the Gate Room.
High above, the Hesperus reaches England and as it passes over the Naismith mansion the Doctor opens up a service hatch and throws himself outside, still brandishing Wilf's revolver. He plummets through the air and smashes through the glass ceiling of the estate, landing with a horrid thud on the floor between the Master and the council of Time Lords. Bloodied and bruised he languishes on the ground as the President welcomes the two Gallifreyan survivors and announces that they are gathered to witness 'the End'.
Meanwhile, Addams takes control of the Hesperus and struggles to keep the ship steady. Wilf tells her to return him back to the mansion so that he can help the Doctor, refusing to leave him on his own.
In the mansion the Doctor tries to explain to the President why the Master has opted for summoning them. The Master intervenes and explains that now he has access to the highest race in the universe he no longer needs to imprint himself merely on mankind - he can instead fashion the Time Lords in his own image and reign supreme.
He taunts the President, but has underestimated him. Raising his gauntlet the Time Lord-in Chief summons the power to reverse the work of the Immortality Gate and return mankind to its own true form - as individuals - once again. The Master shouts at him to stop but it is no use. Once returned, the President orders them to their knees and announces that 'the Approach' has begun. A rumbling is heard overhead as the Doctor tells the Master that he was wrong about the Ood prophecy - it was that something was returning, not simply someone. The entity returning is Gallifrey.
Sure enough, in the sky outside a blood-red planet begins to fade into view. The Earth tremors and people start to run through the streets in a blind panic. Shaun Temple, seeing that Donna has gone mission, sprints off to find his fiancée as Sylvia steps outside and looks to the heavens, pleading for the Doctor to help.
Having been returned to the Naismith mansion by the now-retreating Addams and Rossiter, Wilf hurries towards the Gate room as the rest of the household flee outside. He eventually arrives to find the Doctor crouched on the floor in pain amidst the chaos. He then sees one of Naismith's scientists trapped inside the control cabinet. He hurries inside the opposite glass cubicle and locks himself in, allowing the other man to open his door and escape.
Sensing a need to impress the Master announces the glory of having the Time Lords restored. However, the ailing Doctor warns him that their people changed in the last throws of the Time War, once he had fled to the edge of the universe and hidden himself as a lowly human baby. He recounts the pandemonium that defined the final days of conflict; the monsters and nightmares, the abominations and travesties, all of which will be unleashed when Gallifrey returns. He tells him the war descended into Hell, but the Master is unperturbed - Hell is his kind of world.
The Doctor again remonstrates, telling him that even the Time Lords cannot survive such carnage. It is then that the President reveals his Final Sanction - a plan to send a rupture through the Time Vortex itself that will destroy everything bar the Time Lord consciousness. When all else perishes they will elevate to a state of pure mental existence, the only ones left, able to reign over all. This, the Doctor claims, is what convinced him to destroy his own people; the genocide he unleashed was to prevent the destruction of the whole of creation.
The Master asks to be allowed to ascend with the rest of his people but the president renounces him as a diseased lunatic. He prepares to vaporise him with the gauntlet but the Doctor intervenes, aiming the revolver at him. The President warns that he has chosen the wrong enemy, then the Master rebukes by telling the Doctor if he kills the President then he could take Gallifrey for himself. The Doctor turns and points the gun at the Master, who protests until he realises that if he is killed then the link keeping the Time Lords on Earth will be broken - for it exists in his head. He goads the Doctor to pull the trigger whilst renouncing him as a coward. The Doctor changes his mind and returns his aim to the President, who belittles him by claiming this act of murder will be his last. The Doctor hesitates, still aiming the gun, when he looks at the Time Lord stood behind the President - one of the dissenters hiding their face in shame. She drops her hands and reveals herself as the Woman. The Doctor gazes at her, recognising her. Finally he turns to face the Master and prepares to fire.
However, it is not the Master he is aiming for. Telling his nemesis to get out of the way, he shoots at the computer behind him, which contains the White Point Star. The machine explodes and the room begins to shake violently as link is broken. The Doctor turns on the President:
"Back into the Time War Rassilon, back into hell".
Rassilon aims his gauntlet at the Doctor, who stands and accepts this is the consequence of saving Earth. He readies himself but the battle is not over yet. The Master stands behind him and orders him to move aside. He does so and watches as his unwilling accomplice blasts the Time Lord President with the compressed energy that flows from his ripped-open body. Rassilon staggers back, unable to return fire the vengeful son of Gallifrey whom he cursed with the sound of drums. As he drops to his knees and the Master staggers toward him, the room fills with light and they both disappear. Gallifrey too is send back across the ages to the Time War, taking the Time Lords and abominations with it, and leaving Earth safe once more.
