President Romana's reforms are causing political unrest on Gallifrey as she attempts to awaken the Time Lords to the role they play in the cosmos; no longer can they consider themselves to be aloof and above it all. She is currently conducting secret negotiations which she believes to be the most important thing to happen to Gallifrey in generations, but she needs to keep her enemies occupied while she does so, and therefore sends for the Doctor to send him on a secret mission. But when the TARDIS receives the recall message telling it to bring the Doctor home, it seems to interpret the message a bit too literally. Desperate to find the Doctor, Romana gives orders for Dorothée McShane to be transducted from Earth for questioning -- but her political adversaries intercept the transduction, copy Dorothée's memories into the Matrix and make a virtual copy of the younger Ace to question her. But even with her memories at their disposal they can't get to the root of what they want to know. After all she's seen and heard about the Doctor, why does she still trust him? Just who is the Doctor?
Chris awakens from an odd dream of a hate-filled harpy who guards the door to the Past, to find that the TARDIS has materialised in a cavernous attic full of gigantic, dusty sleeping furniture -- a location which seems to have singularly unnerved the Doctor. Before the Doctor can stop him, Chris sets off to explore, but he disturbs the collected dust, which catches in his throat and tugs him out of his body. In astral form, he finds himself drifting through the corridors of the once living House, where wooden servants like living furniture are preparing a celebratory feast. He sees a young woman hiding behind a curtain as her Cousin Glospin searches for the documents which she has stolen, documents he believes will clear the name of his disgraced House. Unable to find the originals, Glospin gives copies to a Chancellory guard and bribes him to take them back to the Capitol. Chris proceeds further into the House, and finds a gathering of Cousins who are here for the reading of Ordinal-General Quences' will. All expect that Glospin will inherit, since he is Housekeeper Satthralope's favourite; Quences' previous favourite has been disowned and his name is now forbidden in the House. He has even been Replaced, although his foolish Replacement Owis is not half the man his predecessor was. As Chris watches he sees a hollow-eyed ghost, Arkhew, who is watching the events as well. Arkhew fell victim to the dust while searching for Quences' lost will in the shattered clock in the Great Hall, and is now being forced to relive the terrible day, 673 years ago, when everything went horribly wrong...
Castellan Andred receives word of the failed transduction. Occupied and worried, he does not pay attention to his lover Leela, who has grown bored and has been researching Andred's Family history with K9's help. They have uncovered a mystery; 673 years ago a Cousin named Redred was sent out to the House of Lungbarrow, but both he and the House itself have gone missing. What few records K9 has located are being deleted as he searches, suggesting that someone else is covering their tracks and investigating the disappearance of Lungbarrow -- the family home of the Doctor. Leela tries to send word to the Doctor that someone is digging up his past, but only succeeds in drawing attention to herself, and when she has K9 hack into the classified database using Andred's security codes, she is arrested by Chancellory guards and charged with treason. She is taken to the holding quarters of the Celestial Intervention Agency, and Ferain, its Director of Allegiance, questions her about the Doctor in more detail. Why does he inspire such loyalty? She cannot answer, and is proud of it; the Doctor is, and always must be, a mystery.
Chris and Arkhew witness a confrontation between Glospin and Innocet, who admits to stealing his documents; she will not let him make their House a laughingstock by taking his ridiculous accusations to the Capitol. But he insists that his findings are accurate. Their House has hatched a serpent in its midst, and all of the official histories of Gallifrey are wrong. Quences is brought in to read his will, but refuses to do so until all of the Cousins have assembled. The remaining Cousins heckle him unmercifully, knowing that the one he awaits has been forbidden to set foot in the House. But if that's what he wants, that's what he'll get, and Satthralope takes steps to ensure that nobody can leave until the will is read. Memory fragments into pieces as darkness rises past the House windows, and Chris and Arkhew catch only glimpses of what follows -- the desperate Cousins scrabbling at the door to escape, darkness and decay in the House, and an old man whom Arkhew recognises, stabbing Quences with a double-bladed knife as he works on a large, furry object in his workshop. Chris awakens back in his body, to find that the TARDIS has fallen through the rotting floor and that the Doctor has been forced to descend into the House to search for it. Chris follows him, but is unwilling to discuss his vision -- for he already suspects that the Doctor's name has been forbidden in this House, and although Arkhew did not name Quences' killer he had babbled that he'd come back to do so...
