The Awakening was the second story of season 21 of Doctor Who. It was the third and final two-parter of the Peter Davison era. It was, indeed, the final two-parter in the traditional twenty-five-minute format. From this point forward in Doctor Who history, any two-parter would be at least forty-five minutes per episode.
Despite its brevity, the serial boasted a few milestones. It was the first (and only) contribution by its writer and director. It offered the first outing of the Fifth Doctor’s second costume, most notably differentiated by an obviously altered cricketing jumper. It was the first time in the show’s history that the Doctor set his TARDIS on course to meet a member of a companion’s family — in this case, Tegan’s grandfather. It was also the final story designed by Barry Newbery, one of Verity Lambert’s original designers.
Unusually, this serial had a certain measure of infamy in Britain for one of its out-takes from part two, in which a horse-drawn carriage was seen to apparently destroy a lychgate. The scene became one of the few Doctor Who out-takes to actually be broadcast on the BBC, and was also seen internally on BBC safety videos as an example of how not to film scenes involving animals. Naturally, for the transmitted version of the episode the sequence cut before the disaster.
On 13 July 1643, two forces came to the village of Little Hodcombe during the English Civil War and destroyed each other. As the story begins, Round heads are riding horses in the village of Little Hodcombe with little regard to the villagers around them. It is not 1643, but 1984.
A schoolteacher, Jane Hampden, is convinced that her fellow villagers, led by the local magistrate, Sir George Hutchinson, have taken their re-enactment of a series of battles too far. Hutchinson tries to assure her that the games are a harmless event to celebrate the war. When Hampden asks him to stop the games, Hutchinson ignores her.
The Doctor promises to take his companion, Tegan, to 1984 so she can spend some time with her grandfather, Andrew Verney. He sets the coordinates to Little Hodcombe, where Verney resides, but the TARDIS experiences some turbulence and lands in what appears to be a structurally unstable church. The Doctor, Tegan and Turlough, watching on the scanner, see a man in 17th century clothing flee from the church. The Doctor dashes out to help him, but the man has vanished. Tegan is convinced that they have landed in the wrong time, but Turlough has checked the TARDIS co-ordinates and they are in 1984. As the Doctor and his companions pursue the man, smoke billows from a crack in the wall.
Eventually, the three travelers are captured by Captain Joseph Willow and taken before Hampden and Colonel Ben Wolsey, who apologize for the poor treatment. Hutchinson arrives and explains the town is celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of Little Hodcombe. He urges him to join the celebration. Tegan is told her grandfather is missing, and runs outside. The Doctor follows but loses her. Tegan, upset, is crying when someone steals her purse. She tries to get it back and runs into a barn where she finds the ghost of an old man.
The Doctor returns to the church and meets a 17th century peasant, Will Chandler, who emerges from a wall. He has been hidden in a priest hole and believes the year to be 1643. Turlough rescues Tegan from the barn and they return to the TARDIS. There is a sparkly projection on one of the walls. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Will investigate the church. Tegan and Turlough leave the TARDIS and are re-captured. Turlough is locked in a building with Verney. Willow forces Tegan to change into a 17th century costume. She is to be Queen of the May.
The Doctor and Will find a secret passage to Ben Woolsey’s living room under a slab marked with a picture of a creature that Will identifies as the Malus. Coming the other way through the passage, the Doctor and Will meet up with Hampden, who found the passage’s other end after being locked in Colonel Wolsey’s office. They avoid Hutchinson, who has followed Jane down the passage, and the Doctor finds a small ball of metal. The Doctor identifies the metal as tinclavic, a metal mined by the Terileptils on the planet Raaga for the almost exclusive use of the people of Hakol, a planet in the star system Rifta, where psychic energy is a force to be harnessed.
Returning to the church, the Doctor and Hampden are astonished when a massive alien face pushes its way through the crack on the wall.
The creature roars and spews smoke. They escape from the psychic projection of a cavalier, and return to the house via the tunnel. The Doctor realizes that the Malus in the church was discovered by Verney and Hutchinson. The latter tried to exploit the creature, but it used him by organizing the war games. The psychic energy released by the war games has fed the Malus.
The Doctor and Jane again try to persuade Hutchinson to stop the games; the final battle will be for real. He refuses and orders Woolsey to kill the Doctor. Once Hutchinson leaves, Woolsey joins forces with the Doctor.
The Queen of the May is taken in a horse-drawn cart to the village green, where she is to be burned. Hutchinson suddenly notices that the Queen is not Tegan, but a straw dummy that has been put in her place by Woolsey. Hutchinson becomes angry and orders his men to kill Woolsey and the others. Will appears in the nick of time and uses a flame torch to cause a distraction. This allows the Doctor, Hampden, Woolsey and Tegan to escape to the TARDIS.
The Doctor locks the signal conversion unit on the frequency of the psychic energy feeding the Malus, hoping to direct it. Willow and a trooper try in vain to break their way into the TARDIS, and Turlough and Verney knock them unconscious with lumps of masonry. The Doctor blocks the energy, and the projection of the Malus in the TARDIS dies. The real Malus desperately tries to drain all the psychic energy from the villagers. He creates a corporeal projection of three Roundheads who try to kill the Doctor and his allies. However, the dazed and confused trooper stumbles from the TARDIS and into the main church area, becomes surrounded by the roundheads, who decapitate him, then vanish.
Hutchinson arrives and holds them all at gunpoint. When the Doctor tries to talk Hutchinson out of the thrall of the Malus, Willow attacks the group. In the scuffle, Will pushes Hutchinson into the mouth of the Malus, destroying its medium. Realizing it has failed, the Malus prepares to destroy itself and everything around it. The church begins to collapse and the Doctor leads the others, including Willow, into the safety of the TARDIS.
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor’s companions are surprised to see Will still among them. The Doctor explains he must have been wrong in his assumption that Will was a psychic projection. The Malus must have created a temporal rift which allowed Will to slip into the future. The Doctor will take Will back to 1643. Tegan objects and asks the Doctor to allow her some time to visit her grandfather. The Doctor is disgruntled but is persuaded to stay in Little Hodcombe for a while for a rest.