Shoreditch, London, 1963. The Beatles have beaten John Smith and the Common Men to No. 1 and satellites are being launched in outer space. Back down on Earth, strange goings-on are occurring: the normally placid teenagers of Coal Hill are running riot and a master thief is stealing highly specialised equipment.
Schoolgirl Susan Foreman just wants an easy life for herself and her grandfather, the mysterious Doctor. She wants to be liked and accepted by Cedric and all the other pupils at Coal Hill School. But there's trouble in the streets and bombsites around Totter's Lane.
The teenagers are becoming dangerous... Their mission: to hunt down anyone different, or alien... Susan's quiet life is about to spiral out of control. Having inadvertently started drawing attention to herself, she finds herself drawn into a desperate situation. Suddenly, the chase is on and she and her grandfather are now the hunted.
In London's East End, during a foggy Thursday night of October in 1963, the Doctor is hurrying down a street, clutching an item that will help him repair the TARDIS. Two motorbikes, being ridden by teenagers, come right at him, but the Doctor quickly gets out of the way. He then notices that someone is following him. He hurries down the street, only to stop when a figure appears from the fog, ahead of him.
The figure turns out to be Susan Foreman, the Doctor's granddaughter. Susan says that she has been looking for him. She notices the item the Doctor is carrying and accuses him of stealing it. The Doctor admits to such, pointing out that they need it to repair the TARDIS. Susan tries to get him to promise her to get any future components legally, like everyone else. The Doctor is against it, not wanting to draw any unwanted attention to him and Susan. However, he promises her that he will do so.
The Doctor notices a figure nearby, heading for them. The two quickly leave and enter the junkyard where the TARDIS is. As the Doctor tries to locate his TARDIS key, Susan looks through a hole in the wall. She watches the figure approach the junkyard and can make out his features. The man pauses in front of the gate, before shaking his head and walking on. The Doctor finds the key and opens the door, allowing the two to enter the TARDIS. Susan tells the Doctor that she recognises the man as Colonel Rook, a teacher at Coal Hill School.
The next day, after school, Susan is all alone, as she's not good at being social with humans. She pulls out her transistor radio and turns it on. She is so absorbed in the music that she doesn't see Colonel Rook until she bumps into him, causing him to drop some papers. Susan apologises and helps Colonel Rook pick up the papers. Colonel Rook glares at Susan's radio, making Susan realise that he wants it to be turned off, so she does so. Rook gives Susan an odd stare, creeping her out. He asks her how long she's been a pupil at Coal Hill. He then points out that he had talked to the secretary, who has no recollection of receiving any documentation on Susan, not even a birth certificate.
Susan tells him that her grandfather and her have been travelling, and the documents had been sent to them, but must have gotten lost after that. Colonel Rook then mentions how odd of a student she is, how "unearthly" she is. Susan uses the excuse of homework to end the conversation, so Colonel Rook leaves. Cedric, another student at Coal Hill, walks up to Susan, having overheard the conversation. He invites Susan to join him and his friends at Rosa's. The two head for Rosa's, listening to Susan's radio. Neither notice Colonel Rook watching them leave.
At Rosa's coffee bar, Susan and Cedric join the rest of their friends. They are joined by Rosa, the owner. Rosa is a refugee from another country, that was bombed due to the war. However, her adjusting to living in Coal Hill hasn't gone smoothly, as she has been harassed by people. The trouble started four months ago, around the time Susan and the Doctor first arrived. As Rosa returns to work, one of Susan's friends, Mavis, asks her to change the music. Rosa changes the radio station. Suddenly, Susan lets out a yelp of pain, as she is suddenly struck with a headache.
As Cedric heads off to get some water for Susan, the music on the radio gets cut off. Cedric comes back with the water, and suddenly Mavis smacks it out of his hand. She starts saying that people like Susan should go back where they came from. She then grabs a knife and moves to attack Susan, but Brian and Richard, the other two who were with them, try to restrain her, but she shakes them off. She starts circling Susan and Cedric, who was defending Susan. Rosa comes over, turning off the radio as she demands to know what is going on. Mavis suddenly returns to normal, confused on what had happened. Mavis feels a headache hit her and has no memory of attempting to harm Susan. Brian and Richard escort Mavis home, while Cedric asks Susan if she's okay. Susan is fine, and her headache is gone.
Rosa comes over and cleans up the broken glass and dropped knife. Rosa feels sympathetic towards Susan, as the words Mavis had said to Susan were the same kind of words said to Rosa by those who had harassed her. Susan turns on her radio, just as the Doctor enters. He informs her that he will be taking care of some business, so he won't be around when she goes back to the TARDIS. Cedric asks him about what he's talking about, but the Doctor doesn't answer, instead asking Susan who Cedric is. She introduces him.