Cousin Innocet senses a disturbance in the House, and tries to cast the future in her cards. A tremor causes her house of cards to fall down, leaving the future scattered and confused but for one card spinning in mid-air -- the Rogue. Innocet leaves Owis and Jobiska to their game of Sepulchasm -- played on a board which sometimes splits in two, dropping the pieces into the chasm in its centre -- and sets off to find the remaining Cousins, Glospin, Rynde, Maljamin, and Arkhew. Glospin has been locked in a stove by the wooden Drudges as punishment for stealing more than his ration of fungus from the kitchens, and Maljamin is becoming more distant -- soon he too will be called away, like the rest of the Cousins who have left this terrible House the only way they can. Until they are truly free, Innocet has vowed that she will not cut her hair; already 673 years of growth lie wrapped on her back, the heavy burden of her guilt and responsibility.
Chris and the Doctor find Glospin locked in the stove, and there is a moment of instant mutual recognition and hatred between the Doctor and Glospin, who believes that the Doctor has finally returned to gloat over the situation he left his Family in. The Doctor reluctantly releases Glospin and goes to the Great Hall, where he sees that his TARDIS has become stuck in the thick webs of dust, suspended above the Hall, out of reach. Quences is lying in stasis in the centre of the Hall, waiting for the Doctor to return so his will can be read, and the doors and windows of the House have been boarded up. When the Doctor tries to open a window he finds nothing beyond but soil; Lungbarrow has been buried beneath the surface of Gallifrey for 673 years. Innocet arrives, and even Chris can sense the hatred she holds for the Doctor. She has found Arkhew dead in the funguretum, strangled and unable to regenerate; and the Doctor, already horrified by what has happened to his home, is even more shocked to realise that Innocet -- the only one of his Cousins who was ever kind to him -- now seems to believe that he is responsible for killing Arkhew.
A terrorist faction sends a singularity bomb to the Tharil embassy in a lift, but a quick-thinking guard takes it to an empty level, though it costs him his life. Since the Tharil embassy is located directly beneath her own offices, Romana suspects that the attack was a roundabout way of proving that she is not on Gallifrey. Security guards are sent to investigate the attack, leaving the Agency watchtower understaffed -- and Andred and his loyal guards raid it to rescue Leela and Dorothée. They are aided by K9 and by K9 Mark II, who has recently overcome the difficulties of transition back to N-Space. Leela and Dorothée are taken to the Presidential offices, where Romana appears to them as a hologram and inquires after their health -- particularly Leela's. She claims to be involved in negotiations which could finally bring Gallifrey out of the shadows in which it has dwelt since the death of the Pythia sent their race into matricidal shock; Gallifrey has always had a unique relationship with Time, and over the millennia of stagnation its Time has been slowing down in relationship to the rest of the Universe. Since she cannot interrupt her negotiations and Leela is too important to the future to risk, she has called Dorothée here to take a message to the Doctor, by riding her time-cycle into the House of Lungbarrow. Leela insists upon accompanying her, and they depart just in time; Ferain has escaped from the raid on the Agency and has staged a coup. The Interventionists are now in control of the Capitol, and when Romana returns, she will face impeachment and charges of unGallifreyan activities.
Glospin wakes Satthralope from her long sleep to warn her that the disinherited one has returned and murdered Arkhew. She refuses to let him speak of murder -- nobody has died except in her dreams -- but realises that the Doctor has in fact returned, and wakes the sleeping House. In its rage at the interloper it attempts to kill the Doctor with its living furniture, but at the last moment he is saved by Badger, the furry avatroid who was his first teacher, and who has woken for the first time in 673 years to save his life. Innocet claims Housepitality for the new arrivals, and thus the Doctor and Chris, although intruders, must be treated as honoured guests. She still believes that the Doctor killed Arkhew, but Chris believes that Arkhew was killed confronting the man they saw murder Quences. But when he identifies the man from his vision on a family portrait, Innocet identifies him as the First Doctor. Chris faints, suddenly overwhelmed by the voices in his head, and before the Doctor can get to him, Glospin takes a blood sample from Chris -- which when analysed proves his suspicion that the Doctor has brought an alien to their House. At last, the time has come to expose the Doctor for who -- and what -- he really is.
The Doctor realises that the psychic Chris has been augmented by the TARDIS into an auxiliary storage for the Doctor's overflowing memories, leaving him open to the Doctor's subconscious thoughts -- and to the bitterness and hatred that has built up in the House over the centuries. He still doesn't understand why Quences is in stasis if he's dead -- until he realises that, to prevent the House from reacting in a fit of rage to its Kithriarch's death and killing everyone inside itself, Satthralope has convinced both herself and the House that Quences is not dead. Which means that there will be trouble when she tries to awaken him to read the will.
Innocet reads Chris' mind and relives his vision, which seems to confirm that the Doctor killed Quences, and although the Doctor proclaims his innocence he realises that he can't remember what he was really doing that day. He allows Innocet to read his mind to see the truth, and they astral-travel back to Quences' Deathday. Disowned, cast out, the Doctor is working at a lowly position in the Capitol when Glospin comes to gloat over his Replacement by Owis. Glospin claims to have found genetic anomalies in the Loom records which prove that the Doctor does not belong to the House of Lungbarrow, and when he presents this proof to the Prydonian Chapterhouse, the Doctor will be executed as a Loom-jumper and Glospin will secure his birthright. The furious Doctor attacks Glospin, and as the two men fight, the legendary Hand of Omega appears as if from nowhere and drives Glospin off, giving him a scar which even his later regeneration did not heal. The Doctor, realising that his time is running out, writes an anonymous letter to the Chapterhouse accusing Lungbarrow of generating one Cousin over quota, and steals a TARDIS -- but to his surprise, the Hand of Omega boosts power through the old Type 40 and takes it beyond the Backtime Buffers into the past of Gallifrey itself. This is the gravest crime imaginable, and although nobody can follow him, he can never return home again.
Satthralope gives orders for Badger to be disassembled, but this proves to be a mistake; normally placid and unthreatening, the avatroid becomes violent if either it or the Doctor is threatened. Thwarted again, she orders the remaining Family to assemble for Otherstide dinner, and for the reading of Quences' will at long last. The ghost of Quences appears before the Doctor, telling him to find the will, and although the Doctor has no intention of becoming trapped in the politics of the Family he left behind, he realises that he has an obligation to free them from the neglect he trapped them in. Glospin, meanwhile, continues to spread doubt and anger through the House, telling Innocet that the Doctor intends to disinherit her as the next Housekeeper, and reminding Owis that since he is an illegal Replacement, if the Doctor returns he will be terminated. Glospin then challenges the Doctor to a game of Sepulchasm; the Doctor and Quences often played the game together, and Glospin would always have been welcome to join, if only he had asked. The board splits open -- and the Doctor, looking into the chasm as none had ever done before, finds the will hidden inside. But Glospin tells the others that the Doctor had it with him all along.
Dorothée and Leela arrive in the House, where they find Redred trapped in stasis in a damaged transmat, as he has been for 673 years. They are captured by Drudges and forced to attend the Otherstide dinner, a celebration of Rassilon's expulsion of his mysterious, unnamed advisor from Gallifrey. According to legend, the Other either stole the Hand of Omega when he fled, or it pursued him -- and Otherstide coincides with the Doctor's naming day. Surrounded by bitter and hostile Cousins convinced that he has come to rob them of their birthright, the Doctor watches glumly as puppets animated by the House enact a Mystery Play of the Pythia's death, and the final battle between Rassilon and the Other. At the end of the play the puppet representing the Other swoops forward, enfolds the Doctor in its clutches and then falls apart to reveal the Doctor standing alone.
Glospin takes the opportunity to accuse the Doctor of bringing aliens amongst them, and the revelation that the Doctor has been roaming the Universe and consorting with aliens while his Family was left to rot is more than Satthralope can bear. She has never forgiven the Doctor for squandering his talents on a mere Doctorate after all the effort and funding that Quences had put into his education. The Doctor, furious, challenges the House to do its worst -- and steps aside as the enraged House tries to drop the TARDIS on his head. He has tricked it into returning his ship, and all that remains now is to find his missing Cousins, read the will, and get them to safety before the House realises that Quences is dead.
Badger arrives, having repaired the transmat and released Redred, who is shocked by the changes that have happened in his "absence". Seeing that Satthralope is present, he finally delivers the edict which Glospin intercepted 673 years ago. Glospin believed that he could clear the House's name before its disgrace was made public, and thanks to him, the Cousins have never known that because they Loomed an illegal Replacement all records of their House's existence were deleted from the Matrix. The Doctor finds that Jobiska and Chris have both gone, answering the call of the whispers in his head as so many Cousins have done before. He tries to follow, but Innocet tries to stop him, determined to protect her family from him. She had sabotaged the transmat to prevent Redred from taking Glospin's insane accusations about the Doctor to the Capitol -- and the Doctor has repaid her by abandoning her and her Family to their torment, leaving Innocet to bear the crushing burden of her guilt. Just who does he think he is?
Badger arrives, and once again protects the Doctor from the threat -- by killing Innocet, forcing her to regenerate. The Doctor sends Badger away and continues onwards to his old room, where he finds Chris at the bottom of an impossible well where his missing Cousins lie suspended, their hate sustaining them as they wait for the Doctor's return. The combined force of their loathing and rejection is too much for him to handle, and he loses consciousness as his Cousins emerge from the pit and return to the Great Hall. There, Dorothée and Leela manage to slip away while Rynde, Owis and Glospin struggle to right the TARDIS and get in. Romana also arrives, having completed her negotiations and seeking the Doctor to restore her threatened Presidency, but the Doctor is unconscious and dying, rejected by his Family when all he ever wanted was to belong somewhere. Before Innocet can do anything, the Doctor's conscious mind shuts down -- but through Chris they can access his subconscious mind, and bring him back to them.
The Doctor's friends follow him into his dreams, to the wall of Time, where he is presented with a robe woven of his experiences -- which catches under the advancing wall of the Present and drags him back into the Past. There, instead of the Doctor's own memories, they find themselves witnessing the final confrontation between Rassilon and the Other. Rassilon, desperate to see his reforms take effect before the end of his life, has resorted to bloodshed to purge the dissidents, despite his advisor's warning that this will lead only to eternal stagnation. Sickened and weary of the violence, and blaming himself for what is happening to Gallifrey, he intends to put an end to these games and fling himself back into the Universe, as a piece on the board rather than as a player. Knowing that Rassilon will try to use his family as a hostage to force him to remain, he bids goodbye to his grand-daughter Susan, telling her to go to safety on the planet Tersurus, and then flings himself into the central progenitive cascades of the genetic Looms and disintegrates. One year later, the First Doctor arrives, brought to his own world's past by the Hand of Omega -- to meet a strangely familiar girl who has lived on the streets for a year, having been unable to reach the spaceport and escape. She instantly recognises him as her grandfather, and somehow, he knows that her name is Susan. Together, they depart Gallifrey to explore Time and Space, knowing that neither of them can ever return home again.
