The Eighth Doctor is mumbling, panicking, and he's lost his mind and his memory... again.
It's the 21st century, Twenty Minutes into the Future
, and a new state of America is about to be founded: Malebolgia. The prime candidate for its governor is Dashwood, a Southern televangelist and a descendant of Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron le Despencer
. Much like his ancestor, this Dashwood is the leader of a local Hellfire Club
. Unlike his ancestor, though, he actually summons demons, engages in active Satanism, and forces young girls to work at the club as "Pretty Little Satin Bottoms".
One of those girls is Charley, who can't remember a thing either. She befriends a girl named Becky Lee, who happens to be the granddaughter of Dashwood's main political opponent. The Doctor, meanwhile, is plucked off the streets and locked up in a mental institution where Dashwood illegally collects catatonic patients. His new machine, still in its trial phase, can extract people's minds as data so their brain matter is safe to operate on. The Doctor is lined up as one of the lab rats, and is named "Zebediah Doe" ("John Doe" was taken). His cellmate, Crane, soon weasels his way into a position of The Igor
while mocking the Doctor's memory loss.
While Dashwood preaches on about the glory of his new state, Charley is almost forced to — holy shit, it's Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
! The Brig is undercover at the Hellfire club and investigating the Dashwood institute. He's a bit miffed when that job turns out to involve Dashwood's giant demons. Becky Lee, however, has some magic tricks of her own, courtesy of her family being part of the ancient English order of St. Peter. She and Charley escape.
The Brigadier meets the Doctor (who, by coincidence, also escaped). But since the Doctor's completely mad and the Brig hasn't met Eight yet, he doesn't recognise him and neatly deposits "Zebediah Doe" back at the institute.
When the Doctor's brain is plugged into the P.S.I. machine, the thing naturally overloads, and the Doctor goes even more mental. Crane, meanwhile, fully believes he's actually the Doctor. This leads the Doctor to figure out what happened: while visiting Grace Holloway
, the Doctor and Charley released Ramsay back into the time vortex, but things went a bit wrong and the TARDIS crash-landed in the USA. The Doctor's psychic link with the TARDIS got all muddled up and crosswired with Crane (Nicholas Briggs
), a random bystander. The Doctor has no luck trying to convince Crane of that, however.
The Brig and Becky Lee investigate, and — eventually
— figure out what's going on. By that time, however, the Doctor's mind has been spread out across a dozen mental patients, Charley is dressed up in bondage gear and forced to marry Dashwood as his satanic queen of Hell, Becky Lee's grandfather is possessed by an evil alien posing as a demon called Marchosias, and Dashwood is about to start his big statewide telethon. The plan is to extract the minds of voters, replace them with demons, and make Dashwood President of the USA. The aliens' plan is a bit less complicated: scare the pants off of everyone and feed on their fear.
The Doctor manages to get his mind back using some clever trickery, and makes "Contact!"
with what's left of his own mind inside Crane's head. (This works brilliantly, since Crane is technically
another version of himself.) The Doctor reminds Dashwood that the original Francis Dashwood was actually a rather nice chap, and that Satanism is, and always will be, sensationalist nonsense. The Brigadier, Obfuscating Stupidity
, causes Dashwood's maniacal nazism claims to be broadcast to all his potential voters and saves the day. Crane manages to destroy the machine using the Doctor's knowledge and, with it, the alien.
One problem, though: the demons told Charley she was already dead
- Absolute Cleavage: Supposedly the frocks.
- Another Dimension: Where the Demons reside.
- As the Good Book Says: While insane, the Doctor mutters some of the most psychedelic bits of the Book of Ezekiel. Dashwood also tries to evoke Biblical lore, but doesn't actually know the first thing about the Bible, and the Brigadier wearily corrects him.
- The Ezekiel quotes are not even named here, but are later elaborated on in "Zagreus".
- Bedlam House: The Dashwood Institute; its full title is the Brigham Elijah Dashwood Laboratory for Alternative Mentalities. The Doctor's not even there for a full day before they try to lobotomize him.
- Big Red Devil: According to the Brig's description.
- The Bus Came Back: The Brigadier! Also, the Doctor and Grace are still friends, but she's only mentioned (due to copyright issues).
- Call Back: To the TV movie. This isn't the first time (or the second, or the third, or the last for that matter) the Eighth Doctor's been amnesiac — he even mentions Grace!
- Clarke's Third Law: In spades.
- Composite Character: Dr Dale Pargeter is a composite of the Audio Visuals' Master Curdle (warden of Bedlam) and the Unseen Character Mother Fireship (procurer of Pretty Little Satin Bottoms). With the addition of being Promoted To The Villain's Love Interest.
- Continuity Cavalcade: Twice, both by Crane while trying to prove he's the real Doctor.