The radio cuts out again. Susan tries to adjust the radio to get any music, but has no success. Just as she's about to turn it off, the static clears and the DJ starts talking, passing on a cryptic message to Susan and Cedric, from a future incarnation of the Doctor. Susan shuts off the radio as soon as the message is finished. The Doctor has no idea what his future self is talking about, but is worried nonetheless. Cedric is confused, but Susan refuses to explain. Cedric tries to protest, proclaiming that as part of the message was meant for him, he should get an explanation. The Doctor disagrees and then tells Susan to head back to the TARDIS. Cedric offers to walk Susan home, but the Doctor is against it. Susan leaves the cafe, the Doctor following a few seconds later.
The Doctor makes his way to Magpie Electricals, to purchase parts needed to repair the TARDIS. He hands the owner, Bernie, a list of components he needs. Bernie asks the Doctor what he needs the items for, but the Doctor refuses to tell him. The Doctor asks him if he will be able to get all the components on the list. Bernie tells him that he will have them by Tuesday afternoon. He asks the Doctor to give him an address to send the components to, but the Doctor proclaims that he will pick them up himself.
Bernie asks for the Doctor's address again, this time so he will know where to send the bill. The Doctor writes the address down. Bernie gives the Doctor a card with the address of the warehouse where the parts will be. The Doctor leaves. Unknown to him, Colonel Rook was also in the shop, hidden and listening in. Bernie hands Rook the paper that the Doctor wrote his address on, confirming Rook's suspicions that the Doctor really was using the junkyard. That leaves only one question. What could the Doctor be hiding in the junkyard? Rook then gives Bernie some instructions to carry out.
The Doctor is hurrying along the darkened streets, pleased that he will get the components he needs, and that he did so while keeping his promise to Susan. He had been lucky to find out about the shop, having noticed the advertisement in the morning newspaper. Suddenly, five teenagers in leather jackets appear, blocking the way. The Doctor demands that they get out of his way, but they just sneer at him instead. They ask him what he thinks he'll do to them if they don't move.
They start moving closer to the Doctor, surrounding him. The Doctor demands again that they let him go. The leader of the five, Jimmy, mocks the Doctor. He asks the Doctor why he would be around the East End. Jimmy grabs the Doctor and proclaims that they don't like people like the Doctor around here. He tells the Doctor to go back to his own kind. The Doctor asks what will happen if he doesn't. Jimmy pulls out a knife and presses it against the Doctor's throat.
Meanwhile, Susan has just arrived at Totter's Lane. As she approaches the junkyard, she notices that the door is slightly open. Thinking that her grandfather had changed his mind and come back, she enters the junkyard. Someone had been searching for something in the junkyard, as a lot of objects have been moved and overturned. Susan instinctively runs over to the TARDIS and lets out a sigh of relief, as the TARDIS was left untouched. Susan looks over at the far wall of the junkyard and notices that two words have been painted on, "Aliens out!" The junkyard's gate is opened again. This time, it's the Doctor.
Susan runs over and hugs him, happy to see him. The Doctor tells her about the gang that had attacked him, and then suddenly stopped. They apologised to the Doctor for attacking him, and offered to transport the Doctor back to Totter's Lane. Susan draws the Doctor's attention to the graffiti on the wall. To the Doctor, the words can only mean one thing. Someone knows who the Doctor and Susan are. This means it is now more imperative that they finish the repairs to the TARDIS, so they can depart.
The next day, Susan is waiting for Cedric at the corner of what used to be Mayfield Terrace. It had been destroyed by the war. Nowadays, the students of Coal Hill would mess around in its remains. Susan is listening to her transistor radio. Cedric arrives, and apologises for being late. The two decide to take a shortcut across the bomb site to get to their destination. The radio cuts out and Susan feels another headache hit her. Suddenly, bricks are being thrown at them by a group of twenty teenagers. Susan recognises some of them as students from Coal Hill. Mavis is the one leading the group, and she is holding an iron crowbar. Mavis yells at Susan, telling her to leave, and proclaims that they don't want any aliens here. Susan and Cedric try to run, only to find their path blocked by Jimmy and his gang. Susan's headache is overwhelming her.
