The Sixth Doctor takes Mel to a black tie party in 2003, following up on an invitation sent by Mel's kind old uncle John. (She insists on the Doctor changing into something appropriate.) The party takes place at a scientific institute where Mel's uncle has lived for many years. While the Doctor mingles with the guests and chats about the institute's newest Applied Phlebotinum (something to do with the space program), Mel decides this is a nice opportunity to read up on her family history. She's intrigued by the stories about her ancestor, Henry — a man who, after losing his wife Jane, married a mysterious woman named Eleanor who died soon after. She wonders if it's got anything to do with the woman in the gorgeous dress pictured next to Henry in one of the paintings, or with the ghost woman said to have been seen over the past centuries.
Soon enough, the Applied Phlebotinum near Mel reacts to the TARDIS, the TARDIS tries to telepathically warn Mel, and Mel's dragged back through time because of the TARDIS uncontrollably emitting telepathic time wave things. She ends up exactly at the time and space she was reading about: Henry's study in 1782, just after Jane has died. She also immediately comes down with a case of Easy Amnesia. Henry, definitely not yet recovered from the loss of Jane, decides to take care of Mel until she gets better.
Once the Doctor realises what's happened, he quickly explains to John that yes, he's a time traveller, yes, Mel is trapped in the past, and no, they can't take the cat along if they're going to rescue her. Unfortunately, when they arrive it's 1783, and Mel has been drugged with laudanum and living as "Nell" (short for Eleanor, Henry presumed) for six months. Henry's housekeeper, a glum woman named McGregor, is happy to see someone arrive who might take "Nell" away again, as she doesn't consider her master's affection for the young woman at all healthy. Henry's physician friend agrees, and helps the Doctor and John get close to Mel in order to get her off the laudanum and back to the TARDIS as soon as possible. Things get a little complicated when the Doctor realises that Mel is getting dangerously into My Own Grandpa territory, and that taking her back to her normal time might break history. Luckily, Mel recognises the dress that McGregor is ordered to give her as the one in the painting... and realises that McGregor will one day be Henry's second wife. The "death" of Eleanor, described in Henry's diaries, was symbolic rather than factual. Mel, the Doctor and John vworp out hastily, and Henry has a massive breakdown as he finally begins to cope with the idea that his wife is dead. As his diaries show, though, he eventually will get better.
- All Love Is Unrequited
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Mel realises there's a chance that Henry has tried something while she was drugged. She's horrified by the idea, and while he denies it, he's not exactly lucid at the time.
- Hand Wave: Mel asks the Doctor how she manages to receive mail on the TARDIS. The Doctor just tells her not to worry about it.
- Kindhearted Cat Lover: As nasty, brash and arrogant as Six is usually described, he encounters a cat called Jupiter in this adventure and goes gaga over it.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia / Easy Amnesia: Mel loses all sense of her identity when Trapped in the Past.
- Last-Name Basis: The housekeeper, Mrs. (Or Miss) Mc Gregor is never addressed by her first name.
- Literary Allusion Title: To Catch-22.
- No Antagonist
- Non-Answer: The Doctor once again claims he's a Doctor of "Many things".
- Portal to the Past
- The Professor: Mel's uncle John.
- Red Herring: The cat is really only there because it's cute.
- Replacement Goldfish: Elenour is this to Henry Wallace.
- Seen It All: The Doctor's Long List of all the psychic and mental issues he came across in his "carreer as a doctor".
- Sharp-Dressed Man: It's implied Mel makes the Doctor leave his coat, seeing as it's a black tie event they're going to.
- The Slow Path: Mel is stuck for a long period of time before the Doctor can land the TARDIS close to her time period.
- A Spot Of Tea
- Stable Time Loop: How the stories about Nell came to be.
- Swirly Energy Thingy: A kink in time.
- Time Capsule: Two of them.
- Trapped in the Past
- Our Ghosts Are Different: They're echoes of the past.
- Wife Husbandry