The Fifth Doctor and Nyssa arrive on the planet Veln, and Nyssa is promptly beaten up, arrested for murder, and interrogated.
The story unfolds entirely in Anachronic Order
. It's revealed that the planet's atmosphere was completely ruined, four generations ago, by a race called the Koteem. The Veln are all grotesquely mutated by the resulting pollution, and see the Koteem as their mortal enemies, now shrouded in fearful legend. Only the Koteem, and those rich Velm who can affort reconstructive surgery, are able to look like The Beautiful Elite
This got the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa into trouble as soon as they landed on the planet, following an unexpected crash in space (a few centuries earlier for the planet, a few minutes earlier for Team TARDIS) with an unexpected spaceship. The Doctor is really quite confused about the whole thing, and especially about being mistaken for an interstellar agent at first and for a Koteem soon afterwards. Mostly because he knows that Koteem are all (a) spider-shaped and (b) extinct. He quickly shuts up once he realises that the whole "extinct" thing hasn't happened yet.
As it turns out, the ship that the TARDIS crashed into was a Koteem waste disposal mission, and the crash caused the pollution to spread into the planet's atmosphere and mutate its inhabitants. The Koteem, wrecked with guilt over having accidentally committed slow-burn genocide, have decided to commit a species-wide Heroic Sacrifice. They plan to secretly merge their bodies with cooperative members of the Veln elite, granting them their own Koteem immune system and allowing the Veln to live on beyond this generation, at the expense of the entire Koteem population.
When one of their experiments went wrong, the poor victim ran into Nyssa and killed herself out of fear, which is what got Nyssa arrested in the first place.
Once all the confusion is sorted out, the Doctor eventually just leaves, blissfully unaware of how the pollution was spilled and never realising that he's accidentally committed genocide.
- After the End: The story takes place on a planet which has gone through an apocalyptic event, diving the people in two classes.
- Alien Sky: It is green. For a reason.
- Anachronic Order: The story is told in snippets, flashing back and forth, adding on previous scenes, or introducing upcoming ones akin to 21 Grams.
- Atmosphere Abuse
- The Beautiful Elite: To the degree that the Fifth Doctor is immediately thought to be one of them, just because of how "fair" he looks.
- Big Brother Is Watching You:
- Bizarre Alien Biology: The Koteem get transplanted into the Veln in order to keep a few of them alive.
- Broken Record: Beau-beau-beau-beau-beau...tiful.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts
- Death Equals Redemption: The Koteem believe this, as they sacrifice themselves to keep the Veln alive.
- Force Field: Disguised as a mountainside with a Holographic Disguise
- Giant Spider
- Heroic Sacrifice: One Koteem at a time..
- Holographic Disguise: Of a mountainside with a Force Field.
- Humanoid Aliens: The Veln are practically identical in appearance and function to Gallifreyans. According to a Veln scientist.
- Human Outside, Alien Inside
- Ironic Echo: "As for making a difference? I don't think we really influenced anything at all."
- Just Following Orders
- Make It Look Like an Accident
- Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: Poor, poor Five caused the Apocalypse How by flying through an anomoly with his TARDIS, lands on the planet, and never finds out all the suffering he's caused.
- My God What Have We Done
- No Antagonist: Nobody really bears any ill will towards the others. The world is just in a horrible state.
- Nonhuman Humanoid Hybrid: The Veln that are part Koteem due to organ transplants.
- Obviously Evil: Played With. The Doctor wishes bad guys would have satanic beards.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: The Doctor is suspected of being one.
- Shaggy Dog Story: In the end the Doctor and Nyssa are just allowed to leave, and they never find out that they caused the Apocalypse How.
- They Should Have Sent A Poet: The description of how the pollution spread is really quite gorgeous.
- Strapped to an Operating Table: Five, as per usual.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Both the Doctor and Nyssa find it odd that the fact they're aliens isn't remarked upon.