Thrown again to the ground, the Doctor slowly pulls himself up onto his hands and knees, almost weeping as he realises that he has beaten death. Despite the drumbeat and the prophecy of the return, despite the blood spilt and the enmity of ages, he is still alive.
And then he knocks, four times.
The Doctor stops. He lets his eyes follow the sound across the room as it is heard again. He turns and meets the gaze of Wilf, still locked in the control cabinet, knocking on the glass door to be let out.
The Time Lord gets to his feet as Wilf, unmindful of the prophecy he is about to seal, asks why the cabinet has begun to emit a loud buzzing noise. He friend explains that the Master left the nuclear bolt activated and it has gone critical, about to vent itself through the cabinet where the Vinvocci glass will seal it off to prevent any radiation spreading. Wilf asks to be let out but the Doctor explains that the cabinet has itself gone critical; any attempt to unlock Wilf's door will cause the entire chamber to flood, killing whoever locks themselves inside the other cubicle so that his door can be released. Even the Sonic Screwdriver cannot activate the controls without setting the venting process off.
Wilf realises the sacrifice that is required for him to be saved and apologises, telling the Doctor to leave him. Enraged, the Doctor claims that he will, cursing the old man for locking himself in the cabinet in the first place and fulfilling the prophecy that has haunted him across the universe. He claims that Wilf has always been waiting for him, destined to bring about his death. Again Wilf claims that the Doctor should leave him, for he is an old man who has lived his life. The Doctor, raging against the dying of the light, agrees and claims that he himself is capable of far more than he has been given time to do. After screaming his rage he falls quiet and mutters to himself that he has lived too long, and wearily walks over to the control cabinet. Wilf yells at him not to step inside but the Doctor insists it would be his honour to die for him.
He steps inside and activates the lock, releasing Wilf, who hurries out and watches and the radiation pours into the cubicle and drowns the defeated Time Lord. He drops to the floor, writhing in agony, and eventually the onslaught subsides. When it has passed he gets to his feet - the same man.
He claims that the system is dead and the radiation has all been absorbed into his body. The mechanism broken, he is able to open the door without locking the other cubicle, and steps outside where Wilf is waiting, commenting that he is not dead after all. He notes the Doctor's battle scars, which suddenly disappear. The Doctor realises that this is only the beginning. The end may not be on him yet, but it is coming. Wilf realises this, and hugs him.
Some time later the Doctor returns Wilf to his home, where Donna has been found alive and well, if a little confused. They are met by Sylvia and the Doctor prepares to leave, telling Wilf that this is not goodbye for he will see them both once again before he goes. He announces that before that he must leave to take his reward, and then steps inside the TARDIS.
Somewhere on Earth in an abandoned factory, Martha Jones and Mickey Smith are on the run from a rogue Sontaran. Armed themselves, they seek refuge in the remains of a concrete bunker. Mickey remarks that the battle is no place for a married woman, and Martha retorts by telling him he should not have married her. Bother consider their next move, unaware that high on a nearby gantry the Sontaran has it's gun trained on them. However, before it can fire it reels back and collapses on the floor, revealing the Doctor stood behind it with his trusty mallet. He watches his two friends below and, after a few seconds, they spot him. He turns silently and walks away. Moments later the sound of the TARDIS dematerialising fills the air and Mickey holds Martha close.
On a sunny day in Ealing, London, Luke Smith wanders across Bannerman Road speaking to his friend Clyde Langer over his mobile phone. As he recalls the extraordinary events of the past Christmas and the subsequent cover-up, a car approaches rapidly behind him. In the nick of time the Doctor runs in and grabs Luke, dragging him back onto the pavement. Having met before, Luke recognises his saviour and runs to tell his mother what has happened. The Doctor makes to leave as Sarah Jane Smith steps outside of her home to find her son in a flurry of excitement. He tells her about the man he has seen and she looks across the road. She sees her old friend stood at the door of his ship, looking subdued and waving solemnly. As he disappears from view she begins to cry, knowing what the visit means.
In a bar on a distant planet all manner of creatures gather to drown their sorrows. Amongst them is Captain Jack Harkness, recently fled from Earth, whom finds himself the recipient of a note delivered by the barman. He is directed towards the sender of the message and looks up to see the Doctor standing across the room. He then reads the note, which reads: "His name is Alonso", and sees the Doctor indicating the man seated on his left - former Midshipman Frame of the Starship Titanic. Jack salutes the Doctor, who casually reciprocates before departing, leaving his old ally to chat-up his new man.