She then notices that Cedric is no longer helping her. He has suddenly joined the group attacking her, proclaiming that no aliens should be here. Susan begs for them to stop, but they don't listen. Susan tries to escape, but fails. Mavis grabs her and moves to hit her with the crowbar. In the struggle, Susan's radio falls from her pocket, and shuts off. Suddenly, everyone returns to normal, confused on what they were doing there. The group breaks up, heading off without saying anything. Cedric picks up Susan's radio and hands it back to her. Susan instinctively backs away from him. She tells him that he had joined the others in attacking her. Susan notices her headache is gone. She is certain now that something is affecting people, turning them violent. But for them to suddenly stop makes no sense. Cedric asks her why the group had called her an alien.
A few days later, Susan thinks back to the evening when she had discovered the graffiti. The Doctor had told her to be extra careful. On Tuesday, he will get the remaining parts he needs to finish the repairs to the TARDIS. Once the repairs are complete, the two will depart. The thought of leaving had been plaguing Susan's mind all day, as she sits with Cedric after buying a Bob Dylan record. She confides in him about her grandfather planning on them leaving, and that she doesn't want to leave. Cedric mentions that his uncle is in the army. He asks her why she doesn't go to the authorities about the attack on her. Susan says that her grandfather would not like that. Susan thanks Cedric for being her friend. Cedric turns his attention to the music they had bought, and asks Susan why she had him buy it. Susan tells him it was because of the mystery message from the radio. She tells him to listen to the lyrics, for they might make him think.
Meanwhile, the Doctor heads for the warehouse, to pick up the parts he ordered. When he arrives, Bernie meets him there. However, Bernie looks different than before. He opens the gate to the warehouse and asks the Doctor to come inside. The Doctor is suspicious, but still enters the warehouse. Once inside, Bernie shuts the gate and locks it, trapping the Doctor inside. The Doctor asks him why he did that, but Bernie doesn't tell him, only that the Doctor won't be going anywhere for a while. The Doctor demands to be released, but Bernie pulls a revolver out of his pocket and gets the Doctor to head further into the warehouse. Colonel Rook comes out from the shadows and reveals that the Doctor has fallen into his trap. The advertisement for Magpie Electricals had been placed in the newspaper by him.
Rook has been monitoring Coal Hill for some time, ever since reports of unusual signs of technological activity appeared four months ago, at around the same time a series of thefts started occurring. The Doctor lies to Rook, denying any involvement in the thefts. Rook then reveals that he was then told of a girl with a unusual understanding of science, and who sometimes seemed to know exactly what people were thinking. The Doctor asks Rook what he's done to Susan. Rook tells him that Susan is safe. Rook comments on how well the Doctor has covered his tracks. Everything became clear to him when he noticed that there was no official documentation of any kind on either Susan or the Doctor. Rook tells the Doctor to admit that he and Susan are aliens from another world. The Doctor denies this and asks Rook who he is and what he wants. Rook tells him that he will help Britain with the war.
Meanwhile, Susan is still with Cedric. Cedric admits that Susan was right about the Bob Dylan songs, they have got him thinking. Susan wonders where her grandfather is, as he said that he was going to pick her up. Susan is struck by another headache and she knows that something is wrong. Suddenly, people are attacking Susan again. Susan doesn't know anywhere that she and Cedric can run to, but he does. The two run off.
The Doctor is still in the warehouse. He refuses to help Rook. Rook tries to convince the Doctor to help them, to use his alien knowledge to crush Britain's enemies. The Doctor denies being an alien again, pointing out that if he was an alien, he would also have a spaceship. Rook frowns, knowing that Bernie's attempt to search the junkyard turned up nothing except junk and an old police box. Rook insists that the Doctor will help him, and so will Susan. Rook's agents have told him that Susan's has great talents. He reveals that the enemy is conducting experiments with ESP. Susan will help Britain with their own experiments. She will have no choice but to help them, as Rook will be holding the Doctor prisoner.
Cedric and Susan are running down the streets of the East End, trying to escape the people trying to attack them. Susan is having difficulty focusing, as her headache is overwhelming her. They hear the sounds of windows breaking, and realise that some of the people are attacking Rosa's. Cedric pulls Susan towards the bomb site, so they can pass through it to get to wherever Cedric is trying to go.
Bernie is standing by the locked warehouse gate, worried at the growing disturbance in the streets. Rook asks the Doctor if he is responsible for what is happening. The Doctor denies this, and then realises that Susan is still out there. The Doctor begs Rook to let him out so he can find Susan. Someone bangs on the gate. It's Cedric, who has made it there with Susan. Rook tells Bernie to let the two in. Bernie quickly locks the gate up behind them, keeping their pursuers outside. The Doctor asks Susan if she is okay. Susan tells him about her headache. The Doctor helps Susan get to a chair, so she can sit down for a while. Susan notices Colonel Rook, and asks him why he is here. Cedric admits that Rook is his uncle. Susan is confused, so Rook tells Cedric to tell the full truth. Cedric is Rook's nephew, and also a spy that Rook had investigate Susan. Susan feels betrayed.
The full mob of people has reached the warehouse, and is trying to break in. The Doctor asks Rook if there is another way out, to which Rook can only shake his head. The Doctor starts pacing, trying to figure out what really is going on. The Doctor remembers that the mob had referred to Susan and himself as aliens. He asks Susan if the mob is attacking only them. Cedric remembers that the mob is also attacking Rosa as well as another man named Winston. Rosa is from Germany, while Winston is from Jamaica. The Doctor realises that what the mob is talking about aliens, they are referring to foreigners. Something is affecting the part of the brain that controls the tribal instinct and is taking it to extreme levels in a way that only affects younger people. Whatever is affecting them is being caused by a hypersonic signal, which only affects children. This also explains Susan's headaches, as the signal is affecting her too, but her mind is strong enough to resist.
Rook suggests that they fight their way out through the mob. The Doctor ignores him, working out how the signal is being transmitted. It is being transmitted via radio waves. Cedric understands, remembering the cryptic message from the future Doctor. It's all in the beat. Susan realises what Cedric is getting at. The signal is synchronising itself with particular music from the radio, causing anyone who listens to that music to be affected, the same music that the younger people of Coal Hill listen to. The Doctor wonders where the signal is coming from. He asks Cedric when the problem first appeared. It was four months ago, when the Doctor and Susan first arrived. Rook takes this to mean that the Doctor is behind this.
The Doctor continues to ignore Rook and asks Cedric about other events that occurred in that time. The rest of the Mayfield Terrace was pulled down, as most of it had been destroyed in the war. Susan then remembers what Rosa had told them. Two bombs had been reported being dropped that night, but Rosa had seen three. Rosa had seen something that wasn't a bomb, something that was disturbed when Mayfield Terrace was pulled down. The source of the signal is at the bomb site, where Cedric was affected by it. The Doctor asks Rook if this is possible. Rook admits that the Nazis were experimenting with different kinds of weapons towards the end of the war, using materials that the Allied Forces has no knowledge of. A weapon to make people hate anyone who's different would cause chaos, paving the way for an invasion.
The Doctor knows he needs to find a way to disrupt the signal, before the mob successfully breaks into the warehouse. He starts looking at all the technology on the shelves of the warehouse. Rook demands to know what the Doctor is doing. The Doctor tells him he is looking for the parts he needs to build a device to jam the signal. The Doctor grabs the items he needs and goes over to a workbench to assemble his device. The Doctor succeeds in constructing a device. He has Susan turn on her radio, and a Beatles song comes on. This kind of song is one that is carrying the signal, so the Doctor will need something that will counter it. Susan changes the station to one that plays a different kind of music, and the Doctor proclaims that this will do perfectly. He connects Susan's radio to his device.
Rook asks him if the device will work. The Doctor tells him that they still need something that can reflect and transmit the Doctor's sonic beam to the bomb site, in order to cancel the signal. Rook realises a satellite will work, and pulls out a map of the world that also indicates the locations and trajectories of all of the satellites in orbit around Earth. Rook quickly finds Telstar, a satellite that will be perfect for the job, one that will be in range in ten minutes. The Doctor tells Susan, Cedric, and Bernie to try to hold off the mob for as long as possible, while he and Rook head up to the roof to set up the Doctor's device.
Outside, the mob is using a heavy piece of timber from the bomb site to break down the gate. Bernie pulls out his gun, but Susan knocks it away. Cedric asks her if she is mad, but Susan points out that they can't just kill these people. Cedric thinks they should go to the roof, where they'll be able to fight them off better, but Susan reminds him that her grandfather needs all the time he can get to set up the machine. Susan tells Cedric he can go up to the roof, as the mob wants her. Susan remembers that her mind is strong enough to resist the signal. She might be able to use telepathy to break the signal's hold on the mob.
The mob breaks down the gate and bursts into the warehouse. They advance on Susan, Cedric, and Bernie. Susan tries to use telepathy and momentarily succeeds. The mob stops for a moment, not sure why they were there, before the signal regains control and they advance again, however they were slower now. The people in the mob are partially fighting against the signal, but the signal has enough control to get them to continue to advance on the trio.
On the roof, the Doctor and Rook are hurrying as fast as they can to set up the device. Rook gives the Doctor the coordinates of Coal Hill. The Doctor finishes the device and turns it on. The sonic beam is sent towards the satellite. The Doctor tells Rook that they will know if it worked within the next few minutes.
