The Doctor and Nyssa arrive on Earth in Greenford. It is completely deserted. They finally come across a man who is staggering through the streets, ignoring their attempts to talk to him. He finally reaches the window of a television rental store, and watches the programme depicted on the televisions in the window. His attention is completely on the programme, and he is oblivious to the Doctor and Nyssa's presence.
The programme involves aliens killing humans, and Nyssa is appalled at the realistic violence. The Doctor, to her horror, has become enthralled by the programme as well. When the programme ends, he begins to discuss how great it was. The man, now almost normal, speaks to them. His name is Norman Atkinson, and he answers the Doctor's questions about the programme, which is called Surrender, Earthlings!. He invites the Doctor to watch the next episode at his house. Nyssa considers going back to the TARDIS, but decides she had better keep an eye on the Doctor. On the way, she notices newspaper articles about the programme; oddly, the articles discuss the aliens as if they were real, not actors.
Nyssa is horrified to see a group of the aliens marching down the street. People watch with excitement. The Doctor runs up to them, and asks one for his autograph. The aliens recognise him. When he turns to Nyssa, she is gone.
Nyssa has been grabbed from behind and taken to a nearby house. Once inside, she thinks her attacker was Norman, but he introduces himself as Reg Atkinson, Norman's twin brother. Also present are Reg's son Tim, Mrs Cooper and Reverend Vincent N'kabe. They are members of a group they call the Provisional Wing of the National Viewers and Listeners Association. Their goal is to wipe out the corruption that is Surrender, Earthlings!
The Doctor, meanwhile, has been put in a cell by the aliens. He starts to experience withdrawal symptoms at missing the next episode. After some time, he comes to his senses, and realises who the aliens are — the Xyz, whom he considers parasites. Up to now, no one knew how they were able to conquer other planets, as their military capabilities were rubbish. The Doctor has figured it out, however. They use addictive serial programming.
Nyssa's new "friends" decide the best way to stop the programme is to blow up the BBC. Reg works out the construction of a bomb, refusing Nyssa's help.
The Doctor has been invited to tea with the Xyz, who are surprised to realise that the programme worked on him. Now that he has broken the addiction, however, he is a threat. The leader of the Xyz, who calls himself the Producer, decides that the programme needs a new villain — a traitor. He arranges for the traitor to look exactly like the Doctor, then sends the Doctor on his way, confident that an angry mob will take care of the Doctor for him.
After a series of mishaps, Nyssa's group makes it to the BBC, but they are not allowed to enter. Reg heads for the security kiosk to argue with the guard, but fails to return to the others. Tim, Mrs Cooper and N'kabe head for the kiosk to investigate, but they too fail to return. Nyssa decides to investigate, and learns that they are all watching the programme in the security kiosk. She heads into the BBC by herself, unnoticed by the guard.
The Doctor has also arrived at the BBC. He visits the Director-General, who thinks he looks familiar but doesn't recognise him as the traitor he just saw on the programme. Instead, he acknowledges the Doctor as an old acquaintance, and even vouches for him to his secretary, Anita Scammell. She, however, recognises the Doctor and leaves, threatening to call the police. The Doctor convinces the DG to help him, as an angry mob will go after him as well, since he vouched for the Doctor. The DG tells the Doctor the only way to stop transmission is to set the ratings to zero.
The Doctor and Nyssa find each other and head for the ratings department. On the way, they encounter the angry mob led by Anita, but the mob is so caught up in their hysteria they don't notice the Doctor. In the ratings department, the Doctor is dismayed to see that the equipment is so old and fragile, but Nyssa suggests they just destroy it — then the ratings would fall to zero, ending the transmission.
After the programme has ended, the addicted humans experience withdrawal symptoms. The Xyz sneak off Earth before the humans can recover enough to harm them.
- Fifth Doctor
- Norman Atkinson
- Reg Atkinson
- Tim Atkinson
- Mrs Cooper
- The Very Reverend Vincent N'kabe
- The Producer
- Anita Scammell
- Nyssa wishes for Tegan Jovanka.
- Reg's car smells like a dead Terileptil.
- Adric used to watch old comedy broadcasts such as Monty Python in the TARDIS' television lounge. He often quoted from the series.
- The Doctor suggests that the Xyz relocate their programme to Skaro.
- Anita serves the Doctor and the DG Earl Grey.
- Tegan once told Nyssa that the English were "surly buggers."
to be added
- The Doctor notes that even the Dulcians find the military capabilities of the Xyz to be rubbish. (TV: The Dominators)
- Nyssa recalls visiting Heathrow Airport in 1982. (TV: Time-Flight)