Back on Earth, at a bookshop, Verity Newman is signing copies of her book 'A Journal of Impossible Things' which, she tells one customer, is in fact a diary left by her great grandmother that tells the story of a man she fell in love with named John Smith, who was in fact a traveller from another world. As the next customer steps forward she asks for a name to dedicate the book to, without looking up. The customer asks for her to sign it to 'the Doctor', and she realises who is stood before her - the man her ancestor once loved. He asks her simply if the book's heroine, Joan Redfern, was happy at the end of her life, and Verity claims she was. She asks the same question to the Doctor but he gives no reply, he simply smiles, takes his book and leaves.
The wedding bells ring at an idyllic church as Donna Noble and Shaun Temple step outside into a shower of confetti. Wilfred Mott leads the cheers before the photographs of the happy couple are taken. Wilf chides his friend Minnie, who teases him about the idea of marrying again, and then - prompted by his daughter Sylvia - turns to see the Doctor stood at the gates of the churchyard. They go to him and Wilf tells him about the recent arrest and imprisonment of Joshua and Abigail Naismith. He then asks who the Woman that appeared to him was, the same one whom the Doctor saw in the Gate room amongst the other Time Lords. The Doctor does not reply, he simply turns and looks at Sylvia and then Donna - mother and daughter. Changing the subject he takes an envelope from his pocket and gives it to Wilf - a wedding present for Donna. He claims he bought it with money he borrowed from a sweet old man named Geoffrey Noble. Overwhelmed, Sylvia begins to cry at the gesture, and the pair return to the wedding festivities to present the gift. It is a lottery ticket - just in time for the triple rollover draw. Realising the Doctor has saved Donna from her financial woes, Wilf and Sylvia smile, before turning back to the Doctor, stood across the graveyard next to the TARDIS. Wilf salutes and blows the Time Lord a kiss as he departs, tears filling his eyes.
It is snowing on the Powell Estate as Rose and Jackie Tyler stroll through the crisp night air towards a News Years party. Late for their separate engagements, they discuss Jackie's latest boyfriend, who, despite being unreliable, Jackie claims may be her last chance. Rose chides her for being so pessimistic then wishes her a Happy New Year. They embrace and bid each other goodnight. As Rose walks off through the snow she sees a man standing in the shadows, evidently in pain. Not recognising the man in the long brown coat she assumes he is another over-jolly partygoer and asks if he is okay. He claims he is and she suggests it might be time for him to go home. He agrees and they wish each other a Happy New Year. Finally, the man asks the young woman what year it is and she replies that it is 2005. He smiles and predicts that she will have a memorable year ahead of her. Smiling back, she says goodbye and walks away.
By now the Doctor is in a fierce amount of pain. Staggering out of the shadows he sees the TARDIS parker some distance away across the estate and begins to stagger towards it, needing to return to his home to die in peace. The journey is hard and it costs him a tremendous effort to walk. Halfway there he collapses in a heap. Looking up he sees Ood Sigma standing in the distance. The gentile alien calls to him, telling him that the universe will sing him to his sleep. Soon the air is filled with a bittersweet melody that guides the Doctor back to his ship. Sigma tells him that though his current song is ending, his story will never end.
The Doctor makes his way inside and, still in great pain, discards his coat and approaches the glowing console. He looks at one his hands and watches as it is bathed in a golden mist. He gazes defiantly up at the console and sets the ship in motion, sending it into orbit around the planet Earth. Looking about the ship one last time and, with his body ready to relent, he utters his last:
"I don't want to go."
And the regeneration begins. Slowly at first, the Doctor's face is embraced by the golden glow and then suddenly, with a massive acceleration, his body is enveloped in a torrent of fiery light. The force of the blast shatters the TARDIS windows and obliterates the coral masonry. The console explodes sending showers of sparks all over the floor like a pool of molten metal. Flames gouge from the engines below as the Doctor's face blurs and he begins to scream.
When the process subsides the New Doctor stands wide-eyed in the middle of his ruined ship. Feverishly he examines his new body:
"Legs! I've still got legs, good. Arms, hands; ooh fingers, lots of fingers. Ears, yes. Eyes, two. Nose, I've had worse. Chin, Blimey! Hair.I'm a girl! No! No, I'm not a girl, no.and still not ginger!"
Satisfied with this assessment he begins to recall something urgent that requires his attention, and when another violent explosion knocks him off his feet it dawns on him - he is crashing. Dancing around the console as the wrecked TARDIS hurtles violently back towards Earth; he grabs hold of the scanner, looks to the heavens and cries: