On Varos, a planet in the constellation of Cetes, the public torture of the rebel Jondar is taking place and being broadcast throughout the planet. Varosians Arak and Etta watch the proceedings from their room. Arak complains that they never show anything new to watch. In addition to the lack of new programming, the two must also deal with food rationing. And that night will be a punch-in vote ordered by the Governor, and voting is mandatory.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is repairing the TARDIS console. Peri complains that the Doctor has caused three electrical fires, a power failure, nearly collided with a storm of asteroids, got lost in the TARDIS corridors twice, wiped the memory banks of the flight computer, jettisoned three quarters of the storage hold, and burned her "cold dinner", all since the time-travellers left Telos (Attack of the Cybermen). Minutes later, the TARDIS unexpecedly stops, stalled in the middle of deep space. And the Doctor can do nothing to fix it.
Sil, the Mentor representative of the Galatron Mining Corporation, is negotiating with the Governor over the price of Varos’ Zeiton-7 ore. Their discussion, like many others, ends in stalemate. For many years, the Galatron Mining Corporation has swindled Varos by paying far less for the ore than its market value. And to make matters worse, the Chief Officer is in league with Sil. The Governor moves on to conduct the night’s vote. He addresses the people asking for their vote on if they should hold out longer for a fair price on the ore. The Governor loses and is forced to endure Human Cell Disintegration Bombardment. The process slowly kills the target and this is the third time his recommendations have failed to pass. The guard Bax recommends that the Governor execute Jondar to please the citizens so he can recuperate before the next vote.
Peri locates the TARDIS manual and presents it to the Doctor who quickly dismisses it. He knows perfectly well what has caused their dilemma. The transitional elements within the TARDIS have stopped producing orbital energy and they need Zeiton-7 ore to realign the power systems. And as the Doctor explains, Zeiton-7 is exceptionally rare and only comes from one planet: Varos. The Doctor manages to repair the TARDIS enough to travel to Varos and arrives right before the execution of Jondar is to take place.
The guard on station to watch over the execution believes the TARDIS is merely a hallucination caused by the Punishment Dome. The Doctor and Peri exit the TARDIS and think they are hallucinations as well. And with some help from the chained Jondar, the guard is incapacitated. The two free Jondar and make their escape, after being cut off from the TARDIS by more guards. They are then rescued by Rondel, who has defected after speaking with Areta, and decided to help them. But he is killed shortly there after by pursuing guards.
The Doctor, Peri, Jondar, and Areta continue on through the Punishment Dome, attempting to make their way back to the TARDIS. But during a run-in with another group of guards, the Doctor is separated from the others who are arrested. He enters a corridor that appears psychologically as a desert. And with all of Varos watching, the Doctor succumbs to the heat and collapses with his end as a close-up.
During the ordeal, Peri has been brought to the control center in the company of the Governor, Sil and the other officers. They question her as she watches them bring the Doctor’s body to an acid bath for disposal. It is also revealed that he is not dead, but his mind was influenced to make him believe he was dying of thirst in a desert. The Doctor suddenly stands up and walks over to the two attendants while their backs were turned. The surprise causes the first attendant to jump, pushing the second into the bath. A struggle ensues and the attendant is then pulled into the acid bath by the second who reaches up and grabs him. The Doctor strolls out with a morbid quip.
After making his way from the acid baths, the Doctor is cornered by Quillam, Varos’ chief scientist, and is taken away. Back in the control centre, it is decided that the Doctor and Jondar will be executed in a good "old-fashioned" way while Peri and Areta are to be reshaped with a cell mutator. The Doctor and Jondar are placed in the nooses while the Governor and Sil watch. At the last moment the Doctor questions the Governor about Sil and his extortion. Sil’s bodyguards rush the platform where the nooses are and pull the lever. But the two simply fall through the holes, the rope coming right off the support. As it turns out, there was to be no execution — it was all a way to get information out of the Doctor. The Doctor suspected this as he noticed that they were not being filmed.
The group then attempts to stop the cell mutator on Peri and Areta, but they are told it’s at too advanced a stage to stop. The Doctor and Jondar grab the weapons of nearby guards in an attempt to intimidate Quillam to deactivate the mutator. But it fails, and the Doctor resorts to shooting the entire control panel. The process has been stopped in the nick of time and Peri and Areta return to their original form. The four then escape back into the depths of the Punishment Dome towards a possible escape route. But Peri, still in a stupor after the affects of the mutator, is recaptured and taken to the control centre.
The Chief and Sil make their final move on the Governor in hopes that during the next vote he will be killed by the Human Cell Disintegration Bombardment, securing the way for them to control Varos and the Zeiton-7 ore. Meanwhile, the Doctor, Jondar, and Areta make their way into the End Zone of the Dome, where the exit is supposed to be. The vote starts and the bombardment begins, but the guard Meldak has a change of heart and stops the device, saving the Governor and Peri. The three then make their way to meet up with the Doctor through the ventilation ducts.
The Doctor’s group is then chased by two cannibals and loses them in some poisonous tendrils. The Chief and Quillam arrive on the scene but are entangled in the tendrils, killing them. They then meet up with Peri, the Governor, and Meldak. They all make their way back to the control centre and put an end to Sil’s plans of controlling Varos. The Galatron Mining Corporation also began to side with Varos; a second source of Zeiton-7 ore has been found, and Sil is ordered to obtain the Varosian ore at any price. The Doctor and Peri then bid the Governor farewell, taking the replacement ore with them.
The Governor issues a message to the citizens saying that there will be no more injustice, torture, and executions. Arak and Etta watch in disbelief, wondering what they’ll do with their new-found freedom.
Doctor Colin Baker (Sixth Doctor)
Companion Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown)
Nabil Shaban — Sil
Martin Jarvis — The Governor
Forbes Collins — Chief Officer
Nicolas Chagrin — Quillam
Stephen Yardley — Arak
Sheila Reid — Etta
Jason Connery — Jondar
Geraldine Alexander — Areta
Graham Cull — Bax
Owen Teale — Maldak
Keith Skinner — Rondel
Hugh Martin — Priest
Writer Philip Martin
Director Ron Jones
Script editor Eric Saward
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Executive producer(s) None
Production code 6V
Series Season 22
Length 2 episodes, 45 minutes each
Originally broadcast January 19–January 26, 1985