In the early years of the 21st century, the
Doctor brings Ace to Hexen Bridge, site of a brutal massacre on the eve
of the English Civil War. Ostensibly he's come to attend a school reunion,
as he's on the board of governors, but he admits to Ace that his real interest
in the village lies in its isolation, the fact that no aerial photographs
of the area have ever been taken, and the striking rate of suicides amongst
the alumni of the school. Ace stays at the local inn, and befriends local
schoolteacher Rebecca Baber and Steven Chen, son of the owners of the local
At the reunion, the Doctor stumbles across two alumni
-- Liverpudlian criminal Kenny Shanks and Britain's Minister of State for
Defense, Matthew Hatch -- who are engaged in a gun-running operation. When
they catch the Doctor spying, Shanks kidnaps him. Later, Hatch slips into
a secret tunnel beneath the school and speaks with a man who appears in
an antique mirror, dressed in 17th-century clothing. Hatch is also sleeping
with Rebecca but doesn't realize she has ulterior motives for their affair.
That night, masked men drag young hooligan Billy Tyley onto the village
green, and the next morning Ace finds a scarecrow dressed in pyjamas staked
down on the green like a sacrificial figure. Searching the village for
the missing Doctor, Ace discovers that the TARDIS door has been blocked
off by a cordon of immovable scarecrows.
The next day, Hatch learns that animal rights activists
have bombed a research centre, and the investigation is threatening to
expose his ties to it. Realizing that Rebecca must be responsible, he sends
a thug to break into her home to find proof that she is connected to the
bombing. Dr Bevan of the Wellton Clinic has been researching the "curse"
of Hexen Bridge which renders the men of the village infertile if they
leave the area, and Hatch decides to kidnap Rebecca so Bevan can use her
in his experiments. Meanwhile, the man who broke into Rebecca's house sees
alien tentacles writhing beneath the soil of Hexen Bridge and is attacked
by a scarecrow when he investigates...
Ace convinces Steven Chen to help her break into the vicarage
to study forbidden photographs, and finds evidence that a mysterious stain
has been spreading over the fields for decades. As they try to leave the
church they are attacked by scarecrows, and flee through the graveyard.
Megan Tyley, emerging from her house to see what the noise is, is confronted
by one of the scarecrows and recognizes it as all that's left of her son.
Liverpool's Chief Constable Thomas Denman, another Hexen
Bridge alumnus, is getting close to exposing Shanks' criminal activities
and arresting him, so Shanks straps a bomb to the Doctor and sends him
to a nightclub to slip a package of drugs into Denman's daughter's handbag.
The Doctor tries to warn her and foil Shanks' plans, but it turns out that
another of Nicola's so-called friends is also working for Shanks, and both
the Doctor and Nicola are arrested. The Doctor parries his interrogators'
questions until he finally gets the chance to speak with Denman, but by
then it's too late; strip-searched, humiliated, and thrown into a cell
with a single blanket, Nicola realizes that this was done to her just to
get at her father, and hangs herself in her cell. Denman, shattered, agrees
to circumvent the law and help the Doctor break into Shanks' offices to
find out what's really going on.
The Doctor discovers a link between Shanks, Hatch, and
the Liverpool reservoir, but when he and Denman break into the reservoir
they find that Shanks has already begun pumping some sort of chemical into
the city's water supply. The Doctor shuts off the pump, and when Shanks
tries to stop him Denman attacks and kills him. Denman and the Doctor go
to London to confront Hatch, while random acts of violence begin occurring
in Liverpool. Eventually they locate Hatch at the Wellton Clinic, where
Bevan has completed his experiments and has developed a cure for the "curse".
It seems the sterility is a side-effect of an alien mutation intended to
liberate untapped psychic potential in the human mind; the violence in
Liverpool is a side-effect, caused by people driven mad by the sudden onslaught
of psychic reception. Hatch takes the drug, but due to his mental link
to Hexen Bridge's legendary "Jack i' the Green", when his psychic potential
is unleashed he is possessed by Jack's power. He drives back to Hexen Bridge,
where Jack consumes him utterly and prepares to carry out the final stage
of the plan.
Alien tentacles rise from the village green and scarecrows
begin attacking villagers and feeding them to "Jack". The Doctor returns
to Hexen Bridge for the final confrontation; by now he's realized that
"Jack" is Jerak, the other half of a malfunctioning Hakolian war machine
that landed on Earth during the English Civil War. He'd already defeated
the other half of the machine, the Malus, some time ago, and thus Jerak's
orders have changed. Jerak's attempts to genetically engineer psychic potential
in humanity, to make them perfect slave subjects for the Hakolians, has
backfired due to the side-effect of sterility, but now that Bevan has developed
a cure Jerak will send the possessed Hatch out to spread the taint of insanity,
murder and death. The process has already begun in Liverpool, and soon
it will consume the world.
The Doctor is placed on trial by Jack's victims, representations
of the souls Jack corrupted and absorbed into itself, but he manages to
reach the humanity buried within them and they agree that even death would
be preferable to the hollow existence they have now. Jerak realizes too
late what's happening; the pagan legends it had drawn out of its captured
souls to create the scarecrows are turned against it, and the Wild Hunt
rises from the minds of the villagers to destroy the scarecrows and release
the village from evil. A Huntsman leads Ace to the mirror, the gateway
to Jerak's domain, which she smashes; this destroys Jerak once and for
all, as well as killing Hatch before he can spread Jerak's taint further
than the next village. The Doctor and Ace leave the cover-up of the incident
to UNIT, while the survivors try to carry on with their lives.
Source: Cameron Dixon