On a rainy night in 1953, a freak lightning bolt hitting the antenna of Magpie's Electronics Store leads
to a strange phenomenon: the television begins to talk to the owner, Mr Magpie (Ron Cook) in the form of a presenter (Maureen
Lipman) who addresses him personally, and has a plan he must help her with...
The Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose (Billie
Piper) have arrived, ostensibly to see Elvis Presley perform but startled that they're back in London instead of New York
at the time of Queen Elizabeth's coronation. They are startled to see two men rush a man, covered by a blanket, into a car
and drive away. The Doctor and Rose meet Tommy Connolly (Rory Jennings), a local boy who says that this has been happening
all over their street. He's stopped by his father, Eddie (Jamie Foreman), a brutish man who threatens both his son and his
wife, Rita (Debra Gillett), because he's 'respected' in this part of town and wants no part of whatever's going on. The Doctor
uses his psychic paper to convine the Connolly's that he's a government official, and putting Eddie to work feeding off his
patriotism, he quests Rita and Tommy about the disappearances... and about something strange that has affected Grandma (Margaret
John), which has completely removed her face from her body.
The Doctor goes investigating and runs into Detective Inspector
Bishop (Sam Cox), who has been looking into the strange ailment that has robbed people of their faces. To cover it up in the
face of the expected press onslaught as a result of the Coronation, they've been roping up the victims and bringing them to
the station. Meanwhile, Rose does her own sleuthing, ending up in Magpie's shop because everything that's happened seems to
be linked to people who bought television sets from him. However, the strange creature on the television screen begins to
talk to her, and soon, Rose's face has been removed from her body... and she's inside the television, crying out.
Doctor and Bishop return to the Connolly home, where Tommy defies Eddie when he learns that his father has been turning people
in for the "good" of their neighborhood. They make their way to the Magpie shop, where the Doctor discovers the truth about
what's happened to Rose, and confronts the evil image on the television screen. It calls itself the Wire, an alien who escaped
execution by transforming itself into pure energy, and it has come to Earth to reconstitute itself... but it will need a massive
amount of human energy in order to do so, which will be provided by the many television sets the reluctant Magpie has issued.
Bishop is robbed of his face by the Wire, but the Doctor and Tommy to attempt to stop Magpie and the Wire from using a portable
device to turn the Alexandra Palace broadcast tower into a receiver, which the Wire can use to consume as many souls as it
The Doctor climbs the tower, pursuing Magpie and the Wire. It's too late, however; the Wire starts to consume
the people of London, gorging itself on their energies. However, Tommy stops her by following instructions the Doctor gave
him, trapping the Wire - now reduced to a single signal - inside a Betamax cassette. The faces of the Wire's victims are returned
to them and Rose is restored.
Later, during a block party held in honor of the Coronation, Rita throws Eddie out of
the house once and for all, but the Doctor convinces Tommy to go to his father's side out of love for his family.