On 13 July 1643, the English Civil War came to Little Holcombe, when the Roundheads and the Cavaliers nearly wiped each other out. Every year there is a re-enactment of the battle, but a schoolteacher named Jane Hampden (Polly James) thinks it has gone too far and become violent and dangerous. She urges the town’s leader Sir George Hutchison (Denis Lil) to stop the games, but he says they are harmless and refuses.
The Doctor has promised Tegan to take her to Little Holcombe in 1984 to see her grandfather, Andrew Verney (Frederick Hall). But there is turbulence and the TARDIS materializes in a structurally unstable church. There is a man in 17th Century clothing in trouble outside and the Doctor attempts to help him, but he vanishes. Tegan thinks the TARDIS has landed in the wrong time zone again, but Turlough insists it is 1984. Smoke starts to billow from a crack in the church wall.
The time-travellers are captured by Captain Joseph Willow (Jack Galloway) and brought before Jane Hampden and Colonel Ben Woolsey (Glyn Houston). Sir George arrives and explains about the re-enactment of the Battle of Little Holcombe. They also find out that Tegan’s grandfather is missing. Tegan runs out, upset at the news, but someone steals her purse. She follows the thief into a barn where she sees the ghost of an old man.
The Doctor meets a 17th Century peasant named Will Chandler (Keith Jayne) emerging from a wall. He has Tegan’s purse and believes it is 1643. Turlough rescues Tegan from the barn and they return to the TARDIS, where they see a sparkling projection of white squares on the wall. They leave the TARDIS and are re-captured. Turlough is locked in a building with Tegan’s grandfather. Willow forces Tegan into 17th Century costume. She will be Queen of the May.
The Doctor and Will investigate the church and find a secret passage to Ben Woolsey’s living room near a picture of something called the Malus. The Doctor finds a bit of metal which he calls Tinclavic, mined by Terileptils on the planet Raaga, where psychic energy is a power source. Back in the church, they find a huge demonic face pushing through the crack in the wall, roaring and spewing smoke. The Doctor realizes that Hutchison tried to exploit the Malus, but the creature has been using him. It feeds on the aggressive energy of the war-games. The Doctor and Jane try to stop the games, but Hutchison orders Woolsey to kill the Doctor. Woolsey joins forces with the Doctor instead.
Tegan, the Queen of the May, is taken in a horse-drawn cart to the Village Green, where she is to be burned. Has no-one told her about the Doctor’s companions and human sacrifice? But Tegan is rescued and replaced by a straw dummy by Woolsey. Hutchison orders his men to kill Woolsey. Will causes a distraction with a torch, which allows the Doctor, Hampden, Woolsey, and Tegan to escape to the TARDIS. The Doctor tries to seize control of the psychic energy feeding the Malus. The bad guys try to break into the TARDIS, with no success whatsoever, and Turlough and Verney knock them out. The Doctor blocks the energy of the Malus, but the Malus produces roundheads who attack the good guys.
Hutchison arrives and holds them at gunpoint, but Will pushes him into the Malus, destroying it and Hutchison as well. The Malus brings down the church upon itself and everyone flees in the TARDIS. The Doctor finds Will still around, who has apparently been brought physically into the future by Malus and is stuck here. The Doctor promises to return him to 1643.
This story, like most of the Fifth Doctor trips into history, was only two episodes long. It was filmed in Shapwick, Dorset, and in Martin, Hampshire. The Doctor wore a new cricket sweater. In an on-film accident, the horse pulled the cart into the lych-gate the BBC had built, destroying it. The scene was kept as an example of how not to film animals. Keith Jayne as Will Chandler was quite wonderful—there seems to be something about British actors when they are put into historical costumes—and there was talk of him staying in the TARDIS for a while. When in doubt, create another companion. But sober second thought was that viewers would tire of his childlike innocence, and it never happened. The charming towns made for a beautiful and bucolic filmset, but good lighting and sound effects populated it with eerie soldiers from the past.