The Doctor and his companions return to their bodies, only to learn that Glospin has found them and tagged along on their astral journey. He emerges with all of his suspicions confirmed; the Doctor is a serpent from the dawn of Gallifreyan history, who has abused his Family for his own ends. The Doctor insists that he remembered none of this before, but Glospin doesn't believe him. Ferain then arrives with a squad of Chancellory guards, having planted a tracking device on Dorothée's time-cycle and allowed her to escape, and he arrests both the Doctor and Romana and marches them back to Lungbarrow's Great Hall to answer for their crimes. The Doctor manages to slip Dorothée some of her old nitro-nine which he has kept in his pocket for years, and she and Leela slip away and head for the attic, intending to blow a hole in the roof so the Cousins can escape. On the way, Dorothée realises that Leela is pregnant by Andred -- and that she will soon give birth to the first natural child to be born on Gallifrey since the Pythia's curse fell upon them.
Back in the Great Hall, the Doctor enters his TARDIS and shuts down the interior to prevent his Cousins from making off with his belongings. He has fully recovered, and has jettisoned his subconscious memories to save Chris' sanity; he no longer cares about the past, and trusts his friends to keep his memories safe for him. Accused of murder, he calls forth a surprise witness -- the House of Lungbarrow itself, which speaks through Satthralope. Forced to confront its own buried memories, the House remembers seeing Quences murdered -- by an elderly Cousin with a terrible scar on his arm. Glospin had deliberately picked a fight with the Doctor in the Capitol to get a genetic sample from him, and once back in the House he regenerated not once, but twice --taking on the form of the Doctor in order to frame him for Quences' murder. Arkhew recognised him nonetheless, but Glospin had Owis kill him, telling Owis that he would be terminated as an illegal Replacement if Glospin was discredited and the Doctor inherited the House. The Doctor gives Quences' will to Badger, who then generates a ghostlike hologram of Quences. On the Doctor's naming day, Quences consulted the Bench of Matricians, who predicted both Quences' murder and that the Doctor would be the most significant influence on the future of Gallifrey. Quences therefore arranged to have his mind transferred into Badger upon his death, which is why Badger has been so protective of the Doctor -- Quences' chosen heir, and the new Kithriarch of the House of Lungbarrow.
Dorothée and Leela blow a hole in the roof and evacuate the Cousins, as the Doctor rejects his inheritance and the furious House strikes out at him again. As the others flee, the Doctor stays in the House at Romana's request, to download the template of the Lungbarrow Family Loom into a data extractor. The House, sick to death with no Kithriarch at its head, crushes Satthralope to death in a fit of rage, and pulls itself up out of the ground in a suicidal frenzy. Glospin, mad with rage, attacks the monstrous Doctor who has ruined his family, only to be killed by Badger. The furious ghost of Quences also strikes out at the Doctor, who has brought ruin upon his Family when Quences intended that he should make Lungbarrow the greatest House on Gallifrey. Chris rescues the Doctor, and they escape in the TARDIS as the House of Lungbarrow flings itself over a cliff to its death.
A new House will be grown for the surviving Cousins, but none of them will ever forgive the Doctor for what he did to them. Romana announces that Leela's pregnancy has finally ended the Pythia's curse, enabling her to negotiate peace with the Sisterhood of Karn and end the long rift which has existed between them and the Time Lords. At long last, Life is returning to the sterile Gallifrey, and the Doctor, pleased, tells Leela to name her son after him. Ferain agrees to let Romana keep her Presidency if she agrees to send the Doctor on the mission she had originally intended for him -- to recover the Master's remains from Skaro, a dangerous journey with only a four percent chance of survival. The Doctor accepts the assignment, and also accepts Chris' decision to remain on Gallifrey to sort out his feelings and his identity. He knows that Ferain is secretly afraid of him -- and knows that it doesn't matter, just as it doesn't matter who he once was. All that matters is who he is now -- the Doctor.
Source: Cameron Dixon