The Eighth Doctor and Charley pop up on October 30, 1938, just in time for Orson Welles' legendary radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. Orson himself isn't particularly excited about doing the show, but he does his job and hopes for the best.
Charley is still hoping to get to that rooftop in Singapore in 1930, but the TARDIS isn't cooperating very much. She also soon finds a corpse, belonging to a detective. The Doctor's first instinct is to take on the detective's identity, put his feet on the guy's desk and take on the case of the first distressed dame that walks into his office. This earns him a rather confused What the Hell, Hero? from Charley, and he reluctantly agrees to stop playing around and start saving the day. As it turns out, this particular day needs saving from mobsters with ray guns. They've kidnapped a professor who specialises in atomic power, as well as a crash-landed alien. And they're planning on selling what they found to the highest bidder — the USA, or Mother Russia, or the Nazis.
The mobsters are happily listening to Welles' reading of The War of the Worlds, and are therefore a bit confused when actual space mafia aliens appear to come pick up their crashed friend. Said friend is also spawning a nest of giant alien baby bats.
Welles is plain exasperated when people across the USA confuse his radio drama for an actual alien invasion. But this gives the Doctor an idea: he teams up with Welles to stage a second radio drama, tuned to the aliens' frequency, to convince them that Martians beat them to Earth and will kill them all. This works marvelously until the Doctor can't resist the urge to play the part of the angry evil Martians himself. He immediately proceeds to cock it up by asking how he's doing while his mic is still on.
In the end, though, the aforementioned kidnapped professor saves the day.
- Alternate History: It's very subtle, but the story is full of historical inaccuracies: the number of U.S. states, the year the C.I.A. was founded, and Welles not recognising Shakespeare's work when the Doctor quotes from Hamlet. This is all Foreshadowing for later episodes.
- Ancestral Weapon
- Auction of Evil
- Backup Bluff: Sort of. The Doctor and Orson re-reenact the War of the Worlds except with an hammy overlord in order to trick the invaders into thinking Martians note were actually invading.
- Big Damn Fire Exit
- Chairman of the Brawl: HIT HIM WITH THE CHAIR
- Chandler American Time
- Continuity Nod: The Doctor still likes putting his feet on other people's desks. This still causes everyone to question his sanity.
- Contrived Coincidence: Actual aliens arrive during the mass panic that breaks out due to Orson's reading of The War of the Worlds.
- Dead Person Impersonation: The Doctor impersonates Halliday for the first half of the story.
- Dirty Coward: Deveen starts working out for the Nazis, but drops his connections and offers the aliens a deal as soon as he realizes they could potentially become more powerful.
- Disney Villain Death: Miss Bee.
- Distressed Damsel: Poor Charley is already sick and tired of embodying this trope.Charley: Can't a person walk down the street without being kidnapped these days?!
- Ditzy Genius: Oh, Eight...
- Don't Explain the Joke: "'cause it's probably the ice cream what made him fat, right baws?"
- Dramatic Gun Cock: Used too many times to count.
- Eaten Alive
- Even Evil Has Standards: The Mafia is happy with selling alien tech, but not the fact communists are trying to steal it.
- Fake American: All of the Americans, actually...
- Glory Bee is one in-universe.
- Fed to the Beast: Mr. Mouse
- Flying Saucer
- For Science!: The Professor Yurish' reason for working on the alien tech.
- Four Lines, All Waiting
- Glorious Mother Russia: Glory Bee reveals herself to be a spy at the end of the second part.
- Halloween Episode: At least insofar as it's set on Halloween.
- Hardboiled Detective: The Doctor plays one for a bit.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Professor Yurish gets eaten by the fledgling bats. He lives, and finishes the world's first atomic bomb
- Historical Domain Character: Orson Welles.
- Humans Are Ugly
- Is This Thing Still On?: Trips up the heroes near the end of the story.
- Lady Drunk: Carla suggests she's this.
- Landmarking the Hidden Base: The Brooklyn Bridge.
- Large Ham: The Doctor, pretending to be a Martian invader fleet.
- The Mafia
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Oh Eight.
- Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Deveen offers this to the aliens.
- Painting the Medium: The incidental music is In the Style of... a classic 30's radio drama, including the occasional "dun dun dun dun DUNNNN".
- Shark Pool
- Shout-Out: The aliens unwittingly quote Lorenz Hart.We'll take Manhattan, and Staten Island too! Ha ha!
- Raygun Gothic: In spades.
- Stuff Blowing Up: The climax involves the alien ship being blown up by an atomic bomb.
- They Call Me Mister Deveen doubles as a Bond One-Liner.
- Those Two Bad Guys
- We Come in Peace Shoot to Kill: Of the aliens that land, Streeth wants to burn, destroy and kill everything. His colleague at least has some sense in her head.
- Who Writes This Crap?!: Orson dislikes what he wrote.
- Who Would Want to Watch Us?: Orson also thinks people would rather look at a ventriloquist.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Mr. Mouse.