The Tenth Doctor and Donna arrive in China during the Qin dynasty, "a couple of centuries BC". The Great Wall of China is still being built. Before the Doctor can stop her, Donna takes photos with her mobile phone. They are captured and thrown into a pit, where they battle a robot made of pottery. They defeat it using Donna's phone signal.
The two of them are taken by Meng Tian to the Imperial Palace because they have killed the "Immortal Warrior". On the way they see the Terra Cotta Army being put in place. The Doctor is taken by guards to see Emperor Qin Shi Huang while Donna is taken by Meng for "examination". The Doctor realises the Emperor is a cyborg — half human, half terra cotta. He convinces the Emperor that he has the secret to immortality.
Donna is with Meng, who transforms into a vicious blue alien with a vapourisation gun. The alien believes Donna to be from the Star Council, coming to bring him to justice. Meanwhile, the Doctor finds a warp converter behind a curtain. The emperor says it was Meng's celestial chariot. The Emperor said that as a boy, he saved Meng from the wreckage of his "chariot" and he used his knowledge to become the first Emperor. Following an assassination attempt, the Emperor had Meng build him a new, indestructible body. The alien bursts in with Donna at gunpoint. He wants to take control of Earth. He activates the Terra Cotta Army, which turn out to be robots. The alien switches off the cyborg Emperor and Donna calls her granddad on her phone. The signal turns on the Emperor, who kills the alien but also short-circuits the warp converter.
The Doctor and Donna run away just before the whole palace blows up, burying the army. The Doctor says that the Terra Cotta army will remain statues until the throne room, along with the Emperor, is unearthed around the early 21st century.
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- Donna calls Meng "Skeletor", the villain from He Man and the Masters of the Universe. She also referred to a Sycorax (COMIC: The Widow's Curse) and Death (AUDIO: Death and the Queen) as such.
- Qin Shi Huang, while fighting Meng Tian in his true form, says "Die, hideous creature! Die!" The Second Doctor previously said this while battling the Master of Spiders. (COMIC: Master of Spiders)
- During his second incarnation, the Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon and Victoria Waterfield encountered Qin Shi Huang in 210 BC. (AUDIO: The Emperor of Eternity)