- Continuity Porn: So damn much. Among many other things, "Contact!" is used again (including the original sound effect), Grace Holloway is mentioned, the Brig talks a lot about the old days, and Crane talks about tons of companions including Evelyn Smythe and Sam Jones.
- Which is a bit of Continuity Snarl, since the episode "Zagreus" later confirms that the Eighth Doctor Adventures with Sam Jones took place in a completely different timeline. However, in the context of this story, it can be very easily Hand Waved as a time vortex glitch. (And subsequent Flash Back would reveal that before Charley the Doctor a companion called Samson Griffin, so "Sam" could be a reference to him.)
- Corrupt Church
- Cuckoo Nest
- Dark Messiah: Dashwood revels in the trope.
- Darker and Edgier: Open references to (forcible) prostitution, Satanic worship, and several extended descriptions of torture. This is definitely one of the darker Doctor Who stories.
- Deadpan Snarker: The Brig
- The Demon posessing Granpappy Waldo as well.
- Dead Person Impersonation
- Demonic Possession
- Demon Slaying: Becky-Lee
- Development Gag: Nicholas Briggs plays a guy who thinks he's the Doctor. This episode was originally one of Nicholas Briggs' Doctor Who Audio Visuals, in which he plays the Doctor.
- Doing in the Wizard : Although the demons are not actually demons, Becky Lee's magic is never elaborated on. It's probably assumed that the audience has seen "The Daemons", in which the Doctor states that this kind of magic is actually alien science.
- Easy Amnesia: Both Charley and the Doctor
- Emotion Eater
- Engineered Public Confession
- Fake American: Ohh boy. More than you can shake a stick at.
- With a seven-course helping of baked Eagle Land Ham to go with it — especially Becky Lee's absolutely ridiculous "grandpoppy," who seems to be channeling Yosemite Sam and Bobcat Goldthwaite in equal measure.
- Which is odd, since he's one of the few characters played by an actor who actually is American.
- Foreshadowing: Charley hears she's "already dead"
- Ghost in the Machine: What the PSI machine does to people's minds.
- Cackling Demons
- Going Native: The brig fears he's doing this because of his use of "Legality"
- Gorgeous Period Dress
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Dashwood won't let go of the PSI machine..
- I'm a Humanitarian
- Insult Backfire: The Brig tells Dashwood that he'd thought he'd seen the worst humanity has to offer, but Dashwood is the lowest of the low. Dashwood replies "Why, thank you!"
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Charley can't even remember her own name, but conveniently remembers enough of her history lessons to give plenty exposition about the Hellfire Club.
- Mind Rape: Strangely enough Becky-Lee can inflict this on the Hellfire club in a fear gas kind of manner.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: It's a wonder nobody overruled naming the new state Malebolgia for being a PR nightmare.
- Of Corsets Sexy: Charley's queen of hell outfit has elements of this. Also Spikes of Villainy.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Starts off this way.
- Our Demons Are Different: For starters, they're aliens. Specifically, Psionovores, parasite aliens that feed on negative thoughts.
- Primal Fear: The Psionovores can disguise themselves as anything, and will feed on your fears. They can be walls, waterfalls, shadows...
- Putting on the Reich: Dashwood happily compares himself to Hitler.
- Psychological Horror
- Religion of Evil
- Recycled Script
- Running Gag: The Eighth Doctor developing amnesia.
- Setting Update: The original Audio Visuals version was set in 17th century England, with the original Hellfire Club and Bedlam.
- Shoo Out the New Guy: Ramsay the Vortisaur didn't work out very well, seeing as he constantly had to be confined to the TARDIS.
- Shout-Out: The Queen of Hell stuff is a reference to The Avengers famous Hellfire Club episode "A Touch Of Brimstone". (Since it's a non-visual medium, we can't be sure its a Whole Costume Reference, but the description does sound about right...)
- Becky Lee is a teenage American girl who is the Chosen One of an organisation dedicated to wiping out vampires and other demonic beings. That sounds familiar.
- Southern Gentleman: Several. The Governor stands out for actually using "Tarnation"
- Summoning Ritual
- The Stoic: The Brigadier is extremely unimpressed by the local demons, and considers having to type up a report about them more of a hassle than actually encountering them.
- Tampering with Food and Drink
- Too Dumb to Live: Senator Waldo not keeping a copy of the tape and confronting Dashwood.
- Un-Person: Charley ends up the story kidnapped and stripped of all identity alongside several others.
- Weird Moon: A Harvest Moon
- Whole Plot Reference: To a The Avengers episode, "A Touch of Brimstone", in which Mrs Peel goes through the same things Charley experiences here.
- You Have to Believe Me: The Doctor doesn't do a terribly good job of making himself sound sane when he's missing most of his memory.