The Kro'ka mentally tortures the Eighth Doctor a bit with memories of Katarina and Adric. He then proceeds to shove the Doctor into a nuclear wasteland, just days after the mass destruction of a city.
The local president, a tremendously stupid woman named Excelsior, is busy preparing her victory speech and fussing over her makeup. Her ministers have decided to simply not tell her that they lost the war and that the government members in their bunker are pretty much the planet's only survivors. Instead, they plan to escape from the planet altogether using the last remaining rocket.
Charley and C'rizz are terrified by the ruined cityscape. The group all get separated from each other: Charley and the Doctor get trapped underneath a building, and when C'rizz tries to get help, the only person he can find is a very confused-sounding librarian who calls himself Requiem. Requiem eventually guides C'rizz to place where a group of other survivors are hiding, but said survivors are eerily quiet. Meanwhile, Charley and the Doctor wake up in the government bunker's hospital, Charley realises that she's paralysed from the neck down. She and the Doctor both try really hard to keep a Stiff Upper Lip, but they have to face the fact that Charley will never walk again.
C'rizz arrives at the vault doors, and Requiem and his comrades turn out to be visible only to him. The Doctor has better things to do than to worry about C'rizz sanity, and the group plans an escape in the last remaining rocket. Charley realises she's a crippled burden and asks C'rizz if he'd be capable of another Mercy Killing after what he did for L'da. Excelsior, meanwhile, has been taking advice from a mysterious counsellor named "Landscar", who's teaching her how to be one with the planet and control the elements. She will be "the last". She also reveals that her race has no way to procreate, and that there is never any beginning of new life, just the end of existing lives. Requiem also turns out to be not so invisible after all, as he tries to confront Excelsior with the crimes she has done to, as well as allowed to happen to her people, while she tries her hardest to pretend that he is not there.
Charley decides to straight up tell Excelsior that the war was lost. Excelsior responds with disbelief and, when that fails, by violently killing one of her ministers, then Charley, then C'rizz. The Doctor realises that since he's now stuck on a rocket high above a dead planet, without his TARDIS, without his friends, he doesn't have a thing to live for. Suicide becomes a very viable option. When the planet pulls him and Excelsior back in towards itself, Excelsior manages to walk into a volcano, which would have fulfilled the prophecy of her being "the last" living thing to die. But the Doctor's presence on the planet has upset that prophecy a bit.
"Landscar", an avatar for the whole planet, confronts the Doctor about the fact that his presence has thrown a spanner in the usual system. He explains that all that the horror that the Doctor has witnessed is part of a regular cycle. A war sparks on the planet, which always ends up wiping out all life, always ending with Excelsior being the last one to die, and then the planet reboots and the cycle starts over. The Doctor tries questioning Landscar on what the purpose of this cycle is, but he has no answer and neither does he have any idea who or what the Divergence are, which the Doctor finds rather interesting. If the cycle of the experiment is to start over, the Doctor, too, will have to die. If he refuses, the planet will die before he does, and the experiment and its associated cycle of death and rebirth will never be repeated. He relents and commits Heroic Suicide.
It is not the end, though as the reboot turns out to work as intended. The Doctor wakes up to the sound of Charley and C'rizz's voices. He is greeted by them and an alive Requiem, who explain to him that he is just in time for the victory parade. Apparently, the planet was saved from brink of war by a successful diplomatic negation, and Excelsior, apparently much more sane this time around, is about to hold a speech on how a new era of peace is about to begin. The Doctor's Ripple Effect-Proof Memory, however, leaves him just a tiny bit traumatised, so when he feels the pull of the Interzone, he quickly hurries Charley and C'rizz along, despite their outspoken disappointment at not getting to hear the speech.
- After the End
- Anthropomorphic Personification
- Apocalypse How: A Class 4, building up to a class X.
- Arc Words: Many of the Divergent arc's elements: revolution, reincarnation, evolution, death and rebirth, spinning in a circle, breaking free of the cycle, the next life and the beyond.
- Big "NO!": C'rizz lets one out when he realizes Charley has been killed.
- Blatant Lies: The minsters have been fibbing to Excelsior about the state of the world.
- The Caligula: Excelsior.
- Continuity Nod: Illusions of Katarina and Adric show up.
- Dead All Along: Requiem and the other survivors.
- Death by Disfigurement
- Dramatic Gun Cock
- Evolutionary Levels: Excelsior says her people stopped evolving (purposefully?) because they had achieved their "full potential".
- Foreshadowing: Plenty of it for "The Next Life". And considering there's an even worse war in store for the Doctor...
- Genius Loci
- Ghostly Goals
- Glad I Thought of It
- God Save Us From The President
- "Groundhog Day" Loop
- Heroic Suicide
- Hollywood Acid
- Hulk Speak
- If I Can Only Move
- Just a Flesh Wound
- Large Ham: Excelsior.
- Mercy Kill: A perverted version of it, in the eyes of one character.
- My Greatest Failure: Adric's death once again haunts the Doctor.
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Requiem is revealed to be this as, he tries to communicating with Excelsior, despite her stalwart attempts to pretend he is not there.
- Obfuscating Insanity: Excelsior genuinely has quite a few screws loose, but Charley come to realizes that she is playing up to make people think she is more harmless than she actually is.
- People's Republic of Tyranny: Excelsior mentions that she would win the next election, and it's alluded to that it's because she hasn't got any opposition. Ever.
- Kirk Summation: The Doctor gives one to Excelsior, and caps it off by concluding that she is the most despicable person he has ever met, and that his contempt for her is the strongest he has never felt for anyone ever.
- Refuge in Audacity: The Doctor's explanation as to how they got to a post apocalyptic world is believed by one of the ministers because how else could they get where they were?
- Rise to the Challenge: The insides of the shelter break at one point.
- Sickbed Slaying: Excelsior tries one on Charley using a Vorpal Pillow.
- Throwing Off the Disability: Cruelly subverted when Charley says it's impossible.
- Too Dumb to Live: Excelsior.
- Our Ghosts Are Different
- Ultimate Life Form: What Excelsior believes the people of Bortresoye have evolved into.
- War Is Hell: Said over, and over, and over, and over again. Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped.