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Several weeks ago the TARDIS landed in Masada, Judaea. The crew got caught in a skirmish with Roman soldiers, and the Doctor and Susan became separated from Barbara and Ian. The Doctor and Susan joined Flavius Silva's Roman camp, and Ian and an injured Barbara joined a band of Jewish zealots. Over the next few weeks, the Doctor became an advisor to Silva, and Ian, while Barbara lay unconscious, has befriended the leader of the zealots, Eleazar ben Jair.
Barbara wakes several weeks later to find the zealots under siege by the Romans. Ian has been helping the zealots to fight against the Romans, but Barbara knows what happens to the Jewish settlement at Masada and is appalled that Ian has involved himself in something he cannot change. The Doctor, meanwhile, has been helping the Romans, trying to undo any changes to history that Ian is trying to make.
Eleazar finally realises that they cannot defeat the Romans. Knowing how the Romans treat their prisoners, he has come up with a plan. Each man will kill his own family members, then the men would be killed by Eleazar's lieutenants. Finally, one lieutenant will be chosen by lot to kill the rest of the men.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is at pains to convince Silva that he has two spies in the Masada camp and to persuade him to let the spies live.
Ian pretends to kill Barbara and then joins the rest of Eleazar's men. When all but Eleazar's lieutenants have been killed, Ian's name is drawn by lot to kill the rest of the men. As Ian, in a daze, holds his sword, each man throws himself upon it. Finally only Eleazar is left, and he reveals that he fixed the drawing so that Ian's name would be chosen. He knew Ian didn't want to die. He kills himself on Ian's sword, and Ian returns to Barbara. They wait for the Doctor to find them. After a brief argument with Silva about the fate of Ian and Barbara, the Doctor leaves with his companions.
- First Doctor
- Susan Foreman
- Barbara Wright
- Ian Chesterton
- Eleazar ben Jair
- Flavius Silva
- The Doctor and Barbara wonder whether the place they were in was known as Israel or Palestine in the time they'd landed, however the Doctor confirms that it was known as Judaea when he spots Roman soldiers marching in their direction.
- The Doctor refers to Roman history as recorded by Josephus.
- Among the Jews in Masada are Yoshua, Rivka, Yitzhak, Daniel, Avraham, Yosef, Mordecai, Adam, Yochai, Isaiah, Yarif, Solomon, and Saul.
- In the real world, the Siege of Masada occurred in approximately 74 CE, however no such date is given in the story. The Doctor does mention that the ruins were excavated in the 20th century, however, with Barbara later mentioning that it would be dug up in two thousand years time.
- Barbara refers to her attempts to save the Aztecs in 15th century Mexico. (TV: The Aztecs)
- Barbara references being a slave of the Romans, though this would be later in her personal history. (TV: The Romans)