Back in the warehouse, Susan is on the verge of collapsing from her efforts to hold back the mob with her mind. Her efforts have only delayed the mob, and Susan is now no longer able to hold them back. Cedric grabs a hammer and is ready to fight the mob, when the members of the mob collapse to the floor, unconscious. The Doctor's device has successfully blocked the signal. Cedric offers to help Susan to her feet, but Susan refuses, still hurt from Cedric's betrayal. Susan manages to get to her feet, as the Doctor and Colonel Rook return. The Doctor hugs his granddaughter, proud of her bravery.
Rook asks the Doctor if it is all over now, to which the Doctor tells him that the enemy device will only be disabled for a short time, so they need to have it destroyed before it can activate again. Rook tells the Doctor that there is still a war to fight, and that the Doctor and Susan will still help them, but Cedric blocks him. After all, Susan and the Doctor have just saved their lives. Rook reminds Cedric about the war, but Cedric believes that the war he is thinking of is the wrong war. They were ready to use the Doctor and Susan as tools, making them no better than their enemy. Rook considers this, and agrees with Cedric. Rook promises the Doctor that his secret his safe, to which the Doctor only asks him, "And what secret would that be?" Cedric apologises to Susan, who doesn't accept it. As far as she is concerned, her friendship with Cedric is over.
The Doctor and Susan leave the warehouse. The Doctor tells her how proud he is of her, and of how she has proven how strong her mental abilities are. The Doctor suggests that the two of them work on that talent. However, he notices an odd look on Susan's face, and asks her what is wrong. Susan shudders and tells him that she has a feeling, possibly a premonition, that something terrible is coming, something that will affect everything that ever was, that is, and that will be. It won't come anytime soon, but in the future, and it will be the Doctor's destiny to face it, a destiny he can't escape.
- Rook describes Susan as unearthly, alluding to the title of the television story An Unearthly Child that refers to her.
- Susan began attending Coal Hill School at the start of the autumn term.
- Susan reads articles in The Daily Sketch about the Cold War and the Space Race. She had previously never heard of either of them.
- Rosa's is a popular hangout for Coal Hill students.
- Brian and Richard are avid readers of the popular comic Eagle.
- Susan and her friends listen to Radio Luxembourg in Rosa's.
- The Eleventh Doctor's message describes the decade as the "swinging sixties" with "miniskirts, Telstars, Steve Zodiac, Fireball XL5, flower power and Woodstock".
- Susan makes Cedric buy an LP of Bob Dylan music. Neither of them had previously heard of Dylan. The reason she did so was because of the Eleventh Doctor's message, which said, "It's blowing in the wind," referring to the Bob Dylan song, "Blowin' in the Wind".
- Before the Doctor and Susan settled down in Shoreditch in 1963, they took a brief trip to St Albans on 17 December 1997 to ensure that the United Kingdom would remain safe during and after the 1960s. Unbeknownst to either of them, the Fourth Doctor and his companions Romana and K9 were in the vicinity on the same day. (PROSE: The Little Things)
- Cedric jokes that sometimes it seems that Susan can read people's minds. (TV: The Sensorites)
- Susan and Cedric listen to the Beatles on Susan's transistor radio. They have recently beaten John Smith and the Common Men to the No. 1 on the British charts. (TV: An Unearthly Child; AUDIO: 1963: Fanfare for the Common Men)
- The Doctor tries to purchase components from Magpie Electricals. (TV: The Idiot's Lantern)
- Susan reacts angrily when Cedric jokingly suggests that she and her grandfather are on the run from someone. (TV: An Unearthly Child, The War Games)
- Colonel Rook is aware that Susan has greater knowledge of science than is normal for a 15-year-old girl. (TV: An Unearthly Child)
- The story is said to take place in October 1963, four months after Susan and the Doctor arrived on Earth. An Unearthly Child is said to take place five months after their arrival (per dialogue by Susan), placing this story a month before the fateful encounter with Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright.
- The Doctor and Susan are stranded on Earth in 1963 due to a fault with the TARDIS that the Doctor is attempting to fix by procuring supplies, both legally and illegally. As the ship is able to leave Earth a month later, the Doctor would appear to be close to finishing the work. (TV: An Unearthly Child)
- Colonel Rook correctly believes that the Soviet Union is researching ESP. (AUDIO: Peshka)
- Susan has a premonition that something terrible is coming far in the Doctor's future and that it is part of his destiny. (AUDIO: The Time Machine)
- The bizarre message on the radio, which includes references to events in Earth's future, came from the Eleventh Doctor, as he tells the Seventh Doctor that he sent messages to his previous six incarnations. (AUDIO: Shockwave)