Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) is stranded on Earth, in 21st Century Cardiff, Wales. He knows the Doctor (David Tennant) will have to land the TARDIS there to refuel at the Cardiff Rift. The Doctor sees Jack running toward him and dematerializes the TARDIS. Jack grabs onto the outer shell, and the TARDIS, trying to shake him off, flies to the end of the universe. Jack dies on the way but comes back to life because he is immortal. On the planet Malcassairo, the Doctor, Martha (Freema Agyeman), and Jack run into Padra (Rene Zagger) a human being running from human cannibals called the Futurekind.

They help Padra get to the missile silo where a rocket is supposed to take the last of the human race to Utopia, where they will apparently survive the heat-death of the universe. They meet Professor Yana (Derek Jacobi) and his cute sentient insect assistant Chantho (Chipo Chung), whom Captain Jack rather fancies. The Professor asks the Doctor to figure out why his rocket will not launch. During the repairs, Professor Yana hears a drum-like sound he has been hearing all his life. The rocket is fixed, and the refugees get on board, but one of the Futurekind shorts it out, releasing deadly radiation. Jack, not afraid of death, fixes it.

The Doctor admits he abandoned Jack on purpose, disturbed that Rose gave him immortality and created a permanent time-anomaly. Martha draws attention to the Professor’s fob-watch, similar to the one in which the Doctor parked his Time Lord nature when he had to be human. The Doctor starts the launch just as the Professor opens his watch and changes. He lets the Futurekind into the silo and confesses that he is the Doctor’s long-time enemy The Master. Chantho struggles with him and they kill each other, but the Master regenerates into John Simm and dematerializes the TARDIS, leaving the Doctor, Jack, and Martha stuck at the end of the universe with the Futurekind coming after them. To be continued.

In the Christmas Invasion episode, the Doctor’s hand was cut off and Jack kept it. He uses it to detect the Doctor’s near approach. It will reappear in at least five episodes later on. In this story, there are references to at least 18 other Doctor Who episodes. The Doctor asks Jack if he had work done and Jack points out that the Doctor changed his whole face. In fact, John Barrowman had had botox injections. The Theme from Torchwood plays over important scenes featuring Captain Jack. A young boy named Creet is played by John Bell, a nine-year-old who won the role in a contest. He later played Bain, son of Bard, in the Hobbit movies. The Futurekind were influenced by the warrior ghosts from John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.

Derek Jacobi is the fifth actor to play the Master. When Professor Yana examines his watch, we hear the voices of actors Robert Delgado and Anthony Ainley, beloved (?) former Masters. His costume was purposely copied from that of William Hartnell, the First Doctor. David Tennant and Derek Jacobi have both played Hamlet with Patrick Stewart as Claudius. Lalla Ward (Romana) played Ophelia with Derek Jacobi. The Drumbeat that Professor Yana keeps hearing is the bassline of the Doctor Who theme. Derek Jacobi will always be Emperor Claudius to me. He changes from the kindly Professor Yana to the evil Master in a brilliant heartbeat. This is the first episode of a three-part story finishing the season. The episode was quite well received, though the far-future look was thought derivative. The cliff-hanger was considered one of the best.